Wow, oh wow! This is some serious candy making right here! Check out the video at the end of my post, it’s long, but magical!
A couple of legends surround the origin of Dragon’s Beard candy, the most popular being the story of a Han dynasty emperor. It’s said that after eating hand-pulled sugar, the white wisps stuck to his face resembled the whiskers of a dragon. Yet another is that the candy was named after the symbol of the Chinese emperor, the mythical dragon, that is, because it was so special and labor-intensive that only royals could enjoy it.
Luckily, these days anyone can eat it and it can be sampled on the street corners all over Asia and in Chinatowns all around the world.
The process in creating such a simple, yet complicated-to-make confection owes much to the theatrical presentation as to the painstaking process, as some vendors add heir own special touches, including entertaining narration and special effects. For example, Roger Poon, a candy maker in Singapore adds liquid nitrogen to create billows of smoke mimicking “dragon’s breath” that customers can blow out. (Warning: Health experts say eating liquid nitrogen might burn your throat and skin.) (Click on the link to see the smoke eaters live at the bottom video of the post featuring Roger Poon)
The process starts after simmering and cooling the sweetener into a hard gel, then shaping it into a ring that they fold again and again into figure eights until they’ve separated it into thousands of fine hairs. The slightest misstep can destroy the strands, so confectioners must use patience and great care. They then wind the strings around a filling like crushed peanuts, coconut, or sesame seeds to form a sweet, delicate nugget.
The ephemeral treat is super sensitive to temperature and moisture, so even though you might be distracted by it’s beauty, gobble it up quickly with your hands and don’t forget to wipe away your dragon’s beard when you’re finished!
These tasty treats can be found in China, Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong. However, if you’re in Canada, you may be in luck! Visit Bonbons a la Barbe de Dragon- 1014 Rue Clark, Montreal, Quebec, H2Z1j9, Canada
What a memorable weekend this has been, as we participated in the festivities known as Bass Camp in Lake Fork.
Fabulous hosts, cooks, fishermen, singers, and just altogether interesting people gathered to fish, eat mouthwatering food, sing and visit around the campfire, play games, and even follow the golf tournament on a camper’s outdoor tv.
This gathering may not appeal to everyone, but we feel very close to these people, and we meet more of them each time we attend. This weekend was no different. Welcome Ginger and Miles to your new home at the point on Lake Fork! I’m so envious, and y’all are going to be so happy there. I hope one day we find a place just as cool so we can be neighbors!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the new couple, or their cute little fluff balls, but I’m hoping someone else did and I’ll share it later. Honestly, I didn’t get many pictures of people, because I was, and have been, so amazed by the beauty of this place.
I wish I could have captured the sparkles as they danced off the water, mesmerizing me as I watched my bobber wiggle on the ripples caused by the on again off again breeze.
I ate so much good food, I gained another two pounds! Worth it. I will just have to work that much harder to get it off, but it was so relaxing to eat whatever I wanted and enjoy it.
The campfire was not only beautiful but necessary, the nights were very cool. After the meals, this is the favorite hangout place. Special packets were tossed in last night.
Last night capped off the weekend with conversation and music around the campfire as we all told stories and sang along as best we could. Yes, there was drinking, but no one got rowdy or caused any trouble. This is a responsible group.
This morning, it was hard to leave after having such a good time, but we thanked our hosts and offered to help clean up before we left. It wasn’t required, so we were off. The wildflowers on the ride home were spectacular, but I only managed to snap a quick shot of and abundance of bluebonnets.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recap of our fun long weekend at Lake Fork in Yantis, Texas. Stay tune for tomorrow’s #A to Z Challenge post. You’re going to love it!
For you ice cream purists, you may think this New Jersey creamery has lost it’s ever loving mind!
But for lovers of the Taylor ham (or pork roll as some call it) the confection is an “Only in Jersey” sweet treat.
