Friday food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we are looking at what looks like a cow pat.
A couple of weeks back, I came across a bag containing what appeared to be something a cow might have deposited on the stable floor. It was on sale in a grocery store so, of course, I bought it. The description on the wrapping said it was 西洋采干, which I know to be dried watercress.
Also included in wrappings was a small bag of various ingredients.
At the top we have 蜜枣 or candied jujube. Then from left to right, 花生仁 (peanut kernels), 茨实米 (fox nuts), 山药 (Chinese yam).
What I have is the dried fixings for a soup – not an instant soup. In fact a very slow soup.
Why, you may ask, would I want to use dried watercress when fresh watercress is widely available? Isn’t fresh better?
My answer is “Not necessarily.”
Drying, smoking, curing etc were first used as a means of preserving food for the lean times, or because of lack of refrigeration. But people quickly caught on to the fact that preservation often changes food’s taste, often for the better. Bacon was first made to preserve pork against decay in hat weather; today no one makes bacon because their fridge is bust! They make it and we eat it because it tastes damn food.
Similarly, people often ask me why I buy dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms. Because they are different! Fresh is good, but I wouldn’t say better. The two have different applications.
Whether or not this applied to dried watercress or not, I had no idea, so I had to test it. I regularly make watercress soup from fresh watercress, so I knew what I would be comparing the dried stuff with.
I read the instructions. They tell me to tale all the ingredients provided and soak them in warm water for 3-5 minutes, then wash them. I’m then invited to add 500g of chopped pork ribs, some ginger and boil the lot together for 2-3 hours. (Alternatively, the pork can be replaced by 600g of fish head (washed and fried to colour)).
You know what? I don’t think I’ll bother. My fresh watercress soup takes 30 minutes maximum and tastes of watercress. Boiling it for 2-3 hours would result in sludge.
There is a great read on the whole subject of watercress here. It doesn’t mention dried watercress, though. Probably sensible