For starters, my beloved told me it was 80 degrees. Upon my departure from the airport, I was flustered to find 40 degree weather hitting me in the face. From Houston to Fujian, takes 3 flights and 1.5 hour car ride driven by a man who’s foot I imagined was glued to the pedal – perhaps that could explain why he was driving what I assume was 93 mph. At one point, he began to slap himself awake? Again another presumption because I could not communicate with said man. After traveling for 26 hours, I arrived to the hotel well after 2 am and was ready for the adventure to begin.
With each new morning, China kept its constant chill in the air. And with each new day, China kept its constant use of pork in my food. I would order chicken fried rice only to find pieces of bacon chopped into the rice. Quite similar to Texas, one would say.
Now, this was my second trip to China. After I graduated from college, I joined my family on a trip to Shanghai, Beijing and a cruise down the Yangtze River. Outside of The Great Wall of China, I remember lots of silk, tons of pearls and food served family style on a lazy susan. The vegetables were always amazingly delicious. The seasoning, the sauces, I was consuming tons of broccoli and green beans that were spiced in unfamiliar ways. With my love of food, I was excited to explore different spices, I thought what if I meet an Ancient Chinese Medicine Man and he taught me how to cure different ailments using vegetables and herbs. I’ve always had an active imagination.
I didn’t meet a medicine man, but I did meet the room service man. He didn’t understand me as I attempted to place my food order over the phone. I tried that trick where you talk louder English hoping that translates completely to Chinese. Blue’s Clues, that didn’t work. So I took the elevator down to the first floor, using my senses to guide me to the kitchen where I found Mr. Room Service himself and I pointed to the english words “chicken fried rice” on the menu hoping that this would guarantee a proper order. Ha! I started to feel accomplished, getting used to this new way of ordering food. He was smiling and nodding, I was smiling and nodding. I felt the vibe.
I had figured this whole “chicken fried rice” thing out, so naturally I went back to my English, do you have ginger ale? CAN I ORDER GINGER ALE? I begin to say louder and slower. He pulls out his iPhone and motions for me type what I was saying into a translation app: GINGER ALE, I write. Somehow this translates to ginger. He then communicates back to me that yes, he can add ginger – to my chicken fried rice. And now, I’m back at square one. Pointing to sodas sitting behind the bar and saying GINGER ALE loudly, I wound up with what I believe was a Chinese Sprite. I get back to my room, and did I forget to tell you it’s 4am — because I’m on Texas time and my body hasn’t adjusted yet — and I wait for possibly 30 minutes to receive what was white rice and boiled chicken with no seasoning. You can imagine the disappointment. I’m pretty sure this will require ample amounts of therapy or ginger ale.
SO you can imagine my excitement as I touched down in Houston, Texas. After weeks of trying to communicate at every meal. No pork, no this, more ice, please, again. This girl was excited — to eat, to cook, to season and this white chicken chili with black eyed peas is what was created.
Garlic is one of my favorite herbs to use for a flavor boost. Nutrition-wise, garlic is used to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. Science research has proven that garlic has anticancer compounds that are released after being crushed or chopped. The trick is allowing the garlic to sit for 10-15 minutes, as you prepare your other ingredients. This process triggers an enzyme reaction boosting healthy compounds in garlic. I enjoy adding garlic to my white chicken chili, knowing it’s known to fight off colds and brings the power of taste. This dish is loaded with a variety of peppers: red bell pepper, green bell pepper, 2 serrano peppers and a jalapeño pepper. Peppers are low in calories and loaded with nutrition. The majority of my comfort dishes start with a combination of peppers, onion and garlic. Vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber are just a few of the nutritional benefits of the organic peppers used in this recipe. Plus, the spice gives the dish a nice kick!
And yes, I served myself a bowl with a well-deserved ginger ale.
White Chicken Chili w/ Blackeyed Peas
16 oz. fresh black eyed peas (you can substitute cans or frozen)
2 serrano peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1/4 cup cilantro cilantro
1 medium onion
3-4 garlic cloves
32 ounces low sodium vegetable broth
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
McCormick’s chili seasoning mix
the fixins: avocado, sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, lime
Chop peppers into chunks: serrano, jalapeno, red and green bell pepper combine with cilantro and place in blender. (I placed them in my nutribullet and thoroughly blended the ingredients for 15 seconds. If you don’t have a blender, you can finely chop these ingredients. I like to blend them so you don’t bite down into a jalapeño, I’d rather the spice be throughout the dish.) Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a medium sized pot over medium-heat. Add your mixture of peppers and cilantro, onion, shallot and (previously pressed or minced) garlic. Stir for about 5 minutes and add your seasonings: cumin, coriander, chili seasoning packet, salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add the black eyed peas and continue cooking for 20 minutes. This is a nice check point for tasting. If you need more salt and pepper, add. If not, stir in the shredded chicken. After 5-10 minutes, you can serve this delicious meal and top with fixins of your choice: avocado, lime, sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, etc.