Northern Capital Picnic: How to Make a Sino-Sammie
Summer picnics can be a drag when we can’t find all the comforts of home. No lukewarm macaroni dripping with mayonnaise, no mushy potato “salad” with relish and no sweaty cheese and crackers. Wait a minute – it’s as if these refrigerated dishes weren’t meant to be packaged, schlepped and eaten outdoors.
Luckily, we live in a country where preserved and packaged goods aren’t just a time-honored brand tradition. While Beijing has the old reliables: jia jidan (egg sandwich), rou jiamo (pork sandwich), lürou huoshao (donkey sandwich) and the like, creative types can easily riff on the sandwich concept with local ingredients for a DIY picnic. Into the test kitchen we went, and here’s what we came out with.
Tianfuhao Pork Hock (jiàng zhǒuzi 酱肘子)
Steeped both in culture and tradition as a time-honored brand, this meaty treat comes from the extreme shank end of the pig’s leg bone and is braised until the meat is fork-tender. If you can’t find it in your local packaged or frozen meat section, jinhua huotui (金华火腿) is an earthy, dry-cured alternative.
Spicy Pickled Green Beans (hóngyóu jiāngdòu 红油豇豆)
While the English translation (cow pea) of this particular suan cai is quite unfortunate, it adds the essential and signature, fiery, pucker-inducing brightener for this sandwich.
Lao Gan Ma (老干妈)
The color of this spicy fermented black bean chili sauce is as vibrant as its taste. Combine it with a little mayonnaise to balance out the sweetness and pump up the flavor – all while giving you a kick in the pants.
Flatbread (làobǐng 烙饼)
The chewy, unleavened laobing is a northern capital specialty, and the base for this spicy sandwich wrap. Pile up the ingredients, swaddle them accordingly, and presto: fangbian sanmingzhi.
Sesame Paste (zhīma jiàng 芝麻酱)
Zhima jiang is a silky, salty paste reminiscent of peanut butter. Other uses include mashing it with chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice to make a low-budget, China-style hummus.
Honey (fēngmì 蜂蜜)
It doesn’t come out of a squeeze bottle shaped like a bear, but local and organic Chinese honey can be easily found and even delivered to your door. Contact Shangri La Farms and DRW Farms (jiyunliang@
vip.163.com) for information on delivery and product availability.
Candied Fruit (shuǐguǒ pǔ 水果脯)
Contrary to the vaguely plastic Barbie doll flavor of the variety we find in holiday fruitcakes, these candied morsels actually taste like the fruits they prescribe to be. Try the apricot variety to add tartness and texture, or add something from the sweeter side like the preserved apple.
Sesame Bun (májiàng shāobǐng 麻将烧饼)
Your standard shoabing is upgraded and sweetened with a hearty pour of sesame paste into the batter before baking.
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