Made at the Cow’s Brow Creamery, this “tayham” treat starts with 2 1/2 pounds of the beloved state sandwich filler that, once caramelized, baked, pan-fried, and tossed in cinnamon-sugar forms the salty spine of the fresh ice cream. Along with the base of cream and egg custard, the staff mixes in local maple syrup and chewy challah bread, resulting in a breakfast of ham, and French toast, in a single scoop.
The sweet and salty treat is only available during certain times, so check to be sure before visiting the creamery. Along with other regional favorites such as sweet corn and honey, cranberry creamsicle, and tomato pie, this line-up is going to be rotated along with the special pork roll ice cream as part of the summer offering.
If you go, check the Windy Brow Farm website for summer hours before you head out.
The Cow’s Brow Creamery is located at 359 Ridge Rd. Fredon Township, New Jersey, 07860.
Curious minds want to know: What is the J food? Well, I had a hard time with that one, so Jersey is what I came up with, besides, I just had to share this crazy ice cream flavor!
I=Indigenous Foods are Coming to Stores and Cafes Soon
I am so intrigued at discovering more and more about Indigenous foods and how they are making a place in the world by way of researchers, cafe owners, and farms that are starting to get the word out and the world ready.
Too long have the Aboriginals and other indigenous peoples been held down, or held back from capitalizing on their native “bush tucker” (Foods found in the wild like fruits, nuts, wallaby, and swamp turtle) and sharing it instead of hiding it from the world. These are the foods that have sustained Aboriginal communities for millennia.
The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council recently launched the Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods, it’s aim being to expand the scope of Australia’s native food agriculture business, thereby creating new cash crops in Indigenous communities.
Indigenous Australians have been greatly undervalued for their skills, culture, and traditional knowledge due to the legacy of British colonization, which was designed to mirror Britain’s society yet in doing so, created education and employment systems that were foreign and often outright hostile to Indigenous Australians. This caused high unemployment rates, particularly in remote areas without access to education or job training.
The new center wants to highlight those very things with the farms they are helping establish, which will be owned and operated by Indigenous people. The profits will then be spread throughout their communities. The center has a research team who specialize in social science, natural science, and law. They work with an Indigenous enterprise group of which Robert Dann is a member.
As one of the world’s oldest civilizations Indigenous people have a history stretching back 60,000 years. They have a cuisine consisting of 5,000 native food species, yet only 18 of these have been commercialized. Dann wants the world to know more about delicious foods like the boab nut that they have known for centuries.
He has been enjoying recipes made with the boab nuts since childhood and has now turned those recipes into a business. What is a boab nut? They come from the boab tree with it’s bulbous trunk and spindly branches. The nuts are the size of a cantaloupe, which — once broken open — reveal white kernels which are then boiled and made into a porridge with sugar. The broth from the boiled nuts is also made into a drink similar to iced tea. With the help of the center, he has learned how to market his recipes and has branded his Boab-nut-infused drinks Bindam Mie.
Another collaboration between the center and an Indigenous community led to the introduction of a green plum the people have been eating for 53,000 years, which the scientists say could become the latest “super food”. It might become one of the key sources of income for these Indigenous communities in Arhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Initially, the team was seeking out the well-known Kakadu Plum, when the Indigenous people showed them the more superior plum. Now the team is working to learn the nutritional properties and commercial value, because according to Dr. Sultanbawa, it is one of the healthiest native foods ever discovered in Australia. High in folate, fiber, and protein not to mention lots of minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, its also delicious! It’s said to taste like a pear.
Not yet ready to be sold, investors are still interested. Once the center finishes the work on the green-plum project, the fruit will become the 19th Australian native food produced commercially. It will join fruits like, desert lime, finger lime, bush tomato, Kakadu plum, lemon aspen, pepperberry, quondong, and riberry. Also herbs such as gulbarn, jilungin,anise myrtle, river mint, saltbush, sea parsley, peppermint gum, pepperleaf, and strawberry gum.
The doctor states that the center wants to help produce and sell native foods while utilizing Indigenous knowledge which must be respected, as they know best how to grow and use these foods. This makes the Centre different from other ventures that have tried to exploit Indigenous resources and knowledge with limited direct benefit to Indigenous communities.
