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Authentic Chinese food


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Ben is right about "everyone to his own" in terms of authenticity. There are lots of great recipe books out there, but I too just look for inspiration and a list of ingredients. I cook according to what I remember as authentic. Whether it was or not, I don't know! :wacko:

For example, with mapo dofu, I remember a fellow member( probably that hzrt whom you forgot to thank for your Oyster . . . errr... Oscar. :laugh::laugh::laugh: ) saying that addition of Sezchuan peppercorns was essential for mapo dofu to be authentic. I have tasted these peppercorns by themselves and in the dish, and I don't care for them.:sad: So I leave them out. (Maybe there is enough in the toban paste for the flavour. I am not sure.) So, does that mean it's not authentic? To me, it is.

BTW, I make mine with diced med. firm dofu, ground pork, chopped onions, and Lee Kum Kee Toban sauce. I brown the dofu first, then the ground pork with the onions and chili paste. Then I mix the dofu back in, add a bit of stock abd thicken slightly with a cornstarch slurry. Because I love cilantro, I top this with a handful! Others will say that green onions are more authentic :wink::raz::laugh:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I just want to know how  these dishes are made in China. 

But, my dear Touareg (!), that's the nub of Dejah's and my replies. There are about 50 million people in China who can make mapo doufu and I am certain that the majority of their dishes would be a little different from all the others. Versatility and adaptability of the individual cook and what's in the pantry or fridge will dictate how his dish on a particular day will taste.

Perhaps this is the reason why your mother, like a lot of Asian mothers from the old countries is hesitant in giving out recipes, because a dish that she may do particularly well may well be something that she can't formally verbalize or write down because of all the invariables.

At the risk of being a long winded preacher, a long time ago I witness the interaction between my own mother and a female cousin who asked for cooking advice . The cousin asked how a certain dish was cooked, my Mother's response was to list a few ingredients and a couple of crucial steps, that's all.

There were a lot of assumptions on the part of both parties, the main ones being that both parties knew what the dish tasted like and that both knew what kind of cooking style to use (ie: stir frying, braising, red cooking, steaming etc.) When it came time to be on my own, I was given the same advice(?). SO, IT MEANS THAT IF YOU HAVE ALL THE COOKING TECHNIQUES AND KNOW THE TASTE OF INGREDIENTS, YOU CAN ALMOST REPRODUCE MOST ANYTHING YOU TASTE. Family cookbooks are unheard of, at least in my family.

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morning guys

what I think touaregsand is asking for is to compare and contrast his korean recipes with one of our chinese recipes.

Also don't you think it would be so much eaier if chinese family did compile family cook books??

For instance more often then not family recipes are not measured

could you imagine if other mothers were asked to document their recipes for a cookbook? it would be a list of ingredients with a handful of that, a pinch of this secret ingredient, crucial step and cook. :wink:

ok the recipe below is not mine, i nicked it from recipezaar i'm not saying the following recipe is the "REAL" recipe but to me reading the ingredients i would identify it as a mapo tofu.

Mapo Tofu

1 lb firm tofu

4 ounces ground pork

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chili paste (to taste)

3 tablespoons chicken stock

3 green onions

1 teaspoon black bean paste

Marinade

1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Mixture

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Mix marinade ingredients.

Marinate pork for about 20 minutes.

Cut the bean curd into 1/2 inch (1 cm) square cubes, and blanch (drop into boiling water) for 2- 3 minutes.

Remove from boiling water and drain.

Chop leeks or green onions into short lengths.

Heat wok and add oil.

When oil is ready, add the marinated pork.

Stir-fry pork until the color darkens.

Add salt and stir.

Add the black bean paste.

Add the chili paste, then the stock, tofu, and leek or green onions.

Turn down the heat.

Cook for 3- 4 minutes.

While cooking, mix cornstarch, water, and soy sauce together.

Add to wok and stir gently.

Serve with freshly ground Szechuan pepper.

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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I think that origamicrane got my drift. Thank you.

As for

SO, IT MEANS THAT IF YOU HAVE ALL THE COOKING TECHNIQUES AND KNOW THE TASTE OF INGREDIENTS, YOU CAN ALMOST REPRODUCE MOST ANYTHING YOU TASTE

That's the problem, I've only eaten Mapo dofu or chiachiang mein at Chinese-Korean restaurants or my own concoctions. So I was wondering about other versions.

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I can try to help a little. The Korean chiachiangmian I've had is very different from any Chinese one I've had. I grew up in Taiwan, married a Shanghainese, travel to many parts of China, but the major differences of Chiachiangmian to me seem to be:

Korean one uses their special black sauce. Chinese one uses Toban sauce or Tianmian sauce (my phonetic translation), Toban sauce is brown, Tianmian sauce is black but still different from the Korean kind.

