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hzrt8w's wok and burner shopping project


hzrt8w
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whoops, haven't read this thread properly! :blink:

i'm surprised that your wire stand works better for you than the proper wok collar - maybe an unusual combination of the size of your wok and the stove explains this.

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i'm surprised that your wire stand works better for you than the proper wok collar - maybe an unusual combination of the size of your wok and the stove explains this.

Using the Burner Collar... it suffocated the oxygen intake to the burner so the gas burning was not efficient. I am happy with the wok stand.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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ahhh why are all the good stuff in California? I have to order everything online when it comes to equipment for Asian food.

Perhaps it has to do with the geographic proximity and the long history of Chinese immigrants moving to the Gold Mountain?

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I posted this in the Kitchen consumer section but I figured this thread was a more practical place to put it.

Hand-hammered vs. machine made...

I read here and there that hand-hammered woks last longer and are structurally more durable. Other than this claim and the authenticity of the hand-hammered wok, is there really any difference?

I have a hand hammered wok and a machine made one. The hand hammered one doesn't have those lines made by the machine, and it's noticeably lighter and thinner. The machine made one I have is heavy gauge and very thick and is alot heavier. It was also more expensive.

Would it be a better investment with the heavy gauge or the lighter hand-hammered?

EDIT

I just realized that my wok (pow wok) which claims to be hand hammered might not even be handhammered at all. It's thin and flexible and has no indentations, and I highly doubt hand hammered woks are like this. I bought this at the Wok Shop, which I heard good things about, but I'm starting to think they cheated me.

EDIT 2

Scratch that, I actually emailed the wok shop about this and got a personal email back from Tane Chan. She proclaimed that the woks I had gotten WERE hand hammered, but had less defined ping marks. She actually embarked on a two year journey search for hand hammered woks with more defined ping marks and found one from Guangdong. I feel much better now.

Edited by takadi (log)
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I came across this thread and remembered that it was quite useful in my hunt for the "jet powered" wok burner last fall. For those of you still looking for a high power unit, here are my recollections.

* I had purchased a Cajun styple burner many years ago and was not happy with it. It was not made for wok cooking, had a nice steel ring but had metal support protruding inward which did not give the wok a very platform. BUT output was too low. It was one of those you see with a red single burner, primarily sold as turkey fryers. My mission this time was to get one that made that wok melt!

* Summary of key learnings

1) Shop for burner units made for the type of gas you will use. There are those made for propane and natural gas. Typically the natural gas ones are used in permanent fixtures like commercial kitchens. They are designed to run on less pressure and are larger to obtain the same heat output as a smaller propane burner.

2) The key to heat output is gas pressure to the burners. For propane use, you will usually find a high and low pressure regulator. Gas barbeques use the low pressure regulators. It turns out some "cajun" turkey fryers will also be fitted with the low pressure regulators. The result is they do not put out enough heat. Make sure to look for a high pressure regulator for wok use. Best of all are the adjustable pressure regulators that allow you to dial in how much maximum flame you want.

3) Take BTU ratings with a grain of salt. Some of the most powerful ones seems to have quite nominal stated output ratings and some with high ratings don't throw nearly as much heat. I know this from personal experience.

** THE HUNT **

* I started searching last fall (2006), read alot and looked for about a month. As hzrt8w lives in Sacramento and mentioned a couple shops there, I was going to make the trip as I live in the Bay Area but I figured what one could get up there must be available in SF Chinatown or Oakland Chinatown or the many other Asian specifc markets ringing the bay. As I live in the East Bay and knew many of the shops in Oakland Chinatown I started there. Found a few shops with a huge variety of woks and other cooking utensils and a few wok burners as well.

* I found one that looked very much like this one and the one available at the Wok Shop in SF. They seemed identical so I called the Wok Shop and found out the ones she sells have electronic starter, the one in Oakland did not but has a pilot light, not as elegant but just as effective.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1168153

http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/steam...tove_32000.html

* I bought the one in Oakland for about $40. Fired it up and it no doubt has more power for any home cooking needs. The only burners I have ever seen throw more heat are the ones in a commercial Chinese kitchen that have HUGE woks on them to make HUGE quantities of food.

