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Old 10-09-2012, 02:04 AM   #1
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Talking Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

We have been in China 2 months now and if I make fried rice one more time for dinner there will be a complete mutiny!

I'm in search of blogs, sites, your favorite recipes, etc we face the following challenges:

-dairy products are prohibitively expensive, we splurge every now and them but at about $16 for a gallon of milk and $10 for 8oz of cheese they are bank breakers.

-if it comes in a can chances are it will be sold out from the imported grocer, I went to five stores trying to find one can of cream of mushroom campbells cooking soup last week.

-anything processed or premade is hard to find or also very expensive. Spaghetti noodles run $5 for 500grams (about a pound), tortillas, crackers, etc also fall into this category. Most of the time it's sold out when I go to the imported grocer.

-working with mainly raw ingredients and pretty much everything is done by hand, I have a few tools like a chopper, garlic press and a hand mixer but that's about it.

-I can get imported meat but have yet to break down and buy any, tofu, however is very easy to come bye and in many varieties.

-we don't really have an oven, we have a countertop device that holds an 8x8 pan max, it world in celcius and I don't know what the settings are as it's in mandarin. I do however have a tiny microwave, a crockpot (with inverter) and a three burner gas stove.

In my favor, and if you're still with me I have nothing but time. DD is at school 7 hours a day and little miss is good at self entertaining.

Please help before my entire family revolts!

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Old 10-09-2012, 03:18 AM   #2
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I face similar food challenges as we just moved to Thailand a few months ago. We have found that we like to vary our stir-fry with different noodles and rices. It's taking some time but once I stopped thinking like an American cooking in Asia things became simpler. No more meat as the main attraction now it's all about the combinations of fresh herbs and veggies I can get on the streets with a dash of this and scoop of this. We once even tossed our salad ingredients into the wok with noodles and it was fantastic, yes hot shredded lettuce tomatoes, and cucumbers with noodles. We have stopped eating meat, and cheese well that's my splurge at around $4 for 8oz of a brand that consists of I do not know.
Vegetarian times has a website and under their recipes an Asian recipe thread. We recently added the chili-lime dish with glass noodles tour regular rotation because it was tasty. We just used firm tofu and it came out great.
Spring rolls are a fairly easy make ahead to have in the freezer and you can bake them instead of frying. I imagine the wrappers are widely available at any grocer with a freezer.
Good luck... And see if the commissary will deliver to you. They deliver to us and we are about 40 minutes away from them.
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Old 10-09-2012, 03:33 AM   #3
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

Step 1 when living overseas get over food from home, it s a luxury ingredients are not the same. I have the same in GErmany where a bag of dried pinto or black beans is 7 or 8 dollars and I hav eto drive to another cits or order online. You have to learn to cook using local cheap ingredients which takes time, I am still struggling almost half a century into living here. The language barrier makes it harder as I would have suggested using local ingredients, for instance I use german cookbooks to make americanized foods. It is not the same, but its the best I can get with common ingredients that dont cost me tons. I thought I would be smart and get emealz whole foods and one week was over 200 euro using the items they wanted me to buy.

Why are you shopping import grocers? some things like canned soups you can make yourself as well, food for thought, I have not had a can of cream soup in over 4years I use substitutes and tweek recipies. If it is hard to shop on the economy is that because of the language barrier? Do you have anyone who can help you.

It takes time, if I had a euro for every screw up I made from buying sweet cream instead of sour for tacos or buying coffee creamer instead of milk in the beggining I would be very wealthy
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Old 10-09-2012, 03:46 AM   #4
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

You also might consider posting under our international section we have many international moms.
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:03 AM   #5
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