The Korean kind if laden with oil, the Chinese one (if you let me cook it...) is not.

The korean kind often has pork, zucchini, sea cucumber, shrimp, onion, all cubed. The Chinese kind has pork but grounded. very tiny pieces of cubed hard 5-spiced tofu. no seafood. When the sauce is done, raw shredded cucumber, carrots are added on top. Some might add bean sprouts.

The Chinese noodle used for Chiachiangmian is the thin kind, not as thick and chewy as the Korean one.

Finally, I enjoy both. But the Korean one is just often on the heavy side.

(When I was in medical school, I cooked mine with spaghetti, added mushroom, onion, and zucchini. Hey, this was midwest. Guess what, everyone wanted me for potluck. Now, that is UNAUTHENTIC, how many minds I poisoned, don't know)

"Mom, why can't you cook like the iron chef?"
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(When I was in medical school, I cooked mine with spaghetti, added mushroom, onion, and zucchini.  Hey, this was midwest.  Guess what, everyone wanted me for potluck.  Now, that is UNAUTHENTIC, how many minds I poisoned, don't know)

Ma Po's Dou Fu was invented under stress as she was called upon to cook something for the Emperor as he visited her village so many centuries ago. If you want to stretch it, that original dish was the only authentic version as she didn't know what she would end up with. :laugh:

Edited by Ben Hong (log)
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You're so funny Ben! :rolleyes::biggrin:

This reminds me of the time when someone kept pushing my mom for the most authentic Korean bbq sauces and finally she said meat cooked over fire, no salt, pepper, soy sauce, nothing. Just meat and fire. You would get along very well her.

Turtlemeg, so you mean that black bean paste we use for Chinese-Korean chiachiangmein isn't Chinese? :huh:

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Turtlemeg, so you mean that black bean paste we use for Chinese-Korean chiachiangmein isn't Chinese?  :huh:

I don't think so.

If you go to a Chinese market now, like ranch 99, they have both pastes actually. The Korean kind is in a squarish jar. The Chinese kind is (usually) in a can.

If you go to a Korean market...I need to check it out (my office is right next to one), I think you are gonna find the Korean kind.

"Mom, why can't you cook like the iron chef?"
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  • 5 months later...

Recently we had dinner in our favorite local Chinese place where the fare is less greasy and oily than most of the local spots, but I still detected a fair amount of sugar in the dishes, and my Chinese cookbooks always seem to call for sugar and cornstarch. I suspect Chinese cooking at home might be different, and I also don't see a lot of overweight Chinese people.

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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If the restaurant indicates "No MSG", sugar is often used in larger amounts to "enhance" the flavour of the food.

I, myself, prefer MSG, and do use cornstarch as a thickener.

Perhaps not as many Chinese people are overweight because food prep. at home is focused more on steaming and quick stir-fries, and not on deep frying.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Sugar is used for cooking in our house, but in a moderate amount. I usually put a small amount of sugar, 1 tsp or so, when marinating meat for stir-fry. Cornstach is used as well, but also mainly for marinate (for texture), once in a while as a thickener. The amount is also small, 1 tsp to 1 tbsp.

I think the economy of China has a lot to do with the weight issue. Not only was meat expensive, so were things like soy sauce and oil. Therefore, it's been a habit to stretch what's available. Even when food became more plentiful, many of the home recipes remained the same. My family was in the meat and restaurant business in Hong Kong before. Even when we had an unlimited supplies of meat, we consumed a modest amount. We were, and still are, used to using a small amount of meat to flavor the dish so we can enjoy the vegetables more. It's sad to say, but the children in China are now facing weight problems due to better economy and the popularity of western fast food chains like McDonalds. :sad:

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Restaurant fare is loosely based on the "classical" or standard-bearing recipes. As such, these were often vehicles to show off the best, not only in techniques, but in quality and quantity of ingredients. Sometimes "best" means "most" , as in the empahsis on meat dishes, the liberal use of oils and condiments, and the plethora of deep fried dishes. Everyday homestyle cooking is by far less "rich" and more simple (as Dejah said).

I quail at the long list of ingredients for any basic family style dish that is depicted in some cookbooks. I can pare down the basisc ingredients to the bare esssentials and still come up with a very palatble dish. In this respect the Chinese housewife was (is) the master (mistress) of adaptation. Family style Chinese food is all about taste and simplicity.

Oh yes, I do use msg very sparingly and do not use sugar much.

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..... I suspect Chinese cooking at home might be different, and I also don't see a lot of overweight Chinese people.

I think the differences between home cooking and restaurant cooking are in the process, and to certain degree ingredients. But I don't think that (home versus restaurant cooking) is related to the overweight issue.

