• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Kikujiro

Wok phobia

51 posts in this topic

The food diary thread (keep them coming) has got me thinking about my relationship to Asian (particularly Chinese) food. [i'm not going to start trying to make sushi at home except maybe as an entertainment.]

Although I think its incidence may have been exaggerated over the past couple of weeks, it's clear to me that Chinese and related cuisine is a very regular part of my diet, but that I almost never attempt to cook it at home. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, experience: I am confident I know more or less what I'm doing with European dishes generally. Meats and fish turn out fine, pasta and risotto probably better than the average decent restaurant over here (although some notches below the best). On the other hand, my occasional attempts at Chinese dishes are unarguably worse than the average decent restaurant. Of course, this is related to the relatively tiny amount of experience I have.

The main issue here is fear of the wok. This may be partly rational, viz. the widespread line that you can't cook well with a wok on a domestic gas hob. Related to this is the speed of cooking: I am used to tasting throughout the process and adjusting amounts, speed and heat accordingly. Wok-cooking seems more like Superman in the telephone kiosk: when do you get to respond to what's happening? Then there's the sheer number of ingredients that seem to be involved in many Chinese recipes, versus European ones. Concerns here include both managing the increased number of variables and simply managing to control a decent larder of useable ingredients.

Then there's the fact I don't have a rice cooker ...

Firstly, then, is this something I should be pursuing, or is it best left to the several good-to-very-good restaurants within comfortable walking distance of where I live? And if so, am I best just continuing to bash along until I improve, in which case can somebody recommend a good book to work through, or should I think about an evening course or something?


Edited by Kikujiro (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bash away. Look for an evening course.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No.

But I'm sure Toby can recommend some.

I just read cookbooks like murder mysteries.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wok cooking is very visual. It happens pretty fast and your hands are busy tossing things around, so I think the judging of when to add the next ingredient, when it's done, are visual decisions with maybe how it smells secondary. You just have to have everything prepped and close at hand. As for seasoning, if you're using salt at all, it usually goes in right at the beginning when you first fry the garlic or whatever; I usually follow the amount called for in the recipe for soy sauce, oyster sauce, the first time I cook a dish.

You really don't need that many extra pantry ingredients -- several types of soy sauce, maybe sesame oil, oyster sauce, some of the bean pastes, star anise, dried mushrooms. Also, Chinese-style rice is really easy to make and can be done in a pot without a rice cooker.

Chinese slow-cooked casserole dishes are great in the winter, as are steamed foods, and I think you can make these taste better at home than they do in most restaurants.

If you can find a copy of Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking, it's a great book to learn from.

(edit: right on cue, Jinmyo)


Edited by Toby (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kiku - I found Yan-Kit So's book on Chinese cooking published by Dorling Kindersley (and almost always in print) very useful years ago.

I gather from your post that you have a gas cooker, so that's a major hurdle already overcome. The next is to establish a relationship with your wok :wink:

P.S. you haven't heard the last of me on the diary thread yet... but I've got to learn how to transfer pictures from my new digital camera and upload them first.

Sorry I didn't see you at Borough.

v

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I gather from your post that you have a gas cooker

This was fairly high up on the list of criteria when looking at apartments to rent :biggrin:

