Asian cuisine is probably my least favorite, so why has this Pro-Chef class turned out to be my favorite so far?
It isn’t the taste or texture of Asian food; it’s because the MSG gives me headaches. Therefore, I thought… Asian food = headache. But today we experienced some great recipes that really turned my uneducated opinion around. I can cook Asian cuisine and avoid MSG.
You can’t discuss Chinese and Japanese cuisine without talking about rice. It is the focal point of every meal, and the blank canvas on which all other foods are created.
- Asia alone produces and consumes 90% of the world’s rice.
- Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop.
- For millions of people, rice is 3/4 their total diet.
- There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that grow on every continent except Antarctica.
- In several Asian languages the words for ‘food’ and ‘rice’ are identical.
The other main staple in Asian cooking is soybeans. Some of the products made from these beans are; soy sauce, miso, tofu, bean curd and tempeh.
Chef May Parish, our teacher from the Pro 1 Chef Course, taught this week’s class. She began the class by showing us how to dry stir-fry. She demonstrated by making Dry Fried Chinese Longbeans. This dish is from the Szechuan region in China and is spicy. I was won over with this fabulous tasting dish.
Dry Fried Long Beans – Gan Bian Si Ji Dou
My assignment was to partner with fellow student, Susy to make Gyoza – Japanese Potstickers. I was relieved to find out she has made them before; until she confessed she had never folded and sealed them by hand. Susi cheats by using a potsticker maker. After making these by hand, I am with her on that one.
We started by mincing all of our ingredients. Then we place a scant teaspoon of mixture into a Gyoza skin.
Note: Most chain grocery stores carry the “Dynasty Gyoza/Potsticker Wrappers”. Wonton wrapper can be used as a substitute.
Then came the hard part, making our folds look as good as Chef May’s. We all gave it a go and tried our best. It got easier with each one we made. Click here for a video demo on how to fold the potsticker.
This is what it should look like. After browning the bottoms, we added water and a lid, and let them steam for 5 minutes.
Rona was assigned to make Tonkatsu (a deep fried breaded pork cutlet). I couldn’t help but laugh. (Sorry Rona) It isn’t exactly what this health & fitness guru/low fat cookbook author/all around good Jewish girl is looking to add to her repertoire. She can put this with her recipe for Weiner Schnitzel that she learned to make in Pro 1. I know she will be re-engineering it with chicken and baking it in the oven. Funny thing, we both thought it was very good.
Click here to get the recipe from Rona.
We also got to try our hand at making Steamed Pork Buns and Sushi.
I put fresh tuna, avocado and cucumber in mine…. Yum!
Here are some of the other dishes we made.
Assorted Sushi & Ma Po Tofu – a Szechuan dish of tofu in a spicy
chili and bean-based sauce
Beef Chow Fun – a Cantonese dish of beef, noodles and Chinese broccoli in a black bean-garlic sauce; & Dan Dan Mien – Beijing Noodles with Pork and Bean Sauce
Potstickers are easier to make that I had originally thought. You can vary the ingredients to your taste.
- ¼ head Napa cabbage, chopped
- ½ pound ground pork or turkey
- 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Mirin
- 4 green onions, minced
- 1 tablespoons grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek Chili Sauce (optional)
- ¼ cup hot water
- 1 package Gyoza skins
- Cook cabbage in a small amount of boiling salted water until tender. Squeeze out liquid and mince fine. Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, Mirin, pork, green onion, ginger, mushroom, and cabbage. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
- Place a scant teaspoon of mixture on each gyoza skin. Moisten edges with cornstarch and water, fold over and seal. Crimp edges with a fork or fingers.
- Cover bottom of a large non-stick skillet with oil. Brown the gyoza over medium heat turning frequently. Add ⅛ c water to skillet- let, cover and steam on low heat about 5 minutes. Keep pan moving to prevent sticking. Remove cover, raise heat and cook for 2 minutes until crisp.
- Place sauce on table in small individual bowls.
Tip of the Week
Chef May showed us how to take a box grater and wrap it in plastic wrap on the small grate. Grate your ginger over the plastic wrap.
The results are a wonderful paste with no fibers or plastic bits.
I love that I can make my own Asian food to cut down use of MSG. I need to read the label of any processed product. MSG (monosodium glutamate) can come under many names and sources. Here are only a few to watch out for: monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate, bouillon, broth stock or malt extract. Click here for a comprehensive list.
I am so glad I was able re-experience Asian cuisine in a positive light, and despite my uneducated opinion.
Confucius say, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
Cathy say, “If you don’t know the extent of your ignorance, ask anyone around you.”
…and then she paused for thought.