jeudi 11 février 2010

Films on Food: The Chinese Feast

What’s more exciting than spending a languorous evening preparing a home recipe passed down from your grandmother, and serving it to a table of approving loved ones?

Certainly, that would be a high-stakes cooking contest, to be completed in very little time, with very expensive and rare ingredients, served to ruthless judges that will decide the existence of your future career.

In other words, Iron Chef, the Food Network cult favorite, and possibly the strangest and most riveting cooking show of all time. Iron Chef combines action with art, allowing a lifetime of culinary talent to be judged in a quick 60 minute fireworks show of cooking skill. What I love about Iron Chef is that it leans towards the extreme, unveiling the ‘secret theme ingredient’ to be urchin, or beef tongue (either that or the most banal: cabbage, plain yogurt), and the chefs’ methods of cooking goes on to match. Cod roe ice cream? Not impossible. Lobster-flavored asparagus? The more money outlandishly spent, the better.

The Chinese Feast (1995) by Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, is Iron Chef in film form. It’s fast-paced, with bizarre characters, plenty of action, exotic dishes, and comedy. It evens throws a love story and a martial arts sequence into the mix.

The story follows Kit, a master chef fallen from acclaim, and Sun, a talentless young man seemingly aspiring to be a rock star and chef simultaneously. The popular Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong where Sun works is threatened by Super Group, a gang of tough-looking chefs who aim to take over every restaurant in China, and the two sides agree to stage a cook-off. The meal of choice is to be the Manchu Han Imperial Feast.

The Manchu Han Imperial Feast is a true historical event. It’s one of the most lavish meals ever known in China, comprising at minimum 108 dishes, spanning 3 days, and showcasing cooking methods from across China. It was held by the emperor of the Qing Dynasty, in an effort to resolve political disputes between the Manchu and the Han.

Although the battle of the chefs in The Chinese Feast consists of a mere 3 dishes, the film is true to form as far as exoticism goes. The three required meals are: bear paw, elephant trunk, and monkey brains. Is it cruel to eat live monkey brains? Maybe yes, but these chefs have some creative ways of getting around moral hesitations. I’ll leave that for you to find out.

The only doable recipes shown in the film (unless you want to be on PETA’s blacklist) are beef noodles and sweet and sour pork. Not being a fan of pork, I'm attaching a recipe for sweet and sour shrimp.

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

• 2/3 pound medium shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
• 1 tsp. soy sauce
• 1 tsp. cornstarch

• 2 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch
• 1/3 cup soy sauce
• 4 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
• 4 Tbsp. (packed) dark brown sugar
• 1 tsp. ground ginger
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• 20 ounce can pineapple chunks (in juice)

• 1 celery stalk, diagonally cut very thin
• 1 carrot, diagonally cut very thin
• 1 medium onion, julienne cut (thin strips from halved onion sliced from root to top)
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
• 1 Tbsp oil

1. Marinate shrimp in 1 tsp. soy sauce and 1 tsp. cornstarch for about 20 minutes (in the refrigerator.)

2. In a bowl or large measuring cup mix sauce ingredients: 2 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch, 1/3 cup soy sauce (add soy sauce slowly and stir to avoid lumps), rice wine vinegar, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, garlic powder, and the juice from the pineapple chunks (reserve the pineapple chunks for later in the recipe.) Set sauce aside.

3. Heat wok or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add shrimp (with marinade) to the pan and stir-fry until just cooked (shrimp will start to curl and turn pink.) Remove shrimp to bowl or plate.

4. Add more oil to wok or pan if needed and stir-fry celery and carrot to soften and remove the vegetables to a bowl (not the one with the shrimp.)

5. Add more oil if needed and add onion and stir-fry briefly to soften. Add back carrots and celery along with bell pepper and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add pineapple chunks to wok or pan and add back the shrimp. Stir-fry for a few seconds. Mix sauce and pour into wok or pan. Stir everything in the wok or pan and bring to a boil so the mixture can thicken.

6. Immediately remove from heat and serve with Chinese white rice or over crispy noodles.

Use a variety of colors to balance out the sauce, and chop vegetables with similar cooking times in the same shape. This is done so the ingredients cook evenly together, so the ingredients balance each other, and because it looks pretty. However, chunks of celery and carrot would overpower the dish and take too long to cook.

La nourriture sur le grand écran: Le Festin Chinois

Le Festin Chinois est un film réalisé par le hong-kongais Tsui Hark. C’est l’histoire d’un ancien grand chef Kit qui a quitté son métier à la suite de son échec pendant un concours de la cuisine, et d’un rock-and-roll jeune chef Sun sans aucun talent. Les deux doivent collaborer pour sauver le restaurant où travaille Sun contre Super Group, une organisation de chefs qui souhaitent prendre le contrôle de tous les restaurants chinois en Chine. Ils décident de parier l’avenir du restaurant sur le résultat du plus grand, du plus somptueux festin dans l’histoire de la Chine, le Festin Imperial de Manchu Han.

Le Festin Imperial de Manchu Han a eu lieu dans la Cité Interdite à Pékin pendant la dynastie Qing. Il s’agit de 108 plats préparés sur 3 jours avec des méthodes variées traversant la Chine.

Le film souligne la nature extravagante et exotique du festin. Le concours comprend 3 plats extravagants : la patte d’ours, la trompe d’éléphant, et finalement la cervelle de singe. Vous trouvez cela cruel de manger un singe vivant, tout mignon et innocent? Peut-être, mais les chefs sont plutôt créatifs. Je vous laisse découvrir la surprise finale.

Le Festin Chinois représente le meilleur du cinéma moderne hong-kongais et chinois, c’est un film plein de comédie, d’action, d’amour, de personnages originaux, de situations bizarres.

Crevettes à l'ananas sauce aigre douce

Les ingrédients :
• 500 g de crevettes décortiquées
• 50 ml de sauce soja
• 5 carottes
• 1 oignon
• 1 poivron vert
• 1 poivron rouge
• 350 g d'ananas en conserve
• Pour la sauce aigre douce :
• 3 cuillèrée à soupe de sucre
• 250 ml de sauce tomate
• 60 ml de vinaigre de cidre (car plus doux et incorpore bien tous les parfums)
• 1 cuillèrée à soupe de fécule
• jus de l'ananas récupéré
• 15 ml de sauce aux huîtres
• sel

1. Laisser macérer pendant environ 1 heure les crevettes avec le sel, le poivre et la sauce soja. Chauffer l'huile d'arachide et frire les crevettes préalablement enduites de farine, à feu modéré et mettre de côté.

2. Couper l'oignon, les carottes, le céleri et les poivrons en lamelles. Faire sauter les légumes. Ajouter les morceaux d'ananas tranchés, puis la sauce aigre-douce. Mélanger les ingrédients. Servir avec un riz blanc.

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