Zhejiang cuisine tends to be the simplest of all Chinese regional cuisines.
The focus of Zhejiang cuisine seems to be simplicity. The people of the region focus more on serving fresh seasonal produce served crispy, perhaps even raw or almost raw…much like Japanese food….fresh seafood…and
Zhejiang cuisine tends to be fresh, soft, and smooth with a mellow fragrance.,.,, with a good balance between saltiness and umami
Zhejiang cuisine uses a wide variety of cooking methods—including braising, sautéing, stewing, steaming, and deep-frying.
As far as meat, Zhejiang cuisins uses many different varieties of fresh seafood and freshwater fish caught from local rivers.
As far as sauce, Zhejiang cuisine tends to focus on simple marinades—such as a simple mixture of vinegar and sugar—instead of the more complicated sauces and marinades found in other Chinese regional cuisines.
As far as spices, Zhejiang cuisine tends to be lightly seasoned and veer on the salty side..
Examples of foods that you might find include…
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…
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…
- Chongqing Chicken…China Sichuan Food
- Kung Pao Chicken,,,Food Nettworik
- Twice Cooked Pork…Red House Spice
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
- cooking methods
- cooking techniques
- eating habits
- geography, such as the riverlands of the South and mountain ranges of the North
- staple crops grown in each specific region
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…
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…
‘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
- Make sure your wok is very hot before adding your ingredients. There should actually be smoke rising from it.
- Now add oil to the pan before adding your ingredients.
- Be sure to spread the ingredients evenly and along the sides of the pan
- As your ingredients are cooking, only stir them as needed to prevent burning. while cooking.
- 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.
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…
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…
- 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…
- autoimmune disease
- hardening of the arteries
- heart attacks
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol levels
- insulin resistance
- malfunctioning of the human brain
- 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.
Now that you have finished sauteeing whatever it is that you are sauteeing, you will find that your skillet has little bits of brown stuff still stuck to the bottom.
Your first thought as you gaze at this skillet that you dread cleaning is that you now have to get out a Brillo and clean the darn thing…all the time wondering if you’re gonna scratch the new skillet that you just forked over how much for…
There is a way not only to make cleaning this skillet easier, but also to use these bits to make your food taste even better.
What you find stuck on your skillet is actually a mixture of browned sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and rendered fat that have collected on the bottom of the pan.
This caramelized “mess,” which the French call sucs, is actually packed with flavor and will only require some sort of liquid—such as wine, stock, or juice—to become something quite delicious.
How do I do that?
The way that you make this stuff actually taste good, not to mention cleaning your skillet is deglazing.
Deglazing transforms this messy residue into a delicious gravy or sauce that can be served with the food that you finished sauteeing or used to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies.
This will add an additional rich flavour to the dish, capture the food’s flavor that is lost during cooking, and tenderize the foods that have so often become dry as you have sautéed them.
So how do you deglaze?
First transfer whatever you have just cooked onto a platter and cover so that it stays warm while you are deglazing the skillet.
Next add a liquid—such as wine, beer, stock, wine, juice, or both—and any desired fresh herbs to the hot pan. Add enough liquid to make twice the amount of sauce you want to make.
The flavor of your sauce or gravy will ultimately be determined by the following three things…
- the key ingredient
- the liquid used for deglazing
- any flavoring or finishing ingredients that you add—such as aromatics, herbs, or butter
Raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, and gently boil gently until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and make them dissolve into the sauce.
Cook until the there seems to be half as much liquid as you started with.
Taste the sauce until you get the flavor that you like.
You could also add a tablespoon of whipping cream, olive oil, or butter to add even more flavor, give it a velvety texture, and thicken the sauce.
And there you go—not only a cleaner skillet that will be easier to wash, but also a delicious something extra to serve with whatever you had just sautéed…
- The next step in our learning how to saute food is choosing which oil we would like to cook in.
- There are at least a dozen choices out there…each of which not only affects the final taste of your food, but also your health—even more so as a diabetic.
- Let’s take a look at some of these choices, starting with the most commonly used—or at least the most commonly used cooking oil in my own house—olive oil.
- Most of us think that about huge bottle of olive oil that we hide under the sink with the other bottles—such as rum and vodka—that we might want to have close at hand.
- And most of us think that olive oil is olive oil—never having any variety as far as flavor–ranging in flavor from fruity to peppery,, viscosity, and color.
- Some of the olive oils found around the world that can make you change your mind about all olive oil’s tasting the same include…
- Badia, ..a great, inexpensive well-rounded olive oil from Spain, found in many supermarkets.
- Ravida…a brightly-colored green Italian olive oil with a pungent taste that stands up well to the robust flavor of Sicilian cooking
- Terra Medi…a smooth, well-rounded, and not too heavy olibr oil from Greece
- Unió…a mild and fruity olive oil from Spain with a soft peppery finish
- Olive oil is considered by many to be the healthiest of all the cooking oils, mainly for helping to reduce the risks of heart-related conditions.
- As far as diabetics are concerned, olive oil is a good choice because olive oil helps improve the sensitivity of the body towards insulin.
- Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats.
Almond Oil…Another cooking oil that can be used to saute your foods is almond oil.
Nutrients...Almond oil is not only a good source of monounsaturated fats, but also a rich source of nutrients—including potassium, zinc, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.
- can help you lose weight and prevent weight gain
- can reduce your risk of colon cancer.
- decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease
- helps fight inflammation in the body
- helps naturally regulate blood sugar levels
- keeps you feeling full, which helps to prevent snacking and overeating
- may also work as a natural laxative, relieving constipation and IBS
- naturally reduces cholesterol levels
- promotes the flow of oxygen and nutrients through the blood
- reduces the risk of heart disease