Looking forward to the photos. Sorry I missed you at Borough too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a round bottomed wok, but I'm unsure how to use the wok ring. I have gas, and the ring can go either direction, with the big side up or down, which puts the wok closer to or further from the flame. I would think that having the wok closer to the flame would be better, but then the heat from the flames want to come out through the holes on the wok ring (not the flames themselves, just the heat). What should I do?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you can turn the grille thing on your stove that fits over the burners upside down so that the wok can actually sit in the round depression (concavity?), you can dispense with the wok ring. The flames will be directly under the wok and the heat shouldn't escape as much. (Sorry, I'm hopelessly retarded when it comes to names of things.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, I just tried turning the grille upside down, and it is sitting directly on the burner. Then I removed the grille, and put the ring directly around the burner (small side down), but it's not quite centered, and the wok sits on the burner instead of the ring. Then I flipped the ring, but it's too wide for the space around the burner, and sits on the ledge on 3 sides, and isn't very stable. If I put the grille back, and put the wok directly on it, it's kind of stable, but I like the stability of the ring better. The problem is that the heat comes out the holes and burns up my potholders. I've been looking for a wok with a long handle, but have had a hard time finding with a round bottom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Both my long-handled woks are pretty much round-bottomed, perfectly round on the inside and with a slight flattening at the outside base, so it balances okay. One is a Chinese iron one, and the other is a weird Joyce Chen-like one made out of a strange black metal that I don't like as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Where did you get the iron one? Is it cast iron? It seems like it would be too heavy to lift! The Joyce Chen woks available now have flat bottoms.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Barbara Tropp's first cookbook (Modern Art of Chinese Cooking) is fairly good. I use the Wei Chuan books a lot, but you need some basics before you use those books -- they don't have a lot of instruction, just the ingredients and the bare minimum of cooking/technique instruction.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm watching this thread closely and hoping to learn. I, too, have a great fear of woks and further, with an electric range, they seem ill-fitted for the job they are supposed to do. I read recently and I wish I could remember where, that a large cast iron pan was more practical on an electric range and I did experiment. My resulting stir-fry was much better than any I had done before (mind you, I have never owned a wok!). I let the pan get very, very hot before I added any ingredients and I keep a flame tamer handy to slip under when things seem to be getting out of hand. However, it still takes a very long time for a cast iron pan to lose heat.

My bigger problem with stir fries is that they seem bland and have a sameness about them. Now, I also have to admit that I have a fear of chinese ingredients simply because they are so unfamiliar to me and even sound scary: blackbean sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce.

Yet Chinese is one of my favourite cuisines ever since a friend introduced to me to a little-known restaurant in Toronto that was highly regarded by the Chinese community but little used by the general public. This was many, many years ago and I'm sorry but I can't remember the name. There was zero ambience - just long, bare wooden tables and benches. But the food - oh the food! I can't even remember what I ate only that I thought it was marvellous. Since then I've had a few meals in Chinese restaurants but only in one run by a friend have I found the food to be good. Still I persist in believing that one can make good Chinese food at home.

So I'll be watching and hoping as this thread develops.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Where did you get the iron one?  Is it cast iron?  It seems like it would be too heavy to lift!  The Joyce Chen woks available now have flat bottoms.

It can't be cast iron, it's not that heavy. I've looked it up now -- it's made out of a "thin, tempered iron," whatever that means. I got it in a kitchen supply place in Chinatown in San Francisco a long time ago. The Joyce Chen one is, I guess, more flat bottomed than round; it's easier to deal with on the stove, but I don't like cooking in it as much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Years ago, I used Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking, and produced very successful Chinese food. Eventually, I stopped cooking Chinese dishes at home because there was no way I could pretend that the sodium content was within reasonable bounds for me and decreasing the salt resulted in a distinct loss of "Chinese-ness." I still eat in Chinese restaurants, of course, because as long as I don't see what goes into the work, I'm able indulge in my self-delusion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I read recently and I wish I could remember where, that a large cast iron pan was more practical on an electric range and I did experiment.  My resulting stir-fry was much better than any I had done before (mind you, I have never owned a wok!).  I let the pan get very, very hot before I added any ingredients and I keep a flame tamer handy to slip under when things seem to be getting out of hand.

I have electric, and use an all-clad pan, not cast iron, so I have better heat control. Don't forget the "two burner method" -- one on highest, one on medium.

