Barbecue Ribs

The Song Dynasty of Medieval China was a turning point in food history. As farming productivity exploded, cities rose to dominance, and populations dramatically increased, so too did the quality of life and the quality of cuisine follow.

To put it another way, people had access to not only more food, but better food. Even poorer commoners tended to eat 3 meals a day and occasionally some snacks. Most remarkable though, was that for one of the first times in history, meat was being consumed across social classes. With prices low, and restaurants and street stalls serving conveniently sized and priced portions, everyone could afford some animal protein now and then.

And the most popular of all the meats? Then and perhaps now as well… Pork. So. . . we’re havin’ ribs.

I’ll admit, this recipe is inspired by the style of ribs you can get with Chinese take out in America. But taking all historical factors into account, that is the rise of meat and pork, the authentic black soy bean sauce, the dry rub spices made possible by recently opened trade routes, as well as the popularity of grills and barbecues for street food in Song cities, I see no reason to call this recipe inauthentic! I’ll stand by the assertion that these ribs could totally have been served from a stall on the Imperial Way, centuries ago.

The charcoal grill is of course the best way to go, but these ribs are delicious in an oven as well. To get started, we’ll need to whip up a couple things first: Some homemade Chinese Five Spice for a dry rub, and some Hoisin style, black bean sauce for a marinade. After that, all we need is ribs and fire.

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HOF Episode 17: The Power of Tradition (China revisited)

What makes humans special? What makes us rise above all the other animals across the planet, to discover and make great things? Before you answer with the obvious, ” our big brains and intelligence”, take a listen to this episode, for the surprising truth behind humanity’s success.

In short, it’s not smarts that drive us, but our rituals, myths, and superstitions. We find evidence for this in society’s all across the planet, but one place shows it better than any other. Come with me back to the far east, as we take a tour through the cities and restaurants of Medieval China, to explore the true power of our culture and traditions.

AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFYITUNES and GOOGLE PLAY.
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Guzheng music for this episode performed by   musician Bei Bei in Los Angeles, California and by Sound of China Guzheng Instruments

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Hand Pulled Noodle Soup

It wasn’t known for sure until recently, but archaeological evidence has confirmed that the noodle was invented in Ancient China. The oldest ever found were made out of millet, which is hard for me to imagine. This recipe is much easier than that prehistoric version, following the later Northern Chinese tradition of cooking with wheat.

With refined wheat flour, making hand made noodles and an amazing soup to go with them (in this case a pork bone broth with greens) is really very simple. It just takes time, time to build a flavorful broth, and time for the gluten to develop in the pasta dough to make it elastic and stretchable.

 

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Millet and Fermented Vegetable Dumplings

The invention of the dumpling might be as early as the invention of dough and boiled water. Dumplings may have been around before breads or even porridge, perhaps the first, simplest way humans figured out how to cook wild grains.

Hand ground millet may not produce the most beautiful dumplings, but these boiled lumps of dough and “filling” are meant to be a more primitive style proto-dumpling, the kind of early processes that would eventually lead to the later artistry of dumpling making in Ancient all the way to modern China.

As for fermented vegetables, while we feature them for our early Chinese dumplings recipe, Ancient China was by no means the only group of peoples to ferment vegetables. The simple process of brining food in salt water for several days to induce natural preservation and robust pickly flavor (unknown at the time to be microbial life and fermentation) was practiced all over the Ancient world, on all kinds of foods.

You can ferment any vegetable and use any spices you want. Really. Anything.  Be like a true ancient and never be afraid to experiment.  Here is a mix of in season veggies from my garden: carrots, green and wax beans, and rhubarb, with fresh coriander seeds and a couple cloves of garlic.  All of which, though maybe in more primitive forms, would have been available in Europe and Asia long ago.

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HOF Episode 9: Raw and Cooked (China)

What does it mean to be a raw (barbarian) person vs. a cooked (civilized) person? To find out, our culinary and historical journey heads east. Far East, to the lands of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. Ancient China.

Guzheng music for this episode performed by   musician Bei Bei in Los Angeles, California and by Sound of China Guzheng Instruments Continue reading “HOF Episode 9: Raw and Cooked (China)”

HOF Episode 3: Early Farming Around the World

Come travel around the world and follow the Neolithic cultures that spread across it, including very early farmers of Egypt, China, and Old Europe. Then come across the oceans to Mesoamerica, one of two places in the world civilization was invented from scratch, a whole society built on what became the number one crop of all time: corn.

At last, the third episode of the History of Food is here!

Come travel around the world and follow the Neolithic cultures that spread across it, including very early farmers of Egypt, China, and Old Europe. Then come across the oceans to Mesoamerica, one of two places in the world civilization was invented from scratch, a whole society built on what became the number one crop of all time: corn.

An, ahem, “ancient” poem about it:

Three beans for the Mayan Kings, under the sky
Seven squash for the Olmec lords, with their heads of stone

Nine avocados for Aztec men, doomed to die.
And one for the corn lord on his corn throne.

One crop to rule them all
One crop to find them
One crop to bring them all,
And in the milpa bind them.

Theme music by the incredible Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. This rendition of the Hurian Hymn, the oldest known piece of sheet music, and the whole album “An Ancient Lyre” and much more is available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

AVAILABLE ON SOUNDCLOUD AND ITUNES.
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