Perspective is a funny thing isn’t it? Leaving Melbourne for Tokyo in 2009 was a big wrench. We had it all sorted – great work/life balance, our local pub did the best steak in town, wineries were just an hour and a bit away, friends and family were around the corner.
Arriving in Japan was like landing on Mars. It’s not called Planet Tokyo for nothing. There were cultural obstacles along with every day issues to overcome but before too long we fell in love with sumo, sake and sushi and Tokyo slowly became home.
We made our first trip back to Melbourne in March 2010 and we were shocked. Everyone talked loudly, no one had their phones on silent. People had the most intimate and seemingly confidential conversations on trains in front of total strangers. There was no sense of personal space. There was graffiti and litter ‘everywhere’. The food was still good – but not as great as we had it in Tokyo. And it was expensive. Melbourne had gotten really expensive even compared to Tokyo – not just eating out, but in the supermarkets too.
Then as you know, we moved to Shanghai in January and life changed again. After only five months in Shanghai I was curious how I would feel about returning to Melbourne this time.
Put it this way – I spoke to R the day after I arrived and could not stop laughing. Melbourne is quiet. Melbourne is clean. Melbourne is just as pretty as ever. All the reasons we called Melbourne home in 2009 are still there – the funky cafes and restaurants in every neighbourhood, the city is alive, the beach is clean. People are friendly. You can drink water from a tap. You can cross a road without taking out life insurance. It’s quiet.
I’m mortified to report that the only car horn I have heard in the last two weeks was me losing my temper with a wayward driver in the outside lane.
I’ve swapped the view from my kitchen…
…for walks on the beach.
Rich unfortunately was only in town for three nights before heading up to Sydney for
the Lions match work. I picked him up at the airport at 7am and we headed straight to South Melbourne market for oysters curious whether we could still get freshly shucked oysters for $1 each or not. We’d been in a restaurant in Shanghai a few weeks back and they were priced at $10 each!
I’m happy to report you still can and a squeeze of lemon and a dash of tabasco and we were happy campers.
Rich flew up to Sydney and two days later after eating out at a very fancy restaurant was struck down with food poisoning. Go figure. Five months of food scares and eating from street stalls in Shanghai and not once have we been sick – apart from some world class hangovers which I put down to fake alcohol and have nothing at all to do with the quantities imbibed.
I hope his tummy recovers soon because waiting for him back in Shanghai is a kilo of these spicy peanuts. If these don’t kill off the bugs nothing will. Inspired by Celia over at Fig, Lime and Cordial I thought I’d make some nuts for Friday night beers on the balcony. I went into the spice cupboard and saw the jar of prickly ash powder I’d bought (as you do) which was sitting there waiting for a rainy day.
Talking of which. I remembered the prickly ash oil and figured I’d make a Shanghai version of Celia’s recipe. When in Rome…..
It’s taken a couple of goes to get it right – the prickly ash (or Sichuan pepper) has a kind of numbing effect rather than hot heat. I like it a lot and it’s used liberally in Western Chinese cuisine – usually with cumin, chilli and lamb. If you want to try this version I’m sure you could grind Sichuan peppers in a mortar & pestle or a spice grinder. The garlic powder and paprika got lost in the mix so I leave them out now – that Sichuan pepper takes no prisoners.
I’m not sure if it’s the salt, or the prickly ash but these nuts are incredibly moreish.
And great with an ice cold beer.
Have you ever returned to a city and seen it with a new perspective – good or bad? I’d be interested to hear your stories.
Shanghai beer nuts
- 1 kg shelled peanuts
- 3 tbsp ground cumin
- 3 tbsp prickly ash powder
- 2 tbsp chilli
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp prickly ash oil or sunflower oil
Preheat oven to 160C and line a large roasting tray with baking paper.
In a large bowl whisk together the cumin, prickly ash, chilli, salt and sugar to remove any lumps.
Add oil and continue mixing until a smooth paste forms.
Pour nuts into bowl and using a spatula work the paste into the nuts. This may take a while but it will happen and the nuts will be evenly coated with the paste.
Tip onto the baking tray and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the nuts over and then roast for a further 15 minutes. Check and if you want them darker in colour, roast for another 10 minutes but remember to set the timer.
Recipe NotesThe paste mellows out in the oven so don't be afraid if you try it and it's too strong before roasting.