Thursday, October 8, 2009

Camel....the next big MOO?

A few days ago during my morning ritual of NPR/protocol, a short note on camels' milk and nutrition caught my attention.

Camels' milk is unlikely a familiar ingredient for the palates of the general consumers in the U.S., but half way around the globe people consider it a powerful tonic against many diseases like diabetes and cancer. The Gulf Arabs believe it is an aphrodisiac. Though such health claims would require extensive scientific research, some advocates are determined to bring forth camels' milk into the dairy aisle.

While slightly saltier than cows’ milk, camels' milk consists of almost three times as rich in vitamin C as cow’s milk. It is also known for its significantly higher levels in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins. Tapping the market for camel milk, however, involves resolving a series of humps in production, manufacturing and marketing. One problem lies in the milk itself, which has so far not proved to be compatible with the UHT treatment needed to make it long-lasting.

Milking them is yet another challenge; moody camels are known to spit and kick, and mares will give milk only when one of their offspring is nearby. Much respect would be involved when you have dealings with the camels, you can be most certain that they are not more stubborn than cows!

Despite all the hurtles, the world's first camel milk chocolate might be land at chocolatiers near you. The Dubai-based company is aimed to be the "Godiva of the Middle East", and I certainly wouldn't miss to savour a piece.

Memories of Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival....The Forgotten Treat!

Spending Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival abroad often made me take trips down the memory lane. Here in North America, there would be no competitions against the legendary mooncake being the centre of attention. Not that I would object to such notion, as I consider the mooncake (white lotus seed paste with one single yolk) to be among my favourites in the repertoire of Chinese pastries. Just imagine cutting a mooncake into quarters, then eighths, then becoming mesmerised while watching that moist, slight salty duck egg yolk glisten the pale white lotus seed paste........

It is easy to get side-tracked by such delectable treat. I consider myself very lucky to be pampered by my parents upon receiving them through mail, but what I miss the most about spending this festival in Hong Kong, apart from spending quality time with my family, gazing at the moon with sand between our toes, digging sand dunes and fill them with candles and glow sticks, is this fruit, the Chinese pomelo, the 沙田柚 that I miss!

The pomelo variety that is available in the U.S. is called the Chandler. It has a very smooth green skin when compared to other varieties, and it has a pink, but often slightly dried flesh. Growing up devouring the Chinese variety, it is difficult not to compare the two. From the colour of the skin to its rough texture, from the shape of the fruit to the curve of its dimple, Chinese has almost a philosophical demeanor towards this fruit.

This pomelo species is originated in the Guangxi Province of China, created by the grafting method back in the Ming Dynasty. Very much to the liking of the Chinese Emperor Qing Long, it was then named as one of the Tribute fruits.

The love of this fruit did not end with the Emperor, food enthusiasts have tried many ways to incorporate these juicy nuggets into both the sweet and the savoury. The most famed dish would have to be this sweet dessert soup that was developed in Hong Kong back in 1984, the 楊枝甘露 (sweet soup with mangoes, pomelos, sago and coconut milk). The magical harmony between the sweetness of mangoes, the slight tart and bitterness of pomelos, the texture and body of the sago, and the creaminess of coconut milk, this dish has earned its name as one of the Buddha's weapon, the Willow Branches of Aquarius.

If you only consider the meat of this delicious fruit as the edible part, then I'm afraid you are mistaken. The spongy yet bitter rind, with more than a little tender loving care, and a healthy dose of dried prawn roe, can be turned into a dish that fits for a banquet. From the flaming of the skin to the removal of its bitterness with multiple soaking, followed by the prolong braising in the best flavour soup, it takes about 72 hours and a pair of dedicated professional hands to complete this master Cantonese dish, 蝦子柚皮.


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