As to flavors, check out a mess of chinese cookbooks -- there have been some good ones recommended here -- from the library, do some reading, cooking, and then you can purchase only the cookbooks you know you'll use and like.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once I accepted the fact that even with an extra-hot burner, I would never be able to duplicate Chinese restaurant food at home, I lost my fear of trying to cook "Chinese-ische." In other words, I can't get that almost-instant caramelization of vegetables, seafood, meat, etc, that seems to be the hallmark of a good stir-fry. But I can still get the flavors of the sauces and spices, so I can live with that.

As for the seemingly vast number of ingredients: many of them are in small amounts, so prep time is not all that great. And this is one instance where "salad bars" are actually a good thing -- pre-cut pepper strips, celery, etc. (just wash it well before using). Do you have them there?

Kiku -- you're not afraid of the flipping-and-tossing thing, are you? If so, just practice with something like cherry tomatoes or small potatoes in a cold wok, until you are comfortable with the push-it-away-from-you-then-lift-and-jerk-it-back-toward-you motion. Just like flipping something in a sauté pan.

Just keep bashing away. Ask questions about dishes you like, when you eat out. Try to figure out what goes into a dish, and how it is made, and then try it at home. Of course it won't be exactly the same, but you'll have fun learning.

Yes, Barbara Tropp's books are very, very good.

And Nolonger -- a lot of those "unusual" ingredients keep forever, and you can always try adding a little of them to Western dishes to give a subtle change.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if you had a chance to look at my Q & A from 2 weeks ago but I wrote a post talking about many of your concerns. I have copied it here and hope you find it helpful. Please feel free to respond or ask any further questions. By the way, I too like Irene Kuo's book and mentioned so during the Q & A.

ES

AN APPROACH TO COOKING AND FLAVORING CHINESE STIR FRYS

To my mind learning to cook proper Chinese is food is akin to learning a craft. Once you have mastered the techniques you can move ahead and apply your knowledge to create a series of basic preparations and their variations. Unfortunately I don’t think there are just two or three supreme tips. I have a philosophy about how to approach and think about this way of cooking and hope that it will be helpful in guiding you as well as others.

1) Learn how to select the correct cuts of meat and vegetables and how to prepare, cut, and flavor (marinate) them for cooking.

2) Learn how to cook these meats and vegetables so that they are properly cooked through and exactly the right texture.

3) Learn how to season the food you’re preparing.

Time after time my cooking seems to reinforce this approach.

For example when you’re making beef and broccoli, you start by purchasing the right cut of meat and learning to slice it to the desired shape. Different cuts lend themselves to different shapes. Of course you’ll need some really fresh broccoli. Make sure it isn’t too old and tough. When we start to cook this dish we fry the meat so that it is just cooked through and quite tender, and cook the vegetables so that they aren’t raw, but bright green and crisp/tender. Finally we create a sauce and then toss the whole thing together, for just 20-30 seconds, so that the meat and vegetables are properly seasoned. We quickly dribble in a touch of sesame oil, to create a great smell, and then remove the food from the wok and plate it. Should you toss the meat in the sauce for more than a few seconds it will toughen and your dish will lose some quality.

***This 3-step technique of preparing the food, then cooking it to the right texture, and then flavoring it, recurs in recipe after recipe. Most importantly, when you start to think about stir-frying this way, it provides an approach for dealing with all sorts of Chinese and Asian recipes.***

Beyond this here are some other basic pieces of advice:

For home cooking I suggest cooking in a 14” flat-bottomed wok.

Get a wok strainer

Use a Chinese spatula and a Chinese stir-fry spoon

Get good recipes

Use really fresh food

Use good homemade chicken stock

As a practical example I have included a fairly detailed recipe for your perusal.

