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Gabriel Lewis

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Posts posted by Gabriel Lewis

  1. The type of steamer Andiesenji mentioned is widely available in Asian markets across Canada, and an aluminium one will usually run you 20-30$ depending on size. I would agree that they are much more versatile and generally easier to use than bamboo steamers. But if you decide to stick with the bamboo steamers, a wok is generally best if you have space. You don't want to use a stir frying wok to steam though, as the prolonged boiling will eat away at all your precious seasoning. Remember to rotate the trays if you are cooking with multiple ones; the lower trays will cook faster than higher ones.

  2. A Sichuanese friend of mine recently moved to HK, and is having a very hard time finding good dou ban jiang (fava bean chilie bean paste). All she seems to be able to find is Lee Kum Kee brand, and its a far cry from good chilie bean paste which usually only has fava beans, chili, wheat, and salt as ingredients. Anyone know of a market or other source for good chilie bean paste in Hong Kong?

  3. I'm trying to get a better handle on the regional differences and specializations of Japanese cooking. For example, I know that modern sushi is a Tokyo/Osaka thing, Kaiseki is based out of Kyoto, and that Osaka cooking tenders to prefer light soy sauce. Or atleast I think I know, I haven't checked a while and thats what I remember. But other than that, I don't know much about which regions of Japan specialize in or are famous for what.

    In some other posts I've read about pockets of Gastronomy all over Japan, and I'd like to know more about these pockets. Is there a good source of information or discussion of this topic anywhere?

  4. For Guangzhou I would suggest Liuhua Congee House on People's Road (Renmin lu), details can be found here. I went there for an early dinner afternoon and everything we had was very good. I don't know well you'd get by without chinese, but they have an expansive menu and all the dishes have pictures. Unfortunately I never made it back to try their dim sum, but I'd be suprised if it wasn't good considering the quality of their other offerings. For dim Sum I think you have to get their before noon or 11am.

    Another restaurant you might try is Vaastu, an Indian restaurant that's supposed to be very good. Never made it out myself, as I was more interested in Cantonese food, but it did seem very intriguing and has won some awards. Just google it or Vaastu Guangzhou and you should find it easily.

  5. So I want to study Japanese cooking in Japan. This is going to be a pretty long post, as I feel the need to explain myself adequately. But for those interested in helping, what I am looking for are people to bounce my ideas off of, or who can give me some advice or direct me to further information or resources. What do you think of the idea? Is there anything that is setting off warning bells for you? Read the rest of the post for this to actually make sense.

    Actually, I want to study all sorts of cooking in a lot of places, but Japan seems like a great place to start. Why? Because I really like Japanese things. I like Japanese, the way it sounds so alive how many Japanese people seemto beso expressive with it. I like Japanese cuisine, with its careful attention to detail, and emphasis on quality and seasonal ingredients. Some of what I know about Japan I don't like, but the balance lies heavily with liking and identifying with Japanese people and culture.

    Ideally, what I would like to experience is a culinary tour of the islands of Japan. I find a master of a particular style or type of Japanese cuisine, convince him or her to let me on as his apprentice, and stay on as an apprentice until I've felt I've learnt enough to satisfy my thirst for knowledge. Once I've satisfied my thirst at the first place, I go in seek of the second place, and hopefully with the referral of the last place I worked have an easier time of securing an apprenticeship. This continues on, moving from place to place until I am happy with what I've accomplished.

    Sounds pretty ambitious right? Well yeah, it is pretty ambitious, and for me it's also pretty scary. That doesn't stop me from wanting to do it. I'm convinced that it can be done, and that I can do it; I just haven't figured out my approach to start yet, which is why I'm posting here. To start with, I'll discuss why I think I have a reasonable chance at succeeding in my dreams.

    As I mentioned above, I am fascinated by and identify strongly with the culture and values of Japan. Now I've never been, so it's possible I won't like it when I get there, but all my experiences to date suggest otherwise. I am a good cook, and have experience in a professional setting. I am familiar with long hours and doing hard work in hot kitchens for little money. As long as I felt I was learning valuable skills and gaining knowledge, I'd be happy to work for room and board, even if it was very modest. I have a good understanding of the basics of Japanese cooking. I am familiar with the ingredients, the principles, and the values of Japnese cuisine. I have cooked many japanese dishes to great success, with results likely better than all but the best japanese restaurants in North America. Now I don't claim to be a master of Japanese cooking but I wouldn't be coming over with a completely blank slate, and I'm confident I don't have any serious bad habits. I can work efficiently and clean, and my knife skills are good. I am confident that with time, hard work, and practice that I could meet the demands of a high level Japanese professional kitchen.

