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Posts posted by durian

  1. I may have damaged a pan of mine irrepairably, and I need some advice on whether it is still usable.

    The pan is conventional All-Clad construction, stainless steel inside and out, sandwiching a layer of aluminum that runs up the side of the pan. It's a skillet.

    I accidentally let it boil dry and heat that way for about two hours, which gave it a bronze hue, among other things. Slow cooling followed by soaking restored the color, at least to the inside. Boiling with salt and vinegar loosened the solids that were burnt onto the pan.

    What I am left with is a pan that feels smooth to the touch on the inside, but is covered with tiny black spots that seem to be part of the pan surface now. My questions are

    Is this pan still safe to cook in?

    What are the black flecks and are they removable somehow?

    My guess is that superheating the pan allowed something to get into the pores of the metal, much the way a cast-iron pan will absorb oil when heated. But that's just a guess.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Homemade pie crust is my nemesis. 

    Making a non-sticky gingerbread cookie dough is also high on the list.  I find it very difficult to work with.

    I make a crappy apple pie.  Even with store bought pie crust.  The bottom always ends up soggy.

    I'm also not that great with fried chicken cutlets.  My mother makes them seasoned and crisped to perfection.  I just can't get them right...either they come out underseasoned or a bit soggy on the bottom.

    If you are going to use storebought pie crust, the brand that always works for me is Oronoque Orchards. The bottom is never soggy.

    My sister likes Pillsbury crust, which comes as a flat round of dough, folded up in a box, not shaped to fit an aluminum pie pan. Also, it is often in the same place as the biscuit dough in a tube stuff from Pillsbury, rather than in the freezer.

    As far as apple pie goes, you can make tarte tatin with these store-bought crusts or with any crust. It's a sort of upside down apple pie, where you only put a top crust, then you flip it out of the pan so the crust is on the bottom. No one can see whatever mishaps you had getting the crust on there to begin with.

  3. Does anyone know how to save a saucepan that you have let boil dry and superheat? The pan in question is consructed like All Clad tri-ply, i.e. aluminum sandwiched by stainless steel, with the sandwich running up the sides of the pan, not just the bottom. (The outside is brushed stainless steel with a shiny band at the rim).

    Pan was heated high enough to give the stainless steel a yellowish tinge. Numerous black scorch marks on the inside.

    So far I have let it cool to room temperature then immersed it room temperature water to soak.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. If there is already a thread on this somewhere, please direct me. I did look, but couldn't find one.

  4. For what it's worth, my family tradition does NOT include sawdust-like dried out turkey.

    My mom was a Home Ec teacher, which probably explains why. We always roasted the turkey breast-down in one of those enameled roasting pans that are speckled and come WITH A TIGHT FITTING LID, also enameled and speckled. You put a second one of those V-shaped racks, inverted, on top of the breast down turkey, so that you can flip the whole she-bang over for the last 45-60 min of cooking. If you do this quickly, no basting juice leaks out.

    The result is white meat that is juicy. although for that night only, and a thoroughly enjoyable turkey.

  5. Much of cookware's pricing depends on marketing, not substance, so the going price of copper is largely irrelevant. Slkinsey's eGullet course on stovetop cookware does a thorough job of explaining what matters and what doesn't. Nonetheless, most customers of All-Clad, et al. will not have read this, and many of All-Clad et al.'s customers are making purchasing decisions based on what will impress their friends or boost their own self esteem rather than what will deliver the best long term performance. That's why copper costs so much.

    As a practical matter, copper's extreme sensitivity to temperature changes is most important when you are focusing on French cuisine and its sauces. so you might not benefit as much from copper if most of your cooking draws from another tradition.

    Slkinsey has the right approach. It is a matter of priorities. If you genuinely like to cook, you will spend a fair amount of your leisure time doing it. Like high quality knives, copper cookware adds to the pleasure quotient of this time in a way few other things can. The additional cost of copper is worth it, because you will spend so much time using the tool.