Ed

Sliced Beef with Broccoli

Ingredients:

1 lb. flank steak, trimmed and partially frozen

NOTE:you could also use other cuts among them boneless sirloin or filet mignon or my favorite poor man's cut: chicken steak (also know as beef blade chuck steak - it first needs to be trimmed of exterior silver skin and interior gristle)

for the beef marinade:

1 egg white

1 T dry sherry or Shaoshing wine

1/4 t salt

2 T cornstarch

1/2 head broccoli, washed and cut into 2”pieces

2 scallions, cleaned and cut in 1/3” pieces

1 t minced garlic

1 t thin sliced ginger, cut in 1/2” pieces

for the seasoning sauce:

1 1/2 T Kikkoman soy sauce

2 t oyster sauce

1 t dark soy

1 T dry sherry or Shaoshing rice wine

1/2 t sugar

1/4 t MSG (opt)

dash white pepper

1 T cornstarch dissolved with 1 1/2 T water

3 cups vegetable oil

add at the last moment:

1/2 t sesame oil

Prepare Ahead:

1. To slice the beef: Holding your cleaver at a 45-degree angle to the cutting surface and cutting across the grain, slice the partially frozen flank steak into 1/3” thick pieces, each 2”- 3” long and 1/2” wide.

2. To marinate the beef: Put the beef slices in a mixing bowl and add the egg white, wine and salt. Using your fingers briskly mix for about 30 seconds until the beef is evenly coated. Next add the cornstarch and continue mixing until it is just dissolved. Transfer the beef to a clean mixing bowl, discarding any extra marinade clinging to the first bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. The beef may be cooked immediately though its texture is best after 12 hours. If well refrigerated it will stay fresh for at least 48 hours.

To Cook:

3. To cook the beef: Heat 3 cups of oil in a wok until it is moderately hot: 280-300 degrees F. With the heat turned to it’s highest level, add the sliced beef to the hot oil, and using a pair of chopsticks or a slotted spoon, gently swirl the beef in the oil so that the slices separate from one another. Cook, stirring gently, until no trace of pink remains and the beef starts to bubble vigorously in the oil: about 60 seconds. Using a slotted spoon transfer the beef slices to a strainer suspended over a pot to catch the dripping oil. After removing the beef from the oil continue to leave your wok full of oil over high heat.

4. Cook the broccoli: With the flame still at its highest level, reheat the oil for about 2 minutes: until it is 325-350 degrees. Now add the broccoli to the oil and cook stirring gently for 30 seconds. Immediately stop the cooking by draining the contents of the wok over the beef and into the same strainer that’s suspended over a pot to catch the oil. If any of the beef marinade has stock to the wok scrape it out and discard it. Wipe out your wok and return it top the heat. Note: If a great deal of marinade has stuck to the pan you may have to wash out the wok and reheat it.

5. To sauce the food: With the heat turned to its highest level add 1 T vegetable oil to the wok followed by the garlic,

ginger, and scallion. Cook, stirring for 10 seconds, then add the seasoning sauce that has first been briefly mixed to redistribute the cornstarch. Stir constantly until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Working quickly add the beef and broccoli to the wok and continue stirring until the food until it is completely coated with the sauce, about 30 seconds. Don’t stir the meat in the sauce any longer than necessary: boiling it in the liquid will toughen it. Immediately sprinkle with the 1/2 t of sesame oil and serve.

--------------------

Ed Schoenfeld

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the advice, and Ed, thanks for your detailed post, which sounds like an excellent way to get stuck in. That will be my next project. I'm encouraged that I have all the pantry items already (does Shiaoxing wine keep, or is it like, um, wine?). I think I need to buy a bigger wok. All this will happen very soon after Christmas :smile:

Suzanne -- it's not the flipping technique per se that concerns me. I'm usually a bit gung ho with imitating techniques I've seen. It's more the issues I described before (number of ingredients, how and when do you make adjustments, and so on). Ed's and other's posts have been very helpful in this respect. (Edit note: having said which, I think using a too-small wok did make the technique harder, as well as reducing the heat's effectiveness by overfilling.)