* The unit has an adjustable pressure regulator and after tuning it up, it makes an instant intense inferno. I have a 13", 14" and 16" wok and it has no trouble blasting as much heat onto the woks as they can handle. At some point, it just becomes too much as the flames climb out from under the wok and wrap the sides of the wok with a wall of flame. I call this "blast mode" and it is nice for those times when you want some very intense heat for a short time to reduce a sauce or for a very quick toss of something to get some heat. I only use this briefly otherwise it just gets too hot. Based on the regulator setting, I rarely give it more than a half of a turn and find that most normal wok cooking occurs just fine on about 1/4- 1/3 turn. I guess I could turn down the pressure on the regulator but I just love the feeling of all that power in my fingers. :-)

If anyone want any pics, just ask.

Happy wokking!

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I just bought a wok burner from www.outdoorstirfry.com. It's the cheapest one which claims to have 50K BTU. It went for about 40 bucks not including shipping. I will have to test it out when it arrives. The burner reminds me very much of those bunsen burners we use in chemistry. I'm not sure how it compares to the Oakland one you bought, but I hope it does just as well considering it's the same price.

I hate how the area I live offers none of these things. I probably searched in a 100 mile radius of every Asian food store. DC sucks.... :hmmm:

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Hi,

I think you got this one: PowerFlamer PF9S50, sold in the 9" units. This unit has a fixed pressure regulator. The knob is just to adjust the flow of the gas, not the pressure. They say high pressure but I don't think it is. They don't show the actual burner in this picture but looking at the air adjuster it seems like the common ones found in these units with a single ring of holes. Take a look at PowerFlamer PF13L130. It is basically the same burner, just fitted with an adjustable regulator.

The one I have is basically this unit: PowerFlamer PF13S130EI without the electronic start. The PowefFlamer unit is basically the same as the one sold at Wok Shop. http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/steam...tove_32000.html

Wok Shop rate it as 32K BTU which is WAY underrated. It is closer to 150K The picture does not show the regulator but I am sure it is similar the ones that are shown in the higher priced units at your online store.

Adjustable regulators have a T-shaped, threaded handle that adjusts the pressure. Your website shows two different types of adjustable regulators. One has an additional on/off knob, the others just have the regulator. The ones without the on/off knob are fitted on burners coming directly from China. The red adjustable regulators are fitted here and can be purchased by places like Grainger or some of the cajun turkey fryer outfits.

What this guy is doing is taking the basic black wind screen housing and inserting a Chinese wok burner, adding some legs and selling them for $150 bucks more, quite a tidy profit.

I came across this site last fall and he has made a huge improvement in the variety of products he is now selling. Business must be good!

If you can, you may want to cancel the order and get one of the powerful units. You could also add an adjustable regulator to this one and get way more heat. But the regulators are not that cheap.

Good luck.

I just bought a wok burner from www.outdoorstirfry.com. It's the cheapest one which claims to have 50K BTU. It went for about 40 bucks not including shipping. I will have to test it out when it arrives. The burner reminds me very much of those bunsen burners we use in chemistry. I'm not sure how it compares to the Oakland one you bought, but I hope it does just as well considering it's the same price.

I hate how the area I live offers none of these things. I probably searched in a 100 mile radius of every Asian food store. DC sucks.... :hmmm:

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Hey windtrader,

god, I had a feeling I was being ripped off. I actually emailed the guy asking about how it works, if it uses compressed air, if it actually emits what it says. He confirmed all of this. I said, "Hey it's only 40 bucks". Did I really waste my money? I couldn't find any suitable wok burner anywhere else, so I felt like I had no other choice.

I'm kind of confused. So the one I bought actually ISN'T high pressure? That makes me really really angry. I only bought the cheap one because I figured the BTU figures were probably higher than they claimed and that I didn't need that extra heat. The only reason I didn't buy the wok shop one was because I truly believed the one sold at the outdoor stirfry online store was hotter and cheaper than the one sold at the wok shop. But now you are saying the wok shop burner is hotter? I am having a very hard time understanding BTU's and their false advertising.

It's kinda too late now, the burner was already shipped. Is there any other product you would recommend? Could you show me an actual picture of what the adjustable regulator looks like? Does the wok shop one come with a pressure regulator?

Edited by takadi (log)
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So the one I bought actually ISN'T high pressure?

I'm not sure. That style of regulator is usually connected to bbqs which use low pressure (10psi), while high pressure regulators (20psi) usually have a flow shutoff and the adjustable units have the extra T-knob to adjust the pressure.