    So thats why I think I could succeed; there are still a lot problems to be resolved though.

    One approach that I am considering right now is to start by teaching english in Japan. I have a bachelor's degree, and am confident I could get a year contract with a reputable school or through the Jet progamme. This would allow me to first spend a year acclimatising my self to Japanese culture, and to improve my japanese language skills from intermediate to fluent. During the year I could use my time off to research more about Japanese food and places I'd potentially like to work, or even approach those places during the year and try to convince them to let me apprentice once I'd finish my contract. With the right placement and careful frugality, I could also build up some savings for use once I acquired an apprenticeship, or to find an apprenticeship once I finished my contract. Right now, this approach is very attractive as the alternatives seem very daunting. At the same time, I am worried that I won't like english teaching and will feel like I'm wasting my time. Alternatively, I've considered looking for a shorter term teaching contract with the same reasoning and less commitment, but it seems like the good ones are all for one year. Additionally, this would allow a lot of time to try and find an employer that would sponsor me for a work visa, without forcing me drain saved resources while looking for a place to work.

    Some other important points:

    Firstly, my japanese language skills. They aren't terrible, I can ask for directions, order food, and follow basic conversations in standard japanese understanding about 90%. I know a couple hundred Kanji. I have a lot of enthusiasm though, and a about a years time or so before I'd be ready to leave. My japanese improved rapidly when I took to it seriously shortly after I started studying it, but has fallen by the wayside more recently in light of other interests. I'd say my language skills compare favorably to the many people from foreign countries working in kitchens in the U.S. and Canada; which is to say, basic but adequate. Between the time I have before I would leave and the oppurtunities I'll have for improving once I get there, I am confident that I could improve my language skills to a fluent level fairly quickly.

    Places I'm interested in apprenticing at:

    Anywhere where there is an extremely high level of preparing excellent Japanese food. I'm more interested in something traditional or traditionally based than anything too modern. I don't care about location, size, or prestige. It could be a huge, fancy, and expensive restaurant in Tokyo or a tiny noodle shop in a small town in rural Japan. Whats really important is that they love food, they love making great food, and they are very good at what they do. My experience with Japanese food suggests to me that there aren't really any sharply divisive lines, and so I am open to learning all sorts of cuisine. However, I don't really want to sign on for a five or ten year minimum. I have heard stories about apprentices boiling rice for ten years, and I'm not really interested in that. This is one aspect that worries me and I'm not so sure about. I'm confident in my skills and ability to learn, but I don't want to be stuck in a place that won't recognize if I have mastered a basic skill because they think I haven't been doing it long enough. But maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way? I would happily spend a year or maybe even two at once place if I thought they had the depth to merit that length of stay.

    So that pretty much covers it. A lot to swallow, and you have my thanks if you read through it all. I've been thinking about this a lot without anyone to talk to who can comment meaningfully. I am hopeful that there are some residents of Japan on this board who can give me some perspective. Like maybe its extremely unlikely that any restaurant would let me work for room and board, and I'll have to change my approach completely. Or maybe you know of an exchange program for cooks that I could use to get started. Or if you'd like to help, but you don't know how: maybe you know a nearby excellent restaurant or chef. You could mention to them in passing one day the gist of my story and report back to me their thoughts on it. What would they think about employing some crazy Canadian white kid for room and board?

  6. Thanks for the tips Magictofu! Sorry to hear that you didn't like Lijiang, but my girlfriend was there only a few months ago. I understand that it is very tourstity, but I have also been told by a good food friend of mine that there is an older part of lijiang seperated from where all the tourists go. He said that's where I should go to experience the real Lijiang.

    Kent I just took a look at your photos and they're very nice. I was wondering if you could tell me the name and or address of the market in shanghai in this post. Looks exactly like the kind of market I'd want to visit.