Edited by Kikujiro (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The major difference between's Ed's post and almost every Chinese recipe I've seen for stir-fry, is that the recipes call for 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and Ed calls for 3 cups. Ed's, of course, is more like what I've seen in restaurant kitchens -- they basically deep fry the meat in oil, remove the meat, pour off all but a little oil, and finish the dish (the veggies are usually blanched in a big tub of boiling water).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The major difference between's Ed's post and almost every Chinese recipe I've seen for stir-fry, is that the recipes call for 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and Ed calls for 3 cups.  Ed's, of course, is more like what I've seen in restaurant kitchens -- they basically deep fry the meat in oil, remove the meat, pour off all but a little oil, and finish the dish (the veggies are usually blanched in a big tub of boiling water).

You're correct in talking about the use of oil. But I think a little more explanation would be helpful

In home stir frying the food is cooked by being tossed in the pan, and the pan transmits the heat to the food. When you 'velvet' (marinate protein in egg white, cornstarch, salt and wine) and then pass it through the oil, the oil rather than the pan transmits the heat. Since the food is surrounded by the oil, it cooks much more evenly, and quickly. You end up with a better and more uniform result and ultimately a less oily one. At first this may sound contradictory. But follow me for a second. When you stir fry you have 2-3 T of oil in the wok. This will typically end up being part of the sauce. When you 'pass' food through oil, the food is well drained and the wok is wiped cleaned before the food is returned to the wok for saucing. Using this method you can usually end up with less oil in your finished product.

Keep in mind the following:

In Chinese cooking when we do a stir fry dish we first cook the meat and vegetables until they are 96% done, remove them from the wok and then create a sauce. When we make a sauce we almost always start with the herbal ingredients first, garlic, ginger, scallion, hot peppers, and then any pastes, hoisin, sweet or hot bean paste, and then afterwards add the liquids and dry spices: stock, soy, oyster sauce, wine, salt, sugar.

By the way in a Cantonese kitchen vegetables are usually blanched in water, however in a northern or Szechuan kitchen they may often be cooked in oil. They cook very differently in oil because is is at least 100 degrees hotter than boiling water - 10 second string beans - crispy and beautifully bright green.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The major difference between's Ed's post and almost every Chinese recipe I've seen for stir-fry, is that the recipes call for 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and Ed calls for 3 cups.  Ed's, of course, is more like what I've seen in restaurant kitchens -- they basically deep fry the meat in oil, remove the meat, pour off all but a little oil, and finish the dish (the veggies are usually blanched in a big tub of boiling water).

You're correct in talking about the use of oil. But I think a little more explanation would be helpful

In home stir frying the food is cooked by being tossed in the pan, and the pan transmits the heat to the food. When you 'velvet' (marinate protein in egg white, cornstarch, salt and wine) and then pass it through the oil, the oil rather than the pan transmits the heat. Since the food is surrounded by the oil, it cooks much more evenly, and quickly. You end up with a better and more uniform result and ultimately a less oily one. At first this may sound contradictory. But follow me for a second. When you stir fry you have 2-3 T of oil in the wok. This will typically end up being part of the sauce. When you 'pass' food through oil, the food is well drained and the wok is wiped cleaned before the food is returned to the wok for saucing. Using this method you can usually end up with less oil in your finished product.

Keep in mind the following:

In Chinese cooking when we do a stir fry dish we first cook the meat and vegetables until they are 96% done, remove them from the wok and then create a sauce. When we make a sauce we almost always start with the herbal ingredients first, garlic, ginger, scallion, hot peppers, and then any pastes, hoisin, sweet or hot bean paste, and then afterwards add the liquids and dry spices: stock, soy, oyster sauce, wine, salt, sugar.

By the way in a Cantonese kitchen vegetables are usually blanched in water, however in a northern or Szechuan kitchen they may often be cooked in oil. They cook very differently in oil because is is at least 100 degrees hotter than boiling water - 10 second string beans - crispy and beautifully bright green.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've often noticed that the chicken I get in dishes such as Hunan Chicken has a great golden color without being browned. When I stir fry at home, mine goes from white to browned. Is this from the type of oil or the amount?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      I think you’ll see in a moment why I didn’t just post this on the Lunch! topic. It was exceptional. An epic and it has been an epic sorting through the 634 photographs I took in about three hours. If I counted correctly, there are only 111 here.
       
