If you’re one of my six regular readers, you know I love good food. Well, one of the local Denver newspapers – Denverite – has been doing a special series where readers can nominate a restaurant in their neighborhood that they are especially grateful survived the COVID-19 pandemic. I nominated a Vietnamese restaurant called Anise, and they picked my nomination to do an article on!
The reporter interviewed me and the couple who own the restaurant. I’m mostly happy with the way the article came out. I went there for lunch today, and talked to Long, one of the owners, a bit. He said of all the press they’ve gotten, this article is the most shared on social media. And several new customers have come in because of the article. So that makes me happy.
Yeah, I realize it seems like all I do here is post food related stuff every three months. And lately, I can see why you’d think that. I’ve had other things on my mind, including other things I’d like to write about. But putting virtual pen to virtual paper just hasn’t been a high priority, I guess. I don’t know why.
Anyhow, today I’m writing to tell you about…more food! That’s right. In particular, a food called “Manchow soup”. And like so many of my posts, there are a bunch of tangents where you may learn some interesting trivia.
First, let me tell you briefly about the soup. It’s an Indian Chinese dish, meaning it’s a food from India that is meant to imitate food from China. More on that later.
Because it’s popular in India, it’s usually vegetarian. It tastes something like American Chinese “hot and sour soup” but not quite. I discovered this soup when Beth and I were traveling around northern India for a month in December 2015. And since I like soup, I had it just about every time I saw it on a restaurant’s menu.
Let’s talk about the name. “Manchow” sounds like “man chow” in the same sense as “dog chow”. But really, Manchow refers to the idea that the soup is from Manchuria, a region of China. Now Manchuria the word has a weird history of its own, because it’s not a Chinese word at all. It’s an English version of a Dutch corruption of a Japanese word for the region in northeast China where people of a certain ethnicity lived in the 17th century.
According to the Indians – and when I use Indians here, I mean India Indians, of course, not Native Americans – Manchow soup is a dish from Manchuria. But it’s not really. “Although the soup is named after Manchuria it does not resemble any that is normally found in the cuisines of the region,” according to Wikipedia. “The origin of Manchow soup is Meghalaya.” (Meghalaya is a state in northeast India, just north of Bangladesh)
Now, let’s talk a little about Indian Chinese cuisine. You may already know that the “Chinese” food most of us Americans think about isn’t really Chinese food. American Chinese food is a cuisine that Chinese immigrants invented specifically for American tastes. It’s not what real people eat in China. Some dishes are close to real Chinese dishes, but most are total fabrications. Whenever you hear someone talk about a restaurant serving “authentic” General Tso’s chicken or crab rangoons or Mongolian beef, there’s really no such thing. Even the fortune cookie is an American invention, first served in California.
So, in the same way that American Chinese food like almond chicken is an American re-imagining of Chinese food, Indian Chinese (also called Indo-Chinese) food is an Indian re-imagining of Chinese food. And since Indians have different palates and ingredients than Americans, Indian Chinese food is very different than American Chinese food.
And so that brings me back to Manchow soup. In India, as in America, some restaurants serve “Chinese” food, and a popular dish is Manchow soup. I don’t know what it was that made this soup appeal to me when we were traveling around India, but something did. Maybe it was because it was different from the local Indian food and my taste buds wanted something different.
Anyhow, over the five years since I’ve been back, I’ve had a slowly growing craving for Manchow soup. But there’s a problem. How can I get some? “Indian” restaurants don’t serve it, because it’s not Indian food. “Chinese” restaurants don’t serve it, because it’s not Chinese food. After some internet sleuthing, I found that there are some restaurants in the USA that serve Manchow soup, but they’re all in areas that have more Indian immigrants than Denver.
So I kept looking. And then a couple months ago I found an Indian restaurant in the south part of the Denver metro area that had “Veg Hot & Sour” on the menu, with a description of “Soup made with Vegetables and other authentic spices in Indo Chinese style.” This is it! Indo Chinese hot & sour soup must mean Manchow soup. But since hardly anyone in America knows it by the name Manchow soup, they called it generically “hot & sour” soup on the menu, so I thought. So I ordered two orders of it to be delivered. This restaurant is several miles away, and some poor delivery guy spent something like an hour and a half of his life bringing me my long-sought-after soup.
I tipped him well. But there was a problem. Once it arrived, and I dove in, I realized two key things. First, the soup was so spicy as to be inedible, even for me. Second, it didn’t taste at all like the Manchow soup I had in India. What this stuff tasted like was if someone sauteed some veggies and then poured an entire jar of hot sauce into the saucepan, and called that “soup”. I was sad and disappointed, and threw all of both servings out, except for the three spoonfuls I choked down.
Back to the drawing board. I decided I’d just have to figure out how to make Manchow soup on my own. So I looked at a few recipes online, and finally settled on this one.
The ingredients and preparation felt right. And Dassana, the creator of the recipe, seemed legit. So I gathered all the ingredients, took a big chance, doubled everything in the recipe, and made a big pot of it. Fortunately, it came out great. I had to tweak the spices a little – it needed more salt and more vinegar – but it hit the spot. I didn’t make the fried noodles that you get in India, because they’re just empty calories and I’ve been trying to keep off the weight I lost last year.
