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Adam Balic

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  1. specifically developed to be eaten by people outwith the parent culture?

    You mean like the Mongols? Many cultures adopted their cuisines to Mongol/Moghul tastes. Today, we consider those cuisines (e.g., what's served in most of the world's Indian restaurants) to be "authentic" regional cuisines. In addition, cultures spread. Wherever they spread, they produce hybrids with what was there before -- that's true of just about everything, not just food. Take for example the Peranakan cuisine of Malaysia and Singapore. Chinese migrants settled in those areas, many of them intermarried, and a cuisine was born that adapted to Malay tastes and ingredients. Cuban-Chinese cuisine and a dozen other hyphenated -Chinese cuisines have developed all over the world. Most such cuisines, to the extent they developed in the modern era, were at least in part influenced by what would appeal to local restaurant customers. It seems to me it makes little difference whether you're adapting cuisine to please conquerors, subjects, intermarried spouses or local restaurant consumer demand. It's all part of culinary evolution.

    Mongols and Mughuls are not quite the same thing, but in any case the worlds Indian restuarants are not based on entirely on this regional Indian cuisine.

    But to get back to Chinese-American cuisine. Rhetoric is fine but I don't think that speaking in such a vague way actually progresses the discussion. Just because there are numerous places where Chinese settled over hundreds of years, doesn't mean that they can all be compared meaningfully in terms of cuisine development.

    Dejah introduced the topic to discuss Early Chinese restaurants, which I not sure is the same thing at all as "Chinese-American cuisine". In fact Dejah talks about the families early Chinese Restaurant in Canada, not "America". I guess you could define "American" as "North America", not just the USA but I wonder if that is what people would generally recognise as the definition of "Chinese-American"?

    To my mind "Chinese-American cuisine" means either what Chinese-Americans eat, a distinctly recognisable cuisine not nessarily eaten by Chinese-Americans or a combination of the two.

    What ever the case, I assume that "Chinese American Cuisine" is dynamic and as such the food is significantly different to what was served in the 50's-70's? I guess one difficulty now is defining what is "Chinese-American Cuisine" and how it differs, if at all to "Chinese food eaten in America".

    The food eaten in early Chinese restaurants is obviously not dynamic, it is a fixed definition. I think that if you were to compare the food in early Chinese restaurants in the USA, Canada and Australia (A little bit of information on Chinese restaurants in Australia) then the food served probably has more similarities then differences. I think that these foods that develop when two different cultures interact are absolutely fancinating. I would be very in knowing when recognisable "Chinese-American" dishes developed and how the original dishes differ from what they have become now.

    As an example I link to the Australian Dim Sim. What is really interesting about this item is how dynamic it is. By the 70's it was such a staple of mainstream Anglo-Australia fast-food that most people would not even have thought about it as a "Chinese" food and the largest producer of mainstream "Dim sims" was a Greek background business, "Marathon Food Industries".

  2. The "Tipo 00, 0, 1, 2" system is about refinement yes, specifically the residual ash content. 00 flour is very finely milled also.

    My experience has been that depending on the pasta I are making, some flours are better then others and it is a matter or trial and error. For instance there is a big difference in the types of flour that gives the best result when making a really eggy Northern Italian pasta compared to a more southern pasta without egg like Spaghetti alla chitarra.

    The last time I made pasta I grabbed the wrong flour (farina for dolce) by mistake and this really didn't work out so well.

  3. More importantly, so what if a cuisine is adapted to please local palates? It's still either good or not good. Well-made Chinese-American food is delicious, as is well-made American pizza. The question of authenticity is a red herring that distracts from real discussion of quality.

    If you look back at my earlier posts, my concern has never been about authenticity. It's been about clarity. My contention is that Chinese and Chinese American cuisines should be considered separate cuisines, much the way that Mexican and Tex-Mex are considered different styles of cuisine.

    I don't think one should draw a line and put Chinese cuisine on one side of the line and Chinese-American cuisine on the other side. I think it's more a question of there being many types of Chinese cuisine: Shanghai, Sichuan, Hunan, Bombay Chinese, Chinese-American, etc.

    Isn't that a bit of a strange definition of a regional ethnic cuisine, something that was specifically developed to be eaten by people outwith the parent culture? Might have to think about this.

  4. Many Italian markets sell 00 as well as durum, sometimes labelled "Pasta Flour". Not to confuse things further, I've seen one Italian market sell durum labelled "Fine Semolina". As stated, King Arthur AP works great; they also sell 00 as well as their "Pasta Blend" which is a proportioned mix of AP and durum. I save the coarser semolina for making a thicker textured pasta like orecchiete, or semolina gnocchi.

