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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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..
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…
- Cooks Standard
- Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen
- Joyce Chen
- Wok Shop
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 we’ve covered all the different steps involved in our first cooking method—sauteeing.
But before we move on to our next cooking method and slowly re-begin our crawl through the raw foods pyramid, I’d like to review the method…by telling you how to caramelize onions…
Caramelizing an onion brings out the natural rich and savory sweetness of the onion and calms down some of its undeniable intensity, sharp spiciness notes, and tear-inducing gases.
By cooking the onions for an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions “caramelize” and you end with an intensely and wonderful flavor.
So what can you do with these “caramelized” onions?
This is a cooking “staple” that adds a depth of flavor to just about anything, such as…
- French onion soup
- grilled cheese sandwiches
- pasta and pasta sauces
Ingredients…Obvously if you are going to caramelize onions, you will need onions…
But there are so many different kinds of onions…which onions should you choose?
Actually we will be talking about onions in the near future as we start moving through the Food Pyramid again.
For now, let’s just use yellow onions. Yellow onions tend to caramelize the most readily and be the most versatile to add to the various dishes that you use them in.
How many onions?
This is totally up to you and how many caramelized onions you think you might need before having to make more… I usually caramelize two to three at a time.
The onions will cook down quite a lot.
Slicing and Dicing…When you are slicing and dicing your onions, you want your cuts to be clean and consistent.
First cut the stem and root ends off of each of the onions.
Next remove the skins and cut the onions in half.
Now cut the onions into thin slices. The onions will naturally separate half-rings. Take time to make sure that your slices are even. If not, some of the onions will be undercooked and some of the other will be burned.
You could also dice the onions, but I think onions “rings” are so much more attractive.
Actually before you start slicing and dicing your onions, you should start heating your pan over medium-low heat. be careful not to turn your heat too high…if you do, the onions will burn.
1 Avocado Oil
- Benefits…Avocado oil promotes healthy cholesterol levels and enhances absorption of some nutrients.
- Nutrition…Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids.
- Use…Avocado oil has a high smoke point and is one of the best oils for high-temperature cooking—such as stir-frying, sautéing, and searing.
2 Canola Oil
- Benefits…Canola oil helps reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and stabilize blood pressure levels, The FDA agrees that 1-1/2Tbsp canola oil each day could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when used instead of saturated fat.
- Nutrition…Canola oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as the alpha-linolenic acid, as well as monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that is considered healthy for diabetics. At the same time, canola oil is low in the unhealthy saturated fat that mostly come from animal products like meat and dairy.
- Uses…Canola oil can be used safely at high temperatures because it has a higher smoke point than most other oils, but doesn’t have as much flavor as some other oils that are available and is not your best choice for certain things such as making your own salad dressing.
3 Coconut Oil
- Benefits…Coconut oil contains minerals and vitamins that serve to lowering triglycerides levels, control levels of bad cholesterol, and help stabilize the blood pressure of the diabetics.
- Nutrition…Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but not the same artery-clogging saturated fat found in red meat. The fat found in coconut oil is harder for the body to convert into stored fat because this fat consists of such a higher amount of medium-chain fatty acids than the normal fat found in hamburgers.
- Use…The American Heart Association warns those with high cholesterol levels to avoid or limit their use of coconut oil because of its saturated fat content. High levels of coconut oil in your daily diet can make your diabetes worse.
- Benefits…As a diabetic, flaxseed oil slows digestion, which in turn helps maintain stable blood glucose levels and improves the sensitivity of the body towards insulin. Flaxseed oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation, a fact that could lower your risk of getting cancer and reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
- Nutrition…Flaxseed oil is a rich source of both fiber and ALA—alpha-linoleic acid—one of three omega-3 fatty acids that your body cannot make on its own.
- Use…Flaxseed oil should not be heated..instead use as a salad dressing or add to smoothies
5 Grape Seed Oil
- Nutrition…this is a rich source of both polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, and is very low in saturated fat
- Use…nutty but mild flavor that can be used for all sorts of cooking and grilling and also works well in salad dressings or drizzled over roasted veggies
6 Rice Bran Oil
- Benefits….Rice bran oil will reduce your levels of bad cholesterol, and so is great for diabetics and those wanting to keep heart disease at bay.
- Nutrition…Rice bran oil is rich in both monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats.
7 Sesame Oil
- Benefits…Sesame oil reduces levels of bad cholesterol and stabilizes blood glucose levels.
- Nutrition…Sesame oil contains monounsaturated fats and is listed as one of the most ” heart-healthy” cooking oils by the American Heart Association.
- Uses…Light sesame oil is often used for stir-frying. Dark sesame oil, on the other hand, is great for making dressings and sauces.
8 Sunflower Oil
- Nutrition…Sesame oil has high levels of the “good” polyunsaturated fats and very low levels of the “bad” saturated fats.
- Uses…Sunflower oil can be used for all cooking methods—such as sauteeing, frying, and roasting,
9 Walnut Oil
- Benefits…Walnut oil helps maintain a good balance of triglycerides, improves the sensitivity of your body towards insulin, and reduces your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.
- Nutrition…Walnut oil is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a good source of polyunsaturated fats.
- Uses…Walnut oil is great for adding a nutty flavor to whatever you are cooking—such as desserts.
- 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