My pot full of soup ended up being about 15 servings, so I’ve been eating it most days the past week, and just put the rest in the freezer to enjoy in the future since frankly I’m getting a little burned out on it now. It’s weird to go from craving this soup to having too much of this soup in the course of two weeks.
Anyhow, that’s the story of my Manchow soup. And here’s the photo (before adding chopped cilantro).
Yesterday I wrote all about our upcoming Thanksgiving 2020 dinner, before we actually ate. I’m writing this the next day, Friday November 27, and I figure it’s time to share the photos. It was a spectacle!
The first thing we needed was a chef with an apron and a cocktail. The blackberry mule was delicious, and also surprisingly potent.
The salad course was “kale and shredded brussels”. The dressing was a curry vinaigrette. And I’m still not sure what the bit white things were. At first I thought a very mild dry cheese. Then I thought they were slices of mushroom. And then I thought they were slices of very dry tofu. After eating them, I have no idea.
Brooke was very excited to hear that dinner is served.
And now, the whole plated meal. I forgot the cranberry relish that was included. I guess we get to have those today, with the leftovers. Here you can see the sweet potato dauphinoise (a lot more than we needed), turkey, cornbread and chorizo dressing, charred green beans, and of course turkey. The turkey leg confit is on bottom (mostly) and slices of breast on top.
It was delicious, probably better than this photo makes it look.
After dinner, we were too full to eat dessert. But it was time for our online open house anyhow. So we spent the next four hours talking to friends and family on the computer. By the end, we were both tired out from all the talking and listening, and dealing with video problems.
Here’s a photo of the two of us expression our exhaustion at the end of a long Thanksgiving Day.
Good news, though, we did have pie after this photo and rallied enough to watch a pretty good movie, “Uncle Frank” on Amazon Prime.
Hi, readers. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we’re having a bit of a global pandemic at the moment. That means Thanksgiving at home. No travel, no family.
My lovely girlfriend Brooke and I are spending our fourth Thanksgiving together. Give me a moment to reflect on them.
In 2017, Brooke was house- and dog-sitting for some friends of hers who live in Sedalia. I drove down there and made Thanksgiving dinner. I guess I should say I assembled dinner. I bought a smoked turkey breast from Owlbear BBQ (one of the amazing Central Texas style barbecue joints that have cropped up in Denver the past decade), along with some side dishes. I think I made haricots verts amandine from scratch.
In 2018, we flew to Baltimore and had Thanksgiving dinner with one of Brooke’s friends from college, Amy. Amy’s parents invited us all to a home cooked meal, and it was wonderful. Very traditional, like something my grandmother would made.
This year, I made a 180 degree turn and decided to let someone else do all the cooking. After shopping around some, I settled on Root Down. If you’re not aware, that’s a really good restaurant in Denver that has been very popular since they opened a bit over a decade ago. They specialize in upscale healthy food, and like many restaurants were offering a take home Thanksgiving dinner. Once I saw the menu, I just couldn’t pass it up.
I made some choices, added on some pre-mixed cocktails (a quart!), and chose a pie, and here’s what we’re having:
Earl of Blackberry Mule
Kale & Shaved Brussels Salad
Pretzel Crusted Purple Sweet Potato Dauphinoise
Charred Green Beans with Chili Crunch & Shallots
Cornbread & Chorizo Stuffing
Brined Roasted Turkey Breast
Pulled Confit Turkey Leg
The Half & Half: Spiced Pumpkin/Whiskey Pecan Pie
The “mule” is like a Moscow Mule, but blackberry flavored. I had to look up what dauphinoise is; it’s a particular French style of scalloped potatoes. The rest is pretty self-explanatory except for one thing.
I had assumed “The Half & Half” was half of a pumpkin pie and half of a pecan pie. But no! At least not like I imagined. It’s a single pie that has two layers. The bottom is a pumpkin pie, but the top is a pecan pie. It’s like layers of rock and it appeals to my interest in geology.
But wait, you’re probably saying, you’re writing this on Wednesday night, so how could you know what the inside of the pie looks like? Well, I’m saving all the Thanksgiving dinner for Thanksgiving proper except for the pie. We gave in and had to try to a slice early. That’s now I know.
Here’s how the whole spread looked when I got it home from the restaurant and unpacked it onto the counter.
In the lower right is an extra package of turkey I bought, because I wanted to be sure to have some turkey leftovers to make a sandwich. But oops, I forgot to get some bread. Oh well.
And now that I’ve told you all about what’s on the menu for tomorrow, I want to let you know that we are having a pair of virtual gatherings with friends and family. If you’d like to join us by video call using Google Meet, we would love to see you. We’re just gonna leave the computer on, and people can come and go as they please. So consider stopping in to say hi for just a minute or stay to chat for an hour with a glass of wine and some leftovers.
