It’s been a busy past couple of weeks here in Würzburg as I returned to my intensive language course and we had a friend who lives in Edinburgh come to visit us for a few days. It was fun showing her around the city, and we took a day trip to Bamberg one day (which has become one of our favorite local destinations as you can read here). We had her try some of Bamberg’s famous Rauchbier (or smoke beer as it’s called in English) while we were there, and she quite liked it.
For me, one of the highlights of her stay with us was going shopping with her to the Chinese supermarket here in town and then learning how to prepare a few dishes. I love shopping in Chinese supermarkets, but I often feel at a loss to know what to buy when it comes to ingredients to cook with. I’m not sure why it had never occurred to me to ask my friend to accompany me to a store back in Edinburgh for some tips, but hey – better late than never! It was fantastic having someone who could point out to me what’s good to buy and what to skip. We bought some fresh tofu, bok choi, bamboo, spring onions, light soy sauce (it’s better for cooking with) seasoning packets and vegetable dumplings, which I spotted in the freezer and couldn’t pass up (my friend isn’t a huge fan of them…they can’t compare to her mother’s homemade ones.)
It was fantastic to watch her cook and learn some of the tricks of the trade when it comes to authentic Chinese cooking. For example, I love tofu but never quite know what to do with it or how to prepare it. I learned that the fresh tofu you can buy at a Chinese supermarket is both inexpensive and usually good quality, and buying the pre-packaged stuff (which is what I used to get) is really just wasting money and most likely full of chemical preservatives, too. She took the fresh tofu, sliced it and then boiled it for a few minutes before setting it aside to add to the pan with the bamboo and spring onions. She explained that if you boil it first and add it to the stir fry later, it helps keep the tofu’s shape better.
She also took some old mushrooms I had in the fridge and worked some magic with them. She washed them thoroughly, cut off any bad parts and then boiled them in water. She sliced the boiled mushrooms thin and then added one of the flavor packets we had purchased, garnished with spring onion on top. She then poured a small amount of sizzling hot oil into the center. De-lish. We also had some sautéed bok choi to accompany the above dishes, all of which was served with rice. I was smart enough to remember to take a picture of the two flavor packets we purchased as I really loved both. Those would be the kind of thing I never would have purchased in a Chinese supermarket before she showed me what they were and how they tasted, so I’m really grateful to have had her shopping and cooking expertise.
The other new experience we had while my friend visited was a tour of the Staatliche Hofkeller (royal state cellar) here in town. It’s located in the vaulted cellars below the Würzburg Residenz and was founded in 1128. It is the oldest wine estate in Germany and today the third largest. It’s also the only wine cellar in the world that is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. Simply put, this place was pretty darn cool. In fact, the Mr. and I hadn’t gone to this cellar with any of our previous visitors, so we had no idea just how interesting a place it really is. We just did the short 45 minute-long tour with a tasting at the end, but they hold events throughout the year such as bigger tasting evenings, culinary dining experiences pairing food and wine, and even film screenings (we were told Frankenstein is a pretty impressive one to see down in the cellar.) This is a place we’ll definitely recommend future visitors see, even if for only the shorter 45 minute tour.