Cookbook Club - Every Grain of Rice

Cooking at home and sourcing ingredients
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azhotdish
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So...here we go. One of the pre-requisites for this book will naturally be a good wok that's been seasoned. So what's everyone using? I'm thinking about ordering one from here.

Wok Shop
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Joel
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BarbaraToombs
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Thanks for that link, Joel! I desperately need a new wok...just have a really crappy one. Which were you thinking of getting? Don't know the first thing about wok-buying... :?
PHXeater
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I'm going to join in from afar as well and have no wok! Hoping to find something reasonably priced
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Skillet Doux
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PHXeater wrote:I'm going to join in from afar as well and have no wok! Hoping to find something reasonably priced
Hooray!

Frankly, cheaper is usually better. I mean, unless you're going with some kind of hammered cast iron beauty, more expensive usually means stainless or nonstick, which sucks.
wok1.jpg
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This lady and I have been through a lot together. I actually first seasoned her in the oven, so it started out this incredible shade of bronze that eventually turned black, though the bronze still comes out in bright light, as you can see here. Nothing fancy. Just a Joyce Chen carbon steel with wood handles. I think it was $30, I'm about seven years in, and I feel like my patina is just starting to reach acceptable levels (though I've been doing a lot of steaming with it lately, which doesn't help... need to stir-fry more bacon). Incidentally, this is why you want to avoid plastic handles like the plague:
wok2.jpg
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I'm a fan of cheap and simple with woks. Grace Young's Breath of a Wok has an outstanding primer on selection, seasoning, basic techniques, etc. I'm happy to lend to anybody who's coming to a gathering if you want to check it out. I suspect parts of it have been posted online.

I do a lot of stir-fry. As we've discussed in other threads-- actually, we happen to have an excellent thread on wok cookery already!

Wok Options

Anyway, coping strategies are as important as wok selection -- letting ingredients come up to room temp, giving the wok plenty of time to preheat, not trying to cook too much at once, keeping ingredients drydrydry. I've even taking to giving my sauces a quick shot in the microwave before adding them so the temp doesn't drop.

Anyway, read that thread... I remember there being a lot of good stuff in there. It ought to come in handy through this iteration of cookbook club.
Dominic Armato
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We have this one:
http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Chen-22-006 ... e+chen+wok

But like Dom said the plastic handles are a problem since you cannot put it in the oven really. That does not stop me from forgetting I store it in there all the time. But we needed the flat bottom since I have one of those rubbish glassyish top electric burners and not gas.
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Christina
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My book is ordered. Looking forward to cooking along.
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ScottofStrand
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I'm running into some hiccups with these recipes. I think my biggest problem is with the flat, glass-top, electric stove not being able to generate enough heat for the Wok. The dishes I've cooked aren't able to get that nice sear on the outside and end up either over-cooked or lacking flavor. In general, the three hot recipes i've tried(Twice Cooked Pork, Cumin Beef, Hangzhou Eggplant) have all ended up tasting a bit under-seasoned. I've had to add a bit more salt, soy, or chile to each. I'm guessing part of this comes from not getting that caramelization from the hot wok. All three attempts ended up being fairly good, my favorite being the Eggplant, which was very similar to Miu's Yu Xiang Eggplant, but not with the same earthiness or depth of flavor.
Cumin Beef
Cumin Beef
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Also, I started with a new Wok, boiled it, scrubbed it down, baked it, seasoned it twice with chives and garlic and got a nice color developed on it. After cooking with it a few times, the seasoning seems to be flaking off. I'm guessing I didn't get the protective coating off, despite the boiling and vigorous scrubbing with steel wool. I'm thinking about taking a belt sander to it and starting over clean.
Hangzhou Eggplant(heavy on the pork)
Hangzhou Eggplant(heavy on the pork)
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I've made a couple of the cold dishes as well, the Chile Oil Radishes and the Smacked Pickled Cucumber. Both were fresh, though I'd use smaller radishes or crack them into smaller pieces, unless you like the flavor of big chunks of raw radish.
Chile Radishes
Chile Radishes
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I have plenty of ingredients to keep cracking on with more of these recipes, but over-all the book seems a bit simple. I was hoping for some more dishes that WOW me. Also, some of the recipes don't give detail as far as how long to cook or marinate ingredients. I feel like I'd almost be better off looking at the ingredient list and executing the dish my own way sometimes. Anyone else dug into this book?
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Lunchbox
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ScottofStrand wrote:I'm running into some hiccups with these recipes. I think my biggest problem is with the flat, glass-top, electric stove not being able to generate enough heat for the Wok.
You can come over to my house and cook on the gas sometime and see how it differs... 8-)
-- LBX

