Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Hunan Campaign

When I first decided to take a detour through the different Chinese cooking cuisines, I had no clue that this was going to take up a total of nine posts…what started as one post, soon led into about two or three weeks on my blog.

And all this time I have been thinking back on those times as a kid playing the game of Risk with my brother…fighting over who holds what territory.

 

But Chinese regional cuisine also poses a risk of a sort…the risk of cooking with the wrong methods and ingredients for taking care of a diabetic…as well as the risk of standing at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet debating between  getting Sichuan chicken or Hunan chicken for about twenty minutes and then settling for the orange chicken of the sweet-and-sour chicken like most of us do anyway…

 

 

Anyway, on to the next province…

 

The Hunan Province is a land-locked agricultural hub in south-central China that produces a broad range of vegetables and herbs.

And Hunan cuisine takes advantage of  the great variety of ingredients that its rolling hills and beautiful valleys that the region provides.

Hunan cuisine is very similar to Sichuan food, but even hotter.

But the fact that the spiciness is derived from chilies makes it even more delicious because you can actually taste the ingredients,  instead of only being able to taste mouth-numbing peppercorns.

 

 

Hunan cuisine is not only known for this spicy flavor, but also for its deep colors, oily texture, and fresh aromas.

Another characteristic of Hunan cuisine is an emphasis on sourness. All shapes, sorts, and sizes of pickles are popular in the Hunan region.

 

 

As far as meat, Hunan cuisine uses lots of peppered and smoked meats, such as cured hams

As far as spices, people in the Hunan region can’t even begin to imagine life with without chilies. In fact, no dish is complete without chilies…kinda like no dish is complete without sour cream to many people, including me..

As far as other ingredients, Hunan cuisine uses heaps of garlic, shallots, and tofu, fermented bean curd.

 

 

Examples of foods that you might find in the Hunan region include…

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Fujian Campaign

 

Because the Fujian province is surrounded by both the mountains and sea, Fujian cuisine can be a true culinary adventure.

This cuisine takes advantage of both worlds by incorporating the best of both worlds..the offerings of the sea—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish—as well as the offerings of the mountains woodland—such as forest-foraged herbs and mushrooms, garlic, bamboo shoots

 

The people of the Fujian province tend to prefer mild and lightly seasoned…with a great passion for what we know as “sweet and sour.”

The chefs of this region take great pride in their expert knife skills and use these skills to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of their food.

 

Another factor that distinguishes Fujian cuisine from the other Chinese cuisines is the use of fermented products…making the region distinct by its reputation for  marinated dishes, soups, stews and stir-fries.

 

 

As far as meat, Fujian cuisine includes pork, duck, chicken and beef…but especially takes advantage of what the sea offers—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish.

As far as sauces, Fujian cuisine takes advantage of many different sauces—such as fish sauce, shrimp paste, shacha sauce and preserved apricots. In addition to these, orange juice is often used for a little complexity and sweetness.

As far as spices, Fujian cuisine is known for the precise use of scintillating, but not tongue numbing, spices. Fujian cuisine uses sugar, much like Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan peppers…probably not a bood thing for any of my diabetic readers, right?

 

Examples of Fujian cuisine recipes that you might find on the internet include…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Sichuan Campaign

Sichuan cuisine is the most unique of the eight main regional cuisines.

Famed for its bold flavors and use of strong spices, this cuisine was strongly influenced by Indian cuisine.

As foreigners, including Buddhist missionaries and Spanish traders, began travelling through this landlocked, mountain-ringed province along China’s famous “Silk Route.” they introduced the locals to the characteristic spicy flavors of Indian cuisine. The people of the area eventually developed their own unique cuisine based on these influences, a cuisine that is so very different and distinct from any other Chinese cooking styles.

Even though this cuisine is famous for being spicy, not all Sichuan dishes are spicy., many Sichuan dishes taste like fish or fried tangerine.

 

 

Let’s take a look at some of the conventional Sichuan ingtredients…

—As far as meat, Sichuan cuisine gives you your typical meats—such as chicken, freshwater fish, and pork…but you will also find more unconventional ingredients—such as shark fins and bear paws. You will also find that air-dried meats are commonly used.

—As far as sauce, Sichuan cuisine tends to use more sesame paste, fish sauce, ginger juice, sweet-sour sauce, garlic puree, red chili oil….(and soy sauce, of course)….

