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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “April, 2015”

Schnitzel and Music?

Is there somehow a connection?

Schnitzel!

Schnitzel!

Dining on delicious schnitzel in Austria or Germany, myMEGusta hardly thinks about Italian food or tunes.

For example, a “must” in Vienna is a meal of wiener schnitzel, the Viennese version of this treat, best found at Plachutta, an upscale chain, her favorite unit being Gasthaus zur Opera, which claims to be “home “ of the “original”.  Ad hype aside, it’s simply delicious, a slice of pounded veal, encased in ethereally light breading and fried to a crisp, and feels like the taste of Vienna.

Check out their website to see how it’s done:

http://www.plachutta.at/de/recipes_wiener_schnitzel/

Bavarian Schnitzel

Bavarian Schnitzel

Moving along the Danube to Munich, myMEGusta recently enjoyed schnitzel again at Andy’s Krablergarten, a low key, cozy restaurant, where there is a whole schnitzel menu, with different meats (pork or turkey), different marinades and the choice or to-bread or not-to-bread.

That evening, her schnitzel choice was the Bayerischesschnitzel, the traditional style of Bavaria, wafer thin pork marinated in horseradish and sweet mustard, then encased in a crispy crust. The flavor combination was fantastic, savory and crunchy.

The word, schnitzel, evolved from the old German word for cut, “schniz”, with the diminutive “le” for “little”. “Wiener” simply means “Vienna”. (Why Wiener and Frankfurter refer to the same sausage, aka hot dog, is a subject for another day.)

Chicken Milanese

Chicken Milanese

The concept of schnitzel preparation originated in Italy, where it’s called “milanesa”. Think of all the variations like veal (chicken, eggplant) parmesan, the fried fillet finished in a casserole with tomato sauce and cheeses, and the classic Veal Milanese (the same thing as a Wiener Schnitzel).

And here comes the connection with a well known tune, the Radetzky March, traditionally played by the Vienna Philharmonic during their New Years Day concert at the Musikvarein. This is the march during which the audience claps along.

This song by Johann Strauss, The Waltz King, is named for the famous 19th century Austrian Field Marshall Joseph Radetzky who was famous for his exploits in Italy.  It was this gentleman who brought the concept of “Milanese” veal to Vienna in 1857.  The dish became a craze, and took on a life of its own as the little cutlet from Vienna.

Radetzky March by Johann Strauss

Radetzky March by Johann Strauss

Postscript for travelers to Vienna: Hotel Pension Susanne, across the street from Plachutta Gasthaus zur Oper, is myMEGusta’s “perfectly adequate hotel” choice for accommodations when she’s not staying at a ritzier place on points. http://www.pension-suzanne.at/index.en.php

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Bamboo – It’s not just for chopsticks and pandas!

Lunchtime At the Playground

Lunchtime At the Playground

There’s a lot of bamboo talk these days, about “sustainable” flooring and socks and shirts.

Life is good at the Panda Reserve in Chengdu!

Life is good at the Panda Reserve in Chengdu!

And, we panda lovers know that it’s what wild pandas eat, although zoos will supplement their diet with other things like high fiber biscuits and sweet potatoes.

 

For people, there are bamboo shoots and bamboo pith, the latter having little to do with the bamboo plant.

Bamboo shoots are a familiar ingredient in Chinese dishes, particularly things like Buddha’s Delight, that old fashioned mélange which vegetarians ate while everyone else dug into chicken chow mein. Unfortunately, most people are only familiar with the canned product, pretty pedestrian.

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

Fresh bamboo shoots are a different story entirely.

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo Shoots

 

Crisp and tasty, they make a great addition to salads and stir fries, and are also delicious braised.They can occasionally be found fresh in supermarkets, either soaking in brined water or plastic, which are fine but it’s better to purchase at an Asian markets with better turnover.

Braised Bamboo Shoots in Brown Sauce

Braised Bamboo Shoots in Brown Sauce

Bamboo Pith in Soup

Bamboo Pith in Soup

Bamboo pith, also known as bamboo mushroom or veiled angel or stinkhorn, is rarely seen in the United States other than at the most genuine and best Chinese restaurants. It actually looks like a tubular veil, the only part of the mushroom which is eaten, and has an almost nutty taste, usually served in soup or with other vegetables.

Bamboo Pith on the Hoof

Bamboo Pith on the Hoof

 

It is one of the items which myMEGusta cannot resist ordering on those rare occasions when it’s available, and it’s one of her favorite aspects of travel to China.

This vegetable has nothing to do with bamboo other than the fact that it grows on agricultural waste like bamboo leaves, among other things like soybean pods, and corn and willow leaves.

Bamboo Pith with Spinach

Bamboo Pith with Spinach

It used to be considered a delicacy, found only in the wild, and enjoyed in the most celebratory and exclusive banquet dishes. But, while it’s still pricey, bamboo pith has been cultivated in the Fujian province in China since 1979, making it commercially viable.  If you’re in China, you might find it fresh at a super-upscale restaurant, but it is usually sold dried.

Purchase it at Asian markets and on the internet, where it was recently seen for $31.30 for 8 ounces, expensive, but goes a long way once soaked and reconstituted. And it’s REALLY good!

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