  6. SobaAddict has it right about arable land, etc. What little milk there is in China is traditionally reserved for babies and old people who have problems eating other things.

    If you think how long it took for tofu and yogurt to gain widespread acceptance in the US, you will have some idea of the image problem that cheese has in Chinese places. The barrier is especially high for some extreme cases on both sides here---something called stinky tofu on the Chinese side, nowhere near as pungent as Limburger or genuine German Muenster.

    Westerners have figured out how to integrate the most bland and generic tofu into some dishes, but they usually have no idea of the huge variety of tofu products available in a Chinatown, or what to do with them.

    Dairy products are gaining more acceptance in some Chinese and Southeast Asian places, but I expect cheese to be last in line for this. Former British and French colonies already have a tradition of putting milk and cream in coffee. Ice cream is popular anywhere the weather is hot. During one five year span in Taiwan, I saw yogurt go from "revolting" to "trendy". Cheesecake is popular, and so was something called "cheese cake," meaning a cake with some cheese incorporated into the batter, lending additonal richness to the dessert. Cheese combined with sugar in a pastry is much less likely to be rejected. Think 'cheese danish' or 'cannoli'.

    More savory cheese will probably make its first inroads through fast food chains. People in Taiwan liked to try pizza, but routinely questioned the appeal of its rubbery mozzerella. They like going to McDonalds, but I don't know how many of them want a cheeseburger rather than a hamburger.

    As it stands now, cheese still seems like something that has spoiled. Cantonese people revel in the fact that the Cantonese phrase for "pig shit" sounds a lot like "chee-sz".

    There is another issue here too. Like some French people, some Chinese people are often smugly self-satisfied with the cuisine of their own country and aren't terribly interested in what other countries' cuisines might have to offer. Dairy products have gained more ground in pastries because China already a has a lively pastry tradition. Lack of curiousity and eclecticism will keep cheese on the fringes of Chinese cuisine for quite a while, I think.

  7. For anyone interested in correct pronounciation and literal meaning:


    hoong yo chow show


    CHAO SHOW rhymes with "how so?" in English. YOU rhymes with the first syllable of yo-yo.

    The clenched fist business refers to the way the dumpling is folded.

    Thought this info might help people spot new sources of these dumplings. If you can come close to the pronounciation, any restaurant claiming to serve Szechuan/Sichuan food should know what you are talking about.

  8. Wow, you guys are making Wok Hey sound mysterious and dangerous, like only James Bond could do it, and maybe only if Q gave him a special piece of equipment that might cost hundreds of dollars!

    It doesn't need to be this intimidating. You can do it on the gas burner of a conventional stove. If you have one power burner that boils water faster than the others, that is the obvious choice--this is typically 14-15KBTU. A regular burner can also work, but you may find it helps a lot to take the burner grate off and cradle the wok in the metal collar, with the collar INVERTED (WIDE SIDE UP) so that the wok can get closer to the flame.

    Wok cooking needs a hotter pan than most Western cooks are used to. The major obstacle here is learning to have the patience to let the pan get hot enough before you start. The actual time for this depends on your stove, your pan, etc. but the temptation to start prematurely is always there, in part because you have probably put all the ingredients next to the stove, mise-en-place, and psychologically you're just to eager to get the show on the road. Force yourself to use a timer if you have a hard time with this.

    Barara Tropp describes the sensory clues to look for to know your pan is hot enough, in Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. The main thing to look for is oil vapor just beginning to smoke from your still-completely-empty wok. You have not added any oil yet--the wisps come from some of the residual oil on there from when you seasoned it/re-seasoned it the last time you used it. (Seasoning is not difficult, see excellent instructions at www.wokshop.com.).

    Not sure if there was a typo upthread, but the wok does not need to be "red hot". This is not blacksmithing.

    Only when the pan is hot enough do you add the oil--hot pan cold oil food won't stick. After swirling around wok, immediately add salt and aromatics. You may want to chop garlic, ginger, etc into larger-than usual pieces when you first start out--less likely to burn, and a nice precaution until you get the hang of how quick you have to move to cook this way.