If it is listed as "55,000 BTU", this tag usually means it is low pressure.

All is not lost - you just need to changeout the regulator. Maybe the dealer will allow you to swap that part. It would cost a lot less to exchange than the whoe thing. Just make sure the wok sits securely on the base you got. Otherwise, you might just return it as it has two strikes on it.

But now you are saying the wok shop burner is hotter? I am having a very hard time understanding BTU's and their false advertising.
I'm certain the wok shop unit burns way hotter than 35k, that rating is just too low. If it has an adjustable regulator which I am sure it does (you can call and verify), it has to pout out closer to 150,000.

To see the differences in regulator styles, just look at the site you bought from and look at the 13" burners. The second one clearly shows an adjustable regulator. It has the T-knob to adjust the pressure but is lacking the gas cutoff knob. This style seems to be the ones coming directly from China. Now, look at the last unit on that page and you can see the regulator lacks the T-knob and also does not have a cutoff value, just the regulator. This usually means low (10 psi) pressure. The fixed high pressure units that look like this usually have a cutoff.

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I just called the Wok shop and Tane Chan answered. Lol. She is hilarious.

Well the short answer is that she has no clue what kind of regulator it is. But she knows it comes from China, and she says its 32000 BTU.

I will test out the one I bought. If it's not satisfactory, I will look in hardware stores to see if there are any higher pressure regulators. If not, I'll keep looking for more wok burners.

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I don't know if it'll be any help to you at this point, but I was planning on getting this.

I've been researching a wok burner as well, and this seemed like the best option for me as it is also available through home depot, and shipping to Canada is complicated. The adjustable legs look nice, and from the reviews I gather the heat would be more than sufficient.

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Yea I've looked into that, and the only reason why I decided not to buy it was because I found several other burners with almost the same power to be cheaper. Also, it isn't very portable because the legs are hard to attach and detach.

But then again I haven't tried it out. When you buy it, tell me how it works. I'm about to receive my wok burner soon, so I'll post how that works too.

Edited by takadi (log)
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If you read the fine print in the description on the Big Kahuna it states "high pressure" but then says it is adjustable up to 10psi, not 20psi. The amount of misleading descriptions on these things is quite unbelievable. I guess it is an unregulated and unmonitored business sector, so anything goes.

If the regulator is truly adjustable it usually goes to 20psi.

However, look here and you see the difference between a 10 and 20psi regulator. The Kahuna picture shows what looks like a 20psi regulator, so maybe it is just an ad copy error.

http://www.cajun-outdoor-cooking.com/outdo...rner-parts.html

Yea I've looked into that, and the only reason why I decided not to buy it was because I found several other burners with almost the same power to be cheaper. Also, it isn't very portable because the legs are hard to attach and detach.

But then again I haven't tried it out. When you buy it, tell me how it works. I'm about to receive my wok burner soon, so I'll post how that works too.

Edited by windtrader (log)
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If you read the fine print in the description on the Big Kahuna it states "high pressure" but then says it is adjustable up to 10psi, not 20psi. The amount of misleading descriptions on these things is quite unbelievable. I guess it is an unregulated and unmonitored business sector, so anything goes.

haha good eye, I actually saw that too. I'm thinking that if my wok burner isn't hot enough, I'll just buy an adjustable regulator with it. I'm learning something new everyday.

Edited by takadi (log)
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Just in case you need that jet burner regulator. You only need the regulator, reuse to hose you get. The adjustable unit is well priced at 20 bucks.

http://www.turkey-fryers-online.com/7850-t...r-regulator.htm

http://www.bayouclassicdepot.com/propane_regulator_kit.htm

If you read the fine print in the description on the Big Kahuna it states "high pressure" but then says it is adjustable up to 10psi, not 20psi. The amount of misleading descriptions on these things is quite unbelievable. I guess it is an unregulated and unmonitored business sector, so anything goes.

haha good eye, I actually saw that too. I'm thinking that if my wok burner isn't hot enough, I'll just buy an adjustable regulator with it. I'm learning something new everyday.

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So my wok burner just came in today and I tested it out.

Well basically, it burns hot enough, but I was very disappointed in the construction and overall advertisement. It feels like I should have bought this burner for way less money than it should have been.

