Friday, May 23, 2008

Asian Cuisine - Southern China

Our menu for Southern China had the following dishes on it:
  • Spinach Velvet Soup
  • Char Siu
  • Char Siu Bau
  • Steamed Whole Fish
  • Stir fried squid with bean paste
  • Buddha's Delight
  • Hong Kong Fried Chicken
  • Beef Balls
Spinach Velvet Soup is a chicken stock based soup where cooked spinach is hand minced and added to the stock along with whirled in eggs and an amount of cornstarch as a thickener, and garnished with ham. This week our egg whirling didn't work out very well and the soup was the correct texture but Chef said the flavour was a little mild, otherwise a very good soup.

Char Siu is a cantonese bbq pork, where a Char Siu Bau is a bun containing the bbq pork. The char siu itself is pork butt which is marinated and then roasted while being basted with honey and sesame oil. This is then shredded and mixed with a sauce of shallots and dark soy, and wrapped in a dough to form a bun. The dough is light and fluffy, as well as being sweet. Chef said our final product was very good, the dough was the right texture and the pork was very flavourful. He did comment that the dough thickness on the bottom of the bun was thin. Otherwise, this dish turned out very well.

Steamed whole fish is simply that - a whole fish scaled and cleaned, and then steamed whole. Once finished cooking, the fish is seasoned and has ginger and green onion sauce spread over it, which is then coated with hot oil poured over the fish to release the flavours. While our fish was very attractive going into the oven, it didn't fare so well on the way out due to a temperature-adjustment mishap. However, it was mostly the appearance that had been impacted as the Chef said the fish still had good flavour and texture.

Stir fry squid with bean paste is a dish where squid is cleaned and then scored on a bias, then boiled to create a large surface area for the squid to pick up sauce. It is then combined with a bean paste including fermented black bean paste, chilies, peppers, and onions. This is stir fried together and served immediately. Chef had no particular comments on this dish, it was the right flavour and the squid was a good texture, not overdone.

Buddha's Delight is a tofu and vegetable dish combining the flavours of shiitake mushrooms, cloud ears, and tiger lily buds, along with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, carrots, sui choy... the list goes on. Obviously the point of this dish is to be a delightful vegetarian feast, with all of the ingredients combined in a wok to cook, and then served hot. Again there were no particular comments on our presentation of this dish, the flavour was good and it was what Chef was expecting.

Hong Kong Fried Chicken is a marinated chicken which is then battered and deep fried. It is then topped with fried onions and a red sauce. This was a particular sticking point on this dish, as many people mixed the chicken with the sauce completely which ended up softening the batter and changing the texture of the dish. We served it correctly, with the chicken merely topped with the sauce once cooked. Chef did note that while the flavour on the chicken and the sauce were fantastic, the onions were slightly firm and could have used a little more cook time.

Beef balls are a staple of the well-known Cantonese "dim-sum" menu. This is a mixture of ground beef with seasonings including palm sugar, oyster sauce, rice wine, and dried orange peel. The mixture is then rolled into meatballs approximately 2 inches across. These are steamed until done and served immediately. Chef said that the pork fat included in our dish was cut a little too coarsely, and that while the dish was very flavourful it seemed to taste too much of the beef itself and the seasonings weren't coming through enough.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Asian Cuisine - Western China

Our menu for Western China this week was:
  • Tea smoked quail
  • Sweet and sour cucumbers
  • Stuffed eggplant
  • Kung pao chicken
  • Da dan mian
  • Ma-puo doufu
  • Stir fried long beans
  • Fish flavoured pork shreds
  • Spicy fried beef shreds
Tea smoked quail is a wonderfully flavoured dish served with the Sweet and sour cucumbers. The quail is smoked in a mixture of rice, mandarin peel, cassia bark, jasmine tea, brown sugar, and star anise. Once done, it is wok fried to complete the cooking process. The cucumbers are julienned and tossed in a dressing of chili, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil. Chef commented that our presentation for the salad side was very nice on this dish, while the quail was peculiar as we served 2 on the plate, one halved and the other whole, stacked on each other. While the presentation was slightly off, the flavour was excellent on the quail, as well as on the salad.