I used to live in Hong Kong, and I saw people eat out 3 to 4 nights (or more) a week - because it's convenient. They were skinnier than me. :smile: It is very much related to food style. It deems to be a controversial subject. When I saw these theories denouncing carbohydrates (e.g. rice) and promoting meats, I just kept shaking my head. My father ate something-over-rice for lunch and lots of rice again for dinner, moderate amount of meat and lots of vegetables. He lived to be 80 and not have heart disease.

I have seen Caucasian American associates who love to have "chicken salad" for lunch for dietary reasons. But then gotta have desserts (apple pie, ice cream, cheese cake, etc..). In American serving size, 1 scoop of ice cream = 2 scoop in Aisa. And typically one serving contains 2 to 3 scoops.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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It wouldn't hurt to try to clarify what 'real, homestyle Chinese' means.

For example, China has many different regional styles of cooking. Some (like Shanghai) use more sugar. Others use less or none. So the dishes cooked at home will vary considerably in different regions.

The situation described by Annachan is not that far back for some. Which Chinese are you comparing to, bobmac? If you are talking about Chinese who are not living in China right now, it's worth bearing in mind that some are refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. I used to spend a lot of time with Chinese who were refugees from these countries. They were very poor and, for them, 'home-style cooking' meant one (relatively small) plate of cooked vegetables with maybe a small amount of meat in it, over lots and lots of rice. That one plate of vegetables was for a whole family of 6-10 people. So it wouldn't matter how much sugar and cornstarch you might put in such a dish, it's not going to have much effect.

Other people I've met in parts of the Chinese countryside didn't have quite such sparse food. But memories of hunger are not that long back. Food, for many, is something which is treated with great consideration, but this does not mean that it will be prepared lavishly or excessively. At home they certainly were not cooking anything as rich, sweet, oily, and meat-heavy as the food in many Chinese restaurants - be those restaurants in China or some other country.

A bit more about former hunger in China: the diet in China has been changing a great deal over the last 50 years. Particularly in the south, the correlation between improved diet and increased height is quite amazing. When you see three generations of one family walking together, with the oldest person as little as 4 foot high, the middle generation 5 foot, and the youngest 6 foot, it really drives it home how much the food situation (historically, not just inadequate protein, but downright hunger or even starvation for many) has improved in China, and how bad things had been in the past.

A couple of other aspects which are probably causing fewer people to be overweight (in China, at least).

I don't know if you're writing from the US, but anyway: compared to the US, sweet dishes are eaten far, far less in China.

(In fact, sweet dishes tend to be eaten in lesser quantites than in the US pretty much everywhere. I had never even HEARD of anyone eating icecream straight from the tub, for example, before I went the US). So a bit of sugar in the savory dishes is not going to be doing much to one's body compared to a large serving of something sweet eaten at least once a day or even more often.

Also, this is still in the process of changing, but most people in China still get a lot more physical exercise than people in other countries. Obviously, people in the countryside are engaged in a lot of physical activity, but urban dwellers also walk and/or cycle a lot. Plenty of people I know still walk to the market twice a day to buy fresh vegetables and meat or fish. People cycle to work even when that means cycling across Shanghai... It adds up.

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this all makes perfect sense... but what about the northern areas of china. I just got back from xi an and I think in 3 days i consumed over 100 skewers of beef/lamb. Beijing is no different, though the people are larger than those in xi an. However the diet is far 'worse' than that of any southern chinese'. So why aren't people 'american-sized'? I see quite a few large one here and there in Beijing, but people are still generally skinny in comparison to the average person in north america. Those cab drivers sit in their car all day long and only stop for breaks to feast on 20 skewers of lamb and a few beers. They aren't large by any means! :)

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jokhm,

what is not seen is the ability of your body to adapt on a long term basis. you would not see a person gain weight fast whose family has been toiling hard labor for generations.

but that person who's enjoying their prosperity will start the change that you would eventually see in their children and forth coming generations.

also large is a very relative term. in India / China - a 160 pound person can be considered large / overweight / obese. they don't have to be 300+. the economy was such that it wouldn't be possible to be that large. also if you were large (or had a beer belly) it was considered a sign of prosperity.

but things are slowly and surely changing to americanized ways. highly fine-tuned bodies which show every single ounce of diet change even for a day. its coming and chances are its here to stay.

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Just some random, unexpert, thoughts.

(And, I also found Anzu's post to be quite thoughtful.)

As a guide once said --- Most Chinese expend 1/2 their calories working and the other 1/2 getting to and from work. But who knows what is going to happen, not that cars are on the increase.

Restaurants usually use stir/frying and deep/frying for their dishes as that is the quickest way to get the food moving. Some, but not all, of course.