First off, windtrader was right, this thing is just a regular ol' propane burner stuck inside a windscreen. There is practically nothing really special about it.

The BIGGEST disappointment was that when I looked at the propane valve, instead of 10 psi, which is barely enough to be considered high pressure, according to the label it was 5 psi! So the guy lied about it being high pressure, which he clearly states on his site as being one of the main components of all of his stoves. There was also a "air shutter cap" or a sad excuse for one. It was basically a thin piece of metal that barely fit on to the air valve, which is located where the propane hose was screwed in. So basically this air valve was the opposite end of the burner, which was shaped like a flared tube. At the opening it had metal strip in the middle, leaving openings on the side which basically constituted the airways. The hose was connected to the metal strip in the middle, so the propane was practically blowing into open space instead of an enclosed tube like I imagined. When I would turn up the propane valve high enough, I would smell the propane leaking out of the air shutter. I'm not sure if this is normal or whether burners are usually built this way. The propane hose was also very difficult to screw on to the burner. I felt like this thing should have cost 30 dollars at the most.

Well I'm gonna cook some stuff with it, perhaps get a different regulator and valve, or perhaps even try to return it. I'm not sure if buying a higher pressure valve is gonna do much.

Edited by takadi (log)
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Sorry dude. You could try an experiment to see how much heat the burner is capable of with more pressure. See if you can somehow bypass the regulator and run the burner straight off the T on the propane tank. If you start with the value totally shut and very slowly open it until you hear the slightest hint of gas then light it up. Very slowly crank the valve open and watch the flame increase. You may need to adjust the air mixture valve to keep the flame blue. Keep doing this very slowly until you get a blazing flame or a flameout or explosion or I don't know what. Just be very very careful. You can then decide if you just need higher pressure or if the burner itself is too small. I'd bet the burner delivers the heat you want with more pressure but you'll want to study the flame pattern under a wok to see if it gets the proper coverage on the bottom of the pan.

So my wok burner just came in today and I tested it out.

Well basically, it burns hot enough, but I was very disappointed in the construction and overall advertisement. It feels like I should have bought this burner for way less money than it should have been.

First off, windtrader was right, this thing is just a regular ol' propane burner stuck inside a windscreen. There is practically nothing really special about it.

The BIGGEST disappointment was that when I looked at the propane valve, instead of 10 psi, which is barely enough to be considered high pressure, according to the label it was 5 psi! So the guy lied about it being high pressure, which he clearly states on his site as being one of the main components of all of his stoves. There was also a "air shutter cap" or a sad excuse for one. It was basically a thin piece of metal that barely fit on to the air valve, which is located where the propane hose was screwed in. So basically this air valve was the opposite end of the burner, which was shaped like a flared tube. At the opening it had metal strip in the middle, leaving openings on the side which basically constituted the airways. The hose was connected to the metal strip in the middle,  so  the propane was practically blowing into open space instead of an enclosed tube like I imagined. When I would turn up the propane valve high enough, I would smell the propane leaking out of the air shutter.  I'm not sure if this is normal or whether burners are usually built this way. The propane hose was also very difficult to screw on to the burner. I felt like this thing should have cost 30 dollars at the most.

Well I'm gonna cook some stuff with it, perhaps get a different regulator and valve, or perhaps even try to return it.  I'm not sure if buying a higher pressure valve is gonna do much.

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Takadi: Bummer man, I guess thats the danger of ordering unknown brands online. I know the appeal though, it's tough on a limited budget.

I sent an e-mail to eastman outdoors asking about their burner, and apparently it is adjustable but only up to 10psi. I think this will probably be hot enough still, but I am wondering if I'll be able to switch it out with a 20psi max regulator if I want to? They just ignored this question.

I'll report back if I do get it. Oh and I found out there is a version with detachable legs. Even the version out seems more versatile to me than normal burners that come with nothing...

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Well I'd like to say two things: One, I probably over exaggerated the lack of quality my product had. It actually burns quite hot, and isn't bad for 40 dollars. Yet, I still feel it has below par construction.

The owner of the website I bought it from gave very prompt and polite responses, so that was a plus.

I do plan on getting another wok burner once I find a suitable one. A nice one that isn't too expensive (which I think it shouldn't), with a nice range of temperatures (from low simmer to white hot), a high quality high pressure regulator with a cast burner that isn't cheaply built. Oh yea, an built in igniter would be nice too.