Stuffed eggplant is a dish of eggplant sliced almost the whole way through then stuffed with a ground pork mixture containing green onion, ginger, and garlic. Once stuffed, the eggplant is patted with cornstarch and deep fried to give it a crispy outside. Finally, the cooking process is finished by braising the eggplant until it has absorbed the braising liquid, giving it some extra infused flavours. For this dish, Chef was happy with the flavour although he commented that it could have used a little extra time braising or some more braising liquid to get a little more of that flavour in the dish. However, the flavour was generally good and the presentation was nice on this dish.

Kung pao chicken is a spicy chicken dish where the chicken is marinated and then wok fried to cook. Once done, the oil is drained off the pan, chilies are fried in a small remaining amount of oil to activate some of the spice in the oil, and then the chicken is returned to the wok and a sauce is added to coat the chicken. I made this dish extra spicy and Chef was very happy with the flavour and spice on the dish. The presentation was very good as well.

Dan dan mian is a noodle soup dish where the noodles are served on a sauce of soy, rice vinegar, sesame paste, chili and sesame oil. The chicken stock is served in a side bowl to this and is added to the noodle and sauce mixture when ready to eat. Chef was happy with our presentation and our flavour on this dish, with no particular criticisms.

Ma-puo doufu is a tofu and ground pork dish, where the pork is fried in a sauce mixture until nearly done and then the tofu is added. Chef commented that our presentation was nice on this dish and that the flavour was fantastic, exactly what it was supposed to be.

Stir fried long beans is a simple dish of long beans blanched and then stir fried in a garlic, ginger, and rice vinegar sauce. I added some peppers and chili paste to the sauce to bring some heat and extra flavour to the dish which Chef enjoyed. The presentation was simple but worked, and he was overall happy with the dish.

Spicy fried beef shreds is a dish of shredded beef that is marinated and then stir fried. Once brown, the meat is removed and vegetables are cooked with some chilies to give spice, but should not be overcooked to prevent loss of colour and texture. The meat is then combined with the vegetables and they are glazed with sesame oil and served. Chef commented on the good flavour in this dish and was happy with our presentation.

Fish flavoured pork shreds is another dish with a confusing name, as there is absolutely no fish in this dish. However, the combination of ingredients leaves the final product with a slight fish taste. The pork is seasoned in dark soy sauce, then wok fried. Once done, the pork is removed and wood ear mushrooms and water chestnuts are added to the wok to cook briefly, and then green onions, ginger, and garlic. Wine is sizzled in and all ingredients are combined back in the wok along with a sauce mixture which is cooked until thick and then glazed with sesame oil and served. Chef commented again that our flavour was very nice on this dish and that the presentation worked well also.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Asian Cuisine - Eastern China

Our menu this week for Eastern China included:
  • Seaweed Soup
  • Jellyfish and White Radish Salad
  • Pearl Balls
  • Emerald Shrimp
  • Shanghai Sweet & Sour Spareribs
  • Red-Cooked Duck
  • Bean Curd in Oyster Sauce
  • Yangchow Fried Rice
Seaweed soup is just as it sounds, a soup with nori in it. It also has shredded pork as well as egg whirled in just before service. Chef said that our soup turned out with the correct flavour and consistency, and used our soup as a demonstration for incorporating the egg so the strands were well formed.

The Jellyfish and White Radish Salad is a straightforward salad containing sliced jellyfish and daikon in a peanut oil based dressing. The key to this dish is that the jellyfish is incredibly salty and needs to be soaked at least overnight in fresh water to draw out the salt content. Even at this point, the salad may require extra sugar to compensate for the saltiness. Our salad definitely fell into this category and we added quite a bit more sugar to it. However, at service Chef said our flavour ended up being good although some of our jellyfish was cut into strands that were a little long.

Pearl balls is a steamed dish where a pork meatball is rolled in rice. The steaming of the rice causes the rice to stand on end during cooking giving a prickly appearance to the dish. Chef was very happy with our presentation for this dish as the rice appeared just as it should. Also, our flavour was very good on the dish and it's accompanying sauce.