Quote:
Originally Posted by krispy79 View Post
I face similar food challenges as we just moved to Thailand a few months ago. We have found that we like to vary our stir-fry with different noodles and rices. It's taking some time but once I stopped thinking like an American cooking in Asia things became simpler. No more meat as the main attraction now it's all about the combinations of fresh herbs and veggies I can get on the streets with a dash of this and scoop of this. We once even tossed our salad ingredients into the wok with noodles and it was fantastic, yes hot shredded lettuce tomatoes, and cucumbers with noodles. We have stopped eating meat, and cheese well that's my splurge at around $4 for 8oz of a brand that consists of I do not know.
Vegetarian times has a website and under their recipes an Asian recipe thread. We recently added the chili-lime dish with glass noodles tour regular rotation because it was tasty. We just used firm tofu and it came out great.
Spring rolls are a fairly easy make ahead to have in the freezer and you can bake them instead of frying. I imagine the wrappers are widely available at any grocer with a freezer.
Good luck... And see if the commissary will deliver to you. They deliver to us and we are about 40 minutes away from them.
Commissary? I think that's just for military right? If so it definitely does not exist here as there is no US military presence.

We shop mainly at the wet market in our back alley, most other things come from Carrefour, like laundry detergent.

I really like the salad noodle idea I will have to try that thanks
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:11 AM   #6
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Serenajean1 View Post
Step 1 when living overseas get over food from home, it s a luxury ingredients are not the same. I have the same in GErmany where a bag of dried pinto or black beans is 7 or 8 dollars and I hav eto drive to another cits or order online. You have to learn to cook using local cheap ingredients which takes time, I am still struggling almost half a century into living here. The language barrier makes it harder as I would have suggested using local ingredients, for instance I use german cookbooks to make americanized foods. It is not the same, but its the best I can get with common ingredients that dont cost me tons. I thought I would be smart and get emealz whole foods and one week was over 200 euro using the items they wanted me to buy.

Why are you shopping import grocers? some things like canned soups you can make yourself as well, food for thought, I have not had a can of cream soup in over 4years I use substitutes and tweek recipies. If it is hard to shop on the economy is that because of the language barrier? Do you have anyone who can help you.

It takes time, if I had a euro for every screw up I made from buying sweet cream instead of sour for tacos or buying coffee creamer instead of milk in the beggining I would be very wealthy
I would be wealthy if every time I tried to ask a price and they thought I was buying it (usually I do anyways).

I had never thought of making cream of mushroom soup myself! And I really like the American cookbook here for local ingredients. The language barrier is an issue, but we start lessons this week. I'm also picking up bits and pieces as I go. Today I learned the literal translation for kangaroo is pocket mouse LOl!

Some of the things I get from the imported grocer as I can't find them any place else. Others like dairy products I get there because of issues with the local dairy products. I don't want to go into the dairy scandals but there have been three in two months so we only buy imported milk for the baby. The rest of us take calcium supplements and go without.

Thanks for the tip on the international section.... Headed there
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:24 AM   #7
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

I had the same issue when I lived in China I shopped at a local market and could usually find the ingredients for these meals easily...

1. Tacos
-I made my own tortillas. Just flour, butter or fat of some kind, and water... I rolled it out with a Chinese wine bottle and cooked them in my wok!
-Ground beef was hard to find, but ground pork is plentiful. They use it in dumplings, so it's easy to find. I also sometimes made chicken tacos, and just chopped and sauteed the chicken. I would just add cumin and either chilis or chili powder
-topped it with cilantro (called coriander by the people there that spoke english) along with onions, tomatoes, peppers, whatever was available

Soup
-Soup bases were easy to find there because they make ramen so often. I would just buy whatever veggies I could find; onions, leeks, potatoes, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, etc. and then throw in a protein like chicken, pork, or tofu

Omelets
-Lots of options! Mushrooms, spinach, onions, etc.

Stirfry
-whatever veggies/protein you feel like throwing in
-a Chinese friend showed me a basic stir fry sauce that was amazing. Soy sauce, sesame oil, MSG (or salt if you are wary), sugar, and ShaoXing wine (the store should know what that is, but you can do without the wine if you want). Sorry, I always just eyeballed it so I dont know the ratio, but you can taste it and see whether you want it salter, sweeter, etc.)

-sauteed chicken and mashed potatoes!

-When all else fails, go to the corner for dumplings or noodles
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Old 10-09-2012, 08:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sblakeley

Commissary? I think that's just for military right? If so it definitely does not exist here as there is no US military presence.

