Juliet once asked, “What’s in a name?”
Why is my blog called Recipe Nomad? Why am I the Recipe Nomad? To best explain this I’ll tell you a little about myself. I grew up in the USA, got married to a hunk and had 3 cool kids. An accomplishment in itself, but there’s more to the Recipe Nomad…
I grew up in the USA, but for the past 8 years I have lived abroad with my nomadic family. We are expatriates, better known as expats. I’ve lived in some pretty cool places… Nuremberg, Germany– back to the USA– in London…. yes London is amazing!– and now I find myself in the Eastern Hemisphere. It’s place I never thought I would be– Shanghai, China. Regardless where we lived and all the changes we faced, there was always one thing that was stable in not only my kids life but my life. I cook and prepare dinner, finding comfort in the kitchen.
I first found pleasure in cooking while in Germany. I couldn’t buy PastaRoni and Betty Crocker Cake mix- staples in my pre-expat life. It was in Germany that I figured out how to make a cake without a box (as my friend Vicky would say… EGADS!). At that time my recipes were basic and simple, relying mostly on Betty Crocker and Kraft recipes.
Two years later and back in the USA I continued cooking but in the land of plenty I didn’t feel like much of a culinary nomad.
A few years later we were reassigned to London, England! Talk about a place to be culinary creative! I began buying lots of cookbooks. Ottolenghi, Afternoon Tea, Tea with Bea, The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, Wahaca, Jamie Oliver. I would sit on my couch and bookmark succulent recipes. The easy life. I find a recipe then hop online to order the exact groceries for delivery to my house. Those days of forgetting a vital ingredient were long gone for me. I yearned for events where I could boast my love for cooking. Halloween, birthday’s, Thanksgiving, coffee mornings. Family dinners became more extravagant with salad, soup, main dish, a plethora of sides and a dessert of course. Just give me any reason to be in the kitchen.
A year 11 1/2 months later I found my life transplanted to a far off world… Shanghai. Before I left I bought so much groceries to ship over. Spices, olive oil, olives, chutney’s and anything else I could stuff into my sea shipment. The stares I received on my last Costco and Turkish grocery store visit will forever be engrained in my memory.
Initially I lost my desire to be creative, resorting to classic recipes with ingredients that I could find at the vegetable market. As the days turned into months (and now 18 months), I found my groove again. It is here in Shanghai, China that I truly describe myself as the Recipe Nomad.
A nomad is defined as:
a member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.
Part of this adventure has been hunting out ingredients to make creative dishes possible. I last posted about a Kale salad. My yoga loving brother in the USA got me hip to kale this summer. I was sure I wouldn’t find it in China, but upon arriving back after 7 weeks in the land of plenty I decided not to let elusive ingredients prevent me from being creative. I found kale online at Fields, but it was pricey to say the least. At 20RMB for 120 grams it was going to cost me about $14.00 per pound. Being resourceful I ran across the street with a picture of kale on my iPhone and showed my fabulous vegetable lady… Wala! The next day she delivered a bag of kale for only $5.
Cooking and living in China require planning ahead, especially if I want to be creative. You never know if you’ll find what you need or not. I might find kale today and never see it again… hence everyone who knows me here knows my penchant to buy in bulk. This uncertainty is annoying but I’ll tell you a secret… I love it! It’s aggravatingly fun!
Since my days in London, I’ve been making sushi at home. Initially I prepped the ingredients and HH (hunky husband) would roll an endless number of rolls. Add a bowl of miso soup and you have dinner for a fraction the cost of a mediocre sushi restaurant. Since then I prep and roll (not as good as HH but I’m learning)
What feels like a lifetime ago, I met a parent here who buys lots of fish and invited me to tag along to the fish market. Curious about buying a whole salmon I eagerly accepted the offer. I’ve gone plenty of times since but never without him. Yesterday I decided to navigate the fish market on my own (with the help of my driver and my adventurous partner in crime). The spectacle of a blondie and olive-skinned brunette caused a lot of stares!
- Old, short pants are best. The first time, I wore my $200 7 for All Mankind Jeans. A year later and I think I can still smell the stench of fish on the hem.
- Old shoes – No flip flops! Reminiscing back to my first time at the market a donned a pair of awesome Campers shoes. Another bad decision. Oh my they stunk when I got home. Since then I keep around an old pair of tennis shoes to wear there. Yesterday I wore flip flops. Don’t wear flip flops. Just don’t.
- Hand wipes are vital. I don’t think I need to explain.
This place isn’t clean but it’s so alive! Conch, urchin, halibut, salmon, crab, shrimp, lobster. If it swims in the ocean they have it. The key here is selectivity. Since I will be using my salmon for sushi I was not going to buy from any random vendor. My friend showed me who he uses for salmon and I went back there. He also taough me the two ways to know if the salmon is fresh…
- Are the gills red? This can be faked (it’s China. They can fake anything) so when in doubt go to #2.
- The eyes are clear. This means the fish is fresh and had been transported cold to the market. Not possible to fake this.
I picked my fish (60RMB per kilo* about 6 kilos… and this baby cost me 380RMB- about $60). They sell the fish as is so I went a few vendors down and had a lovely lady with a really big knife gut it, debone it and slice it up into lovely orange steaks for an extra couple of bucks. 6 kilos made 14 pieces of salmon (8 small and 6 larger).
I immediately freeze the fish for at least 24 hours so that I can use it raw in sushi. I don’t care where you buy your sushi from, I highly recommend freezing before using it. This kills bacteria in the same way if you cooked it.
We wandered around a bit and found the mother of all crabs! Looks at that!
To put it in perspective:
Yesterday I was a NOMAD!!
Today I am making sushi…. Stay posted for an instructional blog tomorrow on how to make sushi at home. (It’s not as daunting as you think!)