    Getting the flame to leap into the pan is very theatrical, but totally unnecessary to get authentic tasting Chinese food.

    One thing you should know. Frying at this temperature produces a lot of airborne oil particles. Wok Hey=Wok Air. An oily film will quickly build up on everything if precautions are not taken. Open a door or window while cooking if you do not have a hood that exhausts to the outside. Cover the wall behind your stove with foil, and use disposable foil liners for your burners. While cooking, do what you can to keep the oil-laden air from the kitchen from circulating to other parts of the house.

  9. I made this discovery, but sort of in reverse.

    Wearing soft lenses for years, I just assumed my eyes had developed some sort of onion immunity. Recently switched back to glasses, and the tears came right back.

    Now I wear a cheap pair of day-glo swim goggles when it's time to chop onions. Quite ridiculous looking, but it gets the job done.

  10. To the non-Foochows reading, do you eat any other kind of baked goods during the mid-autumn festival?  I remember two other kinds of "cookies" that are extremely popular among the Foochows.  I have forgotten what they're called now.

    One is a rectangular shaped cookie, roughly 1" by 1.5", made from wheat flour I believe, with a sweet and slightly salty taste, and very fragrant with pork fat.  The taste and texture reminds me a little of Scottish butter shortbread, if you can imagine substituting lard for the butter, and it's more crunchy than shortbread.

    The other one is an unevenly shaped cookie, kinda like an elongated gnocchi, with pointy ends.  It's very crunchy and sweet.  It could well be deep fried, but I can't be certain.  I think the name is laoshu bing (老鼠饼), but feel free to correct me.

    The rectangular baked cookie has been a long time favorite of mine and I eat them whenever I can get them, even though they're traditionally made during the mid-autumn festival.

    For those of you who can't read Chinese, laoshu bing means "rat cookies". I kid you not. Doesn't sound appetizing to me, but that doesn't mean Laksa got the name wrong.

    For those of you who can read Chinese, I am intrigued that you can get these characters to print in your posts. How are you doing this? Can you reply with some appropriate links?


  11. Damn, that sounds great! What's the closest subway stop? And if you can get me the Chinese characters, I can probably translate for you, for the Chinese-only item(s). Also, does the place have any sort of English name?

  12. I used to be in the go-ahead-and-risk-it school, until I ate some slimy sausages and had a full blown allergic reaction--real allergy here, like the way some people are to bee stings, where it can close your airway and kill you if you don't have an epinephrine pen to jam into your thigh right nearby.

    Trust me this is a pain in the ass, because it can be very difficult to find out what you are actually allergic to, and very difficult to completely avoid it, even if you know what it is. Every time you eat out, you are counting on some underpaid server to be accurate about whether your allergen food is in the stuff you're ordering.

    A lot of allergy specialists in the US are more interested in billing for bee-sting allergy shots (very profitable repeat business) than in playing allergen detective for your problem (customer stops coming once allergen is found).

    If food prep is your career or your treasured hobby, food allergies can bring all that to a screaming halt. One of the members of this site is a chef who developed an allergy to mushrooms---which made him unemployable!

    For people who love food enough to contribute to this site, the watchword has to be


  13. I always use jasmine rice, never salt, and always use a rice cooker, which makes a difference, because it will always stop cooking right when all the water has been completely absorbed. I always rinse the rice 3 or 4 times. And don’t stir the rice while it cooks, because that will ruin all the little steam chimneys that form naturally and steam the rice. When I cook rice, it is always rinsed rice, with cold water added, and the whole thing put in the cooker or on the stove to cook. I never boil water then add the rice to the boiling water.

    As far as I know the only variable left is the water-to-rice ratio, which I judge by comparing the thickness of the layer of submerged raw rice on the bottom with the layer of water above it. This works for any amount of rice and is not complicated. Moreover, you are comparing the actual amount of rice and water in the pot, rather than the amounts you thought you measured, so there is less chance for error.

