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Brave New World of Food

My new Szechuan cookbook, Land of Plenty, arrived yesterday, so today I did a little reading, followed by a little shopping.

With few exceptions, the list of pantry staples for Szechuan cooking consists of things I've never heard of. I roamed the spice, sauce, and condiment aisles of Fubonn peering at cans, jars and packets. I came home with perhaps three-quarters of the things on the list, many of them involving chiles in various states of ferment or desiccation.

Here's my plan: find five recipes that together would compose a full meal (whatever the Szechuan version of "from soup to nuts" is) , then systematically learn how to make each one--preferably with taste-testin' friends and family to help me hone my skills.

So, a poll.

Poll #1016904 Cooking

What should I learn to cook first?

Mr. Lai's Glutinous Rice Balls with Sesame Stuffing
Tea-Smoked Duck
Rabbit with Peanuts in Hot Bean Sauce
Strange-Flavor Chicken
Steamed Buns with Spicy Bean Sprout Stuffing
Traditional Dan-Dan Noodles
Hot and Sour Soup
Chicken Soup with Pickled Mustard Greens
ock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd (Ma Po Do Fu)
Lotus Root in Sweet and Sour Sauce


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised no one mentioned the Dan Dan Noodles or the chicken soup, because they're fast and easy. I voted for the ma-po tofu because it's fairly simple and it's a main dish with just some rice. I wouldn't bother with the glutinous rice balls, too fiddly for too little result. And you can improvise a smoker for the duck, but you'll be lucky if the curtains don't smell like smoked duck for the next eon or so.
Jul. 7th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
Wow, you sound like you've done these a time or two! I don't have curtains, but I know what you mean about the smoke. Maybe I could figure out an outdoor arrangement for the smoker. I'm hoping to learn several quick-and-easy items that I can throw together for solo dining (my norm), and also one or two more elaborate show-off things.

Mostly, I hope to get a more natural feel for the unfamiliar ingredients. Cooking and language have a quite a bit in common--learning new forms is very mind-expanding.
Jul. 8th, 2007 12:30 am (UTC)
I just picked the ones that sounded especially good. :)
Jul. 8th, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
Hee! Me too. Wonder what I've gotten myself into.
Jul. 8th, 2007 04:08 am (UTC)
I love your icon!
Jul. 8th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC)
I picked what I imagined to be likely vegetarian recipes. Are we going to get pics and stories as you go?
Jul. 8th, 2007 04:01 pm (UTC)
I did a bunch of prep work last night, and I'll tell you what--this type of cooking and cameras do not go together. Too much messy prep work.

The cookbook I'm using has quite a few tofu recipes and some vegetable dishes that could be combined into a nice vegetarian meal.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 8th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
It is in the works right nowI'll report back at the end of the day.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 8th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
I feel sure you'll appreciate my frustration when I tell you that that icon is a photograph of the Shun brand carbon-steel cleaver, considered one of the best knives in the world, which I was seriously considering saving up for until I noticed the fine print on one cooks' supply website: "This knife is suitable for right-handed use only."

::a few minutes later::

Okay...A bit of googling has shown me that this one indispensable knife for Chinese food preparation does come in a left-handed version. Hee! I guess it'll be one more item that I can tell everyone else in the family not to use.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 9th, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC)
Apparently the blade is honed to a cutting edge only on one side.

It's pricey but not outside the range of most good knives: I fond a left-handed one for $175 or so. That, I can save up for, if I decide this Asian style cooking think is going to become part of my everyday life.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 9th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
Hee! Uma, that's me.

My dad was an avid amateur woodworker, and he gave me a very early appreciation for the importance of sharp tools. Whether I pay $175 or $17.50, I'm still gonna have to get better than I am at honing the dang thing.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 10th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
Keen. Ar-ar-ar.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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