Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pacific Rim, Week 6: Chinese 5

The last week of Chinese food! Next week, we work on Thai concepts. Chinese has been fun. I do wish we'd done more types of seafood in addition to the different kinds of shrimp we used, as well as more vegetable dishes. We worked the wok a lot, but didn't do very much steaming. We definitely practiced techniques like velveting, double frying, and stir-frying. This week, everyone slid into their rhythms really quickly, and we were enjoying dinner earlier than in previous weeks. I think I'm ready to move on, though--while everything tasted fine, I wasn't terribly enthusiastic about eating.

S's plate, clockwise from lemon rice: Honeyed walnut shrimp, Dan Dan noodles, Moo shoo (sic) beef with Chinese pancake, beef and broccoli, red sauce wonton, with sweet and sour pork in center.
Pacific Rim: Week 6



My plate, clockwise from Moo shoo beef with Chinese pancake: red sauce wontons, honey walnut shrimp, lemon rice, New Year's sweet cookies, sweet and sour pork, beef and broccoli, wokked barbecue pork, with Dan Dan noodles in the center.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Moo shoo beef--tasty and tender. Maybe I'm crazy or have an overactive imagination, but Chinese food often seems to taste what color it is. For example, this tasted brown--rich, earthy, deep, and heavy.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Chinese brown sauce with um pretty sriracha hearts--we smeared this on our Chinese pancakes before piling them with the moo shoo. Chef did an imitation of Chris Rock in Rush Hour, looking for mu shu.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Moo shoo beef with Chinese pancakes. The pancakes were bought prepared.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Lemon Basmati rice (made with jasmine rice)--simple, but delicious, especially with the heavy sauces that many of these dishes had.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Honey walnut shrimp--the candied walnuts reminded me of turtle brownies. I've had this dish before, but the walnuts were more pralined.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Red sauce wontons. The sauce wasn't really red, but it was tasty--mostly soy sauce with a dash of vinegar and chili sauce. The wontons were filled with pork--pretty standard fare.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Dan Dan noodles--Good flavor, but the noodles sort of clumped together into "noodle cake." Personally, I would've oiled the noodles a bit to prevent the clumping. Those are chicken bits in the sauce.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Sweet and sour pork. I've never been a fan of the pineapple in this dish, and the sauce was pretty sweet and sticky like it should be (not my thing), but the pork itself had a good taste and texture to it.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Wokked barbecue pork--This was a great dish. It doesn't take long to roast pork tenderloin, and in even less time, you have a great stir-fry with a slightly sweet, tangy sauce.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Beef and broccoli. Needed more broccoli (specifically my bad, since I chopped it up for this dish), but the taste was awesome.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Sizzling rice soup. I love the crater-moon look of lotus root floating around down there.
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Rice cakes for the sizzling rice soup. Chef bought these already made (because other classes kept tossing the drying rice for his rice cakes out). When you throw these into the soup, they sizzle up, soften up, then, if you really let it sit awhile (like overnight in your fridge), it gets congee-like. I'm a congee fan. =)
Pacific Rim: Week 6

New Year's Sweet Cookies. I loved almond cookies before, and they're ten times better homemade. I'd never seen them with the sesame seeds. I continue to be surprised at how little I've tasted the sesame specifically--just the low notes of a toasty, nutty flavor, instead!
Pacific Rim: Week 6

Notes:

There are several ways to season a wok. In class, I continue to oil and lightly salt it, spreading it all around before putting it on the heat, you can also dip some oil into the wok, heat it, and then spread it around. Some of my classmates like to heat the wok up first, then pour the oil in to heat it, then spreading it around. Personally, at home, I tend to season it after cooking with it and cleaning it, then just pouring oil in it and heating it to cook with. Ultimately, you want a nonstick surface so you can toss stuff around without it burning to the wok's surface.

As I said with those noodles, I would recommend oiling them up a bit before service, not to mention not cooking them until right before service. I wasn't watching, but I wonder if there may have been an issue with using too small a pot to cook the noodles in--too small a pot means too much gluey starch floating around to stick the noodles together.

With all these beef dishes, it's good to remember to slice all meat, especially beef, very thinly. It will cook faster and more uniformly, retaining it's tender tender, oh-so-tender texture. You should also cut them so their "chopstick size"--easy to handle with chopsticks. In other words, you don't want to try to serve a huge hunk of meat to a diner without a steak knife.

Like many soups, the sizzling rice soup tasted better after sitting in the fridge awhile. However, the seafood was a bit chewy. I'd cook the soup early, then the seafood before service. If you cook the soup with a shrimp stock, then you can add the seafood to cook while reheating without sacrificing the yummy shrimpy flavor.

I have to admit that one of my favorite tips taken away from this week came from seeing the cookies served in a large steamer basket lined with parchment paper--one of the easiest and prettiest presentation ideas I've seen in a while.

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