We shop mainly at the wet market in our back alley, most other things come from Carrefour, like laundry detergent.

I really like the salad noodle idea I will have to try that thanks
Sorry I forget it's called different things in different places (bx, px, emporium) and its not always limited to military personel, anyone serving a gov't mission there can use it. I'm sure there is one at the embassy because US marines protect inside the embassy walls. I know embassy personal are allowed to shop there, if you are not there with the gov't I'd ask around to other Americans because I'm sure you could ask them to send or grab something you really need.

I agree that you have to change the whole way you think when it comes to food. You definitely have to take an step back and look at the things you can get and figure out how to work with that. My kids love strawberries and apples, at $9-$12 for a pint they are not getting strawberries, but I was able to find them frozen super cheap ($2 for a k) so some are for strawberry smoothies, some in homemade yogurt, and some were just sliced and dehydrated for snacking.

Dry cook tofu, then marinade it you will be so surprised how good it can actually taste in a stir fry. If you have someone, a native, who can teach you or help you do these things let them teach you.
We have actually become vegetarians since being here ($10 for 12oz of bacon and my life felt over), so we have been doing lots of veggie based soups. That might be an option since as someone else mentioned soup bases and stock are very easy to come by.
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:01 AM   #9
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

Quote:
Originally Posted by krispy79 View Post
Sorry I forget it's called different things in different places (bx, px, emporium) and its not always limited to military personel, anyone serving a gov't mission there can use it. I'm sure there is one at the embassy because US marines protect inside the embassy walls. I know embassy personal are allowed to shop there, if you are not there with the gov't I'd ask around to other Americans because I'm sure you could ask them to send or grab something you really need.

I agree that you have to change the whole way you think when it comes to food. You definitely have to take an step back and look at the things you can get and figure out how to work with that. My kids love strawberries and apples, at $9-$12 for a pint they are not getting strawberries, but I was able to find them frozen super cheap ($2 for a k) so some are for strawberry smoothies, some in homemade yogurt, and some were just sliced and dehydrated for snacking.

Dry cook tofu, then marinade it you will be so surprised how good it can actually taste in a stir fry. If you have someone, a native, who can teach you or help you do these things let them teach you.
We have actually become vegetarians since being here ($10 for 12oz of bacon and my life felt over), so we have been doing lots of veggie based soups. That might be an option since as someone else mentioned soup bases and stock are very easy to come by.
I'll have to check into the commissary. The US embassy is in Beijing and we are in Shanghai, however there is a consulate branch here.

We are on the very of becoming vegetarians, the only thing stopping me at this point is the pork dumplings! YUM!
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Old 10-10-2012, 11:26 AM   #10
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Re: Minimalist/raw/from scratch cooking help needed!

Hmm quite a challenge!

If you want the option of adding dairy to some meals to try for a little more "Americanized" experience once in a while, I would concentrate on the from scratch versions of the cream of... soups.

A gallon is 128 ounces which is 16 cups of milk, and one cup of milk makes what I consider to be one unit of a cream of... soup for a base for recipe. Do you have one cup containers? Milk can be frozen. Freeze the gallon into 16 one cup containers and then thaw one slowly in the fridge overnight to use in next day's recipe. That at least works out to $1 per meal to use the dairy which is reasonable and probably less than even trying to find the canned versions. Healthier, too with not all that salt and other stuff

To make from scratch, saute mushrooms/celery/whatever in butter (which can be purchased, rationed in amounts, and frozen as well) and then add some flour, whisking really well to form a paste. Add the milk (warmed) half at a time and whisk like crazy until smooth and thickened. Add salt and pepper. You could make ground pork versions of typical items like casseroles if you are craving a taste of home.

For other ideas with the ground pork-

Ground pork and cabbage pie (spin on Irish beef and cabbage pie). Maybe top with dumpling dough rolled out? I do this at home with tomatoes, either crushed or in sauce or paste, whatever I have laying around, I am not picky.

Ground pork meatloaf mixed with shredded carrots, egg, dried and crumbled spring roll wrappers for bread crumbs, and whatever other veggies you want to throw in
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