Emerald Shrimp is a dish given its name by the colouring of shrimp an emerald green. Chlorophyll is extracted from spinach and is then applied to shrimp to give it the desired colour. Chef was happy with the colour on our shrimp and said our presentation was in general very good. The flavour itself was also fantastic on this dish.

Shanghai sweet and sour spareribs are just as they sound, a sparerib dish with sweet and sour sauce. The spareribs are marinated and then cooked in 2 phases in a wok - first deep fried and then pan fried to give a brown colour to the ribs. A sauce is then added to the wok and thickened down, and the ribs are served like this. Chef commented that we had cooked the ribs well and that they had become tender enough - if cooked too short or too long, the ribs will be too tough. Our sauce also had good flavour, and while the presentation was fine we served a large amount of ribs on a single plate, too much for a single person.

Red-cooked duck is a dish which uses the "red-cooking" method. This is a common eastern Chinese cooking method where a protein is marinated in dark soy-sauce before cooking. When cooked, the soy sauce gives the protein a red tinge, hence the name. For this dish, the duck is marinated in the dark soy and then braised. The recipe for this dish called for a chili to add some spice, and I added extra chilies for more heat - the end result was spice at a level just right, and Chef was happy with the flavour and the spice in this dish. Our presentation was good for this dish as well.

Bean curd in oyster sauce is a simple dish where bean curd is wok fried to give it some texture and then has a sauce added to the wok to flavour the curd. Our dish had good flavour, although Chef commented that the curd could have used more cooking time to give it more texture. Otherwise, the presentation was good and he was happy with the dish.

Yangchow fried rice is a specialty of the eastern Chinese region, receiving it's name from Yangchow city. The dish requires eight ingredients above and beyond the rice itself, which can generally be adjusted to suit the taste of the cook. We cooked the rice this time with shrimp, pork, duck, sausage, peas, green onion, mushroom, and egg - all cut very small to blend in well with the rice. Chef was happy with the presentation and flavour on this dish from us.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Asian Cuisine - Northern China

Our menu for our Northern China session was as follows:
  • Hot and Sour Soup
  • Jiao Zi
  • Vinegar slipped fish chunks
  • Mo-shu pork
  • Mandarin Pancakes
  • Lamb on rice sticks
  • Stir-fry Bok Choy
The prominent flavour combination for northern Chinese dishes is sour-oily.

Hot and sour soup is often recognized in North America with a red colour - this is a soup which is not prepared in the traditional northern Chinese method. The traditional soup is given spice by adding ground white pepper, which should be felt at the back of the throat when eaten. An important aspect of this soup is the addition of the egg just before service. The soup needs to be an an appropriate temperature so as not to instantly scramble the eggs but instead allow the egg to "whirl" into the soup creating long thin strands. For our soup, the presentation was nice and flavour was good although the mushrooms were slightly underdone and the sour flavour was slightly too subdued. Also, the eggs had not formed the appropriate strands.

Jiao Zi are potstickers or dumplings, filled with a seasoned cabbage and ground pork mixture. These dumplings are served with a vinegar and ginger dipping sauce. Our dumplings were cooked well and presented well, and had a good flavour. Chef commented on the amount of ginger in our dipping sauce saying it was heavy.

Vinegar slipped fish chunks, while perhaps having the least appetizing name on the menu for the day, was one of the most flavourful dishes. This is a dish of marinated fish (the chunks) which is wok fried and then finished ("slipped") in a red rice vinegar sauce. Our fish was cooked well although had broken up during cooking and the pieces were too small for Chef's liking. However, he said our sauce had amazing flavour and was one of the best he had tasted all week.

Mo-shu pork is a shredded pork dish which is served with Mandarin pancakes as a side. The pork is marinated then cooked with bean sprouts, mushrooms, and tiger lillies, and is coated with a sesame-oil and chicken stock based sauce. The mandarin pancakes have their dough prepped and then are rolled into shape in sesame oil in pairs, and then cooked in a pan. The two pancakes cooked together with a layer of oil between allow a crispy and a soft side to be produced on each pancake. For this dish, our flavour and presentation were good, Chef did not have any particular comments regarding it.

