China, On The Tip Of The Tongue

dcarch7May 22, 2012

I was invited to dinner last weekend, we watched part of the following programs on youtube. Very well made documentaries. It is worthwhile for you to watch these with someone who can explain them to you because they are in Chinese only:

I used Google Translate and Translated the Chinese titles of the episodes to give you an idea of each of the episodes.

Main title of the series - China, On The Tip Of The Tongue

Episode #1 - A Gift Of Nature

Episode #2 - The Story Of The Staple Food

Episode #3 - Transformation Of Inspiration

Episode #4 - The Taste Of Time

Episode #5 - Kitchen Secrets

Episode #6 - Flavors Of The Harmonic

Episode #7 - to be published


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I can see how watching with someone who could translate would improve the experience.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 8:18PM
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I've never seen a Chinese documentary- but I have seen God of Cookery. And it is AWESOME.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:16AM
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    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:38PM
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Loved it and the English subtitles.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:46PM
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I am very interested in this major cooking style which does not use cream, butter, or cheese.

A cooking style which does not make 1/3 of the population obese.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 3:53PM
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Ah, cream, butter or cheese, that's true.

They use a lot of fat, oil, and a HUGE amount of salt. And a lot of Chinese sauces depend upon canned or jarred ingredients, where not only salt but ingredient quality can be highly suspect, given China's extremely poor record of food inspection.

Fatty meats are highly prized. Many Chinese still living can tell you about first-hand experience with famine. Having a "Buddha belly" is a sign of prosperity, and babies should always be plump, because the 1-month old birthday party is taken seriously - a lot of babies traditionally never made it that far.

Give most Asians half a chance, and they'll dump their traditional diet for a Western diet in a flash. At every Chinese household party I've ever been to in the San Francisco Bay Area, what people make is 90% meat, 8% starch and 2% vegetables.

Serving 90% vegetables/10% meat to a guest would make you lose face. When Asians can afford meat, they buy as much as they can.

And "ah so," BTW, is a Japanese expression. Don't ever use it to a Chinese, because they seriously hate the Japanese and will never forgive them for the atrocities committed during the Sino-Japanese war. I had some major familial obstacles to overcome, being a JapAm married to a Chinese-Portugese whose parents remember having to flee Shanghai because of the Japanese invasion.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 5:14PM
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Thanks jkmom. It's wonderful to hear from someone who "knows" the various mores and food customs of the Chinese and Japanese people....and better still to have you document why you know!
An American, Japanese, Chinese, Portugese family eh? I'll bet your children are beautiful!!!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 6:38PM
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jkom - Too bad you weren't around when Allied Old English branded their "Ah-So" line of "Chinese Style" sauces. OOPS!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Ah-So

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 7:02PM
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"Have you eaten yet?" is still a common greeting in China today, not "Hello" or "How are you?"

I was told this; in old China, people used to hang a slab of pork fat near their front door. Before they go out, they would smear pork fat on their faces to show off that they could afford eating meat.

In old China Having enough to eat had been a major issue for the general public and having meat was a very infrequent treat.

I am not a Sino anthropologist, my very limited knowledge of Chinese eating habits is mostly from friends, youtube, and my observations from more than 10 trips traveling in various parts of China, recently and long time ago.

My impression is the following:

They like meat when they entertain and when they go out to eat, but everyday cooking for the home meat is not the major thing. They eat much more vegetables than us.

They like salt just like us, but mostly the older generation. Modern China is aware of the problems of excessive salt intake.

I have a good group of Chinese friends. I don't know one single family whose everyday meals are Western style meals. They do once in awhile order pizza, and lunch in MacDonald's.

They like fat, we all do, it's human nature, but in everyday food fat is not a major component in cooking, especially the younger generation. Most of the cooking recipes now on TV shows here I see involve a stick of butter, a cup of cream then top with a generous mountain of shredded cheese. No China does not have our obesity and other health problems. Yes, they will get there someday perhaps.

With the various food safety issues, they still live longer than us.

My point is I am only interested in their healthy part of the cooking which does not use cream, butter and cheese.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 9:45PM
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Rarely post over here but just happened to see this thread. DH has been cooking traditional authentic Chinese for us for 41 yrs. The wok has some serious was a gift when we married in 1971. We had our Meile deep fat fryer, 36" Caldera gas with wok burner and 1400 cfm 54" wide hood put in over 6 yrs ago so he could " go to town" with his wonderful cuisine.