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BarbaraToombs
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Lunchbox wrote:
ScottofStrand wrote:I'm running into some hiccups with these recipes. I think my biggest problem is with the flat, glass-top, electric stove not being able to generate enough heat for the Wok.
You can come over to my house and cook on the gas sometime and see how it differs... 8-)
ONLY if you invite others!! :D
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ScottofStrand
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Sounds like a fun night!
Update: definitely no lack of flavor in Gung Pao Chicken. Whew, that had a kick and was really tasty.
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BarbaraToombs
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Well, after getting my wok (Amazon, Joyce Chen carbon steel, with lid), seasoning it, and then finally making a trip to Lee Lee's today, had my first crack at a few things. The photos aren't nearly as good as Scott's (but then I've seen his kitchen/photo studio set-up! ;) ), but hopefully they'll give you the idea.

Started with the Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce (p 34):
Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce
Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce
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Seriously, this couldn't have been any easier. I used an English cucumber, which I just prefer in terms of lack of seeds, more flesh, etc. Worked really well. VERY garlicky (not that that's a bad thing) with a nice little kick from the chilli oil.

Then decided to do General Tso's Chicken (p 122):
General Tso's Chicken
General Tso's Chicken
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I deep-fried the chicken in my little mini-fryer, for a couple of reasons: (1) to more easily regulate/monitor the oil temp, and (2) to free up my wok for the actual stir frying to come, avoiding a clean-up. Worked well, although I wish the chicken had been a LITTLE crispier. Tasted delicious, though had quite a kick from those dried chiles (I used dried Chile de Arbol, which I had on hand and which was cited as an appropriate substitute). I got out as many seeds as I could, but didn't get them all! Still, loved it.

Am having a difficult time finding/determining the difference between what Fuchsia calls "light soy sauce" and "dark soy sauce"...am assuming she doesn't mean "Lite" as in less sodium, and I'm not finding two different types of soy sauce, even at Lee Lee's. Help, anybody?

Decided to keep it simple and put the chicken on basic Egg-Fried Rice (p 257):
Egg-Fried Rice
Egg-Fried Rice
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Again, super easy. Used jasmine rice, cooked ahead of time and thoroughly cooled.

All in all, a great success, family all loved everything!! Can't wait to try a few more things. Need to get my wok skills improved!
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Skillet Doux
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BarbaraToombs wrote:Am having a difficult time finding/determining the difference between what Fuchsia calls "light soy sauce" and "dark soy sauce"...am assuming she doesn't mean "Lite" as in less sodium, and I'm not finding two different types of soy sauce, even at Lee Lee's. Help, anybody?
Yeah, they're totally different, and not remotely substitutable for each other. Here are the two I use for Chinese cooking:
soysauce.jpg
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Any Asian market that has even the most basic Chinese ingredients should have both light and dark soy. Have another look. I'll be dumbfounded if Lee Lee doesn't. I'll even be mildly surprised if Lee Lee doesn't have these exact two bottles. There usually won't be a lot of dark soy -- the light might outnumber the dark by 20-1 -- but the dark is indispensable.

Basically, if you're used to Kikkoman or something like that, light Chinese soy sauce is the closest analogy. It definitely has a different flavor, and all things being equal I don't recommend using Japanese-style soy sauce for Chinese recipes, but Japanese tamari soy isn't a bad substitute for light Chinese soy.