    With rice and cold water in the pot, you level the rice in the pot, jam your finger in and dig to the bottom, then use the index finger and thumb of your other hand to touch (a) where the top of the rice is, and (b) where the top of the water is. Keeping your hands together in this position, you lift from the pot and look at the two distances. The first time you do this you probably want them to be equal, i.e. the layer of submerged rice is the same thickness as the layer of water above it. Cook up this batch and see if you like this ratio. If not, you can adjust the ratio next time you make rice, and this tweaking will compensate for any inherent dryness in the rice grains because it wasn’t fresh or whatever.

    When you think it’s done, it’s important to let it ‘rest’ with the heat off for 5 or 10 minutes—this works the same way as letting meat rest after you’ve roasted it—if you don’t do it, the steamy moisture won’t have a chance to be reabsorbed by the rice. Then you can fluff it if you want.

    When I do it this way I get rice that is slightly sticky. When pushed together with chopsticks, grains will clump, but they will not be mushy. This will NOT produce rice where every grain is separate from the rest., which would be fiendishly difficult to pick up with chopsticks.

    And yes, freshly-cooked rice is too moist for fried rice. It needs to sit in the fridge for at least a day before it makes good fried rice.

  14. Upthread, carswell quoted some studies suggesting a relationship between stir-frying and lung cancer. I wouldn't worry about this too much.

    Not that it's impossible, but both China and Taiwan have severe air pollution problems arising from rapid industrialization, and I don't know how you factor this out of the equation.

    Most members/lurkers at this site have never experienced anything like the pollution in these places. This is stare-at-the-sun-without-squinting level of pollution. Imagine having the water turn black EVERY TIME YOU WASH YOUR HANDS. Imagine every pay phone coated with a layer of black dust from the air, enough so that you never want your mouth close to the mouthpiece of the phone. Imagine finding dirt under all your fingernails, just because you went outside.

  15. If you are really stir frying in the authentic Chinese way (like Barbara Tropp), your wok is blasting hot before you even add the oil so you need high smoke point oil, as others have mentioned. Peanut oil and EXTRA LIGHT Olive Oil (NOT Extra Virgin) are probably best for this, because they do not break down into potentially unhealthy trans fats at high temperatures. Extra Light Olive Oil is designed for deep frying, unlike Extra Virgin. Corn oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, and most others do break down at high temperatures.

    Before I learned this I used Extra Virgin. When cooking at such high temperatures, it lost all its flavor nuances. While this meant that it did not clash with the Chinese flavors, it also meant I was throwing away a lot of the EV flavor I had paid so dearly for. (Extra Light has little of these flavors to begin with, and little or none after stir frying.)

    Note that there are two different oils, called grapeseed and rapeseed. Rapeseed oil is actually canola oil; the name was changed b/c it would be hard to sell any oil with word rape in its name. As far as the name origin goes, canola=oil of Canada the same way that Mazola=oil of maize.

    Grapeseed oil is another thing entirely, which I don’t know too much about. I see Ming Tsai cook with it in his shows. This suggests that it has a high smoke point and doesn’t impart its own flavor to the food, but that price and health considerations might be secondary.

    Vegetable oil is usually a blend of soybean oil and cottonseed oil, both of which break down at high temperatures in the same bad way. Cottonseed oil has some extra health risk, since cotton crops are allowed to have more pesticides, etc. than food crops, like soybeans or corn.

  16. If you want to make better cookware decisions, reading the eCGI Stovetop Cookware course several times is a must.

    One of the things you will learn there is that current technology limits how thick the layers of a clad aluminum sandwiched by S/S can be. Typically the aluminum layer will be 1.7 mm, and the S/S ‘bread’ layers will be 0.4-0.5 mm each. All-Clad S/S may have an aluminum layer thicker than 1.7 mm, but the difference may not be enough to matter. If you’re really curious, go to a store and measure the thickness of a straight-sided All-Clad saucepan at the (conveniently non-tapered) top edge, and subtract 0.8 mm from your result.