We eat his stir fry about 4 -5 x a week. We use 1/4# meat...equiv. 1 boneless pork chop or 1/2 of a whole boneless chicken breast for the 2 of us . We cook 1 c rice in the rice cooker. We have enough left overs for 1 person the next day for lunch ...2 if he makes a fried rice dish and adds an egg. There are SO many misconceptions about "real " Chinese cuisine . No one other than the folks at our local Oriental grocery or the graduate students at the U have any idea how to prepare a real meal . Everyone uses WAY too much meat...too few vegetables...wrong vegetables...wrong sauces...wrong spices...never use enough fresh ginger root...or no ginger root...add it and the garlic at the wrong time...I could go on and on. DH needs to teach classes :)

I would be glad to pass along tips and suggest some better than avg. cook books. Here are a couple pics...

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 10:22PM
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Trailrunner, or anyone else for the matter, I would love some pointers to good Asian cookbooks or some of your favorite recipes!

My wonderful new range has a wok ring and high powered burner, and I've been enjoying using it for stir fry dishes the past few weeks, especially as the greens from my garden are really producing just now. I don't generally follow a recipe, just stir fry lots of veggies, a little meat, lots of ginger and garlic, and add some other seasoning ingredients -- sesame oil, or orange juice, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, etc.

It tastes delish but I'd love to be more authentic, however, finding reliable cookbooks has been challenging in rural Maine and I don't like buying cookbooks online. And my DH is allergic/food intolerant of mushrooms.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:38AM
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Trailrunner, you have a very nice setup for stir frying, judging from the lack of splatter on the backwall, the exhaust system seem to work very well for stir frying. I wish you would share more of your cooking and cooking tips here.

Here is one of my tips:

For those of you who do not have a good exhaust system/hood, you can get a large silicone bake mat and hang it behind the burner to protect the wall. After the mat gets greasy, it is very easy to wash it off.

Mabeldingeldine, If your DH likes mushrooms but allergic to them, perhap you can have him try a little dried mushrooms? Maybe that would be OK for him? There are many kinds of dried mushrooms. They are great in many recipes.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:59AM
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Hey Mabel and dcarch. DH doesn't use a recipe as such either. He reads a lot and absorbs ideas and then closes the book and utilizes what he feels will work. He is a master of sauces. He rarely uses anything from a bottle or jar. One ingredient that is necessary is black vinegar. We have about 5 kinds ! They all taste differently and add a note to a dish that is not possible to duplicate. Another ingredient for his spicy dishes are the tiny pickled Szechuan red chilies. They are incredibly good and add a distinct piquancy to a dish. He also uses a tiny fermented black bean that he soaks and minces with cabbage and very favorite dish. Another is pickled radish wonderful with pork also. A couple things he always does is use peanut oil as it won't burn and you must use enough to get the appropriate smoky taste and then you can drain it off in a sieve after cooking but before combining with the other ingredients. Also having the wok as hot as you can possibly get it. One thing he has done is to cook over hot charcoal in the grill. He sets the wok on the bed of coals. We have never had such perfect stir fry as when he does that :)

Garlic and ginger are 2 things that the cookbooks always do wrong. They over cook them and also too hot so they burn/char and have a bitter flavor. He adds 1/2 of these and just barely fries them..only to bring out the fragrance. Then the other half goes in the dish with the sauce and is heated through/finished and thus not over-cooked. This way you get much more nuance.

Key to many dishes is the stock. Our son is a professional chef . He has what he calls wonderfulness ! We have adopted this and find that it adds so much to a dish and you only need a few spoonful. We only make chicken but you can do it with any meat/poultry. He has duck and lamb and beef in his freezer.

Roast a chicken and take all the bones and skin after serving and place them in a pot with onion/celery/carrot . Cook down for about 1 hr. Don't need to do it very long. Don't put in salt until ready to use as it can get to concentrated and ruins a dish. Now is the important part. Every single time you roast a chicken and are ready to cook the bones/skin...put them in your already prepared wonderfulness that you have stored in the freezer. Every time you reuse it the added richness makes it more wonderful !! DS has some beef stock that has been going for about 5 years. It is like a sourdough starter. You never use it all and you always add to it. You add more water to it so the bones are covered and add more vegetables. Let it cook one down hard on the bones/vegetables and then simmer the broth some more to condense. Filter it a couple times through cheesecloth and you are good to go.