    Not all Italian 00 flours are the same either. "00" doesn't define the gluten composition and a single mill can produce various types of "00" flour with protein ranges of broad 7-12%.


    This Italian Mill has a big range of "00" flour with a very broad range of protein and gluten contents. It also sells both various grades of semolina and "farina di grano duro" which are both made out of durum wheat. It is worth noting that some of the "00" flours actually have a much higher protein and gluten % then the durum wheat flour/semolina.

  5. They are an Australia native. As far as I know they are only grown in Australia for the moment.

    I have a small tree growing in the back yard, has just set fruit, but I think that I will strip all the immature fruit this year. There are also several other native citrus here, so I imagine that some of the these other species may become commercially available in the near future.

  6. Thanks for the information, I have never seen them in France.

    I have eaten snake lock anemones (Anemonia sulcata) in Spain and the common red anemone (sea tomato, Actinia equina) in Italy. In Spain they were always fried (although in one case they were used to garnish a "soup" of melon granita and almond milk) in Italy as sort of stew/soup.

    The omelet sounds interesting, there is a sort of frittata with anemones mentioned in the Apicius collection.

  7. Several years ago, when visiting the Market in Lyon we had a mixed multi level seafood plate with the usual suspects and something called a violet as I remember - it was strange - what was it?

    It was indeed, also called a figue de mer: Microcosmus "petit monde."

    As described by P. Wells "Violet or figue de mer: unusual iodine-strong, soft-shelled edible sea creature, with a yellowish interior. A delicacy along the Mediterranean, particularly in Marseille." It looks like this.

    Merci John, but in the spirit of Abra's original question; How do you cook it?

    They are a type of sea squirt. They also make excellent bait.

    Are sea anemones eaten in France commonly?

  8. More commonly in the English-speaking world they are underestimated. If you read "ethnic" cookbooks (a term that I wish would go away) published for an English language audience, whether they are Indian, Chinese, Mexican or what have you, servants are the ghosts in the kitchen.  You'll find the odd mention.  The simple peasant soup they prepare. The mother who consults with them in the morning.  The author who loved to go into the kitchen and talk to them as a child. What they don't say, and it's one reason, though not the only one why the recipes often seem so complex, is that there is someone in the kitchen who can wash the vegetables, shell the peas, make the juice, and do a lot of the ordinary everyday chores.

    Very well said.

    Another phenomena that I have seen is where "ethnic" cookbooks have made an attempt at modernisation. Often they get branded as "inauthentic" because there is not mention of "traditional" methods, which is not good at all or the flip side of this is that the authors are so careful about being throughly modern that there is no mention of the legion of servants that formally had a place in the kitchen.

    Either way it is the servants in the kitchen that loose their voice.

  9. According to University of California's Agriculture and Natural resources site (the three avacado groups) The Mexican varieties have an anise scent to the leaves and the West Indian and Guatemalan varieties do not.

    Yes it seems that the Mexican sub-species Persea americana var. drymifolia has the anise scent and flavour. This doesn't mean that all Mexican avacados have the anise scent, for example Mexico grows a huge amount of Hass and this is likely to be hybrid of Guatemalan and Mexican sub-species.

    How strong is this anise flavor? Could I add a some ground anise to guacamole to approximate the flavour?

    You could. I don't think these tiny avocados are usually made into guacamole. Most people eat just the flesh or flesh and skin. The everyday avocado for guacamole is the Hass. There's a trend to add fruit to guacamole but it does nothing for me. Mash the avocado, add a spoon of salsa verde, and done,


    Hass I can do :rolleyes: . I must admit that when using avacado of questionable quality, I usually added samba olek to the guacamole.

  10. According to University of California's Agriculture and Natural resources site (the three avacado groups) The Mexican varieties have an anise scent to the leaves and the West Indian and Guatemalan varieties do not.

    Yes it seems that the Mexican sub-species Persea americana var. drymifolia has the anise scent and flavour. This doesn't mean that all Mexican avacados have the anise scent, for example Mexico grows a huge amount of Hass and this is likely to be hybrid of Guatemalan and Mexican sub-species.

    How strong is this anise flavor? Could I add a some ground anise to guacamole to approximate the flavour?

