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Chinese food thread
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:58 pm    Post subject: Chinese food thread Reply with quote

Ni hao!

I started cooking when I moved out my parent's place to go to university in another city. I always loved Chinese food (or whatever they serve you here as Chinese) but being a "poor" student I didn't have the funds to go to restaurants or takeouts often enough to satisfy my craving. That's why I decided to start learning how to cook.

I pretty soon discovered that the results - though edible and often yummy - didn't really match the food served in China restaurants. Without the proper equipment and no money to buy it I gave up cooking Chinese and headed a bit to the west. Indian dishes were "easier" to reproduce at home. Over the years I moved further west - over the Middle East to the Mediterranean area until I finally started enjoying traditional German dishes as well. (Giving the fact I started getting interested in the cuisine of the Southern US states, you could say I continued my journey to the west.

Now ever since I saw that brilliant BBC documentary Ching He Huang & Ken Hom Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure. (4 episodes, each about an hour) I become obsessed with cooking Chinese food, especially from the Sichuan region again. My own culinary journey round the world has now got me full circle.

And this time the results are way better. Be it because I have way more experience (and patience) now, be it that I got the money to buy better equipment or whatever the reason is, I start to understand Chinese food and the philosophies behind it. The only thing I now need is a good gas burner. Yes, I already discussed this with Menolly like 4 years ago, but now I have found a good (and rather cheap) solution. A "manniu" burner with around 90,000 btu.

Why do I love Sichuan food? Because it tends to combine all sorts of flavor in one dish. It's the only kitchen in the world where you find all kinds of pepper in one dish.

Today I cooked some Sichuan influenced spicy chicken with white pepper, chilis, fermented chili paste and sichuan flower peppers. The first bite was hot, but then after keeping eating it surprisingly got milder. The numbing effect of the Sichuan pepper (ma la = numbing and spicy) sort of protects from the heat and still gives you all the flavor.


Clockwise from the top: ginger, spring onions, dried chilies, freshly crushed Sichuan pepper corns, garlic.


Cashew nuts.


Bamboo and carrots.


spring onion greens, bean sprouts


Marinated chicken (light soy sauce, rice wine, salt, white pepper, corn starch and an egg white lightly beaten until foamy.

This here is chicken breast. I used it simply because it was in the fridge and needed to be processed. Usually I use leg meat for stir fries. First of all I like the taste and texture better and secondly I think traditionally people in China would have taken a whole chicken and used the different parts for different dishes or cooking techniques. I would use the breast for roasts, oven baked dishes or anything deep fried in a batter. I would use the leg meat for stir fries.


Chicken stock.


A sizzling hot wok.


Sesame oil for flavoring and sunflower oil for cooking.


Rice vinegar. I need to buy the black variety.


Chili bean paste.


dark soy and rice wine (Shaoxing)


The result in the wok ...


... and on a plate.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That looks great!! We ate at a Chinese restaurant for the first time in years (none in Jos) and it was horrible. Everything seemed coated in the same sugary goo, and my stomach was curled up in a fetal position all night.

I also like to cook and will have to concoct something like this at home.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, sugar certainly is a way to replace the infamous MSG since it helps to balance all the flavors. And that's what it's all about - balance of flavor. Sugar is helpful but shouldn't be dominant. I added some sugar (and corn starch dissolved in some water) as well.

Cantonese kitchen is very interesting as well. They love it less hot and spicy, but try to make all the ingredients shine as they are. No need to gild the lilly if products and produce are fresh.

I know you got a certain stance on alcohol and I respect it. Over here we got lots of debates on cooking with alcohol when children are eating the food. I'm a responsible parent and I can understand concerns. But if you look at Japan for example or the area of the Mediterranean Sea - they all cook with wine or Sake. No moma in Bologna would do her Bolognese without wine and no one in Japan would do teriyaki without sake. Kids eat the stuff and still those people have the highest life expectancy on earth. There is one thing I might add, though. My father is a recovered alcoholic and I would never serve him a dish with any alcohol in it. I'm proud he made it and I'd never endanger that amazing achievement.

Not trying to start a discussion, just saying it. Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some more Sichuan classics.


Kung Pao Chicken or "gong bao ji ding". The real thing, not the westernized version. Two handful of dried chili and two tbs sichaun pepper corns per serving. No cheap "filler" vegetables restaurants use to make the dish cheaper. What other cusine combines chili, pepper, sichuan pepper and chili sauce in one dish and still offers sweet, sour, salty and slightly (pleasently) bitter flavors at the same time? Flavor ecplosion. Just a little hint: only trourists eat the chilis in this dish. Here they are used to flavor the cooking oil and the meat (while rubbing against it in the stir frying process). Actually you eat "around" the chilis with your chopsticks.