    Assuming you like All-Clad construction, the question really is, can you get the same construction for a lot less money?

    If you are talking about aluminum sandwiched btw S/S, with the aluminum going up the sides, I would say that you might be able to pay a lot less if you bought Cuisinart Multiclad or even Farberware Millennium Clad S/S (this line has dark blue, not aqua logo/background. Aqua called ‘Soft Touch S/S’ and no cladding, only a disk on bottom). The thicknesses of the various layers for these lines seem very similar to All-Clad S/S. Be aware that C/M and FWMCSS have brushed S/S that is never as shiny as mirror-finish S/S, and some people have complained that Cuisinart Multiclad handles get hot. Warehouse clubs sometimes have very good deals, but you have to really scrutinize what kind of construction you are getting.

    If you want LTD style, ie, thick solid (anodized) aluminum going up the sides, with S/S lining on inside, then maybe All-Clad is your only option.

    Sets almost always have some pieces that you don’t see value in. Professional chefs suggest buying a piece at a time, but they are usually trying to fill a very specific gap in their already-diverse arsenal of cooking tools, which may not be your situation.

    Personally, I think aluminum going up the sides in all my cookware is worth it. In theory there are some pieces of cookware like skillets, sauté pans or stockpots where you should be able to get away with a thick disk rather than cladding up the sides. In practice, you will find things getting burned on right where the edge of the disk runs out and the ‘floor’ of the pan meets the ‘wall’ of the pan, and this is an annoying feature in something you didn’t want to replace for 20 years. The only exception to this is cookware that you will really, honest-to-God, only boil water in, like a dedicated pasta pot and strainer, because heat distribution is not really an issue if all you are doing is boiling water.

  17. Here are some perhaps not-well-known techniques for rice, and they’ve always worked for me. I learned these from Asian roommates in college and that was 20-odd years ago. I’ve seldom seen non-Asians use these methods. Hopefully they will be of some help here. (By the way, I have always used long grain rice, and the consistency I am going for is NOT “every grain separate from the rest” because that’s too hard to eat, whether with fork or chopsticks. But neither is it gluey or overly clumpy. It’s like rice you get from a Chinese restaurant; sticky enough so that it will clump when pushed together by chopsticks)

    1. Rinse the rice before you cook it. In the pot you are going to use, which should be heavy-bottomed, mix the rice with tap water, swish it around, pour off the cloudy water, and repeat. Do this a minimum of 3 times, more if you like, or if company’s coming. Don’t go nuts here. 5 times for company, 8 times if you’ve developed some kind of fanatical religious mission about this process. You are rinsing off excess starch, which will reduce tendency towards stickiness. (By the way, this is the same reason they tell you to boil pasta in a BIG pot of water, so that the ratio of water to rinsed-off starch high, which makes it less likely that the pasta will stick together.)

    2. Measuring the rice-to-water ratio. I never put anything but rice and water in the pot. Once you’ve done the final rinse, add water to the rice to cover by a certain amount, whatever some reference cookbook suggests, then gauge it as follows. [This is a long description of a simple technique, far easier than tying your shoes. Do not be put off by its length.] You are going to use the index finger of one hand as a measuring stick for the height of the rice grains and the height of the water above that. The advantage of this method is that it works for any amount of rice and gives you an easy way to benchmark your results if you want the rice to be softer or firmer next time. Make sure the rice is laying flat in the pan, not piled up higher on one side than the other. Stick your (non-dominant hand’s) index finger into the rice and dig down until you are touching the bottom of the pan. Now use the nails of the thumb and forefinger of your other (dominant) hand to touch the first hand’s index finger so that the forefinger-nail touches your (non-dominant) index finger at the level of the top of the rice grains. Place your (dominant) thumbnail on your (non-dominant) index finger at the top of the water. Now lift both hands out of the pot, with the nails of one hand still touching the index finger “measuring stick” of the other. Note the ratio of the two distances so you can adjust it next time if you think the rice came out too soft or too firm this time. For small amounts of rice, the distance from fingertip to forefinger-nail may be equal to the distance from forefinger-nail to thumbnail, which is what I would call half-and-half. If it turns out you like the grains firmer, make it so the pan-bottom-to-rice-top distance is two thirds of the total fingertip to thumbnail/water-top distance.