—As far as spices, Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan pepper…lots and lots of Sichuan pepper…as well as chili peppers and garlic.

—As far as other ingredients, Sichuan cuisine leans more toward pungently flavored vegetables such as garlic and onions. Nuts and seeds are also commonly used in Sichuan cuisine.

 

A few of the most popular Sichuan entrees that you might find on the menu, kook for…

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Cantonese Campaign

 

Creating a Home, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Peking Order of Chinese Regional Cuisine

Every now and then I like to step back and look forward to “What’s Next”…This is one of those posts…

Lately we have been talking about the different cooking methods—specifically sauteeing and stirfrying…

 

 

But before we leave the topic of stirfrying and move on to other cooking methods, I thought that it might be a good time to step back and learn about the “Eight Culinary Traditions” of China.

These are the different cuisines that are found in different provinces of China

These cuisines distinguish the unique flavors of the different regions of the country that vary because of factors such as…

  • agricultural structures
  • availability of resources
  • climate
  • cooking methods
  • cooking techniques
  • eating habits
  • geography, such as the riverlands of the South and mountain ranges of the North
  • history
  • ingredients
  • lifestyle
  • seasoning
  • staple crops grown in each specific region
  • terrain

 

For example, Northern cuisine seems to have more of a preferencfr for salt and noodles. Whereas Southern cuisine seems to have more of a preference for sweetness and rice. Eastern cuisine seems to have more of a preference for spiciness…and Western cuisine has more of a preference for acidity.

 

 

Even though these eight cuisines are considered the most commonly accepted categories of Chinese cuisine, they only represent about a fourth of Chinese cuisine.

 

So let’s take a look at the following regional cuisines, so that whether you’re loading up your plate at the local all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet or cooking healthy meals in your brand new wok at home, you will actually know the difference between Hunan chicken and Sichual porl…(other than the fact that one consists of chicken and one consists of pork, obviously)…

Now for the “bona fide” list…

  1. Anhui
  2. Fujian
  3. Guangdong
  4. Hunan
  5. Jiangsu
  6. Shandong
  7. Sichuan
  8. Zhejiang

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black is Beautiful

Once you’ve chosen your new wok…or like most of us these days, had it delivered off Amazon, you may be tempted to rush to the nearest Half-Price Books, buy the biggest Chinese cookbook that you can find, and start cooking Chinese as devotely as Julie in the move Julie and Julia…

But wait…

‘Tis the season…

And the season is so very important that you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

So what is the season…and why is it so darn important?!

 

Your brand new wok will most likely have been coated with oil when it was being made in the factory. Manufacturers do this to protect the metal and keep it from rusting or tarnishing in the store before being sold.

Your goal is actually to turn your nice, shiny, and new wok into an even more beautiful*?!) black, nonstick wok with a patina that makes for excellent stir-fry..

So exactly why do you need to season your wok before you start making gourmet meals…and how do you go about it?

 

First the WHY…

Seasoning your new wok will not only removes any metallic taste and the preservative oil manufacturers place on it, but also prevents rust.

Seasoning supposedly also gives you a chance to get acquainted with your wok…

  • how heavy it is
  • how it responds to you
  • how to clean it
  • how to hold it

 

Seasoning your wok properly is so very important because if seasoning is not done properly, your food will probably stick to the pan.

 

 

So now for the HOW

  • Turn the stove burner on as high as it will go.
  • Set your wok on the burner for about a minute,
  • Now take the wok off the heat, Add 2Tbsp  oil,  swirling the pan around to make sure that the bottom and sides are coated.
  • Put the wok back on the heat.
  • Add 1 bunch chopped scallions and 1/2C sliced unpeeled ginger.
  • Reduce the heat to medium,
  • Stir-fry for about twenty minutes.
  • Smear the aromatics up the sides of the wok all the way to the edgem adding more oil if needed
  • Remove the wok from heat,
  • Once the wok has cooled down. rinse the wok with hot water
  • Finally heat the wok over low heat for a couple of minutes.

Even though you have taken all this time to season your wok, time to time you may find from that your wok has become “gummy” and rust spots have started to form. If this is the case, heat the pan as you did before, rub 1-1/2tsp oil and 1Tbsp kosher salt into the wok, and dry completely with a pad made from three layers of paper towels,

 

Cleaning Your Wok

To clean your wok after using, rinse with a soft sponge, dish soap optional…(depends on how much of a germophobe you are…but many chefs recommend avoiding soap). Never use metal utensils or scrubbers to clean your wok because this will weaken the coating.

