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  1. You will love this book, and you won't regret having ordered it. Although its a bit rough around the edges it is easily the best book on the subject of Sichuan Cooking available in English and my copy stays in select company on my kitchen counter rather than in my bookshelf, as its constantly referred to. Procuring my own copy is also a bit of a story. I was in Chengdu for classes at culinary school with a cooking friend, and near the end of the course we set about looking for this book in bookshops and couldn't find it anywhere. We wanted the book so desperately that instead of giving up, we figured we would go to the publisher's office and ask where to buy a copy. We googled the address of the publisher, went over to their office building, and explained to the doorman (in very bad Chinese, hand signals, etc.) which company we were looking for. Somehow he understood and explained to us that they just moved and gave us their new address. We went to the new address but were unable to figure out which floor the publisher was on (or if they were actually in that building) and got on the elevator and headed up to a publishing firm, in a building filled with publishing firms. We were on the wrong floor, but the kind people took pity on the poor illiterate foreigners and found somebody to speak English with us. This woman knew exactly which publishing firm we wanted and took us down to that floor, and introduced us to the people there. We explained that we were culinary students and were desperate to purchase the book. They couldn't believe it, and were completely tickled at our interest. So much so that they fetched the Editor of the book and introduced us and we had a nice conversation about how the book is a cult classic amongst Sichuan cooking enthusiasts in the West and that the book is impossible to procure (at that time it was literally impossible and used copies were going for hundreds of dollars) and that we would love to know how to buy a copy. He went to a bookshelf, pulled out two copies for the two of us, and gave it to us as gifts, and wouldn't hear of accepting a kuai for it. We took pictures together and it is one of my best memories -- of many great memories -- of Chengdu. Enjoy your book and use it well.
  2. I don't know. It struck a chord in me because I also hate passing potatoes through a tamis. Its messy and tedious, and its easy to burn your hands, and then a pain to clean the tamis. I find myself too often just chucking the potatoes in a Kitchen Aid -- I have a Vitamix too but that makes them terribly gummy -- but the loss of quality is very noticeable (even to my kids) and I think I'd make mashed potatoes much more frequently if I could automate the process. I figure it would be good for hummous too, which I also make a lot of. I've had a series of $30-$50 immersion blenders and now that my latest Cuisinart -- which is a horrible machine with a misplaced "safety" button that requires the use of two hands -- is failing, thought I would invest in something nicer to use and that will last.
  3. Dave Arnold mentioned on his show how he hates to make mashed potatoes in a tamis because it's such tedious work, and that he used the ricer/food-mill attachment on a Dynamic immersion blender and liked it. I'm looking to buy one, but have a bit of sticker shock to overcome. The basic blender is about $160 (which doesn't seem too out of whack for the quality) but the Ricer/Food Mill attachment, which has no motor of its own, is around $150 (and full list is much higher). As is often my trick for European products, I checked out Amazon.fr and Amazon.co.uk which often lead to half price Euro cooking gear for North Americans, but no joy . . . worse prices than in the USA. Anyway, before I buy it I thought I would ask for the experiences of others who have tried it. I'm also curious about the differences between the standard Mini-Pro and the Dynashake model, which looks nearly identical but comes with a slightly longer barrel and a shake cup which looks perfect for making mayonnaise which I'll be using this for often. Thanks.
  4. FYI, before anybody runs to buy the Breville, there is a new precision induction cooker on the imminent horizon. I think I saw it on Chefsteps packaged with a Joule, (but can't find it at the moment, so maybe it was someplace else. I think it's roughly $500. I love the aesthetic and functional design of Breville stuff, but I feel very burned with my two malfunctioning SmartOvens with the identical start button defect and would think carefully before spending so much money on another one of their products.
  5. I highly recommend the pow single handled woks from the Wok Shop. I have many woks, most of them schlepped back from China and much more expensive, but I return time and again to my Wok Shop wok as my favorite to use day to day. They are incredible bargains. Incidentally, the single handled wok is more of a northern style (and also frequently used in Taiwan), and the short dual handled woks more from the south and east and Sichuan. I have both, but the single handled wok is much easier to use, particularly on a western burner. Chinese professional burners do a much better job of aiming the heat at the bottom of the wok, but the western burners have much more distributed heat, and will heat your handles to the point at which they can't be handled with a dishtowel and require serious heat protection for your hands.
  6. In my opinion, the biggest challenge for kosher cooking -- regardless of cooking style -- is that meat and poultry must be "soaked and salted" prior to cooking in order to be kosher. As a result, proteins in beef are denatured and poultry is waterlogged. I think that this process does much less damage to poultry than it does to meat (which is basically ruined by the koshering process). If I were going to try and make kosher BBQ (or kosher food generally) as good as it could possibly get, I would be trying to find a way to satisfy the minimal kosher requirements, while soaking and salting the meat only to the extent necessary to make it kosher, but no more than that. I suspect that much of the quality of the meat could be preserved if the soaking and salting were done with more care, and without overkill.
  7. Putting aside the "why" you are going about this the way you are, the Wondra would seem to be your best choice here. Wondra is pre-gelatinized, so there is no need to cook it or bloom it to make it work, as you would need to do with corn starch (or raw flour). Gelatin seems wrong for this, as it will gel when cooled, and fall apart when re-heated.

