Chinese cooking has long been an topic at which I have turned up my nose. For many years, I was awash in a sea of Panda Expresses, crab rangoon filled with Philadelphia cream cheese, and MSG-laden Chinese buffets.
A lot of that had to do with college. During those four years, I looked at Chinese cooking as a cheap alternative to dorm food. I could get a complete meal for $5 or I could drive to the buffet and stuff myself silly for $6.
Frankly, when that is all the Chinese cooking one eats, well, one can get a distorted view of the treasures Chinese cooking has to offer.
My re-engagment into Chinese cooking is actually due in a large part to a restaurant here in Kansas City called Andy’s Wok. Andy’s Wok has no buffet and is anything but cheap. Instead, it reminded me that there is a skill and an artistry to good Chinese cooking and it made me want to learn it on my own. But, if Andy’s Wok got me started, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop fanned the flames. Her travel memoir of time spent in Sichuan province learning the food, leaning Chinese cooking at one of their gourmet academies, and learning the culinary history of the nation really got me excited to tackle Sichuan and Chinese cooking.
Since reading her book, I have invested in a number of new items:
- Fuchsia’s Chinese Cooking book on Hunan-style cuisine
- Sichuan Peppercorns
- Sichuan chili bean paste (sadly it’s not as hot as I had hoped)
- And a hotpot in a box kit in anticipation of throwing a hot pot party
A lot of my culinary explorations in Blog Well Done will focus on Chinese cooking over the next several months. There is a whole country I need to cook.
To get things rolling, this is a recipe for a sauce I used tonight. Use it for your next stir fry.
- 4 tablespoons broth
- 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon of garlic*
- 1 teaspoon of ginger*
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch
- 1 tablespoon of Sichuan chili bean paste
- Mix ingredients well in a bowl.
- Stir fry meats and vegetables.
- Add noodles (if desired)
- Stir the sauce to make sure none of the sugar, garlic or ginger has settled to the bottom
- Add the sauce to the wok. Stir until the sauce thickens.
* Yes, I know I should use fresh, but my son was hungry and I had to think fast. 🙂