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Ben Hong

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Posts posted by Ben Hong

  1. Gary, I am so envious of the fact that you are able to enjoy all the traditional festival goodies that I used to enjoy when my Mother was still around. Unfortunately, since she and her generation of family womenfolk have passed on, the only time I get to savour treats like joong is while I am on the odd foray into a bigger city. My English born non-Chinese wife thinks that tradition can be bought at the local supermarket. Even my younger female Chinese relatives find it a pain to even attempt this type of "geezer cuisine".

    Back to the topic at hand, are you insinuating that there is another type of real joong other than the Cantonese kind :unsure::wacko::huh: . The ones with peanuts, sausage, salt duck egg, mushrooms, mung beans, etc., etc.,???? The 12 ounce wonders that masquerades as a mobile feast, the geometric conundrums of glutinous gustatory mystery ??:shock::biggrin: . I always thought that the northern variety were so meagerly endowed because of the severe paucity of ingredients way up north :raz::laugh:

  2. Amazing how such a plebian dish can be tarted up, given a poetic name and be sold at an outrageous price :biggrin: . Several people have suggested good workable recipes. I generally use chicken thighs instead of squab and if I really want to impress the gwai lo guests :raz: , I would puff up some bean threads in the deep fryer, line lettuce cups with it, add some hoisin and the chopped meat. Voila! Instant class. :wink:

    This is a variation on a typical New Year's dish, "ho see sung", or oyster sung. Generally dried oysters are omitted in every day lettuce bundles as even my own children find the flavour too strong.

  3. Andrea, I have been lurking around this thread for a while and have really come to enjoy and appreciate your knowledge and pragmatism regarding food and cuisine. You are a good teacher.

    A point you made a while back about the importance of the Chinese influence in Vietnamese and most Asian cuisines should be well noted by all who appreciate fine Asian cuisine. Knowing the techniques of Chinese eating and cooking will be like a passport to enjoyment of all the other East and Southeast Asian cuisines. From Korea to Burma, all cuisines are variations on a theme of Chinese style and techniques, using local ingredients. If there was anything good that came out of thousands of years of Chinese hegemony and dominance on the Asian continent. it surely must be the love of food and the preparation of same.

    I will vehemently agree with you that regardless of who by and where it's done, one does not put hoisin in pho broth. One would not put ketchup or hoisin in birds' nest or sharkfin soups! Thick sauces like hoisin and plum are almost always used for dipping...only.

    There is a bit of confusion about semantics and nomenclature regarding beef tendons. There are two types, one that is like a block of white nylon from the shins and elbows and a second type that is like a block of thick gelatinous material, also connective tissue but a different type of "connectivity". The former is inedible and the latter is great for texture. I am not an bovine anatomist, so hopefully someone can jump in and tell us the difference.

    Concerning what condiments and greens are presented with a bowl of pho, in Saigon (apologies to Uncle Ho) I got amounts ranging from none to a whole salad plate with coriander, or the sawtooth substitute that tastes like coriander, mint, basil, sprouts, chilies, etc. In Toronto I usually get the works. But the important thing is whatever you get, there is no right or wrong kind, no right or wrong amount because what you get as veggie garnishes may be entirely dependent on whatever the kitchen staff has on hand. I would stop worrying about what is normal, traditional or proper and do the Chinese thing and ENJOY.


  4. Markk, the wonderful dishes you had bears out what I stated in my previous post, about the similarity of dishes from different regions. I had most of the dishes you itemized all last week in Toronto at typical Cantonese places. Tilapia, salt&pepper soft shell crabs, ong choy,etc. I don't know how Shanghai crab is prepared, but I had my favourite ginger and scallion lobster dish. Other than the outdoor signs, the menus, and the waiter telling you that it is so, how does one differentiate the dishes we mentioned? Mine from a Cantonese (Toyshan) place and yours from a "Shanghai" eatery.

  5. Shanghainese, Cantonese, Pekinese, Szechuan, Swatow, Hunan, Hakka, Fukien, all regional differences are coloured and shaped by the availability of ingredients, cooking fuels and custom. One region's sweet and sour pork is another's gu lo yuk, one region's twice cooked pork is another's double cooked pork, one region's gou-tee is another's potsticker, etc. You can find homologues of any dish of any region in another region. They may not be EXACTLY the same, but would be similar enough to identify.