As for books we have a couple that he gets more ideas from these past few years than any others. Fuchsia Dunlop's books...Revolutionary Chinese and Land of Plenty also Yan Kit's Classic Chinese .Delf's Good Food of Szechwan also.

As to our exhaust set up. It is fantastic. I researched for a year. It is a Tradewind liner in a custom wood surround. It is mounted 33" from the countertop. It is the exact width of the cooking area....12" fryer+6" space+36" gas Caldera cooktop. = 54". Due to the efficiency of the hood and remote 1400 cfm blower we didn't need to have the liner extend beyond the area. We use it for everything turning it on 5-10 min before we start to cook and letting it run the same after to make sure all the HOGS get out :) Heat, grease,steam and odors. You can't even tell we have cooked anything when we are done. It is amazing. We have an 1890 home so didn't need any makeup air. In fact we close the doors coming into the kitchen and make sure the windows are closed or the door shut so that it draws even better. It is a miracle of ventilation. Our open shelves/wood hood and wall are always clean. After over 6 years I never ever have to scrub anything. Only DH's splashes ! He loves to fling things into the wok and flash his spoon :)

I am leaving for 3 months to bicycle across Canada with a friend. When I get back hopefully I will have time to get over to this forum. I used to come here years ago but can't keep up with so much else going on.

My biggest thing is Wild Yeast baking of sourdough breads. My starter that I grew is over 3 years old I make breads once a week. I would love to share the ins/outs of that with anyone that is interested.

Hope this gets you off to a good start.

Dcarch...I looked at your pics ..wowza !! You will be interested I am sure in my DS's restaurant. It is The Red Hen in Lexington VA. He is the new Trailblazer 2012 Small Town Chef for Cooking Light Magazine. He will have a big spread featuring his food in the November issue. He was also just featured in a beautiful pictorial interview in Edible Blue Ridge. His big thing is charcuterie. He is really getting a lot of attention. There is one typo/mis-quote in the article...on ph...otherwise it is all accurate. Hope you enjoy. c

Here is a link that might be useful: Charcuterie

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:59PM
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You and your DH are amazing. Where have you been all this time? Please post more. We have a lot to learn from you!

Black vinegar - I use a sweet type of black vinegar. It is almost like balsamic.

Black beans, fermented - I use that a lot. I also make that into a sauce.

Black garlic - Have you tried black garlic? I make my own because it is kind of expensive.

Black fermented olives - I am sure you have used them. Very good to make into a paste.

Szechuan red chilies - I use very little. I am not into very hot stuff.

Pickled radish - I like to use it to make omelette.

A beautiful green delicious sauce can be made with scallions, ginger, olive oil and fish sauce, all in a coffee grinder to blend into a paste.

Stock - I can spend hours talking stock with you guys.

"-----Roast a chicken and take all the bones and skin------"

I will share with you how I can removed all the bones from a chicken, every bone including the wing bones, without cutting open the chicken.

"----I am leaving for 3 months to bicycle across Canada with a friend. When I get back hopefully I will have time to get over to this forum. I used to come here years ago but can't keep up with so much else going on. ----"

Sounds like an incredible trip. Please come back and share more of your cooking with us.

"--My biggest thing is Wild Yeast baking of sourdough breads. My starter that I grew is over 3 years old I make breads once a week. I would love to share the ins/outs of that with anyone that is interested.--- "

There are many bakers in this forum. I bake sometimes.

"--Dcarch...I looked at your pics ..wowza !! You will be interested I am sure in my DS's restaurant. It is The Red Hen in Lexington VA. He is the new Trailblazer 2012 Small Town Chef for Cooking Light Magazine. ---"

Thanks. I have been to Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton, but never been to Lexington. Sounds like you DS is doing great. It would be nice to know more about him. That is a very nice article about him in that publication.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 8:35PM
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Hey ...I usually don't post here. Was on Kitchens for a long time and then Home Deco. Now not so much. You are so kind to post back . DS is really gifted. He has so much more that he wants to do. My Dad was a butcher in the 40's-50's and DS got to talk to him some but neither had any idea to what extent DS was going to move forward with this...really a shame. DS has his knives and an apron.