Dark soy sauce, on the other hand, is almost syrupy. It's really thick and black and super intense, very sour with a heavy caramel flavor. I'm sure there are probably workable substitutes from other cuisines, but unlike light soy sauce, there isn't anything in a Safeway aisle that remotely resembles dark soy.

If Lee Lee really doesn't have these (again, if so, me = dumbfounded), go to Mekong. They have multiple versions of both, as well as some other variants of Pearl River Bridge brand (a "superior" light and a mushroom dark, to name a couple), and they even sell some of them in the big plastic jugs, which come in handy when you start going through it quickly :-)
Dominic Armato
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Skillet Doux
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BTW, my next two weeks are total insanity, but once we get to mid-October, I'd be up for hosting a stir-fry lunch at my place, and we could compare techniques and such.
Dominic Armato
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BarbaraToombs
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Thanks for the soy education! I will look again. The soy sauce aisle at Lee Lee's is, to say the least, overwhelming, and I probably didn't look hard enough.

They also didn't have Sichuanese ya cai, which is needed for the Dan Dan Noodles. I even asked, showed Fuchsia's photo of the packet...no dice. I ended up getting some other preserved mustard, but it doesn't look the same. Aarrrgh...these Asian ingredients!!!!
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Skillet Doux
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You might have better luck at Mekong or Super L Ranch Market at COFCO -- the latter is a little smaller (still huge) but more focused on Chinese products.
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ScottofStrand
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I had a hard time finding the Schezuan peppercorns and paste at Mekong and Asiana market too. I kept looking and asking for the peppers in whole form and I could not find them anywhere. I eventually gave up, but I have a small jar of pre-cracked Schezuan spice blend that I've been using in it's place. I'm thinking they are listed by another name, maybe, and already cracked with just the flakes, if it's available. Also, I couldn't figure out what the Sweet Fermented Paste was. I'm pretty confident finding Japanese ingredients when I need them, but it's like switching languages when you move from one isle to another.
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Mike Todd
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Scott, if you haven't already, you might want to check Penzeys or even Whole Foods for the Szechuan peppercorns. I'm pretty sure I saw them the last time I was at the Penzeys on Tatum (@ Shea). Might be worth a phone call to the Tempe store (which is closer to you? I think?) to see what they have on hand.
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Skillet Doux
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Penzey's definitely has Sichuan pepper. That's where I always get mine. I usually see it at Mekong or COFCO as well (tricky to locate), but frankly, Penzey's is better quality and sometimes with the others you get some of the other part mixed in (seed, berry... I'm not sure what, technically, the husk houses), which can be really gritty.

Also, especially in the Asian markets, look for huajiao. That's the Chinese name. It's also sometimes sold as "prickly ash," though it seems like that's used more frequently on the oil than the dried husks.

Also, be sure you lightly toast the husks first. A few tosses in a dry wok will do it. Super important.
Dominic Armato
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jacqaz
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To help with identifying Sichuan peppercorn. They don't always translate it into English.

Here are a few packages of the same product that you can try and match at the store.
Chinese character for Sichuan is 四川
Chinese character for pepper/ peppercorn is 花椒 or 椒粒

Image
source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/63637139@N00/2424329188

Image

Hope this helps in your search. ;)
I was born in Taiwan, where eating is the national sport!

- Jacq
Lamus
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I have been cooking from this cookbook for a year now and while I like the Lee Kum Kee Chili Garlic Sauce that she recommends as a sub for the chili bean paste, I think the broad bean paste I get from Amazon is better. I think it provides that earthiness that scottofstrand said was missing from his fish-fragrant eggplant. It is also amazing in the Ma Po Tofu, which I now make weekly.

http://www.amazon.com/Sichuan-Pixian-Xi ... bean+paste

I don't think there's a sub for the sichuan peppercorns. Just get the real thing and, as Dom said, toast a bit and then grind them with a mortar and pestle and sift as she describes in the book. I make several tbs at a time and keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Some recipes call for using it whole, too.
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