Lamb on rice sticks is a marinated lamb dish which is cooked with leek, carrot, and bamboo. The rice sticks are cooked in a hot oil and instantly puff up in size when cooked. Traditional service is to cook the rice sticks and immediately remove them, serving them pure white. I cooked our rice sticks slightly longer to give them a light tan colour, which Chef commented on. I mentioned I had done it intentionally and he pointed out this was not the traditional form of service on this dish. The lamb and sauce were both very good in presentation and Chef was happy with the flavour.

Stir fry bok choy is a quick vegetable dish where bok choy is cooked with garlic and onion and served with a sauce. Chef said our dish had a very nice presentation and the flavour of our sauce was excellent on this dish.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Asian Cuisine - Korean

We made the following dishes for our Korean service:
  • Soo Jeung Kwa
  • Jahb Chae
  • Dak Chochu Jang Doekum
  • Dubu Jolim
  • Kohng Namool
  • Ojingo Pokum
  • Bulgogi
Traditional Korean eating is done with all dishes served at once, buffet style, so our service followed this format. All dishes had mise en place done ahead of time and were cooked just before service.

Soo Jeung Kwa is a beverage flavoured with ginger, cinnamon, and persimmons. It has a strong, pleasing flavour and is good for cleansing the palatte. Chef said our flavour was very good, but we had not toasted the pine nuts which garnished the drink.

Ojingo Pokum is a spicy wok-fried vegetable dish. The colours and flavours of onions, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms are combined with squid to create this dish. Chef did not have any particular negative comments regarding this dish and said our flavour was excellent. This was one of my favorite dishes of the day.

Kohng Namool is a bean sprout salad. Ours turned out well although we may have missed removing the bean from some of the sprouts. Again, Chef said the flavour was good on this dish.

Bulgogi is a meat dish where meat is marinated and then cooked on a grill or wok fried and served with a spicy sauce. I worked hard at making our sauce for this dish give an extra kick, and it turned out very tasty. Chef was happy with our presentation on this dish and said the flavour of the meat was very good

Dak gochu jang boekum is a chicken dish in which the chicken is marinated and then boiled with the marinade to create a sauce for the dish. Chef was happy with the flavour on this dish and our presentation was good.

Dubu jolim is a tofu dish where tofu is cooked in a frying pan along with garlic, onion, and red peppers to add flavour. Again, Chef commented positively on our presentation and flavour, without negative feedback.

Jahb chae is a noodle and spinach dish, which also ahs onions, carrots, and mushrooms. Chef said this dish was nice but was perhaps not sweet enough.

Hacmul jungol is a seafood soup containing squid, shrimp, oysters, and clams, alnog with mushrooms, cabbage, and onion. Chef commented that our soup was flavourful but was perhaps overcooked, leading to incorrect textures in the ingredients.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Asian Cuisine - Japanese

This week in Asian cuisine we prepared the following Japanese dishes:
  • Asari Clam Soup (Asari no ushio-jiru)
  • Vegetable Maki Sushi (Futomaki)
  • Spinach w/ Sesame Dressing (Horenso gomea-ae)
  • Chicken, shrimp, mushroom custard (Chawan-mushi)
  • Pork Teriyaki (Buta teriyaki)
  • Duck and soba noodle soup (Kamonanban Soba)
  • Vegetable and Shrimp Tempura
  • Sweet bean paste dumplings (Gamo-anko manju)
Asari no ushio-jiru - This is a very light flavoured soup with the stock created during the cooking process of the clams, with sake and shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce). The soup is garnished with daikon or watercress, as well as yuzu citron or lemon zest. The stock should be very clear with no floating sediment. As in all Japanese dishes, the flavour should be balanced, sweet nor sour overpowering the other.

Our soup turned out quite well, the stock was very clear and we had plentiful clams, some shelled and others not for presentation. The soup was served in a more traditional western bowl which did not suit the Chef. The Chef said the flavour was quite good, although the sour was slightly strong and it could have used a little more sweetener to balance that out.

