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Industrial/mass-produced food products that are better than I can make


Fat Guy
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Today I concluded that without acquiring a million ingredients and devoting significant time to the project, I can't make curry pastes better than the Mae Ploy brand. There are several things like this on store shelves. What's on your list?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Most Chutneys, Branston Pickle, Tabasco sauce, Marconi Mild Giardiniera, Garlic stuffed olives (have tried and failed - can stuff them with cheese adroitly but the garlic always escapes).

Miracle Whip - I make my own mayonnaise but I've never quite got the knack of the MW.

Daddies Sauce - now available from Amazon - used to order it from British food shop.

Marie's Poppy Seed Dressing

Ken's Steak House Raspberry Pecan Dressing - I wish I knew the TRUE recipe - I have tried several and none are even close.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Today I concluded that without acquiring a million ingredients and devoting significant time to the project, I can't make curry pastes better than the Mae Ploy brand.

I understand your point but fresh green curry paste doesn't taste anything like Mae Ploy's, it truly is worth the trouble.

Soy sauce . . .fish sauce . . . oyster sauce . . . you get the idea.

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Chocolate.

I admire the people who roast their own coffee beans but a hairdryer and a dog bowl won't cut it when it comes to chocolate. A google search will show you how to make chocolate from scratch but I'd rather walk up to the supermarket.

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I've made the observation before that European is "market food" and Asian is "pantry food". That is, most European cuisines can be built from raw, whole ingredients (either fresh or dried) typically found at a market. On the other hand, Asian food relies on having a deep pantry of prepared ingredients that are integral to the cooking.

Soy Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Fish Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Dried Black Beans

Sriracha

Sambal Olek

Kecap Manis

Black Vinegar

Red Vinegar

Nobody would normally dream of making these at home.

PS: I am a guy.

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Agree with Shalmanese on this one about Asian food using a lot of pantry ingredients. I'd also add Worcestershire sauce to his list. However, I also agree with teapot: freshly made curry pastes (and powders) are far superior to their bought counterparts. Keep persisting, it is worth the effort.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Agree with Shalmanese, teapot and Nickrey. Yes there's nothing like fresh curry paste. However, most thai's don't make their own either. Every market I saw in Thailand has at least one vendor sitting in front of huge mounds of curry paste, that's been freshly made. That being said, I don't hold Mae Ploy in too high regard. Especially being in NYC, there are much better options. Try theThai store on Mosco St. - they have fresh curry paste from Thailand in foil pouches in the refrigerator. It's the best I've used outside ofThailand. Keeps a long time in the fridge and freezes well too.

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I've made the observation before that European is "market food" and Asian is "pantry food". That is, most European cuisines can be built from raw, whole ingredients (either fresh or dried) typically found at a market. On the other hand, Asian food relies on having a deep pantry of prepared ingredients that are integral to the cooking.

Soy Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Fish Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Dried Black Beans

Sriracha

Sambal Olek

Kecap Manis

Black Vinegar

Red Vinegar

Nobody would normally dream of making these at home.

Good observation about the basic differences between cuisines. I'd take out Sambal Olek and Sriracha from this list though. As long as you have a blender/food processor, they're both pretty easily made and far better than the bottled versions (James Oseland for the former and David Thompson for the latter). I use them from the bottle, but for different applications (the bottled versions I use more like I would ketchup).

I do agree that freshly made curry paste is better than Mae Ploy (right now I'm eating some leftovers from a fresh green curry I made last night), but the Mae Ploy still has a place in my kitchen. Other things would be:

Jarred roasted red peppers (favorite brand is Divina, they're a cut above the rest)

Canned tomatoes

Coconut milk (I don't have the will to make this)

Salted anchovies

IQF vegetables (particularly broccoli and okra)

There are more that I can't think of I'm sure. These are things I use all the time and couldn't do better myself. I've toyed with salting my own anchovies, and maybe I will but only out of curiosity and I doubt mine will be better than what I can buy.

nunc est bibendum...

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Chicken stock. I tried for years and finally decided that the Trder Joe's chicken broth that comes in cartons is better than any stock I made at home.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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Most cheeses.

