Wednesday, August 10, 2011

People Are Strange

I had seen some nostalgia for Barbara Tropp's China Moon Cafe recently, so when Kudzu suggested I make her Strange-Flavor Eggplant, it seemed a natural. I had the book.
Strangely, though, I had never used a single recipe from it. It seems to be one of those snaky cookbooks that goes, "Three weeks ago, shoot an elk." I didn't shoot an elk three weeks ago! What will I do?
Nothing, yeah, that's easier.
Well, this time, Barbara allowed that I would be able to make and eat the food on the same day (even though she urged an overnight in the fridge before devouring).
The recipe looks complex, but it's because she's being careful to take you by the hand, stay with me, not scary.
And it came out great, great I tell you!
What is "strange" about it? I think "strange" is just a cute euphemism for "interesting." "Yummy." "Why didn't I think of this?" "Ha ha ha! 'Splosions in your mouth!"
The flavors are ginger, garlic, vinegar, chile peppers, brown sugar, scallion, soy sauce. The eggplant is roughly pureed with these seasonings, in an order that Tropp makes perfectly clear. It's easy.
We served it with dark sesame crackers, which make for a terrible photo, but really good eating.
Not strange.


cookiecrumb said...


namastenancy said...

I used to have Barbara's cookbook but eventually sold it because I never used it. But I do remember her recipe for some sort of noodle pancake. Now that was good! I did a walk through Chinatown when I took a class with her. I kept her notes for ages but eventually, they were out of date as most of the businesses went out of business or changed hands.
I went to the Cafe once but it was so crowded and noisy that I never went back.
Oh, and I would not venture too far from the hidely hole. "They" are still out there and "they" are dangerous.

Greg said...

I love those flavors and eggplant is like a sponge so I'm believing.Some of the best brown food is hard to photograph.

kudzu said...

Glad you made it -- isn't it delicious? (I usually couldn't resist ordering it at Feng Nian in Sausalito. Their version is great.)

As for the name, the best I've been able to find out is that it is called that because of the character associated with it, which stands for having all five tastes/senses in the dish. Why this should be "strange" is strange indeed.

cookiecrumb said...

Nancy: Oh, I think you're thinking of noodle pillows. I loved them at the restaurant. Yeah, it was noisy, and you couldn't shake the feeling you were in a painted-up coffeehouse (because you were), which made the food seem kind of expensive. But so good. I'm actually glad I finally tried the book. Maybe I'll go deeper!

Greg: The truism is "food that tastes the best is impossible to photograph." This tastes really good.

Kudzu: Thanks again for the suggestion! Nice bit of research you did on the etymology of "strange." Inscrutable.

namastenancy said...

Oh - and another reason to stay in the hidely hole if you live in SF or take public transportation. This is the weekend of "Outside Lands" when loud bands take over GG Park and SF is inundated with their loud, crude, rude and clueless followers. $185 for three days of non-stop noise. Recession? We got no recession here.
Going back into hole to contemplate buying another copy of Barbara's cookbook.

cookiecrumb said...

Stop tryin' to scare me, Nancy. I hope you can find a cheap copy of the book. xx

namastenancy said...

I should have kept my autographed copy and sold it later. A signed copy of her cookbook is selling for $170 on - amazing!

cookiecrumb said...

Nancy: Autographed! I hope at least you made a bundle when you sold it. There are paperback copies for sale, used, on Amazon. For a penny, plus shipping. No autograph.