    And, they are all DELICIOUS. :biggrin::laugh:

  6. IMHO, any ole rib will do. Hell, pork chops will do and they are sometimes cheaper. Certainly you get more meat from a pork chop. Back ribs are more tender and leaner, but nothing beats the greasy chewiness of side ribs / spareribs.

    Except for certain very specified ingredients, substitution and versatility should be a guideline. Nothing that you put in the pot will actually poison anyone and there definitely won't be a guy in the kitchen ready to "GONG" you. :laugh: Cooking should be a creative process. :cool:

  7. May I humbly offer a small observation, without feathers getting ruffled?

    Jook/chuk/chou/congee is NOT soup in the normal sense, at it's basic "raison d'etre", it is a bland, almost tasteless palette on which you add flavours and condiments, the exact same purpose a bowl of white rice fills. Yes, you can use chicken stock, beef stock etc. to make it tastier, "tout a son gout", but I prefer it made with plain water. The intense "tastiness" or "umami" in Japanese, maybe comes from real good strong stock that restaurants can make, but you may want to accentuate your own broth based jook's tastiness by the simple expedient of a small dash of msg. :hmmm::cool:

    Jook is still considered by many to be a poor man's rice, if eaten as a main at a main meal.

  8. Supplementary post. You do not have to keep the marinating meat in the fridge. If you are going to cook it in a few hours, leave it in an airy place outside the fridge. The idea is to dry the skin, so don't cover it.

  9. Scalding to me is putting the piece of meat skin side up on a rack over a sink and pouring a kettle of boiling water over the skin. If you are going to pierce the skin, a good time to do it is after the scalding process, because the skin is softer. Scalding also tightens up and smooths the skin on any meat. After you apply the rub to the meat, let it sit for a time. If it's only for a few hours, I don't ever worry about bacteria, unless it's left out overnight in warm and humid conditions.

  10. Bogon, the question begs to be asked, "Was it good?" :biggrin:

    I had forgotten to mention the skin scalding step as I don't always do it, but I agree that it almost always ensures crispier "cracklin's". Scalding of the skin of ducks, chickens, etc. prior to roasting achieves the same results.

  11. Sherry is a great sub. What the hell, any alcohol would and will be a good substitute. Shao Shing was popularized simply because it was one of the very few "liquors" liqueurs, or wines to be widely distributed throughout a large part of China long ago. The Chinese cook will use whatever... rum, Scotch, rye, wine, sherries, local rotgut, etc. as long as there is an alcohol content. The word for spirits in Cantonese is "jiu". When someone rhymes off the standard marinating ingredients, soyu, tong, geng, jiu, (soy sauce, sugar, ginger, alcohol) there is no specificity of brands. Just alcohol. If it's strong spirits, weak wines, sweet liqueurs, whatever you have on hand, adjust accordingly.

  12. Ah Jo-mel, you come through again. All I posted above was for homestyle stirfrying, assuming that the usage of an average gas burner of 12,000 BTUs or a typical electric burner on a home range.

    Blanching can be done both ways, by oil or water. Water is more amenable to homecooking, for a variety of reasons. Water blanching is rarely if ever, used for meats. Very little nutrients are lost due to water blanching, if done properly, ie; not "cooking" the veggies through. Omit the blanching done in a separate pot of water and do it in the covered wok with a bit of water or broth, of course the meat has to be out of the pan at this stage.

    Any restaurant serving 2 pound portions will go out of business soon, for one reason or another. I do believe that you meant one "pint", ie; two cups. Anyway, when I used to work in a restaurant, I could hardly wait to get home and cook "homestyle", which is markedly different than restaurant style. Contrary to a widely held belief, Chinese restaurant food is NOT better or worse for you than any other restaurant food. However, traditional home cooking is definitely good for you.