+1. I've tried making cheese a couple times and the garbage I wind up with is distinctly inferior to anything produced by a reasonably good cheesemaker and can't touch the stuff made by the masters. I'm sure you could eventually develop a knack for making low-end cheese, but you're never going to make something that is as good as, say, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar at home (hell, even Cabot couldn't produce that one on their own, it was aged at Jasper Hills).

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chicken stock. I tried for years and finally decided that the Trder Joe's chicken broth that comes in cartons is better than any stock I made at home.

Any stock, glace de viande... I don't have the patience or tolerance for the smell. Although I do occasionally cadge some off chefs who make it fresh for their restaurants. And in a pinch, I have used a stock cube :blink:. Don't judge me..... :raz:

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Peanut butter (never smooth enough), curry paste (I like Thai Kitchen and another brand I forget the name of besides the jar is just too convenient), coconut milk (just buy frozen), grated cassava or coconut (ditto frozen), pizza dough (I love the frozen NY Pizza Dough at Whole Foods better/more reliable than my own), mozzarella.

One thing to note in my non-eG world, no-one I know would even attempt to make any of these at home even once. Its kind of a given these would be purchased but I like to dabble.

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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Mayonnaise. As good as freshly made mayo is, it doesn't taste like Hellman's. And on a BLT or turkey club, I want Hellman's.

As to the Mae Ploy, it's good but has a ton of sodium. In NYC there is at least one store in Chinatown that sells freshly made curry pastes. Great stuff.

Edit: someone mentioned the place on Mosco, that's the one. Right by that cheap fried dumpling joint everyone likes.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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For me, jerk seasoning. Busha Browne's is superior to anything I can whip up. (And I'm occasionally called into one of the casino's kitchens to "whip up" a jerk rub. All I do is try to recreate (albiet unsuccessfully) the glory that is Busha Browne's). Mustard is another one for me. Coleman's makes some fantastic mustard mixes -- like their tarragon and thyme mustard. I'll take that any day over one of my homemade mustards. Especially on a steak. And I'd rather squirt some Thomy mustard on a bratwurst than anything I could make.

Most pepper sauces are better store bought -- I can make them, but it's a pain in the sinuses. I'd rather just open a commercial sauce.

I disagree with store-bought mayonnaise because I don't like the commercial brands. I prefer making my own emulsion. I also disagree with buying prepared curries, because I nailed it a couple years ago.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Chicken stock. I tried for years and finally decided that the Trder Joe's chicken broth that comes in cartons is better than any stock I made at home.

Any stock, glace de viande... I don't have the patience or tolerance for the smell. Although I do occasionally cadge some off chefs who make it fresh for their restaurants. And in a pinch, I have used a stock cube :blink:. Don't judge me..... :raz:

I must strenuously disagree. There is no comparison to homemade stock.

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Chicken stock. I tried for years and finally decided that the Trder Joe's chicken broth that comes in cartons is better than any stock I made at home.

I strenuously disagree with this. 2 hours of chicken wings in the pressure cooker makes a superior chicken stock, and it only gets better from there.

Mayonnaise. As good as freshly made mayo is, it doesn't taste like Hellman's. And on a BLT or turkey club, I want Hellman's.

Obviously, if the commercial product is the standard you're aiming for it's going to be hard to beat with homemade (I prefer Duke's and Kewpie in commercial mayonnaise, but that's neither here nor there). I personally find homemade mayonnaise to be far superior to the commercial stuff, I just wish it were easier to make in smaller quantities than a cup.

Within the last year, excellent mole has become available. I am speaking of Rancho Santa Maria.

Is this mole available via mail order. Google search was not useful.

Tim, are you thinking of Doña María brand?

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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Obviously, if the commercial product is the standard you're aiming for it's going to be hard to beat with homemade (I prefer Duke's and Kewpie in commercial mayonnaise, but that's neither here nor there). I personally find homemade mayonnaise to be far superior to the commercial stuff, I just wish it were easier to make in smaller quantities than a cup.

Well that's kind of the problem with home-made mayo. If you make a large amount it doesn't stay stabilized in the fridge for weeks at a time, you have to make it for whatever dish to plan to serve that day or within another day or two.

We had a BLT taste-off a few years back on my blog, I had a CIA-trained chef make a bunch of different kinds, including with her own mayo. We both agreed at the end that the classic BLT taste could only come from a commercial mayonnaise.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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