Dry it off.

Once you have finished drying it off, heat the wok on the stove at a low setting for about a minute in order to evaporate any remaining water.

Now rub in a dab of oil before on the wok before storing. This cost of oil will help to seal any pits in the metal and keeps the surface non-stick.

If something is sticking to the pan that you can’t get off this way, add a dash of salt and scrub it gently with a paper towel..

 

Using Your Wok…After you have been using your wok for a while, you will find that the interior has changed from that shiny silver color that it had when you brought it home from the store to either a brownish, or even a black color.

Don’t worry…you have not ruined your pan.

Black is beautiful.

This is actually what you have been ultimately waiting for.

This permanent black patina makes sure that you have a flavorful meal each time you cook.

 

 

Cooking with Your New Wok

  1. Make sure your wok is very hot before adding your ingredients. There should actually be smoke rising from it.
  2. Now add oil to the pan before adding your ingredients.
  3. Be sure to spread the ingredients evenly and along the sides of the pan
  4. As your ingredients are cooking, only stir them as needed to prevent burning.  while cooking.
  5. Cook your food in batches. Overcrowding them may save you time, but will not be worth it in the long run.

 

Finally for a few more words of wisdom…

  • Hold off on using your wok to steam, boil, or poach.
  • Avoid cooking with any acidic foods—such as tomatoes, vinegar, and lemons—because acidic foods can damage the delicate surface of the wok.
  • And it probably goes without saying to be cautious when using a hot stove, especially when hot oil.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

A Wok on the Wild Side

The first thing that I think of whenever I think about our first cooking method—stirfrying—is a wok.

You may think that woks, which in Chinese directly translates as “Big Spoon,” are /what Alton Brown calls a “unitasker,” but woks can also be used for many other cooking methods—such as deep frying, steaming, and boiling, stewing, and braising.

 

 

Material.

1.Cast Iron…Cast iron is one of the oldest cookware materials known to man, and the Chinese have been using cast iron woks for centuries.

However, finding a great cast iron wok that you really love is going to be a difficult task. You’re either find one that is way too fragile and that will break very easily…or you’ll find heavier cast iron woks that are actually far too difficult to lift.

Advantages on the other hand, include the fact that food cooks food evenly because the wok retains heat longer. In fact, cast iron woks retain heat so well that food should be removed immediately after cooking to prevent overcooking,

Disadvantages of cast iron woks include the fact that they take a relatively long time to heat up

 

2. Stainless Steel…Stainless steel woks, such as the Cuisinart Stainless steel wok have several advantages—including their being rust-proof, non-reactive and lightweight. ‘

 

3. Carbon Steel…Carbon steel woks are most popular and most recommended type of wok around.

Chefs say that these woks allow for faster and better cooking because of their quick heat conduction and even transfer of heat.

Carbon steel woks are relatively inexpensive compared to other woks, lightweight, and durable. Typically these woks cost around $40 to $80.

As far as weight, when shopping for a carbon steel wok, look for what is called a 14-gauge wok. This means that the wok is about two millimeters thick.

 

4. Non-stick or Teflon-coated woks…Many people may think that they are doing themselves a favor by buying Teflon coated or non-stick woks, but these actually a poor investment.

Even though these woks allow for easy cleanup and do not require seasoning…(more on this later)…Teflon or non-stick woks are not made for high heat. In fact, using these woks at high temperatures will damage the Teflon coating over time.

These woks also are easily scratched and will lose their non-stick properties over time.

5, Aluminum…Aluminum woks are also a poor choice because they do not retain heat very well and are not durable.

 

Bottom. 

Woks are available with either a round bottom or a flat bottom. A round bottom is ideal if you cook on a gas stove, but most of us probably have electric stoves and would be better off choosing a wok with a flat bottom.

That being said, most professional chefs would say to buy a wok with a round bottom because heat is distributed mostly throughout the bottom of the pan and food can burn easier with a flat bottom wok.

 

Size

While it may be tempting to go our and buy that 6-1/2′ wok that you saw in the last Chinese restaurant you went to, be real.,,you’re creating food for your family, not opening up your own Genghis Grill franchise.

