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Tips on Chinese cooking techniques

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dmreed   
dmreed - this same thing happened to me a couple of days ago. And it made me confused too. My sauce because watery again after 10 minutes (I used potato starch to thicken it).

glad to hear that it is not just me! but sorry you have the same problem!

maybe someone can explain why this happens and what to do about it.

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Yesterday I made some sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. So I had a fair amount of mushroom and dried prawn soaking liquid left over. I used a mixture of these two instead of chicken stock in a brocelli with ginger and oyster sauce dish. It worked a treat.

I also keep the soaked chinese mushroom stems in the freezer to enhance stocks etc.

Parma ham ends that you some times buy very reasonably from deli's make a great addition to a chicken stock if you want to make some thing very special.

Edited - cos I forgot to mention I freeze all my ginger peeling to add to stock also, seems a shame to waste them because they are very flavorfull :wink:


Edited by Mr Wozencroft (log)

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Ben Hong   
After adding the corn starch and water to a dish to make the sauce, while heating and stiring the sauce thickens as expected but, after about 3-5 minutes, it becomes non-thick (runny) again. Why does this happen and what can be done to prevent this from happening?

The ingredients are still cooking even after you turn off the heat, cooking means leaching out moisture from your meats and veg., hence the dilution of the sauce. Can't be helped, happens to the best of us. :wink:

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After adding the corn starch and water to a dish to make the sauce, while heating and stiring the sauce thickens as expected but, after about 3-5 minutes, it becomes non-thick (runny) again. Why does this happen and what can be done to prevent this from happening?

In addition to the release of liquid that Ben Hong pointed out, Harold McGee states that boiling and stirring can thin out starch-thickened sauces by shattering fragile starch granules into smaller particles. The thicker the sauce, the more dramatic the thinning effect. Similarly, acidity can thin a sauce by breaking starch molecules into smaller fragments.

McGee rates corn starch as having “moderate” stability to prolonged cooking; arrowroot-thickened sauces are less prone to thinning out.

Edited to clarify.


Edited by C. sapidus (log)

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dmreed   
[in addition to the release of liquid that Ben Hong pointed out, Harold McGee states that boiling and stirring can thin out starch-thickened sauces by shattering fragile starch granules into smaller particles. The thicker the sauce, the more dramatic the thinning effect. Similarly, acidity can thin a sauce by breaking starch molecules into smaller fragments.

McGee rates corn starch as having “moderate” stability to prolonged cooking; arrowroot-thickened sauces are less prone to thinning out.

Edited to clarify.

thanks folks, would using more corn starch reduce the problem?

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Ben Hong   
[in addition to the release of liquid that Ben Hong pointed out, Harold McGee states that boiling and stirring can thin out starch-thickened sauces by shattering fragile starch granules into smaller particles. The thicker the sauce, the more dramatic the thinning effect. Similarly, acidity can thin a sauce by breaking starch molecules into smaller fragments.

McGee rates corn starch as having “moderate” stability to prolonged cooking; arrowroot-thickened sauces are less prone to thinning out.

Edited to clarify.

thanks folks, would using more corn starch reduce the problem?

Yes...and no. You really, really do not want a gloppy dish, a better solution is to use less liquid. If your dish is a stirfry, the amount of liquid in the wok should be barely discernable at the end, just at the moment of adding thickening. Look up wok hei in this forum if you really want to achieve that kind perfection in a dish.

Unlike western style dishes where the gravy or sauce is poured onto the food, the Chinese style requires that the sauce be made as an integral part of the dish, and as such will suffer the dilution caused by leaching out of liquids from the solid ingredients. Perhaps that why Chinese dishes should be eaten soon after it leaves the wok (to enjoy the wok hei); and that's why in most restaurants catering to the Chinese, dishes come out sporadically, as they are done, instead of all at once.

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dmreed   

while viewing the video series Chopstick Bowl (Chinese Takeout), the cook frequently blanches/parboils both the meat and vegetables (separately) before stir-frying for common recipes which I have seen just stir-fry the meat and vegetables separately.

is this a common practice? maybe for some areas of China or styles of Chinese cuisine?

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

2009/05/01@0347

I think I asked too soon.

it seems that the series is (as indicated!) dedicated to fast food takeout type recipes and cooking.

the reason for blanching the ingredients is to allow rapid cooking fo the final dish....for main dishes, e.g., chicken and broccoli, essentially the sauce is prepared, the ingredients blanched, then when ready to prepare the dish, the wok is heated, the sauce is added to the wok and heated, then the blanched ingredients are added and heated until ready to serve!

this seems to be a little faster than the usual food prep before starting to stir-fry. I might even try this technique when I have some prep time a while before I need to cook!

I am still interested to know if this is a common practice or style of cooking.


Edited by dmreed (log)

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Ben Hong   
while viewing the video series Chopstick Bowl (Chinese Takeout), the cook frequently blanches/parboils both the meat and vegetables (separately) before stir-frying for common recipes which I have seen just stir-fry the meat and vegetables separately.

is this a common practice? maybe for some areas of China or styles of Chinese cuisine?