    Satay from scratch

    A bit late to this topic, but maybe I can help. I make a Javanese Satay, almost always with chicken and sometimes with beef or lamb/goat, but not with shrimp. I suppose no reason it couldn't be made with shrimp, except for the fact that the flavor is likely to be overwhelmed by the cacophony of flavors and the susceptibility to overcooking. Anyway, first step is to marinate the protein, in a mixture of blended shallot (.25kg-.5kg), garlic, and ground coriander seed (2 tblsp, whole), black pepper (1tsp), salt, oil, mixed with "kecap manis," which is a thick soy sauce condiment made with palm molasses (I prefer the Bango brand, but the more easily available outside of Indonesia "ABC" brand is fine). If you can't get "kecap manis" you can try to use dark soy and dope it with palm sugar and molasses, but I consider this to be a critical ingredient for real Indonesian satay. Let it marinate for at least an hour and grill on soaked skewers (preferably over charcoal). The topping sauce is made by stir-frying copious amounts of shallots (.25-.5kg) with some garlic, salt, pepper, ground coriander, and chili in oil. Once that is browned off, stir in roasted peanuts pounded/blended into a near paste with water (thinned out natural style peanut butter can be subbed) and some coconut sugar/gula melaka (brown sugar can be subbed). After that is fried for a few minutes add in coconut cream and kecap manis. I like to also finish with some fried shallot for texture. I don't use a recipe, but everything is really to taste, and as thick or thin as you prefer.
  9. Can you please explain the issue with the thermal fuse? Is that part of the issue with the defective switch? Or is that a separate issue?
  10. Both of them are at least a few years old, but certainly not old enough that I would expect them to both be failing (and potentially dangerous) due to the same faulty part. Nothing lasts forever, but I would expect domestic kitchen products, particularly solid state bits on supposedly premium products that cost several hundreds of percent more than the average toaster oven, to last for a reasonable amount of time. I'm pretty disappointed and my experience has definitely dissuaded me from purchasing other Breville products with the same circular buttons (although I don't know whether they have the same problem or not or if its just the SmartOven).
  11. I own two Breville Smart Ovens, and I have generally been happy with them, and find that they have extremely even heating which can be handy for baking (I make toast in a toaster so don't care too much about how it handles toast). I have begun to experience a big problem on both of my SmartOvens though, in that the fancy circular power buttons no longer function reliably. They beep as if they've been activated when pressed, but most of the time the on/off switch has not actually been activated. This is an annoying problem when turning the machines on, as sometimes you think the machine is on and preheating, only to return to a cold "off" oven. Its a much worse and potentially dangerous problem though when the oven is on, and you think its been turned off, but in fact remains on. It sometimes takes 10 presses or more to work the switch. Since this is happening on both of my units, both bought at different places and at different times, I'm wondering if this is a widespread defect. Has anybody else experienced this problem with their Breville Smart Oven? I think that Breville uses this circular button-switch design in lots of their products, and perhaps these have an issue too. In any case, users should be on guard to make sure that their devices are actually switched off when the button is pressed.

    DARTO pans

    Of course, if you are happy with the Lodges, that's great, but anybody considering the Darto should understand that they are in a completely different class than the Lodge. The Dartos are seamless pieces of thick carbon steel and practically unique in the market, at any price. They will last forever and will likely be the nicest pan you will ever use. For many people the difference in price between the Dartos and something more conventional, will be very well worth the price. I think anybody on the fence about these won't regret pulling the trigger.
  13. Sorry to return so late to this topic that I started. Unfortunately, since posting this I learned that the SHIC has been integrated with the Sichuan Tourism University, and classes moved from Chengdu to a town about 2.5 hour drive north of Chengdu and that they no longer accept short term students. Instead, we arranged to take private classes at the New Asia Culinary Academy in Western Chengdu, easily reached by Metro from downtown Chengdu, and separately arranged for a translator to translate for us. This is a huge privately run culinary academy, with several hundred mostly young students there for a multi year course. We were the first foreign students to take classes like this, and while they weren't really set up for it, they were very accommodating of our requests. It was a magnificent experience, and I recommend it most highly and intend to go back as soon as I can. I would be happy to share the contact information with anybody interested if you send me a message.
  14. I believe that the Viking mixer was a rebranded Kenwood mixer. I bet you could buy the whip for the equivalent size Kenwood (you might have to buy it from a UK website) and it will fit fine.
  15. But this is no less a problem with conventionally cooked eggs. The unfortunate reality is that egg white, and egg yolk, each denature at different temperatures. Conventional cooking's solution to this (and to cooking many other ingredients made up of different components) is to simply overcook everything -- but that approach has its own problems, even if the textures it produces are more familiar to us. In the end, we are left with compromises and need to make the best choice for our application, preferences, and logistics. Personally, I love sous vide eggs, and think that the compromises that method offers are often worth the trade-offs . . . but not always, which is why we all still have stoves to cook them conventionally too.
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