Mayi Shang Shu - "ants climbing a tree". No real ants involved here, just crumbly ground meat and glassnoodels. And chili bean paste.


Hui guo rou - double cooked pork. First cooked in seasoned water, then stir fried with soy sauce and - guess what - chili bean paste.


A very unusual dish I'd do again any time. Stir fried shredded potatoes. Never had any potato dish in a Chinese restaurant here (apart from those who offer dinner buffet with fries.)

Why Imageshak insists on rotating the picture is beyond me. Since no one is looking at this anyway I don't care. :p


Mapo Dofu - pock-marked old lady's tofu. Plating sucks, but the taste was great thank to *drumroll* chili bean paste.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Spicy beef with cumin, from the Hunan province.

Apart from the western province Xinjiang (where the Uyghur live) cumin is not really popular in China. The culture in Xinjiang however actually is more middle east than far east. You cn tell it's close to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Still this cumin based dish is very popular in the southern province of Hunan where people like it spicy hot. This dish is taking heat to a new level. I used like 10 red fresh thai chilis, 2 tbs of chili flakes, 2 tbs hot sauce (siracha like) and copious amounts of chili oil - per person.

People in Hunan don't like sweet flavors in their hot food so we got a very dry heat here and some acid from the Chinkiang vinegar and no sugar to counterbalance heat and acidity. Together with the cumin it reminded me very much on Indian vindaloos.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Went for a chinese meal in Havana and thought "Hmm - this might be interesting". First course was a spring roll - full of the usual stuff, exept in place of the normal beensprouts they had used green cabbage. Second course was a green cabbage soup and this was followed by sweet and sour pork served on..er..green cabbage. By this time I estimated that my wife and I had eaten a cabbage a piece and alas my nerve failed when it came to ordering desert. I still wonder to this day how they would have done it!
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sweet pickled green cabbage of course.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damn Chinese'll eat anythin'! Wink

(risky post but absolutely meant in fun!)
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone remember the "Wok Seared Mushrooms" at PF Chang's? Oh my God, they were the best white mushrooms I've ever tried. After quite a bit of asking, I found a cool bartender who asked a cook who said that the secret was Ponzu sauce and a very hot (700+ degrees) wok.

Haven't tried it yet, but I plan to. Chang's mushrooms were by far, and I mean by far, the best I've had.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

700F that is I assume? That'll be be roughly 370C. Once I get my 90,000 btu jet wok burner that'll be no problem anymore. Wok'n'Roll!
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Uncertain if you saw when I told Cail what Alton Brown said, but to repeat:

If you have an outdoor deep fried turkey rig (not the counter top indoor type, the one with a propane tank), you can use that for high temperature wokking.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We talked about that thing some years ago. A turkey deep fryer, however, is a doohickey even more alien to German cuisine than a wok burner.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*nod*

That was probably when Cail was just starting wokking then.

Can you order a turkey frying rig online from the states? And if so, would less btu suffice? walmart.com has a 38,000 btu rig online. Perhaps the pricier models will be more powerful.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader - you seem to have this chinese food thing pretty under your belt. I've been trying to re-create chinese take-away fried rice dishes for years and it's really hard! 'Special Fried Rice' [ie with bits of egg, chicken, char sui pork prawns and onion] has to be one of my all-time favorite dishes - I can make it, but it aint the same.

I wash and boil my rice first [basmati], then let it sit to dry and go cold. I fry my additional stuff [as listed above] using a light oil [can't seem to get peanut oil and this may be the problem] and make an omlette cum scrambled egg to add to the rice. I mix the whole together in a big bowl - usually the oil retained with the fried elements is sufficient to coat the rice [very lightly] but if necessary I may add a very little more oil. The final mix is then heated in a wok/frying pan, placed into bowls and served with a light soy-sauce to add as a condiment. [nb The final heating can be carried out just as well in a microwave with a bit of intermittent stiring every 30 secs or so.

Now this method will deliver a perfectly edible fried-rice dish. But it's not what I want! Somewhere I'm failing to get in that magic element that makes take-away special fried rice so distictive in it's flavour. I think it has to be the oil - I'm using ground-nut or even sesame [too strong] at a pinch, but I think the failure to use peanut oil is whats doing for it. Any observations Vader, or indeed anyone else who might have tried this dish?
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Groundnut and peanut oil are the same. It's the perfect oil for frying. The Chinese use it a lot. But any neutral tasting oil will do, sunflower, canola, safflower or corn oil are good wok oils as well. Sesame oil - the dark one made from toasted sesame seds is used to flavor dishes oir marinades.

You got the essential thing right. The rice has to be cool. Best to cook it the day before and leave it in the fridge over night.

