Food: when the identity debate gets personal
Basically, through the Mind of the Hive (or its particular entry on American Chinese cuisine, full of answers to my identity-related questions spilling over to the topic of food - and it plants a dagger firmly over the fact that GENERAL TAO'S CHICKEN DOES NOT EXIST IN CHINA - that's productive North American Asian activism in action).
Through that, I got info about Chinese spices. It comes intuitively, that for any sort of food to have its distinctive taste, it starts with spices. So I went to get "Arabic spices" in order to make Arabic food - which was as simple as cinnamon, nutmeg and other things like that, but I didn't know that. I want to get cumin, eventually if I also find that low-grade greasy unexpensive mutton meat for cooking northern Chinese and more generally central Asian cuisine that requires it (all the mutton meat I find in regular supermarkets is super-expensive lamb from Quebec farms (in Charlevoix, available at public markets - they even make merguez!), and from Down There. We have star anise at home, I think, and put it in the curry, I guess.
But there's something called Sichuan pepper, which is not black pepper, and which could be that strange spice that was in my lamb stir-fry or fried spinach taken at Niu Kee, or made into a fine powder in its Japanese variety (to be sprinkled on ramen? is it this one?). The Chinese name of the stuff is 花椒 (huajiao/fatsiew?), and sounds familiar. This is something I definitely should ask any of the grandmothers one day - too much of basil/thyme in what we cook. -_-;
I actually had never heard of General Tao's chicken until I came to Montreal. I eat it now, but the "authentic Chinese cuisine" part of me hates myself when I do.
Some people dip kara-age (Japanese Chinese-style fried chicken) in sanshou pepper and salt or use sanshou pepper to season yakitori. It comes in that little green shaker that you can see sold alongside nanami (or shichimi) togarashi in Asian supermarkets in Mtl.
Yeah, so I think I had sanshou pepper before. It's not pepper, per se, but a sort of spice that gives this lemony numbing feeling in the mouth. Somewhat unpleasant - there are Chinese veggies, like fu gua, but I was thinking of something else, doing the same thing - but it's novel, thus interesting.
I have a variety of Japanese condiments at home, including one of the pepper blends you've mentionned. And furikake - which I've never used with actual rice, but plentifully on congee, noodles.
I use furikake for when I make onigiri and to sprinkle on rice for the few times I make a Japanese-themed meal. It adds a little bit of texture with the sesame seeds and when I have scrambled eggs, sprinkling on furikake makes it a bit more interesting to eat.
For scrambled eggs, I would like to try and get some bonito flakes, the next time I shop for Asian food (and perhaps evolve the omelette towards an okonomiyaki).