  7. So I'm going to China at the end of may, and will be staying until the end of july. The plan is too meet up with my girlfriend in Shanghai, and from there we will traverse our way south and west, ending up in Sichuan towards the end of the trip. The itinerary is roughly Shanghai, Yangzhou, Fujian, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Lijiang (in Yunnan), Sichuan (including chengdu, and potentially a number of other cities, and finally Chongqing. Now I realize some of these are provinces, but we haven't hammered out the details of all the specifics yet.

    I've started doing some of my own research, but I thought I'd throw up a thread here to ask for some suggestions from the community. I'm interested in any destination a food enthusiast would it enjoy, be it an open air market, restaurant, particular street vendor, tea house, or anything else you might think of. In particular I'd be interesting in seeing a restaurant or other food related thing that highlights the speciality of a particular region. Like a dish or ingredient its well known for, for example. We will be spending about 4 or 5 days in each place, so there should be plenty of time to hit up the good stuff. For restaurants, anything goes as long as it isn't ridiculously expensive. Also, my girlfriend is from Sichuan and is fluent in mandarin, so we aren't too concerned about any issues tourists who don't speak mandarin might have; except maybe in guangzhou?

    Any and all suggestions are welcome, and would be much appreciated! And if there is any more info anyone might need to make a suggestion, please let me know.

  8. I hadn't thought about using leftover rice to make okayu; I'll have to try that.

    I'd like to readdress the issue of washing rice. I am a strong proponent of it, because I think it makes a big difference, and Shizuo Tsuji (my guide to japanese cooking) certainly makes a strong case for it, but that was also almost 30 years ago. Recently someone disagreed with me and said that washing rice is outdated, and is a reflection of the inferior milling and polishing technology of the past.

    What is the general feeling in Japan these days? Is washing rice still considered essential? Is there a difference between home and professional?

  9. It can be hard finding good miso in NA, but here is what i've gathered from my experiences.

    As others have mentioned, stay away from miso that isn't strictly miso. Recently especially, I've started seeing miso that is mixed with a lot of other things. Now some of these are ok, and if you like them great, but I prefer to be in control of what I'm adding to the miso. Also, a lot of these seem to be newcomers attempting to cash in on the hype around miso's health benefits, and aren't necessarily traditional producers of quality miso in my experience.

    I also like to look at the ingredients. If theres anything like high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or whatnot I tend to stay away from those brands. Good miso should be made from salt, water, koji, and rice or whatever other grains that kind of miso is made from. Unpasteurized is also a good indicator of quality; it can be hard to find, but often has a fuller flavor than pasteurized miso. As are misos that give some indication of how they have been aged. Many misos marked as being aged for several years have given me very good results. I also have had better success with miso that still has some texture rather than ultra smooth kinds.

  10. I recently started running the kitchen of a small local restaurant. I made up the menu, I specify all aspects of purchasing, prep, and service; but I don't really consider myself the "chef".

    Why? I'm not sure really. I sometimes describe myself as the chef for lack of a better way to tell people what I do, because I'm not exactly just a cook anymore. But in some ways I feel like the term chef holds too much weight to justify identifying myself as one. It entails a certain mastery of cooking and running a kitchen that I don't really feel I have achieved.

    I mean, I run the kitchen and I run it well enough, and I have a decent amount of professional training, but most of my knowledge is self taught, and there are still large gaps in certain areas. I guess I hold a certain amount of reverence for the word.

    It'd be nice to be able to describe what I do with one word and not feel sort of guilty about it though..

  11. I can't stop thinking about this now, and I've come up with what I think is a plausible theory:

    Even when things are "frozen" at -20C, at the molecular level its not 100% of the water that has turned into ice. To a very very small degree, there are continuous miniature freeze/thaw cycles of all the water in different parts of the frozen tissue. It is probably these miniature freeze/thaw cycles that do damage to the parasites, and this damage builds up with the length of time spent in the freezer. If you freeze them initially for 24 or 48 hours or whatever, it will be enough to freeze their bodies rock solid, but given their relatively simple biological organization it won't kill them. However, if you leave them in the freezer long enough for ice crystals to melt/reform all over their bodies, and do damage in each new affected area, then eventually the damage will surpass a threshold such that the parasites can no longer "come back to life".