    3. Cooking it. The most important thing is DON’T STIR IT. The way steamed rice works is that the steam burrows its way up from the bottom, forming a series of holes in the rice that work like chimneys. If you stir it, you destroy the chimneys and screw the whole thing up. So don’t stir it. Cover it, bring it to a boil with the lid on, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let it cook for 20-25 minutes. Accumulating steam should make the lid occasionally belch a little steam during this time. When the time’s up take it off the heat, or just turn the burner off, and let it sit for at least five minutes before messing with it. This allows any residual moisture to cool and be re-absorbed by the rice. If you’re going to fluff the rice, do it after this resting period, and not until just before serving.

    4. What if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted, even with these techniques? Anytime you do this on the stove, your mileage may vary, because of variable ‘lowest settings’ on burners, variable pot-bottom thicknesses, and variable quantities. Even with all that, the fact is you are only guessing about the point at which all the water has been fully absorbed by the rice.

    5. The way around most of the difficulties above is a rice cooker. I don’t want to come across as some sort of rice cooker evangelist, but these machines have advantages. Rice turns out perfectly, regardless of quantity and water/rice ratios because there is absolutely no guesswork about when the full absorption point has been reached. Not only that, but once the raw rice and water are in the pot, you can cook it anywhere there’s an outlet, like on a bedroom nightstand if you want. You are not going to be fiddling with it between start and finish, it’s a ‘set it and forget it’ tool. So it doesn’t need to take up precious counter space in your kitchen, even when you’re using it. And you don’t need to be using your oven for something as pedestrian as making rice when company’s coming and you had other plans for the oven, or it’s summertime and too hot to use the oven. A small rice cooker costs $20. (You can buy or borrow a 2nd one if you are going to be making enough rice for a lot of guests.) It’s so simple to use that you can have your kids make the rice, if you want. There are a lot of dumb one-job kitchen gadgets out there that are cheaply constructed, but a rice cooker is not one of them, because its main market is Asian/Latin people who eat rice every day and will have absolutely no tolerance for an appliance that cannot withstand this sort of workhorse treatment.

    6. Both Trillium and I have said more about rice cookers in the Q&A for the eGCI course on southern Chinese cooking, if you’re interested. This would be useful to look at if you are considering a bigger-than-the-smallest rice cooker with more features.

  18. I’ve seen enough misspellings in the US and Asia to realize that these businesses seem to get along just fine without fixing them. I’m not sure anyone could make a living selling proofreading services to correct these. I think menu printers, rather than menu writers are responsible for many of the misspellings. Life is more amusing if they don’t get corrected anyway.

    The ‘cheese steak roll’ is just one incident in a long history of finding a way to incorporate a profitable item into your ethnic menu. Beef negimaki was originally designed as a sushi-like concoction that Americans would go for, it’s not a traditional Japanese food. A lot of the appetizers on a Chinese takeout menu aren’t very Chinese, but they do sell well, because they are knockoffs of things like Buffalo wings or chicken tenders. Most Asian menus have something that is explained as “Chinese Pizza” or “Vietnamese Pizza” or whatever, just because the word ‘pizza’ confers instant acceptability on foreign food. Where I live there are a lot of Spanish-speakers from the Caribbean, and the Chinese takeout menus offer fried sweet plantains and fried green plantains.