You’re simply looking for the perfect wok for feeding your own family, plus a few uninvited guest perhaps.

Usually the woks that are available range in size from 10″ to 20.”

The size grill that you actually need depends on several criteria—the size of your range, how much you want to cook at one time, the size and power of your burner, what type of food you want to cook, and the type of stove you have, and how many people you are going to be feeding.

Your best wok as far as size would probably be a 14″ wok. Anything larger would be too hard for most of us to maneuver,,,but as the same time your need a wok that is big eniugh ti hold all if your ingredients without overcrowding the pan and making it hard to cook food evenly..

 

Handle

Woks are available with several different types of handles—those with two small handles on each side, those with a long handle on one side and a small handle or loop on the other, those with two loops on each side, and those with long stick on one side and a metal loop on the other.

Since we are choosing a smaller wok, your best bet is a wok with two long stick-style handles.

The long handle makes stirring the ingredients while you are stir-frying much easier.

The short “helper” handle makes lifting wok easier.

 

 

Lid…If you can find a wok with a lid, buy it before any other wok that you might be looking at also…especially if the wok has a clear glass lid. The lid will come in handy for simmering, stewing, braising, and super-heating the sides of the wok to create “wok hay”,,,more on that later also..

 

So now that you know what to look for when shopping for a wok, how about some good online sources, such as…


 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Which Kind of Fry Guy are You?!

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO YOUR NEXT FRY-UP

Recently we talked about the method of cooking called sauteeing, which is a type of frying…but did you know that there are actually several different types of frying…

These include…

Stirfrying

Panfrying

Shallow Frying

Deep Frying

Let’s take a quick look at each of these different methods, before exploring these different methods even further…

——————————————-

1.Sautéing…As we previously learned, sautéing involves cooking small pieces of food over medium-high to high heat until browned on the outside and cooked through, all the while keeping the ingredients moving around in the pan, either by using a wooden spoon or by moving the pan back and forth. This method is typically used for cooking onion and garlic, but can also be used to cook fish, beef, shrimp, and tender vegetables such as mushrooms.

 

2.Stirfrying…Stirfrying is very similar to sauteeing…except stirfrying is typically done in a wok and usually is done before adding any sauce and additional ingredients such as meat and veggies.

 

3. Shallow Frying…Shallow frying is another type of frying, but involves cooking food that has been partly submerged in oil at a high temperature. The main goal in this method is to brown the food. Shallow frying is the method used to make such foods as fried chicken, fritters, and eggplant Parmesan.

 

4. Deep Frying…Deep frying involves completely submerging the food in lots of hot fat or oil and then cooking over high temperature. The main goal of this method is to cook food very quickly.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

This Blog is About Raw Foods and Diabetes…Yet You’re Gonna Tell Me to Fry Something?

Lately I have been debating whether I should go back to the Raw Foods
pyramid and brutally torture its believers by taking a look at the various cooking methods that we can use to violate that tower.

But I have decided that right now learning about all of the different cooking methods at one time would make it much easier in the future as we start looking at ingredients.

That way, if I tell you to saute or to fry something, you will know that there actually is a difference between the two…and what you should be doing…

So let’s look at the next dry cooking method…the one that is the favorite of Southern chefs, not to mention their husbands…

FRYING…

But frying is sacred ground to Southerners…and a scary territory for diabetics.

So let’s first consider why frying foods has gotten such a bad name?

Then let’s find out what we can do about making our fried foods healthier—okay, maybe not the fried Snickers bars and other Texas State Fair icons…

So…exactly why are fried foods bad for you?

Let’s state the obvious…

When foods are fried in oil, that oil is absorbed into every available nook, cranny, and crevice of whatever is being cooked, meaning that deep frying anything in oil will obviously add a lot of calories and way more fat and calories than those same foods had they not been fried…

For example…

  • Wendy’s large baked potato contains 278 calories and 0.4g fat
  • Wendy’s large French fries contains 420 calories and 20g fat

But have you ever realized that all that deep fried greasy food could eventually lead to…

  • Alzheimer’s
  • autoimmune disease
  • cancer
  • hardening of the arteries
  • heart attacks
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels
  • inflammation
  • insulin resistance
  • malfunctioning of the human brain
  • obesity
  • stroke
  • type 2 diabetes

Knowing now that those who eat four to six servings of fried food per week are 39% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who eat it less than once a week may have made a lifestyle change back in our 20’s so that my husband’s not having to now take insulin shots, like almost every Southern male in America.