After making the scrambled egg (I mix 1 or two eggs with a dash of light soy and sesame oil for extra flavor) I throw in some chopped garlic, ginger (optional) and white scallions in the hot oil and stir fry for for 20 seconds before adding the rice. I use light and dark soy because the color tends to be nicer. I also add a dash of Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing). You may use dry sherry instead. Then in goes the egg and the pre-fried chicken and prawns. When all is mixed together and warm I add the green parts of the scallions and some bean sprouts.

I think the heat of the wok is more important then the oil you use.

I have made a video of me making fried rice. I may find it somewhere and upload it.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good suggestions Vader - I'll let you know when I next do one, how it turns out.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader wrote:
I think the heat of teh wok is more important then the oil you use.

Yep, yep, yep!

You're missing the "wok-hay," or something like that.

I'm pretty sure this is the episode where AB demonstrates using the deep fried turkey rig specifically for that purpose. Jeff Smith talked about it as well, back in the Frugal Gourmet days.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it's all about wok hay - the breath of the wok.

I'm getting this baby here. About 90,000 btu and the price also is acceptable


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A video of me making fried rice. With subtitles, yet without sound.

[url]img585.imageshack.us/img585/5371/e1zrfpzkumzjhlixqglvvs.mp4[/url]

Cantonese dishes:

The rice prepared in the video above.


The dragon dances with the Phoenix - prawn and chicken in oystersauce.


Crispy pork with sweet and sour sauce. Actually this is more what western restaurants have made of this originally Cantonese dish.


Sir fried squid in black bean sauce.


Char siu pork. I didn't add red food coloring.


Two typical cantonese coooking methods combined - white cut (cooked in a light broth or plain water) and red braised (cooked in dark soy) chicken. I call it "Yin and Yang" chicken.


Siu Yuk - crispy pork belly.


Steamed fish.


Lemon chicken.

From Sichuan:

Guai Wei Ji Si - strange flavor chicken (or bang bang chicken). Shredded chicken with a spicy sesame sauce.


Hot and sour soup. Some say it is not from Sichuan but from Beijing. Since this is really hot and chili oil is used I'd say it's Sichuan. Beijing hot and sour soup is pretty similar but less hot.

From Hunan:

Mao Shi Hong Shao Rou - Chairman Mao's braised pork belly. His favorite dish.


Tang Cu Pai Gu - sweet and sour spare ribs. Cooked, deep fried, stir fried and glazed.

Not China, but from Thailand:

Chicken, pork and prawn in a banana leaf and put on the grill.


Gaeng Joot Woon Sen - glass noodle soup with ground meat, cabbage and cilantro. The intense flavor comes from a paste made from cilantro roots, garlic and salt. My local Asian store sells cilantro with the roots, so I chop them off and keep them in my freezer until I need them. Same goes for lemon grass, galangal, different types of chilli and kaffir lime leaves. They all freeze well.

Random stuff

Aromatic duck. The taste was great, the batter, however, wasn't that good. Next time I'm gonna fry the duck without batter, which is actually even more authentic.


Red braised spare ribs. They look dark but they are not burned.


Stir fried beef with bean sprouts. The favorite dish of my paternal grandparents (RIP Granny Vader).


Spring rolls. The complete one in is filled with chicken, ginger and vegetables. The roll cut into two halves has ground pork and cabbage, seasoned with Chinese 5-spices.

I made the dough for the pork roll myself and both color and crispieness turned out way better then with the wrappings I bought in the shop.


Baozi - steamed buns with savory filling. Together with spring rolls perfect for dim sums.


Braised eggplant on Chinese noodles. Typical for the Northern regions where they don't grow rice but eat noodles quite a lot.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader wrote:
I'm getting this baby here. About 90,000 btu and the price also is acceptable


Ooo.

And you already have the gas range to enable installing. Those of us stuck with electric or glass top ranges (*sigh,* dreams of learning to can are on hold as well) can still benefit from the turkey frying rig.

You say the price is acceptable. What will it run, with installation and all?

Vader wrote:
A video of me making fried rice. With subtitles, yet without sound.

Nicely done!
You may want to consider including the ingredient prep in future videos. Many people are overwhelmed by the number of ingredients, and if they see the ease in which they are actually prepared and the mise en place (sp?) arranged, it may encourage them to give it a go.

How much larger is the second wok, and is it heavier than hammered steel? It looks like cast iron, which I have never used for a wok.

Why an egg and an egg white, instead of two whole eggs? I will admit I like to use a whole egg, and some cubed tofu, for the textural difference.

Also, Genia (the owner of Cathay Tea House where I worked, and author of the cookbook above) taught me to make fried rice out of leftover brown rice, saving the soy sauces to be added individually at table. Using cold leftover rice prevents sticking while stir-frying, and you still get the nice color from the brown rice. The saltiness can then be adjusted to individual taste. But I will also add soy sauces when using leftover white rice.
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