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Old 05-23-2014, 07:08 AM   #11
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The missing ingredient is wok hei and now you can have it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dallis View Post
My wife and I love stirfrys and also fried rice and use a cast iron wok over gas flame .the wok is 15 years old and well seasoned,yet we cannot get the taste
to match Chinese restaurant food.we get very close but there seem to be a flavor missing.We buy our ingredients from a Chinese grocer yet feel that something is missing We would appreciate any assistance and advice that any one can offer.
As @JustPlainBill pointed out, the missing ingredient is the flavor wrought by the high heat/flames of the commercial stove used in Chinese restaurants. But now if you have a gas burner, you can produce wok hei right in your home kitchen. It's true!

Check out this short video that food scientist, Kenji Lopez-Alt posted on YouTube:
If your mind is blown like mine was, you may want to read about how this was achieved in his article here.

Move over Godzilla. We will all be WokMonsters soon. And no, it won't be because of an allergic reaction to MSG.
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Old 05-24-2014, 06:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dallis View Post
My wife and I love stirfrys and also fried rice and use a cast iron wok over gas flame .the wok is 15 years old and well seasoned,yet we cannot get the taste
to match Chinese restaurant food.we get very close but there seem to be a flavor missing.We buy our ingredients from a Chinese grocer yet feel that something is missing We would appreciate any assistance and advice that any one can offer.
Monosodium glutamate? Disgusting stuff but widely used in Chinese cooking.
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Old 05-24-2014, 07:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
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Monosodium glutamate? Disgusting stuff but widely used in Chinese cooking.
I was at the Restaurant Show in New York City a couple of months ago and saw that the MSG lobby had spent a lot of money to re-brand/re-market the stuff as an essential amino acid. Wikipedia says it is a non-essential one :)

In any case, the unique flavor of Chinese stir-fries has a lot more to do with wok hei (intense heat) than MSG and I am very excited that there is a way to achieve this at home now.
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Old 05-24-2014, 07:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad Cook View Post
Monosodium glutamate? Disgusting stuff but widely used in Chinese cooking.
Disgusting?
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Old 05-24-2014, 08:09 PM   #15
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I just started woking about 3 months ago and have been studying it non stop. I also agree with the 'stirfry to the sky's edge' book. But I think your problem is probably not enough heat.

There's only so much you can do when you are cooking on a home gas range. Make sure you are using FULL heat. Cast iron is fine but let it heat up all the way before you put anything in it. Try using peanut oil if you aren't already. Also, don't overcrowd your wok. Try cooking a tiny baby size serving worth of food and see how it tastes. If it tastes different/better, that means you've been overcrowding your wok (it doesn't take much!). If you're not using a chinese jet engine for a burner, don't stir your food too much... Let your wok catch up to you so you can get a nice brown sear. Make sure you dry your meat and vegetables before you add them to the wok. Otherwise, it will steam your food instead of searing it. Also, try a flat bottom wok instead of a round bottom (even if you have a wok ring). I find the flat bottom woks sit closer to the fire and therefore get hotter.

I eat A LOT of stir fry... I make this chinese brown sauce once per week and keep it in my fridge:

You could also try blanching the vegetables in water (or oil) and add them to the wok at the very end just to get covered with sauce.

Also, check your ingredients and make sure you aren't substituting something that doesn't work. For example, light soy sauce is not the same as dark soy sauce.

What exactly are you making? Is it one particular dish that doesn't taste right? Or is it all of them?
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Old 05-24-2014, 08:51 PM   #16
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I deal with the lack of a jet engine in my kitchen by cooking small batches. First the peppers (remove to a plate), then the onions, mushrooms, etc. one at a time. Last the meat. Then everybody back in the wok for sauce and final seasoning.
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Old 05-24-2014, 09:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bachelorchef View Post
I just started woking about 3 months ago and have been studying it non stop. I also agree with the 'stirfry to the sky's edge' book. But I think your problem is probably not enough heat.

There's only so much you can do when you are cooking on a home gas range. Make sure you are using FULL heat.
For those complaining about lack of heat, please see this SeriousEats article: The Food Lab: The Wok Mon Converts Your Home Burner Into a Wok Range. For Real. | Serious Eats

And check out this video also posted by Kenji Lopez-Alt of SeriousEats:

And on Instagram: Instagram

Exciting times for woking enthusiasts!
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:09 AM   #18
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I cook my fried rice in a large well-seasoned cast iron dutch oven. I get it so hot over a gas flame that the ingredients just dance around when I drop them in. We use brown rice that I steam for about 20 mins which gives the recipe a dryer texture. I love to add grated ginger root, sesame oil, minced garlic, a few shakes of rice vinegar, and even cilantro. I also cannot match the flavor elicited by Chinese restaurants but we like ours just as well and we know what is in there.
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Old 05-25-2014, 01:51 PM   #19
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that taper ring thing is at least 50 years old.

I have one that came with my mother's copper flash bottom Reverware wok from the 'aught-somethings.

was watching some "expert" on tv explaining how to wok - I think it was America's Test Kitchen - they had the ring on the cooktop UPSIDE DOWN.

oops.
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Old 05-25-2014, 02:40 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Disgusting?
Yes, it tastes horrid
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