So not getting on those scales ever again…Almost goes without saying that those who eat fried foods more regularly are most likely to be overweight or obese. In fact, those of us who eat fried food more than four times a week have a 37% greater risk of being overweight or obese than those who eat it less than twice a week.

Another reason to avoid fried foods…Not only can eating fried foods make you gain weight because…well, because, they’re fried foods, and that’s what fried food does to you….but fried foods can also affect the hormones that regulate appetite and fat storage.

Frying Doesn’t Always Have to Mean Nutritional “Mush”

Grabbing fries from the closest drive-thru and chowing down on some “food” that is honestly nothing but “empty calories” that has lost any and all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that its original ingredients may have contained. 

Yet we are learning about the different cooking methods here, and frying is one of the most frequently used cooking method.

So let’s learn to fry not only the “right” way, but a “healthy” way that leaves us with a nutritious and tasteful dish that doesn’t have to be smothered with lots and lots of ketchup.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to De-Funk Your Kitchen—Enhance

Now that you’ve gotten rid of whatever it might have been making your kitchen smell terrible and taken the time to clean out the fridge and shelves from rotten food, it’s time for a more fun thing to do…enhance the odors around your home.

Here are a few ideas…

Air Freshener…Use plug-in air fresheners, stand alone air fresheners, or spray air freshenera.

Air Vents…Clip a car deodorizer to the metal slats of your air vent. As the air blows through the vent, the scent will waft throughout the room

Baking…The aroma of warm baked goods—such as cinnamon rolls or banana bread—will fill the house with a pleasant scent quickly.

Baking Soda…Leaving a box of baking soda open in your fridge actually does absorb any smells in your fridge.

Candles…Candles are almost a given in any room, right? 

Charcoal....Putting a piece or two of charcoal in a bowl in your fridge will absorb smells, just as baking soda does.

Citrus…Collect any orange, lemon or lime peels. Bake them at 350 degrees for a few minutes. When you open the oven door. they will make your kitchen smell wonderful.

Cleaning…Use great smelling products, such as Dr Bronner’s,

Diffusers…Diffusers, both electric diffusers and reed diffusers, can be used along with your favorite essential oils to create a more pleasant smell.

Dryer Sheets..Tape a new dryer sheet to the back of your buffet or china cabinet. Also could stash one where you store your kitchen towels and stuff.

FloorsSoak a cotton ball with something that you really like the smell of…such as your favorite perfume or essential oil. Then drop it into the vacuum cleaner bag. As you do your regular chores, the vacuum will gently release the scent into the room.

Houseplants…Houseplants—such as geraniums, Arabian jasmine, eucalyptus, gardenias, corsage orchids, and Cuban oregano—are not only attractive but also clean the air.

Lights..Before turning your lights on, place a couple drops of vanilla extract on your light bulbs.This will gently spread the scent once you do flip the lights on and make your home smell like fresh-baked cookies.

Sachet…Use scented sachets—little fabric sacks filled with cinnamon sticks, dried lavender, dried herbs, potpourri, or scented rice—to give your drawers a more pleasant, yet natural, aroma.

Simmer…Another easy way to freshen the air would be a “simmer pot.”

To do this, fill a small pan with a cup or two of water. Next add what you are going to simmer. Bring to a boil for a few minutes. Then let simmer for a few hours on your back stove eye, adding more water as needed. As the water heats, the scent will be permeated throughout your kitchen and house.

Some good ideas as to what to simmer include…

  • a drop or two of essential oil
  • a handful of cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • citrus slices
  • fresh herbs—such as lavender or mint
  • lemon and orange peels
  • vanilla

Tea…Make a pot of homemade chai tea by first boiling 3C water with 20 cardamom pods, 15 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1Tbsp ginger. Simmer 5 min. Add 3 tea bags. Brew and then strain. Finally add milk and sugar as needed.

Vinegar… Set a small bowl of vinegar on your counter whenever you are cooking something with a definite odor, such as fish…honestly think that I’d rather smell the fish than the vinegar though right?

Wreaths….Buy or make your own kitchen wreath using fresh herbs…such as this wreath Creek Side Farms.