Hello there! Is anybody still here? I had planned to post this recipe way back in September, before Summer ended, when the farmer’s market stalls were still filled with the last batches of the summer pluots, plums and peaches. I was even preparing in my head a romantic spiel about how this recipe would be the perfect note to end Summer and welcome Fall, blah blah blah… But life happened, and then China happened… I had a busy month at work, then Ryan and I went to Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an, we just came back last Saturday. China was definitely an experience, I’m just happy to be home, and have an all American breakfast of steak and eggs and a side of pancakes.
Chinese food in China was definitely different than Chinese food in the States. There were some really good stuff and there were also some not so good stuff, and I’m not even talking about the weird stuff, I can handle the weird stuff. But let me tell ya, they do not know how to do pancakes and French toasts, even at those fancy Western hotel with international breakfast buffet! I’m sure most of you are like wtf are you eating pancakes and French toasts in China for?? But by the end of the trip, I was really missing In n Out, fries, steak, Mexican food, waffles, etc. At the beginning of the trip, all we wanted was some authentic Chinese food! Yeah, the real stuff, the good stuff! Then after 2 weeks, we were defeated, couldn’t take it anymore.
We tried Peking duck in Beijing, thinking it would be out of this world, cuz that’s where it originated right?? My friend took us to Dadong, apparently extremely famous for their Peking duck, you have to even reserve a duck for your meal. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you pass the brick oven filled with ducks roasting inside. But something was horribly wrong when I couldn’t smell the delicious aroma I was expecting to come from this gigantic oven. It turned out that these Peking ducks are not seasoned with the spices I thought they should be. Despite the fanciness of the restaurant and the whole slicing-the-duck-in-front-of-you show, it was a mediocre meal at best, not to mention pricier than a Chinese meal in the States. Zero star for Dadong, and stay away from most of these hyped up five star restaurants if you are ever in China.
The best meals we had were always from tiny little random restaurants on the street. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what they are called cuz you know, everything is in CHINESE! But when we were in Shanghai, we stopped for lunch at some hole in the wall place with roast ducks hanging on the window, best $20 meals ever, for four people. That duck was delicious! We went to Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings as well in Shanghai, honestly, it wasn’t too different from the ones here, maybe only slightly.
Back in Beijing, we went to small place that serves porridge, all different kinds, they come in a big clay pot, steaming and delicious. We also went to another dumpling restaurant in Beijing, which had some bomb ass braised pork that melted in your mouth, and a spicy braised duck that was like an explosion of flavors.
We had roast goose in Xi’an, it tasted kind of like roast duck, with all the spices of course, I can tell you it was damn good. Xi’an is also known for their noodles, “biang biang” noodles, the one where you can watch the noodler (a person who makes noodle, I made that up) pull it and separate it and cook it and then you slurp it up in a bowl of flavorful broth. My tour guide explained the reason they are called “biang biang” noodle is because of the sound they make when the noodle is banging on the table top during the hand pulling process, chalked that up under interesting facts.
As for street food, it can be difficult to find in a big city like Beijing, but we were lucky to find some, my favorite was some sort of Chinese hamburger, the bread is like a mix between an English muffin and a biscuit, you can choose your own fillings from fried egg, to ham, pork, chicken, to vegetables, for just 6 yuan or so (about a dollar!). And then there’s a fried pork chop guy on the snack street in Shanghai, with a line wrapped around the block, for 9 yuan, you get a piece of fried pork chop the size of both your palms, chopped up and sprinkled with soy sauce in a paper bucket. You eat it with a stick while walking around dodging cars and scooters.
So yeah, those were my most memorable food experiences in China. This post is way longer than my usual ranting already, so I’ll have to save other things for another day. And umm, here’s the recipe for the pie, which feels like a completely unrelated topic by now. 😛
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 oz unsalted butter - cold
- 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon cold water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 oz unsalted butter – room temperature
- 3/4 - 1 cup of almond meal (see note)
- 2 tablespoon white whole wheat flour
- 1 large pinch of kosher salt
- 1 large egg - beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 large ripe pluots or plums – thinly sliced
- Powder sugar
- Prepare the crust first, place flour, sugar and salt in the food processor fitted with the dough blade and pulse a few times to mix.
- Cube the cold butter and add to the flour mixture. Pulse several times until butter is about pea and lima bean size and mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough starts to pull together. Be mindful not to overmix, you still want chunks of butter in the dough to create a flaky crust.
- Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board, knead a few times if necessary to get everything combined.
- Divide dough into six portions, flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic and rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- To prepare the almond cream, in the bowl of the food processor, cream the sugar and soften butter together, then add almond meal, flour and salt and pulse until combined.
- Beat an egg with 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and add to the almond meal mixture, pulse until a smooth paste forms. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- When the dough is ready, roll each portion out into a 5.5” circle to fit a 3” mini pie tin. Trim off excess dough if necessary, flute the edges with your thumb and index fingers.
- Work on one piece of dough at a time, when finished, cover with plastic and place in the freezer.
- Wash and slice the pluots or plums into thin slices.
- Take the pie tins out of the freezer and poke holes on the bottoms with a fork.
- Divide the almond cream evenly into six pie tins, arrange pluot or plum slices on top.
- Cover with plastic and place back into the freezer.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place the pie tins on a large baking sheet, and bake for 50 minutes in the middle of the oven.
- Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack before serving.
I used 1 cup of almond meal for the pies in these photos.
It is better to use very ripe, sweet pluots or plums, although they could be difficult to slice thinly since they can be very juicy, but totally worth it.