Basic Oriental Cooking (Part I)
What goes into an oriental dish?
Choose the right spices, and make Great sauces. Make Great sauces and diners know you are a great cook, maybe even a chef!
After running successful food service with a wide variety of international foods for more than 10 years, we have something to share with you.
This time it is the first part of some basics of oriental cooking.
BASIC ORIENTAL COOKING (Part I)
This series will discuss Vegetables, Fruits, Rice, Noodles, Breads, Meats, Oils, & Seasonings (including spices and herbs.)
[Note: Perspycacious and his wife owned and operated Wok Right Inn in Lindon, Utah from 1990 to 2003, serving not only oriental foods, but also foods from France, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, India, and the Americas. As of this writing they own and manage Whole Sail Living, a home-based business shipping health supplements, books, and products worldwide, and giving private and group instruction devoted to physical well being and healthy living. They hope to complete two more books soon: The Five Finger Approach to Healthy Weight Management, and Fondest Foods Memories. They are the proud parents of five children (presently experimenting with the foods of New England, Iowa, Washington State, California, and Utah, and sixteen grandchildren.)
Unless you are eating your “oriental food” in a local “soup and noodle shop,” there is a world of true oriental cooking you can accomplish right in your own kitchen (with a little help from your own garden and local store owners.)
When the real cook in this twosome worked for the Utah Office of Chronic Disease on loan from the Utah Lung Association, she heard health care providers worrying over the “poor diets” of Asian refugee families they thought were living exclusively on a diet of packaged soup noodles.
To correct that wrong assumption, she suggested that they eat with one or more of the families to see what was really taking place.
They came back from those dinners, as she knew they would, exclaiming over the delightful smells and tastes of hearty meals centered around soup stocks, noodles, vegetables and fruits, with small portions of meats and seafoods.
In short, the refugee families were “eating healthy” and prospering on budgets most of us might find unimaginable, though their foods were often described as “heavenly.”
What is “oriental cooking?”
“Countless cooking books” is not a purely American phenomenon, for there are endless streams of oriental cookbooks in each of the Asian languages, and even cable and mainstream TV cooking shows featuring cooks, chefs, and the gamut of dishes with all but the aromas and tastes presented.
In China alone, there are regional chefs doing “Cantonese Style,” “Peking Style,” “Szechuan Style,” “Etc.” While, even here locally, we can find individual restaurants promoting “Manchurian,” “Mongolian,” “Thai,” “Indian,” “Japanese,” “Filipino,” and even her favorite “Laotian” foods.
Here are some basic observations and suggestions.
Plan on using a variety of oils to include olive, canola, and vegetable oils.
Experiment with such spices and herbs as basil, dill (great with fish and chicken dishes,) pepper, ginger, cilentro, garlic, onion, peppercorns, star anise, cassia (a spice from cassia bark which is used in the braising of vegetables and meats---though similar to cinnamon bark, it has a stronger flavor,) scallions, spring onions, chives (the flat leafed ones have a garlic smell, while the rounder leafed ones have the onion smell.) Many of these spices and herbs promote healthy blood oxygen levels and better circulation. Asians like to use all kinds of peppers (black, white, sweet, and hot!) while lemon leaves and kafir leaves are used to add their own special flavors to soups and stews.
When it comes to seasoning dishes for tastes, salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, fruit sauces, bean sauce, seaweed sauces, tempeh, and salty soya preserves are among some of the favorites.
As with any cooking, flavors are not “everything” (though the secret to most cooking is to be found in the sauces.) Texture and color, along with the food’s “presentation” are also keys to a fully enjoyable meal.
Here are some of the basic vegetables (to go along with the standard meats and seafoods): sweet radishes, daikon, pakchoy, napa cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, celery, all edible mushrooms, bitter melon, winter melon, pumpkin (young and mature,) zucchini, crooked neck squash, beans (especially the “foot long” variety,) eggplant, red and green cabbage, sweet potato, mung bean sprouts, and all kinds of squash blossoms when prepared properly.
More and more of the supermarkets and specialty stores carry most of these ingredients, and most are part of any style of cooking’s ingredients.
Here is a “Basic Dough” recipe:
3 Cups of All Purpose Flour (plus extra for “shaping/rolling out”)
2-3 eggs (depending on the size of egg and desired consistency)
2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
½ Cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of salt
Mix the flour, eggs, oil, water, and salt to make a firm dough. Knead on a well-floured board until the dough feels smooth and satiny (this may take 10-15 minutes of gentle exercise; form into a ball and cover with a damp towel for one hour.
Here is a “Basic Filling” recipe:
Choose from ground pork, turkey, chicken, shrimp, white fish, tilapia, or bass. White meats are for a healthy style, while lean, darker meats have the most taste. Mix with a little salt and diced scallions or chives, a little black pepper or white pepper, with white meats, and a whole egg or the eggwhite.
Here is a “Basic Eggroll” recipe:
Choose from Vegetarian, Pork, Beef, Turkey, Chicken, or Shrimp, and these portions make about 20 eggrolls.
1 small head of Cabbage
1 and ½ pounds of ground lean meat or seafood
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
1 “Pinch” or 2 of black pepper
½ pound of bean sprouts
2 carrots (shredded)
(if available) added angel hair noodles (mung bean or green pea)
1 egg, beaten and held aside for sealing the eggroll wrappers
Cook the meat part way, then add the other ingredients (except the egg). Mix well, seasoning to taste (yes, taste it before cooking). Roll the ingredients in the wrappers and deep fry in hot oil until golden brown. Allow to drain and cool slightly.
For the eggroll wrappers, we prefer Peking Brand, if you are buying the ready-made squares (6”), or you can make your own by combining 4 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and 1 to 1 and ½ cups of room temperature water (add the water gradually until you have a soft dough.) Remove the dough to a well-floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and “elastic” (again about 10-15 minutes.)
Cover the dough and let it rise approximately 30-40 minutes. Cut the dough ball into fourths, rolling out one fourth of the dough at a time to 1/8th inch thickness, then cut into 6” squares. Flour each square separately and well, then stack them on top of each other for rolling each eggroll, sealing he eggroll by brushing some of the beaten egg onto the final edges which seal the eggroll.
Will cover the various types and uses of rice, as well as recipes for several dishes of fried rice, and for other Asian main course vegetable and meat rolls.
(c) 2011 Demas W. Jasper
Oriental Cooking methods & ingredients....
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