Happy Thanksgiving 2020 from Brooke and Todd
Please join us for a casual and warm gathering of friends and family using Google Meet. Come and go whenever you like.
Thursday 4:00pm to 8:00pm – Thanksgiving dessert and food coma
Friday 5:00pm to 7:30pm – leftovers and cocktails
All times Mountain
I’m leaving the URLs off so we don’t get any random internet weirdos joining us. Only known friendly weirdos, please! Call me at 720-480-4890 if want the instructions for joining.
And if you are busy with your own plans, please have an enjoyable Thanksgiving regardless of what you decide to do. Brooke and I are both thankful to be safe and healthy and together.
I’ve been trying to cook and eat healthier the past few months, to help support Brooke and me losing some weight. It’s been working, and I’ve been continually challenged to make lower-calorie versions of food I like that don’t taste like crap.
So, when my box of pre-selected produce from the farmers market had potatoes, I knew I had a challenge ahead of me. Potatoes are exactly what I should not be eating. They have almost no nutritional value, and are high in carbohydrates, something I should avoid as a diabetic. With Independence Day coming up, I set my thinking toque toward making some potato salad. Here’s the result.
2 cups of diced potatoes
1 dill pickle spear, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 T chopped white onion
1/4 cup yogurt
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 package of fresh dill, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
After dicing the potatoes, cook them in boiling water for about 10 or 12 minutes. Meanwhile, chop all the veggies.
Throw everything except the potatoes (which are still cooking, duh) into a bowl and stir it all together.
Once the potatoes are done, run them under cold water in a colander.
After they’ve cooled mostly, throw those into the bowl, and stir everything around to coat the potatoes. Put it all in the fridge for an hour to let everything mingle and chill. Stir again, then serve.
This recipe makes three American size servings, perfect for the 4th of July with your sweetheart and some leftovers. Scale it up as needed.
This has about 1/3 the calories as store-bought potato salad for servings that are twice as big. I call that a success.
Now that we’re a few months into dealing with the pandemic most call COVID-19, something just occurred to me.
Doctors have been telling us from the beginning that the virus is transmitted on tiny droplets of water in people’s breath, right? Basically, someone who’s infected (whether they know it or not) coughs or sneezes, and a bunch of little water drops spew into the air with virus on them, and then someone else breathes that into their lungs.
The Centers for Disease Control say that COVID-19 can’t be spread by food. That’s why restaurants have been able to stay open and provide carry-out service. A dead and cooked hamburger can’t breathe in the virus from an infected cook, and it can’t breathe out on a customer, so food is safe.
But then I thought back to how this pandemic started in the first place. Some dude in southern China presumably ate a bat that was infected. Surely the bat was dead from being cooked, so there’s no way the bat could have breathed out to infect the human. And the human who ate it couldn’t have been breathing in, because it’s impossible to swallow food and breathe at the same time (thank you, epiglottis).
So something about this story doesn’t add up. Anyone have an explanation?
I’m doing some digital spring cleaning, going through a bunch of random old notes on my computer. And I came across part of a recipe for green chile stew that I made up to reflect what I was making. This was meant to emulate the green chile stew I had at the View Restaurant at the Monument Valley visitor center.
The thing is, I didn’t really write a full recipe, just a list of ingredients. I do that a lot, since usually they’re just to jog my memory later, and how to put the ingredients together is pretty obvious. Hopefully it’ll be obvious to you, too.
If I ever wrote down details, it would be things like “add enough cumin for it to taste good” or “cook it until it looks and smells right”. Do you cook the same way?
One nice thing about being out of work is I have lots more time to experiment in the kitchen. A few days ago I made “two-ingredient dough” for the first time. I made two batches, enough to make homemade bagels one day, with lots left over for another day. Today was that other day, and I decided to try some sort of somewhat low calorie dessert.
I’m doing WW right now, formerly called Weight Watchers, to lose some weight, and didn’t want a dessert that would blow my responsible eating out of the water for the day.
Going through a bunch of options in my mind, I decided to make a sort of pastry with a thick dark chocolate filling. I’m now calling it a chocolate pizza.
I rolled the dough out and then made a little lip around the edges, thinking that would help keep the chocolate topping contained (I was wrong, and it was irrelevant).
Then I beat an egg and brushed it on the dough to make it look nice and shiny. Then I put that in the oven at 425.
Meanwhile, for the topping, I put the following into my food processor and mixed it all into a wonderful paste the consistency of mousse, and the flavor of dark chocolate.
2 bananas, previously frozen, now thawed in the microwave
After a while (15+ minutes), the crust started to brown and I thought it looked like it was ready. Baking made the crust poof up, so the lip around the edges that I made turned out to be totally useless and lost.
Next, I chilled the crust in the freezer a few minutes to bring it down to room temperature, because my chief taste tester was in a hurry to get home so she could do her online Jazzercise class.
After the crust chilled enough, I spread the topping on, and then cut it into 8 pieces. They look something like this.
They were tastier even than I had hoped, and the dark chocolate topping is so rich! I did the math, and each serving is only 3 SmartPoints.