      Like so many things, it came out of the blue. I was kind of aware that there was a Chinese holiday this week, but being self-semi-employed I am often a man of leisure and the holidays make little impact on my life. This one is in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duān wǔ jié) and although it features nothing boat-like, it was festive and there is a dragon link.
       
      It started with this invitation which appeared on my WeChat (Chinese social media) account.
       

       
      Longtan (龙潭 lóng tán) means Dragon’s Pool and is more of a hamlet. It is about an hour’s drive north of Liuzhou city. I’d never heard of it and certainly never been there, but a friend of a friend had decided that a “foreign friend” would add just the right note to the planned event. I’ve seen many pictures of such “Long Table“ lunches and even attended one before – but this one was different and I was delighted to be invited.
       
      So, I was picked up outside my city centre home at 9 am and the adventure began. We arrived at the village at 9:45 to be met by the friend in question. He led me to what appeared to be the head man’s home, outside which was a large courtyard with a few men sitting at a trestle table seemingly finishing a breakfast of hot, meaty rice porridge washed down with beer or rice wine. I was offered a bowl of the porridge, but declined the beer or rice wine in favour of a cup of tea. After downing that and making introductions etc, I was left to wander around on my own watching all the activity.
       
       

       

      Rice Porridge
       
      Here goes. I'm posting these mostly in the order they were taken, in order to give some sense of how the event progressed.
       

       
      These two men were the undisputed kings of this venture, organising everyone, checking every detail, instructing less  experienced volunteers etc. It was obvious these men had been working since the early hours. and their breakfast was a break in their toil. There were piles of still steaming cooked pork belly in containers all over the courtyard.
       

      Some of this had been the meat in the rice porridge, I learned.
       
       

      This young lad had been set to chopping chicken. Not one chicken! Dozens.
       

       

       

       

       

      Entrails, insides and fat were all carefully preserved.
       
      In the meantime, the two masters continued boiling their lumps of pork belly. This they refer to as 五花肉 - literally "five flower" pork", the five flowers being layers of skin, fat and meat.
       

       

       
      Another man was dealing with fish. Carp from the village pond. He scaled and cleaned them with his cleaver. Dozens of them. 
       

       

       

       

       
      And all around, various preparations are being prepared.
       

      Peeling Garlic
       

       

      Gizzards and intestines.
       

      More Pork . You can see the five layers here.
       
      to be continued
       
    • By Soul_Venom
      The best Chinese food restaurant I have ever been to is a place called the Imperial Buffet in Aberdeen SD. Their General Tso's is unlike the Tso's anywhere else. The closes comparison I could make is the Orange Chicken at the Panda Garden only 3x better. Their Lo-Mein Noodles are done with the skill of a master Italian pasta chef & perfectly seasoned. They also used to do a mean fried squid. I say used to because they had it when I lived in Aberdeen from 02-04 but didn't when I visited in 15'. One of their other discontinued specialties was a dish advertised as 'Golden Fried Cauliflower'. Note, this was NOT a breaded product. The cauliflower was cooked as though it had been boiled perfectly. It was not greasy as I recall but was a golden orange color as was the sauce it was evidently cooked in. I never could identify the flavors in that sauce. I wish I could describe it better but it has been well over a decade since I had it. Is anyone familiar with it or something similar? I can't seem to find anything like it online & all my searches just bring up links to breaded deep-fried crap.
    • By liuzhou
      An old friend from England contacted me yesterday via Facebook with a couple of questions about Five Spice Powder.

      Thought there me be some interest here, too.

      Is there anything more typically Chinese than five spice powder (五香粉 - wǔ xiāng fěn)?
       