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

this seems to be a little faster than the usual food prep before starting to stir-fry. I might even try this technique when I have some prep time a while before I need to cook!

I am still interested to know if this is a common practice or style of cooking.

Again, there are no hard and fast rules. The methods you describe are used by second and third rate take out places for a less discerning clientele. Nothing wrong with it, it's just not common in household cooking or in finer restaurants. Hard veggies like broccoli and carrots, etc can be blanched but NEVER, NEVER meats and fish...nor tender leafy veggies. Meats and fish should get the benefit of carmelization in oil over high heat. Please refer to wok hei.

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dmreed   
while viewing the video series Chopstick Bowl (Chinese Takeout), the cook frequently blanches/parboils both the meat and vegetables (separately) before stir-frying for common recipes which I have seen just stir-fry the meat and vegetables separately.

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

Again, there are no hard and fast rules. The methods you describe are used by second and third rate take out places for a less discerning clientele. Nothing wrong with it, it's just not common in household cooking or in finer restaurants. Hard veggies like broccoli and carrots, etc can be blanched but NEVER, NEVER meats and fish...nor tender leafy veggies. Meats and fish should get the benefit of carmelization in oil over high heat. Please refer to wok hei.

thanks, that is what I thought and I do try to achieve wok hei when I stir-fry...I am trying to learn how to cook smaller quantities because even the "hot" biggest burner of my stove is not really that powerful :>(

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austini   

Hi Gang,

In addition to the wealth of information on this site some of the best tips (or should I say entire education) I have found on chinese home cooking is at this site http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com. There is an amazing amount of chinese cooking information there for beginners and experienced cooks. Unfortunately due to personal issues the author recently stopped adding to the site but she is leaving this incredible resource permanently available to all. The site was invaluable to me a few years ago in instructing how the home cook can come close to achieving that elusive wok hei using a wok on standard cooking appliances.

Below I have listed the posts and topics from the site that are most relevant to chinese cooking:

INDIVIDUAL POSTS:

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2006/01/16/stir-fry-technique-ten-steps-to-better-wok-cookery/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2006/05/03/stir-fry-technique-ii-ten-steps-to-better-chicken-from-a-wok/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2007/01/25/lets-talk-woks/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2007/04/20/stir-fry-technique-iii-ten-steps-to-better-tofu-from-a-wok

TOPICS:

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/category/chinese-cooking-lessons/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/category/recipes-chinese/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/category/simple-chinese-recipes/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/category/the-chinese-pantry/

http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/category/the-chinese-cookbook-project/

There are numerous other topics on her blog (right side) that may also be of interest.

Have fun - Gordon

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huiray   
The typical Cantonese style of "plain steaming" - just the fish with some ginger and nothing else - you add more ginger and some green onions and splash fuming hot oil on top then add some soy sauce.

Then there is Cantonese style steamed fish that you steam the fish with fermented black beans and ginger. This dish can be consumed as is or some can add the ginger/green onions and splash fuming oil on top at the end too.

Not wise to heat sesame oil - the smell is bad and heating turns the oil taste to bitter.

Cutting ginger into slivers, shreds or to mince it or to grate it is a matter of preference.

There is a third way of steaming fish, especially if the fish is extra oily or too "aromatic". Panfry and brown with a little soy sauce first, then steam normally.

I (being Cantonese, specifically Toysanese) have never used sesame oil on any steamed fish. As Ah Leung says once you heat it to a sizzling temp., it smells and tastes awful. (Must be the technique of those barbaric Northerners tongue.gifwink.gifunsure.gif )

Hmm. I use sesame oil frequently as a component in the mixture used to *marinade* the fish before it is steamed. I don't heat sesame oil to pour over the steamed fish, but the use of sesame oil in the preparation of steamed fish Cantonese-style is NOT verboten.

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huiray   

So I take it double boiling is the preferred method of making tonics out of all the herbs and various dried creatures I see in the Chinese Medicine places around here, I've only had a very limited range of things in soups and hotpots - but it makes more sense now what can be done with those dried sea cucumbers and mysterious animals in those shops.

I was actually just in one this weekend, they had packages of various leaves and herbs and roots that had - of all things - the molted shells of Cicada.

If I ever have trouble with my hearing - I know just what kind of soup I'll be making.

No, "Dun Tong" is NOT just for "making tonics out of all the herbs and various dried creatures" that you think of. It's a common technique for making flavorful, tasty, wonderful soups using all sorts of ingredient combinations. Yes, many are "tonic/medicinal" in inspiration but many are not. Double-steamed "Lou Wong Kua Tong" or "Ham Choy Kai Tong" for example would have little "medicinal" aspects to them. It's just a way of extracting the taste from ingredients by cooking them at a temp just below the boiling point of water, in a vessel that contains all the ingredients and traps all the juices etc. [You typically do "Dun Tong" in a heavy ceramic "pot"/"bowl" with a close-fitting equally heavy lid] In a sense, it's an old way of doing something in a "sous vide" type of cooking.

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