Tag Archives: breakfast

Ci Fan Tuan: Shanghai’s Breakfast of Champions

You may be thinking to yourself, “What on earth is that ungodly glob in the photo?!”  Well, my friends, that ungodly glob is called ci fan tuan, or rice roll, and is one of the tastiest breakfast foods that I encountered in Shanghai.

Chinese breakfasts tend to be savory rather than sweet, with the most ubiquitous dishes including rice porridge, or zhou, topped with thousand year old egg and scallions; long fried crullers called you tiao dipped in warm soy milk; and baozi, steamed buns filled with pork or fresh veggies.  For the longest time, my favorite Chinese breakfast dish was jian bing, Beijing’s version of a crepe, which typically comes with a fried egg, scallions, garlic, a crispy tofu sheet, hoisin sauce,and lots of chile sauce inside.  However, upon discovering ci fan tuan in Shanghai, I might venture to say that jian bing has been dethrowned of its top spot in my Chinese breakfast food hierarchy.      

When sampling ci fan tuan, it’s important to note that not all of them are created equal.  The best one that I ate in Shanghai was at a stand located behind Plaza 66, on Fengyang Lu and Xikang Lu.  You’ll recognize the stand by the long line of customers every morning, awaiting their beloved ci fan tuan.  

Ci fan tuan is definitely an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of a dish.  Warm glutinous rice engulfs a whole soy braised egg, pork floss, ground pork,  black bean sauce, and a fried cruller.  It’s a symphony of flavors and textures in every bite: saltiness from the black bean sauce, sweetness from the pork floss, crunch from the cruller, and chewiness from the rice.  With so many ingredients and flavors, ci fan tuan is certainly filling and delicious, which makes it Shanghai’s reigning breakfast of champions in my mind.

To find ci fan tuan in Shanghai, go early in the morning and look for the roadside stands and small family-owned shops serving breakfast foods.  My favorite stand is behind Plaza 66 on Fengyang Lu and Xikang Lu, and there is another one on Xiangyang Bei Lu and Fuxin Lu.

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Snowmageddon Cooking: Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Gorgeous icicles adorning my window

Thursday was my third (and last) snow day. Even though the intense wind and snowfall had subsided, I still found it quite difficult to navigate my way outside. Snow still covered the roads and sidewalks, slushy puddles began to form in the walkways, and the already huge icicles outside my window (pictured above) grew even larger and longer. With conditions outside still treacherous, I resigned myself to spending another day indoors.

I had been resisting the urge to bake all week, but with another snow day to keep me indoors, I decided to throw caution (and my “diet”) to the wind and bake up a storm. I wanted to stay semi-healthy though, and found these whole wheat apple muffins on Smitten Kitchen which fit the bill perfectly. Even better, the recipe uses several basic ingredients which I already had in my pantry. The only things I had to buy were whole wheat flour ($3 at Whole Foods) and 2 Granny Smith apples.

The muffins were a cinch to make. The only thing I found worrisome was the ratio of batter to apples. I had WAY more apples than batter, and the batter was really thick–almost like bread dough. To thin it out, I added a bit more yogurt and a splash of milk (but did not change the consistency dramatically).

Despite this, the muffins turned out wonderfully and filled my apartment with warm spiced aromas. They made a lovely afternoon snack with a cup of Earl Grey tea, and made a delicious and hearty breakfast the next day. To stop myself from gobbling up all of them, I took the rest to my office (which was, thank goodness, open the next day), where they were a big hit. I didn’t have a single one leftover!

These healthy yet heavenly muffins should definitely be added to your baking repertoire–I know I’ll be adding them to mine!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: They said 12, I got 17.

1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (I used light brown sugar)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
Splash of milk and extra yogurt, if your batter is too thick

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.