  12. You right, I guess I didn't really think about it enough. Checking Mcgee, the only tidbit he has is that parasites are susceptible due to their "more complex biological organization" (pg 186). I would assume that this refers primarily to the added complexity of a multicellular organism, but given that some parasites can be single celled protozoa, I have to wonder if freezing is effective for only some parasites rather than all of them. Certainly different parasites show different susceptibilities to freezing than others, and glancing through an article on pubmed, I see one case where a parasite was able to reproduce in horse meat that had been frozen for four weeks.

    As to what actually leads to the death of the parasite in terms of how freezing affects a specific critical function(s) I can't even really guess, and I'm guessing that we probably just don't know in most cases. You would have to do a bunch of experiments comparing the histology of live/frozen killed parasites. As susceptibility varies between parasites, I'd guess that how freezing actually kills different parasites does too.

    Myself, I'm content to believe that enough time spent at a low enough temperature will affect some critical biological function of a multicellular organism.

  13. Well I found some nice oil packed anchovies at capitol (pricey though!), so thanks for that. I'm still wondering if anyone knows where I can get whole ones packed in salt, or a good source for buying large quanitities.

    As for aromatic bitters, I don't have anything specific off the top of my head but I'll ask some people I know. You could try making your own, theres a thread with details in the cocktail forums. Failing that, I would ask the staff at La Depense at the JTM, they might be able to give you a nod in the right direction.

    Anyone know where I might find whole anchovies packed in salt for sale by weight? Or failing that high quality anchovies packed in oil? I'm thinking little italy, and I plan to do some scouring soon, but this is really outside my area of expertise and i'm not even sure where to start.

    Also looking for oil cured olives, any ideas?

    I'm not sure if they are what you're looking for; but at Capitol at Jean Talon Market, there are anchovies of some description hanging out in a refrigerated unit. I don't really dig on anchovies, so I didn't pay too much attention to what they were.

    (Capitol has so many delicious things. You should go there any way. You walk in, and it smells overwhelmingly of amazing.)

    Having helped, I'm looking for something, myself. I'm after some aromatic bitters; but I'd like something a little more exotic than the standard Angostura Bitters. Any ideas?

  14. I believe the critical thing here is time. Yes you can flash freeze things and bring them back to an extent, but enough time spent at a low temperature will eventually lead to death. Freezing doesn't "stop" time (unless maybe you reach 0K), and all organisms are constantly doing internal things like replacing cells etc; their basic homeostatic mechanisms need to remain active in order for them to stay alive.

  15. I don't like seeds or white pith either. I leave the knobby ends on, as I find they give purchase to the wedges for squeezing. I cut them in half lengthwise, and then cut a triangular prism out of the lemon so to speak, removing the center rib of pith and most the the seeds from each half. If there are any seeds left they're usually pretty easy to scrape out. This is the best method i've come up with; if you make a clean cut with a sharp knife then you don't really use much lemon, and you end up with 8 seedlesss/pithless wedges.

  16. Not to contest Andiesenji's recipe as she makes in a crockpot, I can offer what i've gleaned from my own experiences.

    When I make it, I use a thick alumnium bottomed pan and place it on one of my small burners on just slightly above the very lowest heat. I have an old an electric stove that has two large burners, and two small burners, and is fairly strong. I leave it on just above the lowest heat, stirring every hour or two for about 6 hours, or until there is some definite browness and is starting to get thicker at which point I remove the vanilla bean. When it starts to get fairly thick (say not too long after it will coat the back of a spoon) I turn the heat down to its lowest and stir more frequently; say every half hour. For me to get good thickness (say the thickness of high fat greek yogurt) it takes me another 2-4 hours after I've removed the vanilla bean, and it gets very dark, about the shade of dark chocolate. I could probably get the right thickness before its that caramelized if i used higher heats eariler, but i've never tried it that way. Mine is very good, very deep and complex flavor that easily beats out any commercial kinds i've tried.

    I can't imagine it'd be easy compare when yours was grainy. Did you try what I suggested? Reheating it slowly with a small amount (say 20% of total volume) of milk while mixing thoroughly, and then continuing to reduce until it is the right consistency?