    Marinades are supposed to enhance the flavour of the meat, not mask it. There is a basic list of marinading ingredients: soy sauce, ginger, sugar, wine, vinegar, garlic, pepper. You can add cornstarch if you are "velveting". Marinades should be "targetted" as to the types of meat getting the treatment. 3-4 marinading ingredients are more than sufficient for any type of protein, any more and you get a cloudy taste. Eg; beef may only need soy sauce, garlic, tiny bit of sugar. You may want to add a little bit of ginger, wine, etc. Not absolutely necessary, but it may be to your preference and taste. Bind your marinading meats with cornstarch, tapioca flour, etc. and if the meat clumps up, mix in a few drops of oil

    to keep it separated. Above all, use marinade ingredients sparingly.

    Knowledge of harmony in Chinese cooking is that elusive quality that comes after much eating and cooking experience. Learn how to "read" a dish, then after eating many versions of a particular dish, learn or analyze why one is better than another. Describing harmony of ingredients in Chinese cooking is akin to ask an Afro-American to describe "soul". It incorporates at its base, the Yin and Yang of materials, various "humours" of ingredients and in some cases even feng shui, as in seasonal appropriateness of a dish, or where and when it is to be eaten.

    "Wok Hei" is the Chinese expression for describing that particular aroma that accompanys a superbly done dish. Literally it is "the breath of the wok". It comes at the juncture where all the ingredients, preparation, heat, cooking technique, and timing of the first mouthful come together in perfect HARMONY. Some professional cooks have the ablity to achieve this quality, most run of the mill takeout cooks do not. To attain this level of culinary achievement is almost reaching Nirvana.

    I am encouraged and extremely happy by the fact that there is so much genuine interest on this board for learning Chinese cuisine. Project, you must keep on experimenting and eating :rolleyes::biggrin:

  13. Re-reading the original thread starter message, I am again puzzled as to why everyone thinks that just because a meal is cooked in a wok, you can call it a stir fry. For quantities mentioned ,ie; the breast meat of 3 chickens (est.32 oz.) and 16 ounces of beans plus liquids and flavourings, those quantities would be much better served stewed in a pot. It should not, in the strictest sense, be called stirfrying or "chowing", which is the Chinese term.

    Just to soften the perception that I am a crotchety old curmudgeon, let me list a few guidelines for the neophyte cook, in a domestic setting with domestic sized utensils and appliances. Understand that I am speaking strictly of stir frying, not moist cooking, stewing, or large quantity cooking.

    ---when stir frying, any deep saute pan, pot or wok will do

    ---very high or extremely high sustained heat is a prerequisite ( for speed)

    ---the requirement for extremely high heat precludes the use of non stick pans,

    over the long run

    ---flat bottomed woks or saute pans are better suited to an electric burner.

    ---unless it's a meat based dish, such as scallion beef and ginger, the ratio

    of meat to veg. should be 1/4 by volume, such as chicken and green beans.

    ---no stirfried dish in a domestic sized wok or saute pan, should amount to more than dishful, about a pound total weight, a smaller portion is much better.

    ---all seasonings should be used sparingly and harmoniously.

    ---the hot wok is oiled only with enough oil to prevent food from sticking

    ---liquids should be kept to an absolute minimum

    ---above all, strive for that elusive, ephemeral essence called "WOK HEI".

  14. This is not a critcism, but I find that your procedure is way too complicated by far.

    Here's a method that restaurant cooks use when they're inundated with orders:

    Slice meat and prep. veggies

    Marinate your sliced meat in a bowl with whatever you choose as flavouring (please use a light hand with the flavours), eg; garlic, soy sauce, salt, sugar, etc. Plus a scant tsp. of cornstarch to bind. Shouldn't be any liquid standing.

    Heat a large pot of water to a boil.

    Heat wok to smoking. Add oil to wok and swirl, dump green beans into boiling water to blanch, dump meat into wok, chow a few strokes. When water comes back to a boil, spider scoop the beans into wok with the meat, chow, adjust flavour with maybe a shot of oyster sauce. At this point, there may be enough cornstarch in the marinade to thicken, if not make a slurry with 1 tsp. cornstarch and ad drop by drop, stirring the while until the proper sauce is attained. If the contents are too dry add a couple tbsps. of hot water from the pot or chicken broth if that's you preference. Add green onions to flavour, a few drops of sesame oil for "shine", serve.

    Total cooking time 3-5 minutes, depending on wok heat.

    I don't recommend blanching for tender leafy greens, only for firm vegs. like peppers, green beans, bamboo shoots, asparagus, etc.