      Well, yes. A lot.
       
      Many years ago, I worked in an office overlooking London’s China town. By around 11 am, the restaurants started getting lunch ready and the smell of FSP blanketed the area for the rest of the day. When I moved to China, I didn’t smell that. Only when I first visited Hong Kong, did I find that smell again.
       
      In fact, FSP is relatively uncommon in most of Chinese cuisine. And if I ever see another internet recipe called “Chinese” whatever, which is actually any random food, but the genius behind it has added FSP, supposedly rendering it Chinese, I’ll scream.

      I get all sorts of smells wafting through the neighbourhood. Some mouth-watering; some horrifying. But I don't recall ever that they were FSP.
       
      But what is it anyway? Which five spices?
       
      Today, I bought four samples in four local supermarkets. I would have would have preferred five, but couldn’t find any more. It's not that popular.
       
      First thing to say: none of them had five spices. All had more. That is normal. Numbers in Chinese can often be vague. Every time you hear a number, silently added the word ‘about’ or ‘approximately’. 100 km means “far”, 10,000 means “many”.
       
      Second, while there are some common factors, ingredients can vary quite a bit. Here are my four.

      1.


       
      Ingredients – 7
       
      Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Sand Ginger, Dried Ginger, Sichuan Peppercorns.
       
      2.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Cassia Bark, Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Coriander, Sichuan Peppercorn, Licorice Root.

      3.
       

       
      Ingredients – 15
       
      Fennel Seeds, Sichuan Peppercorns, Coriander, Tangerine Peel, Star Anise, Chinese Haw, Cassia Bark, Lesser Galangal, Dahurian Angelica, Nutmeg, Dried Ginger, Black Pepper, Amomum Villosum, Cumin Seeds, Cloves.

      4.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Pepper (unspecified – probably black pepper), Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, Cassia.
       
      So, take your pick. They all taste and smell almost overwhelmingly of the star anise and cassia, although there are subtle differences in taste in the various mixes.
       
      But I don’t expect to find it in many dishes in local restaurants or homes. A quick, unscientific poll of about ten friends today revealed that not one has any at home, nor have they ever used the stuff!
       
       
      I'm not suggesting that FSP shouldn't be used outside of Chinese food. Please just don't call the results Chinese when you sprinkle it on your fish and chips or whatever. They haven't miraculously become Chinese!

      Like my neighbours and friends, I very rarely use it at all.

      In fact, I'd be delighted to hear how it is used in other cultures / cuisines.
    • By liuzhou
      For the last several years Cindy's* job has been to look after me. She takes care of my residence papers, my health insurance, my travel, my housing and associated repairs. She makes sure that I am supplied with sufficient cold beer at official banquets. And she does it all with terrific efficiency and great humour.
       
      This weekend she held her wedding banquet.
       
      Unlike in the west, this isn't held immediately after the marriage is formalised. In fact, she was legally married months ago. But the banquet is the symbolic, public declaration and not the soul-less civil servant stamping of papers that the legal part entails.
      So tonight, along with a few hundred other people, I rolled up to a local hotel at the appointed time. In my pocket was my 'hong bao' or red envelope in which I had deposited a suitable cash gift. That is the Chinese wedding gift protocol. You don't get 12 pop-up toasters here.
       
      I handed it over, then settled down, at a table with colleagues, to a 17 or 18 course dinner.
       
      Before we started, I spotted this red bedecked jar. Shaking, poking and sniffing revealed nothing.
       
       
      A few minutes later, a waitress turned up and opened and emptied the jar into a serving dish. Spicy pickled vegetables. Very vinegary, very hot, and very addictive. Allegedly pickled on the premises, this was just to amuse us as we waited for the real stuff to arrive.
       
       
      Then the serious stuff arrived. When I said 17 courses, I really meant 17 dishes. Chinese cuisine doesn't really do courses. Every thing is served at roughly the same time. But we had:
       
      Quail soup which I neglected to photograph.
       