  17. Thanks for the suggestions, I think I'll try a few of them. I'm a little hesitant to try the xantham gum just yet. Obviously I'd prefer to make this kind of sauce a la minute or to slowly reheat while stirring on the stove, but with the setup i have right now that is just too much work. Demand varies a lot and the amount of sauce i need for an order is very small, say 10-15mL. Maybe I'll reheat it in a mixing bowl using a pot of water or something along those lines.

  18. I have a pretty simple blue cheese sauce I've developed for some mini burgers that keeps breaking under prolonged heating during the service. It's basically just shallots sweated in butter, then mix in your cheese & cream and stir over low heat until dissolved nicely. It always breaks upon reheating though, and i have to reform the emulsion with cream a la minute. Is there some way I can prevent this? Any suggestions for a good blue cheese sauce are also appreciated

  19. How thick is your dulce to leche? I've used Andiesenji's cajeta recipe a number of times with 3.8% milk fat and had no problems with graininess. If its grainy, then what it probably means is that there isn't enough water left to fully dissolve the sugar so some of it is crystallizing out. If that's the case, then you can simply add some fresh milk and stir until it dissolves, then cook back down to your desired consistency.

  20. I get this from my asian grocer occasionally, and really like it when its good. The classic chinese way I know to prepare it is to stirfry it quickly in a hot wok with garlic until the leaves are just wilted; it'll stain your rice purple with the juices. No need to blanch, not very exciting I know but if you do it chinese style it'll come out differently than sauteed. It's also good with sichuan peppercorns and dried red chiles. I often find the lower stems tough and discard them. There's also an interesting recipe of Fuschia Dunlop's where you boil them in a scant amount of seasoned chicken stock with preserved eggs from hunan province that I can described in more detail for you if you'd like.

  21. I've experienced similar problems Liz, and my guess is that the culprit is your rice. Personally I've found it pretty difficult to replicate perfect restaurant rice consistently, but you should be able to get good results even if your technique isn't spot on. Since basmati has come into fashion, there are a lot of brands out there that aren't worthwhile. I would recommend buying small bags of different brands and testing, or searching here and elsewhere for reputable brands. Off the top of my head, Super Sadhu, Rose Brand, and Zebra are quite good (super sadhu is amazing if you can find it).

    Bumping up this topic to ask a question about basmati rice & cooking technique. 

    I just finished a 10# bag of basmati rice that I bought in an Indian grocery store - Himalayan brand, I think.  Then, this morning I opened a new bag of Goya brand, also labeled Basmati.  Neither of them cooked up looking anything like the basmati rice I get in Indian restaurant - with the long grains and that great flavor & texture.  Am I being ripped off, or does it take a special cooking technique to achieve that texture as well?

    BTW, I usually cook it using the boil and drain method, although I have also used the absorption method quite often as well.

  22. As long as you store the garlic preserved in oil in the fridge, you'll be fine. Clostridium botulinum bacteria won't grow and/or produce toxin at refrigerator temperatures. If you roasted a bunch of it and left it covered in oil in the fridge that'd make a great on hand ingredient for cooking. Pickled garlic would be a good option to do, the simplest way would just be a simple vinegar/sugar solution like:

    1.5 cups vinegar

    1.25-1.5 cups white sugar (to taste)

    1 Tbsp salt

    1/2 cup water

    Simply dissolve all that together, immerse the garlic in it, and leave it the fridge for 3 days or more before using.

    You might be surprised how much garlic you can use when cooking. I often use 6-10 cloves garlic to stir fry a pound of veggies, and no one has ever complained to me about excessive garlic.

  23. As gautam and others have mentioned, there are many different varieties of turmeric with different colours and varying strengths/flavors. However, this is probably not what is responsible for the choice of colours available in your market. The most commonly used turmeric is orange, and in my experience is usually quite a deep orange, some samples we have gotten from specific terroirs in India are so orange as to almost be brown. There might be a variety of turmeric that is yellow, but I doubt it.

    My understanding from talking with my boss (who owns a spice importation business) is that most ground turmeric available in north america is heavily adulterated. We import the whole dried rhizome, and it is definitely a deep orange. I should know, I have to smash kilos of the stuff to bits by hand with a mortar in pestle, as it is so hard that it breaks our electric grinders. However, when diluted it does take on a more yellow character.

    My suggestion would be to go for the more orangeish powders, or to try and find whole dried turmeric.

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