    The only thing remarkable about this cheese steak knockoff is that it has cheese in it, which would usually bar it from a Chinese menu. After all, you don’t see knockoffs of mozzarella sticks or cheeseburgers on Chinese menus. I don’t think this would be happening anywhere but Philadelphia, where the cheese steak is their local specialty. Perhaps we will soon see a Chinese knockoff of another Philadelphia specialty, the soft pretzel.

    Regarding inaccuracies in the blog article, I think it is safe to say that whatever dialect of Chinese you learn first feels like the “real” one, with all others sounding like imitators to you. I’m sure the guy who wrote this knows that Mandarin is the dominant dialect of Chinese in China and Taiwan. Nevertheless the dialect we all heard in Chinatowns in the US when we were little kids was probably Cantonese…that was my experience in San Francisco. Mandarin-speaking Chinese people have been coming to the US in sizable numbers for only about as long as we have seen products with ‘Made in China’ labels on American store shelves. Percentage-wise the Mandarin-speakers are gaining ground, but they have not displaced the once-predominant Cantonese speakers in American Chinatowns. Remember, the restaurant owners who put ‘cheese steak roll’ on the menu are probably Cantonese speakers.

    BTW, the 3rd and 4th characters are pronounced “see-dak”, which was as close as they could get to “steak”. If you transpose these two, you get “dak-see,” which sounds a lot closer to the English word it is trying to copy; the two “dak-see” characters are printed on the side of every TAXI in Hong Kong. This is a good illustration of Chinese people’s willingness to form nonsensical strings of characters, merely to synthesize an English pronunciation that they need. In other words, it doesn’t matter what the characters actually mean. They don’t need this just for menus or taxis. In Chinese newspapers they have to do this for non-Chinese names of people in the news. There is no standard way of doing this, each newspaper just makes it up. Even then it doesn’t match up to the English very well. Could you guess who BuLuKa ShwehArDza was? How about MayLee TswayPu? (See below for answer) Sometimes the string that gets chosen also has a meaning that only Chinese people are supposed to get. Krushchev was KaRuShwehFu, whose characters meant “Big Stupid Snowman”. I doubt that was an accident.

    Don’t feel bad if you didn’t figure out that the two Chinese-ified names above were Brooke Shields and Meryl Streep.

  19. Altho I'm not Chinese, I lived in Taiwan long enough to learn what authentic Chinese food tastes like and where American Chinese food strays from that. I too am annoyed when I see people pour soy sauce on something without tasting it first.

    My pet peeve is overly sweet dishes in Chinese restaurants.

    Chinese restaurants have a selection of rather inauthentic dishes that Americans like to order. Often a giveaway is that they are sweet fruity elements in what would otherwise be a savory dish. So when you see something with pork and lychees or chicken and pineapple, or beef with mango, be aware that the version you will get will proably be way too far on the sweet side. It's not that Chinese people don't make these dishes for themselves, but they don't make them as sweet. Think of the difference between sweet and sour pork that comes in super-sweet bright red sauce versus another version where it is not all about the sauce color and instead about balancing vinegar and sugar. Along these lines, duck sauce would seem to be designed as an all purpose sweetening condiment to go with any savory dish, I suppose. Chinese people don't eat it, but they will always give you a few packets of both duck sauce and soy sauce with every takeout order, as if you were supposed to be adding these things to your food.

    I guess the 'sweet as inauthentic' thread runs through a lot of cuisines/foods, because sweetness guarantees a certain degree of acceptance/profitability when you are introducing new tastes to your customer base. I hate sweet cornbread or bagels that are light and fluffy and one step away from sweet breakfast muffins, but I'm sure that people raised on Twinkies and Wonder bread and sweet potatoes with marshmallows think they are dandy.

  20. Thanks for an excellent course and posts everybody.

    A few more tips about rice cooker usage, though Trillium covered almost everything. I'm a veteran rice cooker user.

    First, if you get one, be aware that it is very important to dry the outer bottom and sides of the 'rice pot' before putting it into the cooker. Not doing so will shorten the useful life of your rice cooker dramatically.