If you explore a bit you will find a lot of different black vinegars. Each is very different. We have one that tastes like coca-cola and another like 5 spice powder. We love them all. Have never had black garlic and will look in to that for sure. We love hot !! But not so hot that it is painful as that seems to disguise the flavor. The Thai chilies are wonderful. Really. Look for them in a jar. We left ours in VA this week so will have to get more..will get the info for you. One in a dish...finely minced w/o seeds or else leave it whole and pull it out after dish is cooked. Wonderful !!

Try the radish in the pork is sublime.

DH rarely uses our fish sauce as I get so queasy !! Haha...your blend sounds great though. Will have to suggest to him. What do you use it on ?

I would love to see that boning of a chicken !! I am pretty sure DS does that too.

He attended NECI and that is where he met his wife. She is a pastry chef with him and the manager...of late the new baby is center stage :)

I do a couple month long tour every year. Last yr was Key West to Bar Harbor and the year before was St Augustine to San Diego. I have plans to do Cuba in January and Budapest to Amsterdam in May 2013. It is a great way to taste the 10 mph.

The bread baking on this forum is very different than what I do. so many folks have gotten away from bread and gluten. We eat a lot !! It is my main stay for energy. I have baked all my own since the early 70's. Stopped using commercial yeast when I learned about the wild yeast. I go on Wild Yeast's blog and also The Fresh Loaf for info . if you are interested.

If you get to Lexington please do make a reservation and tell DS I "sent " you. There are a lot of GW folks that he has welcomed in the past 1 1/2 yrs that he has been there. We are hoping for more great things from him.

Have enjoyed the chat . Look forward to sharing more. I leave June 1 so not much more time. Going form VIctoria BC to St Johns NFL. We do 60 miles a day more or every night and carry all we need to cook etc. Usually eat out one meal a day. Need about 7000 cal a day so it is a lot of food !! A real challenge. A pint of ice cream every day most days :) Not a hardship. c

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 10:30PM
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WOW, I just love these forums! So many amazing people with interesting things to share!

Trailrunner, your trip sounds fantastic! MY DH and I are doing a x-country car-camping trip this summer, but yours is fantastic! Enjoy and good luck!

dcarch and Trailrunner, I will have to look for some of the ingredients you mentioned on our trip. While I dearly love Maine, finding good ethnic ingredients is till a challenge, at least north of Portland!

What is black garlic? It it also a fermented product?

So much to learn!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:13AM
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That is really interesting. I wish I was young again.
I used to do a LOT of biking when I was a pup, and
wish my bones would let me do it again. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:07PM
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Please do post more in the future. Your thoughts and experiences will add a lot to this forum.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 6:04PM
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lb...have you thought of a recumbent bike ? There are a LOT of folks in their 70's and 80's out there biking. My cycling partner just turned 74 ! Last year after we did Key West to Bar Harbor ME ( waving to Mabel LOL ) he climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. A couple other folks in the ride were in their late 60's early 70's too. I am 61 and have to work to keep up with the older guys LOL ! are sweet ! Don't know how much I have to add to the forum. I do love my bread baking and I have some things I do well. Nothing like my son though ! WIll see you all when I get back . Hope to have some great pics of food that I try. Lobster on PEI is a must :) c

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Well,As a traditional chinese i was also shock by this documentary. living abroad make me missing of those delicious dishes a lot.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 2:29PM
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Mabel, Sorry I did not see your question about black garlic until now.

Black garlic is regular garlic transformed into a new ingredient using a high heat method. No chemicals are used.

Black garlic is completely different than regular garlic in taste, texture and color.

See the link below for more information.

I will make a dish with black garlic for you tomorrow.


Here is a link that might be useful: black magic

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 12:14AM
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One of the newest producers of black garlic is located here in the US, in Hayward, CA.

And much as I enjoy stir-frying, it's only one of many, many techniques in Chinese cooking. A crystal-cooked, freshly-killed chicken beats a stir-fry any day, IMHO. My DH goes wild for the pressed duck with lard-infused sticky rice cakes, and also the "three steamed eggs" dish: regular, salted, and 1000 yr old.

Chinese braises and casserole dishes have spread throughout Asia. Gravy and rice go together like mac'n'cheese, LOL.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:54PM
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