Futomaki - A dish any sushi-eater should be familiar with, this is a roll made from vegetables briefly cooked in marinade to enhance flavours. The vegetables should maintain their texture and be cooked just until tender. The roll should have the vegetables perfectly centered, with a layer of rice being one grain thick on the toasted nori (seaweed) before rolling.

Our roll turned out very well, with the vegetables centered well and the roll holding together well. Chef commented that our presentation was a little basic but worked, and that there wasn't a lot negative to say about the dish.

Horenso Gomea-ae - This is a dish of cooked spinach tossed in a sesame seed dressing. The key to this dish is to ensure that the spinach does not get over cooked and that it is thoroughly squeezed to remove as much excess water as possible so that the flavour in the dressing is not diluted.

Our presentation and flavour for this dish was very good. However, the spinach was still too wet, thus diluting the flavour of the dressing. Chef commented that the flavour was excellent, but it was simply not strong enough due to the water still on the spinach.

Chawan-mushi - This is a custard dish of chicken, shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms steamed to produce a velvety texture. The key to this dish is appropriate cooking time to ensure the custard has cooked but is not overdone.

Our custard ended up being overcooked, causing the dish to be too firm. Outside of this fact, the flavour was as intended and presentation was fine, although affected by the overcooked custard.

Buta teriyaki - This is a marinated pork dish which is then grilled and basted with the teriyaki marinade to produce a moist and flavourful piece of meat.

Our presentation for this dish was very good, the appearance of our pork skewers being very good on the plate of rice. Chef commented that the flavour also was quite good, although it hadn't quite soaked into the meat enough, requiring more marinating time.

Kamonanban Soba - This is a flavourful duck soup with soba noodles which should have a clear broth and long noodles. The duck is briefly cooked to golden in a pan along with green onions which are then added to the soup.

Chef said that our soup was very flavourful, the taste being good although the stock was cloudy. The duck was cooked well, but the pieces should have been a little smaller than they were cut. Lastly, the noodles had broken and some were short, a bad presentation item in Japanese cuisine.

Tempura - Tempura is a batter used to cover ingredients to be briefly deep fried, producing a crispy coating for the item. Mastering the creation of a tempura batter takes years of training under a Japanese chef to create a batter which is light and produces the appropriate shapes and texture when deep fried. We used shrimp, zucchini, sweet potato, and mushrooms for our tempura.

Our tempura turned out quite well, with appropriate texture and flavour. We had not prepared our shrimp appropriately for the tempura batter - they usually have the tail removed and are straightened to create a long, straight piece of tempura. Outside of this, Chef was very happy with our presentation and flavour of our tempura dish.

Goma-anko manju - This is a dish of azuki beans cooked and then puréed to create a sweet paste (anko) filling for dumpings which are then steamed.

We added dark sesame seeds to our dumpling batter, adding an extra visual element to the presentation which ended up working fairly well. We did have some issues preparing our paste and it didn't turn out exactly as we expected, and during cooking our dough seemed to become a little too sticky.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dinner with DMD - Belated Valentines Day

Valentines day has come and gone, and this year I didn't have anyone to share it with. My current schooling got me thinking what I would make that special someone had I been given the opportunity. I started planning a menu and I came up with an asian based theme accented with orange that I wanted to follow. As an appetizer, I started with a vegetarian sushi-roll of avacado and orange. For the main course, I made an orange-marinated grilled chicken in teriyaki glaze, with tempura sweet potato, broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini, and the requisite rice side. For desert I planned on an orange sorbet, but I wasn't able to put together tonight as I was lacking some of the tools to accomplish it properly. I'll do this again in the near future and will have everything then.

Anyway, I was very pleased with the end result. The sushi roll was very tasty, I was worried it might be too bland but it turned out very well. Unfortunately my rolling skills aren't up to par yet and I passed on taking a picture of this flavourful yet visually not-quite-so-appealing dish. The main plate however turned out perfectly and I was very happy with it. Here you go:

So that's it, Valentine's has come and gone... maybe somebody is out there reading this thinking "I sure would have enjoyed that" ... maybe not, but I sure enjoyed making it.

Soon on Dining with DMD, "Zoli's b-day dinner that he missed out on!"

Bon appétit,