Dann’s business has succeeded tremendously with the center’s help. His brand produces peach, lemon, and original flavored boab iced tea which can be purchased directly via his website and also in Western Australian stores. His customers appreciate the simple, natural ingredients used to make the drinks, nothing but water, boab powder, fruit extract, and organic agave nectar. Bindam Mie also sells ginger beer, boab powder and syrup.
He enjoys seeing the Indigenous people getting a proper chance to make some money from their native foods. The only prior commercial experience Dann had was collecting Kakadu plums and selling them with a friend to a health-food company. Now he is creating employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians in the Kimberley, paying them 414 per kilogram for the boab nuts they gather in the wild.
He says, “There are so many amazing native foods that no one really knows about, only us [Indigenous people.] Now we are starting to show them to the world.”
I’ll be speaking more on Indigenous foods in future posts when I showcase some of Australia’s newest eateries, like The Lillypad, which I will talk about on the 12th.
No, I am not speaking of the Hercules we all know from classical mythology. I want to introduce you to one of the earliest American chefs, in fact, George Washington’s executive chef! Meet Hercules, a slave from 1770 to 1797.
It might have been a long day in the executive kitchen, but when it was over, chef Hercules hit the streets of Philly in his finest looking for the place the fashionable people were known to congregate, on Market Street. His attire was different than any other slave, but this revered chef had a flair for fashion and knew what he wanted, which is how he became one of the most famous chefs in the early American republic.
He stepped out in his blue velvet-collared coat, shined buckles on polished shoes, while atop his head, the enslaved cook wore a tricorn hat, and a long watch-chain dangled from the side of his black silk pants. A gold-headed cane firmly in hand, he drew considerable attention as strangers gawked and those known to him bowed. They admitted he was the dandiest, most polished gentleman of the time.
Historians are as enchanted with him today, which is a testament to his charisma and culinary skills. The author of Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, Kelley Fanto Deetz, says Hercules might have been the first celebrity chef in America. His culinary skills and status were recognized nation-wide, and he was a very confidant, proud man. “He demanded perfection from his staff in the presidential kitchen and he commanded attention and respect from the public as well– something unheard of for enslaved laborers of his period.” she writes.
Although the history is sketchy about when exactly Washington moved him from his house slave to the kitchen, Washington’s 1786 diary entry mentioned him as a cook and within three years, he promoted him to head chef.
Hercules was very precise and disciplined, mastering cooking techniques and skills such as hearth cooking, according to Adrian Miller, author and James Beard award winner who wrote The President’s Kitchen Cabinet.
Cooking in a fireplace was his biggest skill according to Miller, who added that he would have had to learn how to tend a cooking fire, what utensils to use, how to change the elevation of cooking vessels hanging in the fire to get the desired cooking effect, and how to cook in warm ashes. He also ran an orderly, sanitary kitchen and his underlings knew they were in trouble if they didn’t meet his exacting standards.
He was known to be mild-mannered outside the workplace, but possessed surprisingly iron discipline, shining the most at dinners Washington hosted for members of Congress says Washington’s adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis, who wrote a memoir many decades after his father’s death.
In it he also stated that these dinners Washington hosted would be hectic and crowded affairs, but under Hercules, it was orderly as his underlings flew in every direction trying to execute his orders, while Hercules seemed to possess the power of ubiquity, and to be everywhere at the same moment.
Whatever specialties Hercules perfected were unfortunately lost to history, but Deetz speculates they were probably “typical colonial fare, kicked up a notch.” Foods like oyster stew, braised fish, custards, puddings and fresh breads. All he knows is they made Hercules famous and even his leftovers were a hot commodity.
He reportedly made decent money as well, which he put to good use on his fashionable clothes, enabling him to enter prominent social circles and garner a great amount of respect. He behaved like a freeman, and enjoyed popularity and fame, eventually paving the way for his escape. That’s a story for another day.