  11. Bulgur isn't just "cracked wheat", it has been parboiled then dried (not toasted as such as dried in a kiln). The par-cooking most like bursts the starch granules and produces are gel, which gets re-hydrated on final cooking. Boiling cracked wheat will liberate a whole bunch of free starch and will produce wallpaper paste.

    When I have cooked with bulgur it is more a process of absorbtion then boiling. For fine grades I just pour over hot liquid, for very coarse grades I cook until the grains are tender, but firm (10 minutes max.) then put on the lid and leave it for 15-20 minutes.

  12. Here are some quinces from my tree:



    They are very hard and very tart but nothing an hour of simmering and lots of sugar can't fix. I cranked the soften fruit through a hand mill and froze small amount in plastic containers for future fun.

    Those are unsual looking quince, judging from the relative size of the seed they look like small fruit. Do you know what variety it is or if is a regular quince (Cydonia oblonga) at all and not something like a flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp.)?

  13. Here is a link that shows traditional cast iron Potjie pots, which the site states were brought to South Africa by the English and Dutch in the late middle ages. They are round bellied with three legs that are longer than those on my Lodge camping Dutch ovens. A friend who I occassionally do outdoor cast-iron cooking with uses one of these for making chili.

    Richard, those are fantastic looking pots. I would love one to play about with.

    This site gives some examples of the Welsh equivalents and gives an idea of how they were used in situ. In Scottish prints of domestic scenes you would see a cauldron like these suspended next to a griddle pan. Ironically it was the development of the cast-iron range that put an end to this type of domestic arrangment.

    A large pot suspened from a chain over a central hearth was a common arrangement throughout Europe. Here can be seen the remains of my families hearth in Croatia.

  14. Unsealed cast iron? Not really, only for camping and this is getting less common. Lots of other materials have better cooking properties and are easier to use.

    Really? Everybody I talked to about cast iron swears by it and its properties. Especially the nonstick seasoning that "beats out any teflon pan"

    There is an excellent discussion on the relative merits of various types of cookware here.

  15. Over on the Tuscany cooking thread we've had a little side discussion on cast iron cookware.

    Here's the question: is this a North American thing, or do other parts of the world cook in cast iron? Cast iron griddles will show up in some Italian recipes, but that's about it.  Old drawings show plenty of cast iron pots hanging over the fire, so did everybody throw out their pots when Teflon was invented?

    A lot of the images of pots were most likely not cast iron, large scale use of cast iron for domestic use didn't really take off until the middle of the 18th century. It was relatively expensive to make, relatively fragile, reactive with many foods and needed special care. Even in northern Europe, earthenware or stoneware was cheaper and easier to make. If you broke it, it is easy enough to replace. The Industrial revolution didn't occur for many countries until quite recently and you really nead this sort of infrustructure to produce cast iron domestic vessels cheaply.

    Cast iron is better then most ceramics for large vessels, but copper is lighter and easier to work. Large amounts of domestic copper vessels were requisitioned in Italy during WWII so old items are rare and can be very expensive, I'm not sure that this was the case for iron vessels, but it so it would have altered the way that people cooked.

    On the other hand, when cast iron became cheaper to produce it was much better for people that were relatively mobile and where the infrastructure for large scale ceramic production was not in place. At my grandparents farm in Australia (settled in the 1850's) there are large amounts of cast iron pot remains. I imagine this is the same in the USA an Canada.

    In camping stores in Australia, for a few dollars you can still buy cast iron cooking pots etc, known as "Dutch Ovens" for the most part.

  16. Does it really not have it or is it just that some people don't consider it "Italian" and tend to rail against it. Italy certainly does have some very highly regarded modern restaurants. What I am seeing here is a tendency to dismiss them out of hand by Italian food "purists." For my purpose, I would hate to have to give up either approach. I love traditional regional Italian foods, but I am also smitten by effective creativity. Why do they have to be mutually exclusive within a culinary tradition? Why can't a "traditional" trattoria co-exist alongside a modern temple of gastronomy and both be wonderful and successful? It is not even as if everyone must love or appreciate both. There is plenty of room for those like Mark to enjoy traditional, regional cuisines and never have to set foot in a creative restaurant. For those who only enjoy the highest aspirations of creativity, they need never set foot in a traditional setting. I'll take both so long as each is done well.

    I have no problem with coexistence. :smile:

    I don't think that the two extremes of traditional or contemporary have to be mutually exclusive, but there is no reason why a modern "creative restaurant" has to have any basis in traditional cooking. If this is the case then I think that you can run into the issue where "Italian food purists" don't consider this type of food "Italian" (what ever that means). The flip side of this is where high end diners are dismissive of tradional food.