  15. Jo-mel, as far as the star anise is concerned, some people use it , some don't. I think that there is enough anise flavour in the 5 spice powder already. I believe that is why the old fellow who taught me lets the sauce sit for a while, or overnight, to let the cloves infuse.

    Choice of ingredients is variable due to regional and local preferences. That's why I don't normally give out recipes, . Eg: In Montreal, they use 5-spice., whereas in Toronto they don't. The Toyshanese like only minsee, whereas the Hong Kongers don't prefer the earthy, heaviness, but go for a very light hand in the saucing. Garlic is a frequent ingredient in some cases and considered heresy by some cooks. So, as they say, it all depends....That's why Chinese cooking is considered an art in some quarters. The way some people slavishly follow recipes nowadays, exact measurements and specific ingredients, etc., would suggest that it is turning into a science - not good. Cook according to your taste buds. That leads to a whole dissertation on taste, harmony, "humours" of foods, yin and yang of ingredients. Too deep for a Friday night, especially when there's a hockey game on TV. :biggrin:

    Trillium, the very slight nuance between "siu" (burn or roast)) and "for" (fire, fire-cooked)could be a regional difference. Makes no big whoop. It'll get you the same thing at a restaurant.

  16. An afterthought to my above post. To avoid having the cooked out fat pooling on the skin and ruining the crispy effect, try to put a slant on the wire rack so the fat can drain off.

  17. A point of clarification: "siu yuk" is perfectly alright and a Chinese waiter would understand perfectly. Siu here means dry roasted or barbecued, as in char siu. But, the Cantonese among us would order "for yuk", or "fired meat". Indeed the pig is literally fired in a tall upright oven wherein the firebricks or flames completely surround the hanging pig/ducks/etc. An animal done this way invariably develops a crispy skin because the fat and moisture drains off in the high, dry heat.

    I will present a recipe here, but be aware that there is a little "slippage" in my memory.

    The rub is composed of : 1 scant tsp.5 spice powder, 3 tbsp.brown bean sauce (minsee), 1 tbsp. hoisin, 1 tsp. salt, scant tsp.sugar, 4-5 whole star anise, dash of soy sauce. Mix well and let it sit to meld the flavours.

    Take a 3-4 pound piece of rind-on belly pork, dry the skin with a cloth, take a sharp fork or ice pick and prick the skin all over. Flip the meat over and deeply score the fleshy side at 1.5 inch intervals, without cutting through. Rub the sauce mixture well into the meat. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

    Span over a roasting pan with a wire rack and place the meat skinside up on the rack. (The idea is to let the heat circulate all around the meat). Place in oven for 15 mins., turn down the heat to 350 degrees and let cook for 45 minutes. Immediately take it of the oven. Enjoy.

    Note, as with all recipes feel free to adjust the ingredients to taste. Oven temps vary, so judge accordingly. A convction oven does a marvelous job on the skin.

  18. Ooohh, feeling a little insecure are we?

    Naw, I don't mean to call anyone an ignorant Caucasian, in fact I married "one of your kind". How's that for condescension.

    A far as this dialogue is concerned, it is toute fini.

    I bid you good cheer.

  19. You expected Susur at Yaohan?!?!

    Mall foods can be good, sometimes great even, but one normally has a lower expectation of quality when eating at those places, as the locales imply "cheap and fast". If your preference is to pay more for better quality, Vancouver is Nirvana for all types of Asian food. Feel fortunate that you do have this option. Except for the odd foray to the west coast on business trips, a lot of us don't have that luxury.

    Certain restaurants in certain locales cater to a certain clientele. And, if that clientele's taste is does not meet your standards of "authenticity" , no need to slag the restaurant , maybe their style is what their clientele wants.

    About "fat and grizzle" (sic), did you know that the beloved sweet and sour pork is called "gu lo yuk" and in it's original (non pc) form was made almost entirely of cubes of pork fat? Did you know that we Chinese love texture and mouth feel in our foods. That's why we adore beef flank stew (lots of gristle), beef tendon stew, (all gristle), fish head casserole (90% bones). You would hate the food that a normal traditional Chinese family eats.

    Maybe that's a good thing.

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