Shanghai is full of really fancy restaurants. Fancy restaurants, solid mid range restaurants, but no really inexpensive restaurants like we had in Beijing (that we can find so far. If anyone reading happens to know of a few, leave a comment! We’d be grateful.). In Beijing one of my favorite restaurants was a Shanxi Mian Guan, a noodle shop from the Shaanxi region of China.
Side note: Chinese food is far more diverse than the take out restaurants in the States would have you believe. In fact, I’ve never seen food like those take out places once while in China, and sometimes I’ll get a craving for Americanized Chinese food. Each region of China has very different flavors. For example, Sichuan food is very spicy, Shanghai’s food is very sweet, and Yunnan food is very herbed.
Shaanxi food, in my experience, has a little bit of a vinegary taste to it. And the hand-pulled noodles they make are just divine. You can get a bowl of noodles for 11 kuai (about $1.50) and it was a really full meal.
In Shanghai, meals out cost quite a bit more, and so typically, our little kitchen gets a work out, and we stay in. But I’d done some reading and had been salivating over one restaurant in particular since we moved here: Maya. It’s probably because Beijing has such bad Mexican restaurants, but I was really excited about the idea of an upscale Mexican meal.
I was not disappointed. My very favorite thing that we ate that night was a chili relleno, stuffed with pumpkin and goat cheese, and served with a pomegranate vinaigrette*. I just had to try it at home.
For me, chilis rellenos were a really intensive process that took about 2 hours of time. From the roasting, peeling, deseeding, stuffing and frying, each step required careful and active attention.
I typically only really like food that’s sort of half-way spicy, and the best part about these for me is that you get the heat from the chili, paired with the mild and rich flavors of the goat cheese and the pumpkin which mitigates that oh-my-god-my-tongue-is-on-fire feeling completely. I’d always heard you should chase something spicy with a glass of milk for the best spicyness relief (something about the lipids in the milk’s fat affecting the oils from the spice), but really, maybe the answer is goat cheese instead. It definitely was for this meal.
*Note, this time I skipped the pomegranate vinaigrette because I couldn’t find any fresh and frankly it was a little too sweet when we had it in the restaurant. Serve with a bit if you would prefer a spicy-savory-sweet combo, with a heavier emphasis on the sweet.
Goat Cheese and Pumpkin Chilis Rellenos
12 Poblano peppers
2 Cloves garlic finely chopped
1 small pumpkin, halved, deseeded and reassembled
½ pound Goat cheese; crumb, at room temp
½ pound Monterey Jack Cheese; grated
2 tablespoons shallots; chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro; chopped
2 tablespoons honey (I used lavendar scented honey)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Cornmeal; blue or yellow, for dredging
Oil; for deep-frying
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1. Place the pumpkin in the oven at 350 F to roast for two hours. The pumpkin will release liquid, steaming itself from the inside while it roasts, so be careful when you go to remove it from the oven.
2. Roast and peel the chilies. If you’d like step by step pictures, like I did, you can find a great on here at Simply Recipes.
3. Carefully slice them down one side and remove the seeds, leaving the stem attached. Set aside.
4. In a bowl, combine the garlic with the mashed pumpkin, crumbled goat cheese, Monterey jack, shallots, and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag. Gently insert the tip of the bag into the chilis and pipe the filling down into them, being careful not to overfill. Close the chilies, securing with toothpicks, and refrigerate until needed.
6. Beat the egg into the cream and coat the filled chilies with the mixture. Dredge the chilies in the cornmeal.
7. Heat the oil in deep-fryer or heavy saucepan until hot, 375F. Fry the chilies until they are lightly brown. Remove them and drain well on paper towels. Remove the toothpick.
8. Place the fried chilis and their plate into an oven to keep warm while you prep the rest.
9. Melt the butter in a pan, and add the pumpkin seeds, toasting until browned (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and remove to wax paper (NOT paper towels, like I did the first time. They will stick to the paper towels and you will be ingesting more paper than you’d originally had on the menu.)
10. To serve, heap a pile of rice onto a plate, and cross two of the chilis over top. Sprinkle with the candied pumpkin seeds.