    Second, even if you live near a Chinatown where everything is generally a bargain, Chinatown is NOT the place to get a great price on a rice cooker. Asian people will use their rice cooker every single day and will see the value in spending money on a high quality workhorse. Yet the same rice cooker may sell for much less at a mass market department store with a kitchen section, simply because most of their customers are non-Asian. The only advantage to going to a Chinatown is greater selection. This may be worth it if you want a small or mid-size rice cooker with some of the features below.

    Third, some features worth getting are 1) non-stick lining in the rice pot, 2) measuring lines stamped into the pot, 3) 'keep warm' function, typically not available on the smallest rice cookers, 4) hinged outer lid that 'clamps and clicks'.

    Fourth, the 'keep warm' function means that you can prepare more rice than you want for a single meal and it can stay warm in the cooker for a few days. This means you needn't worry so much about buying a cooker that seems bigger than what you need for a two-or-three-person household/meal. It also means that on winter days, there is already something cooked, warm, and ready to eat when you come home. [Note though, bigger rice cookers, 10 cups or more, will not do a good job on only one or two cups of rice, so that you almost have to make more than you need in this situation.]

    Fifth, the cooker can be used for other grains besides rice. Whole wheat, cracked wheat, etc. all work well, though they take longer to cook. They all turn out okay, regardless of quantity, because the cooker turns itself off whenever all the water has been absorbed by the grains; the temperature of the bottom of the pot shoots past 212 when this happens, and that's what turns the rice cooker off. The only time this might not work is when the grain has oozed so much gluten or starch that a starch layer accumulates at the bottom before some water above it has been absorbed. The starch layer would go past 212 and 'fool' the cooker into thinking all the water had been absorbed.

    Sixth, measuring lines stamped into the cooker are particularly useful, and here's why. Typically a cooker comes with a plastic measuring cup that holds about 3/4 cup. This is supposed to represent a single serving of raw rice. The numbered lines stamped into the cooker represent the amount of water to add after you've added the raw rice. So, for three people, add 3 'rice-cups' of rice, then fill with water to line number 3. There's your ratio. If you like your rice softer or firmer, you can tweak the amount of water. Either way, the rice cooker will turn off when all the water has been absorbed, because of the principle mentioned above.

    I don't mean to persuade anyone to buy a rice cooker, but I will say that it turns out perfect results every time and is such a convenient 'set it and forget it' tool that I think it's worth the money invested. I would rather invest my energy in making sure the more complicated dishes turn out right, confident that the rice will take care of itself.

  21. First let me thank slkinsey and all the posters here for the most comprehensive discussion on how to make intelligent investments in cookware that I have ever seen. I 'lost custody' of my old cookware about a month ago, and I have been researching what to replace it with for some time now. During this process I have fixated sequentially on various sets or at least construction types. Slkinsey's course has put everything in perspective.

    The main question I have for this post is, where do you get data on thickness of materials in various cookware lines?

    This is rather crucial information once you understand its role in cookware quality and performance.

    Second question: Does anyone have any thickness data for Farberware Millenium Clad Stainless Steel line or Cuisinart MultiClad line? [both of these are straight gauge, with aluminum extending up the sides of the pan] How about Cuisinart Everyday Stainless? [which has a copper disc sandwiched between stainless steel]

    I know that Farberware is typically low-cost/low performance cookware--the set I'm replacing was some old Farberware. In my search, I had decided that I wanted straight gauge s/s, like All Clad s/s but cheaper. When I found that Farberware had a line like this and that some open stock pieces were on clearance at unbelievably low prices, I decided to go for it. Now I'm wondering what I got, and whether its low price point makes it a good value for straight gauge cookware.

    The Farberware pieces I just got are intended only to be a stopgap while I figure out what to really invest in. After reading the lecture and Q&A here, I think I want to be buying open stock with construction like that of All Clad MC, Falk Culinair and Bourgeat.

    My thanks to all who reply to my post.

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