      Roast duck
       
      Braised turtle
       
      Sticky rice with beef (the beef is lurking underneath)
       
      Steamed chicken
       
      Spicy, crispy shell-on prawns.
       
      Steamed pork belly slices with sliced taro
       
      Spicy squid
       
      Noodles
       
      Chinese Charcuterie (including ducks jaws (left) and duck hearts (right))
       
      Mixed vegetables
       
      Fish
       
      Cakes
       
      Fertility soup! This allegedly increases your fertility and ensures the first born (in China, only born) is a son. Why they are serving to me is anyone's guess. It would make more sense for the happy couple to drink the lot.
       
      Greenery
       
      Jiaozi
       
      There was a final serving of quartered oranges, but I guess you have seen pictures of oranges before.
       
      The happy couple. I wish them well.
       
      *Cindy is the English name she has adopted. Her Chinese name is more than usually difficult to pronounce. Many Chinese friends consider it a real tongue-twister.
    • By liuzhou
      A few days ago, I was given a lovely gift. A big jar of preserved lemons.
       
      I know Moroccan preserved lemons, but had never met Chinese ones. In fact, apart from in the south, in many parts of China it isn't that easy to find lemons, at all.
       
      These are apparently a speciality of the southern Zhuang minority of Wuming County near Nanning. The Zhuang people are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live in Guangxi. These preserved lemons feature in their diet and are usually eaten with congee (rice porridge). Lemon Duck is a local speciality and they are also served with fish. They can be served as a relish, too. They are related to the Vietnamese Chanh muối.
       
      I'm told that these particular lemons have been soaking in salt and lemon juice for eleven years!
       

       

       
      So, of course, you want to know what they taste like. Incredibly lemony. Concentrated lemonness. Sour, but not unpleasantly so. Also a sort of smoky flavour.
       
      The following was provided by my dear friend 马芬洲 (Ma Fen Zhou) who is herself Zhuang. It is posted with her permission.
       
      How to Make Zhuang Preserved Lemons
      By 马芬洲
       
      Zhuang preserved lemons is a kind of common food for the southern Zhuang ethnic minority who live around Nanning Prefecture of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. The Zhuang people like to make it as a relish for eating with congee or congee with corn powder. This relish is a mixture of chopped preserved lemons, red chilli and garlic or ginger slice in soy sauce and peanut oil or sesame oil.
       

       
      Sometimes the Zhuang people use preserved lemons as an ingredient in cooking. The most famous Zhuang food in Guangxi is Lemon Duck, which is a common home cooked dish in Wuming County, which belongs to Nanning Prefecture.
       
      The following steps show you how to make Zhuang preserved lemons.
       
      Step 1 Shopping
      Buy some green lemons.
       
      Step 2 Cleaning
      Wash green lemons.
       
      Step 3 Sunning
      Leave green lemons under the sunshine till it gets dry.
       
      Step 4 Salting
      If you salt 5kg green lemons, mix 0.25kg salt with green lemons. Keep the salted green lemons in a transparent jar. The jar must be well sealed. Leave the jar under the sunshine till the salted green lemons turn yellow. For example, leave it on the balcony. Maybe it will take months to wait for those salted green lemons to turn yellow. Later, get the jar of salted yellow lemons back. Unseal the jar. Then cover 1kg salt over the salted yellow lemons. Seal well the jar again.
       
      Step 5 Preserving
      Keep the sealed jar of salted yellow lemons at least 3 years. And the colour of salted yellow lemons will turn brown day by day. It can be dark brown later. The longer you keep preserved lemons, the better taste it is. If you eat it earlier than 2 years, it will taste bitter. After 3 years, it can be unsealed. Please use clean chopsticks to pick it. Don’t use oily chopsticks, or the oil will make preserved lemons go bad. Remember to seal the jar well after picking preserved lemons every time.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.