  17. But I'm not sure that "generic" is the right word, or that it's being used correctly in this discussion.

    "Generic" was used in the sense of "general/not specific identitiy". I said earlier that if I am eating in Italy then I want to eat something that is Italian and delicious, not something generically delicious. Maybe this is where Italy fails on the fine dining scene, not generic enough?

    I think that at some point FG (?) mentioned that at least one present cutting edge chef produces food of the highest international standard without in reference to local food traditions. In this discussion I have trouble keeping track of what level of cooking we are talking about. I'm not at all sure that restuarants serving food of the highest international standard for a restricted group of diners can be compared usefully to fiaschetteria, osteria, ristorante, trattoria, taberna....

    When we are talking about "Contemporay food", does this mean "International Modern" of the moment or are we talking about the development of at new wave of "Contemporay Italian"?

    I think that FG is correct, restaurants at international cutting edge have no need to have a basis in tradional cooking, and in part the emphasis on technique and ingredient quality excludes this. Which isn't to say that inspiration can't come from local dishes or traditions either. What is proberly more important at this level is originality of thought and execution of the dish. For example, I notice that Robuchon is now being criticized for selling dishes that are too heavily influenced by other chefs creations. No matter how delicious these dishes are, they are not his "original creations".

    In terms of fiaschetteria, osteria, ristorante, trattoria and taberna it could be possible to contruct some sort of hierarchy in terms how they relate to one another and what sort of food they produce, but for the vast majoritory of them "delicious" is going to be a much more important criterion then "originality".

    Getting back to the original question "Tradition v. Contemporary Italian Cuisine, Is it a conflict or a building block?", I feel that on an intellectual level that their is no conflict between the two, but also at a high end international dining level there is no requirement for any real overlap either.

    On the otherhand what Italy does have in vast amounts is food that fits many peoples definition of "Delicious". One conflict that I see is that some individuals that have a primary interest in high end international dining level food is the way in which all this delicious Italian food is discussed is in the negative. Italian food culture has failed in someway because it hasn't (and maybe can't) produce the required high end international dining experience. I think that the view that Italy has failed to deliver the high end international dining experience and the view that traditional food in Italy is delicious are both correct, I don't see the conflict in the two opinions.

    What I think is an interesting question is if it is true that Italy has failed to deliver the high end international dining experience, why is this so? A few years ago I would have said it was because the tradional food were so good that there wasn't a niche for the high end international dining experience. I felt then that this type of dining came from regions where the local traditional food culture was either degraded or never really existed. To a certain extent I have changed my views on this, I don't see a conflict with the development of an international dining scene and having strong local food traditions.

    I don't have a simple explanation of why Italy doesn't have this high end international dining culture, and I don't think there is a simple answer.

  18. I also doubt we have quite the variety of arugula in the US as is available in Italy.  Here are just two links in English that discuss & critique the use of the term "rucola selvatica" or wild arugula.  Italian explanation: here (clicking on Union Jack results in no change).

    I would think that your would have both Eruca sativa (salad rocket) and Diplotaxis tenuifolia (wild rocket), but I think that it is more the stage that they are picked that is the difference. To be honest most of the rocket I have seen in Tuscany is the same type was Kevin is using, but the size of the leaves indicates that they are being picked very young (like this is the stage in development that I planted out my rocket from the garden store punnet). The flavour gets very better as they get older.

  19. Then the vegetables - perfectly cooked (for the green beans, just past al dente - the way I like them), wrapped in paper thin pancetta - slightly crisped up after wrapping.  Not usually the way Italy cooks it's vegetables - to death, as Judith says above - so this is contemporary, no?

    For me this is more about "Personal taste" then "Tradition v. Contemporary". For me personally the beans are too big and I like them cooked to the point that the still squeak when you eat them, but are definately not al dente. I don't think that this makes my preferences either Tradition or Contemporary just an idiosyncratic choice. I think that the definition of what is Traditional or Contemporary has to be better defined then just "level of cooking in veg.". Having eaten large amounts of raw baby artichokes and broad beans in Italy, where would these fit in to the "Tradition v. Contemporary" model for instance.

    What I guess is contemporay is that the beans lack any particular regional identity, in fact they could be on a plate in France, England, NYC or Melbourne. I'm not against delicious, in fact I am quite for it, but if I am eating in Italy then I want to eat something that is Italian and delicious, not something generically delicious. Maybe this is where Italy fails on the fine dining scene, not generic enough?

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