Edited by takadi (log)
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I have the Eastman Big Kahuna, and the pressure regulator says "10 lbs.".

FWIW, I've never used the thing at full output - it sounds like a jet engine (scary) and has more than enough heat for my 16" wok. Perhaps the overall burner design is more important than just psi figures - sometimes size doesn't always matter.

Monterey Bay area

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  • 3 weeks later...
I have the Eastman Big Kahuna, and the pressure regulator says "10 lbs.".

I was interested in this model, but I have only a 12" wok - would that still work.

Does anyone have any other models for outside wok cooking that come with a stand?

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I have the Eastman Big Kahuna, and the pressure regulator says "10 lbs.".

I was interested in this model, but I have only a 12" wok - would that still work.

Does anyone have any other models for outside wok cooking that come with a stand?

12" wok would work, but I would suggest larger, up to 18" max.

Monterey Bay area

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  • 2 weeks later...
I was interested in this model, but I have only a 12" wok - would that still work.

Does anyone have any other models for outside wok cooking that come with a stand?

The Big Kahuna is recommended for up to 22" woks, though if you plan to do any flipping with it (lifting the wok to toss contents), something 18" or under would of course be better. A 22" is for medium to large scale projects.

Also consider these models if you'd like table-, stove- or counter-top usability (I have no idea what BTU these produce): "NEW GAS STOVE / PORTABLE WOK" at http://stores.ebay.com/PACIFICWESTCO_W0QQsspagenameZl2QQtZkm or "Cajun Cookware Cajun Cadillac Cooker by Guillory" at http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=379770

Oh, sorry, I just re-read and see that you want one with a stand. Try this, perhaps: King Kooker Heavy Duty Wok Cooker at http://www.cajun-outdoor-cooking.com/kikoheduwokc.html

The King Kooker -includes- an 18" wok and other tools for a price less than that of the Big Kahuna. The stand is bolt-together and not collapsable. They claim a "high-pressure regulator" but I can't find specification of 10- or 20-lb. In addition, it does not have a flip-top ring for pots, though I imagine one could use pots on it anyway or modify it somehow.

Consider also that most turkey fryers have BTU ratings similar to these models. Many of them could be used for woks, and you'd then have a dual-use burner.

Still not sure which one I'll buy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

One additional consideration in selecting a wok burner is identifying all your likely uses of an outdoor cooker. One that is designed to hold a 18" wok securely will likely be poorly suited to hold a 10" round flat iron you may want to use for a blackened steak/fish dish.

I've had several types of cookers and you'll want to study the design of the support structure for the cooking vessel, whether it be a wok, turkey fryer, cast iron pan, etc.

The types with a single ring are great for woks with sufficient diameter to allow the wok to rest inside and pots with diameters larger than the ring. The problem with these ring types is they do not support smaller woks, pans, and pots due to lack of internal support. Some with rings have added internal structure which assists smaller flat bottomed pots and pans but do not let the the wok seat as firmly.

Just try to consider all your uses for the outdoor cooker and get one that provides the best overall support for the complete range of cooking vessels you might use with it.

One other thing - if looking for a truly high pressure regulator, look for the adjustable types: the ones with a tee handle on the top. You can be much more sure that they will provide as much as as you need. There appears not to be any standardized labeling of the fixed regulator types which makes it much more difficult to know exactly how much psi they pass.

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  • 6 years later...

I bought a hand-hammered CCK pow wok (the kind with the long handle) in Singapore (at a shop called SIa Huat, on Temple Street), and I'll be shopping for a wok burner (probably a small, one-burner wok range) soon (within the next couple of months, when I can afford it).

What's different and/or interesting about my burner shopping is that I'll be shopping in Bangkok (where I live) so the brands and types I'll be looking at are likely to be a bit different from the usual options. If i do turn up some nice ones here, and you live in the US, Europe, etc., you might be able to find someone you can order them from and have them shipped. Just be advised that I'm not looking at the type you can safely use indoors...

PS: Yep I realize this is an old thread, but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are interested in woks and burners but haven't bought one yet.

