Great when we can travel to another country with just switching on the radio and enjoying the ride. Jacinta from Hello Travel takes us on another culinary journey, and even I am surprised where we end up. This week she was enjoying the rain on the Yangtze River after hosting a small group tour to the north, mid and south of China. Such a vast country and when you think of Chinese the mind does travel to Cantonese food and you know the typical selections – Sweet n’ Sour Pork, Cashew Chicken, Mongolian Lamb but the cuisine is far broader with the influence of weather helping to make some of the food essential for survival. Northwest China is mostly covered with dessert and mountains, the Silk road links China and the Middle East so already we start to see the differing spices, proteins and vegetables that make up the daily diets. Interesting to hear about the Sichuan region with its spicy pepper and panda bears, the Yak tea  or Butter tea that keeps the locals warm in their cold Tibetan tempuratures. Xinjiang, a region that borders Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia  known for its lamb and a street food referred to as Kao Rou, meat charred to order. I share some recipes (go to RECIPES – 15/10/2019)) for Lamb skewers seasoned with cumin, chilli powder and chilli flakes after the lamb has been marinated and the fatty juicy lamb is ready to eat. Also a tasty recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork with wonderful flavours of five-spice powder, Shaoxing wine, fresh ginger and soy sauce for the marinade with all the expected vegetables and sauce to accompany the meal.

Also following a few new spices showing up in recipes and restaurants, look for Zhoug (or Zhug), Sumac and Urfabiber.  Used a lot in Israel and Middle East cooking adding that taste of difference.

Zhoug is a green sauce (go to RECIPES – 15/20/2019)

Sumac is a plant with a fruity tangy spice – burgundy in colour and usually sold ground. It is one of the main ingredients of the spice blend Za’atar.

Irfa biber is a dried Kurdish chilli pepper, a member of the capsicum family and imparts a smoky raisin like taste.