Take a look at what the restaurant staff is eating. A big bowl of rice, with food for flavorings. Not what you'd find on the tables of the buying public.

Sugar --- isn't the small amount used in a dish used to keep a balance between the salt and sweet taste? Sort of a ying/yang thing? That is ------in dishes that are not meant to be salty or sweet. All the overly sweet dishes are typical of the Western world.

100 skewers of beef and lamb? That's a lot of beef and lamb! I doubt that the Chinese would eat that much, even in 3 days. I'm not disputing this as Ive eaten those skewers, too -- but not that many. The vendors I've seen there seem to cater to visitors, and park themselves near stores or tourists busses.

Cornstarch is often used because it keeps the thickened sauce on the food, keeping the food hot longer.

Eating in Chinese homes, both here in the US and in China a couple of vegetable dishes, often tofu, steamed stuff, a soup, and stewed dishes. And ---- that big personal bowl of rice. And these people worked long hours expending the calories.

When I see merchants in NYC's Chinatown eat out of a take-out container, I always (surreptitiously) take a peek. Usually it is a lot of food, and heavy on the rice. Often the person is of normal weight and not very busy or active. I guess they eat meals as meals, and skip all the snacking.

When I studied in China, there were 2 dining rooms. Both were Chinese food, but one was set up for foreign students with an array of silverware and chopsticks and plates. Let me correct that --- the foreign students had choices between Chinese and a couple of Western food selections. Breakfasts were eggs, congees, crepes and other sweet cakes. I only had fried eggs once. Even tho oil was rationed at the time, they must have fried them in a 1/2 cup of oil!!! The Chinese dining room was all Chinese and the students all went there with their own personal bowls (good sized bowls) and chopsticks. The food was served right into those bowls. It was what you'd find on those tables that the wait staff would eat. Lots of rice, some stewed dishes and the like.

Where did I read that "the Chinese cuisine grew out of hunger"? With 'plenty' arriving in China and all the fast food places, who knows what the future will bring. I hope they keep their senses.

Good topic!

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I think a major difference between homestyle and US Chinese restaurants is that at home, an individual is not likely to eat an entire "entree" that has enough sung to serve as the accompaniment to five people dining from large bowls of plain steamed rice.

After several years acclimating to American portion sizes, I could, if I really tried, finish an "entree" in a Chinese restaurant by myself. But I would feel really bad afterwards -- heart racing from too much sodium, and feeling quesy from too much fat. Nobody I know eats that way at home.

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I have been observing my students from mainland China, at various food oriented functions. They act like they haven't eaten for days and heap their plates up without regard to those who follow. Maybe it's because they see homecooked Chinese food they haven't seen for a few months!? But then, they do that with non-Chinese food too.

Perhaps they haven't eaten for days because none of them are overweight. :wink:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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A lot of this corresponds to what I see Chinese people eating in restaurants -- lots of rice. But I understand that in some ways white rice (which is what I see around here) is not all that healthful and that the Chinese have a high incidence of diabetes. I suspect (somebody help me here) that the poor in China probably don't refine their rice but eat it brown. My local restaurant now offers brown for a dollar extra. Isn't white rice nutritionally similar to white bread? Or is it a genetic or adaptive thing? Some people aren't bothered by refined carbos; they send me into a tailspin about an hour later.

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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I, myself, prefer MSG, and do use cornstarch as a thickener.

I freaking LOVE MSG. The more of it, the better.

Heck, I have been known to eat the remaining salt at the bottom of a can of smoked almonds.

MSG is so integral to the enjoyment of Chinese food that it's not even funny.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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

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Jason sounds like my husband. Whenever we go to a restaurant that says "We don't use MSG", he threatens to ask for the MSG shaker! I use it in my cooking, but not as much as some Chinese restaurants do. Excessive use, it seems to me, is to compensate for poor quality ingredients. We used it in the restaurant, but again, sparingly. And, we ALWAYS leave it out whenever a customer requests it.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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The thing is, even if you aren't shaking MSG itself into your wok, many of the condiments that are essential to Chinese cooking themselves contain a good amount of MSG -- Oyster Sauce and Superior Soy Sauce, and Mushroom Soy Sauce for example. So its kind of misleading for a Chinese restaurant to say they don't use MSG, because they really are.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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

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May I remind Bobmac that sugar and carbohydrates are just the food villains of the moment. Remember when butter was bad for you and you were encouraged to eat instead margarine which is just a very nasty substitute as we all know now. Well, Oriental civilisation is built on rice and has survived the rise and decline of various empires in the West. If it survive the current onslaught of MacDonalds, it will probably live on until the disintegration of our solar system.

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

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