Edited by Jeff K (log)
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      1. Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Sichuan peppercorns are neither pepper nor, thank the heavens, c@rn! Nor are they necessarily from Sichuan. They are actually the seed husks of one of a number of small trees in the genus Zanthoxylum and are related to the citrus family.  The ‘Sichuan’ name in English comes from their copious use in Sichuan cuisine, but not necessarily where they are grown. Known in Chinese as 花椒 (huājiāo), literally ‘flower pepper’’, they are also known as ‘prickly ash’ and, less often, as ‘rattan pepper’.
      The most common variety used in China is 红花椒 (hóng huā jiāo) or red Sichuan peppercorn, but often these are from provinces other than Sichuan, especially Gansu, Sichuan’s northern neighbour. They are sold all over China and, ground, are a key ingredient in “five-spice powder” mixes. They are essential in many Sichuan dishes where they contribute their numbing effect to Sichuan’s 麻辣 (má là), so-called ‘hot and numbing’ flavour. Actually the Chinese is ‘numbing and hot’. I’ve no idea why the order is reversed in translation, but it happens a lot – ‘hot and sour’ is actually ‘sour and hot’ in Chinese!
       
      The peppercorns are essential in dishes such as 麻婆豆腐 (má pó dòu fǔ) mapo tofu, 宫保鸡丁 (gōng bǎo jī dīng) Kung-po chicken, etc. They are also used in other Chinese regional cuisines, such as Hunan and Guizhou cuisines.

      Red Sichuan peppercorns can come from a number of Zanthoxylum varieties including Zanthoxylum simulans, Zanthoxylum bungeanum, Zanthoxylum schinifolium, etc.
       

      Red Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Another, less common, variety is 青花椒 (qīng huā jiāo) green Sichuan peppercorn, Zanthoxylum armatum. These are also known as 藤椒 (téng jiāo). This grows all over Asia, from Pakistan to Japan and down to the countries of SE Asia. This variety is significantly more floral in taste and, at its freshest, smells strongly of lime peel. These are often used with fish, rabbit, frog etc. Unlike red peppercorns (usually), the green variety are often used in their un-dried state, but not often outside Sichuan.
       

      Green Sichuan Peppercorns
       

      Fresh Green Sichuan Peppercorns

      I strongly recommend NOT buying Sichuan peppercorns in supermarkets outside China. They lose their scent, flavour and numbing quality very rapidly. There are much better examples available on sale online. I have heard good things about The Mala Market in the USA, for example.

      I buy mine in small 30 gram / 1oz bags from a high turnover vendor. And that might last me a week. It’s better for me to restock regularly than to use stale peppercorns.

      Both red and green peppercorns are used in the preparation of flavouring oils, often labelled in English as 'Prickly Ash Oil'. 花椒油 (huā jiāo yóu) or 藤椒油 (téng jiāo yóu).
       

       
      The tree's leaves are also used in some dishes in Sichuan, but I've never seen them out of the provinces where they grow.
       
      A note on my use of ‘Sichuan’ rather than ‘Szechuan’.
       
      If you ever find yourself in Sichuan, don’t refer to the place as ‘Szechuan’. No one will have any idea what you mean!

      ‘Szechuan’ is the almost prehistoric transliteration of 四川, using the long discredited Wade-Giles romanization system. Thomas Wade was a British diplomat who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. After retiring as a diplomat, he was elected to the post of professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, becoming the first to hold that post. He had, however, no training in theoretical linguistics. Herbert Giles was his replacement. He (also a diplomat rather than an academic) completed a romanization system begun by Wade. This became popular in the late 19th century, mainly, I suggest, because there was no other!

      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      FRESH FUNGI
       
      December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.
       

       
      The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.
       

       
      Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.
       

       
      The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
       
      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
       

       
      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
       

       
      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
       

       
      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
       

       

       
      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
    • By liuzhou
      According to the 2010 census, there were officially 1,830,929 ethnic Koreans living in China and recognised as one of China’s 56 ethnic groups. The largest concentration is in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, in the north-east bordering - guess where – North Korea. They have been there for centuries. The actual number today is widely believed to be higher, with some 4 to 5 thousand recent refugees living there illegally.
       
      Anyway, what I have just taken delivery of is this Korean blood and glutinous rice sausage from Yanbian. I am an inveterate blood sausage fiend and always eager to try new examples from as many places as possible. I'll cook some tomorrow morning for breakfast and report back.
       

       

    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
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