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Old 07-31-2008, 08:08 PM   #11
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Im in the same boat. I used to go to a take out place, and order the same thing every day. It was one of those places with no seats or tables, trictly take out, and u can see the exposed kitchen and the people cooking your food. SO, I would watch very carefully each day over and over . I know I had the right main ingredients (veggies...) But there were a few unmarked containers they shaked in the food, possibly msg, maybe something else. Over and over I would try and recreate, i searched high and low the internet and now, although my chinese food is good, it tatse like I ' tried ' to make chinese food, but its still missing something. Ive tried every sauce and ingredient out there. If u looked in my pantry and fridge, u would think i was chinese with all the different sauces and ingredients I have. Ive even been tempted to bribe this one chinese restaurant for their recipe for vegetarian hot and sour soup. My luck, is they will go out of business , and ill never know how it was done. I order it so frequently, that when i come to pick up my order, they dont call me by my name, but by 'vegetarian hot and sour soup' " hi mr veg hot and sour soup, how are you today"
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:26 PM   #12
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KISSTC: thanks so much for your info, will try the sherry. if you have any other suggestions, i would love to hear. thanks again
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:32 PM   #13
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No worries...

I am actually a bit busy today and off line tomorrow (most of the day). We are having Christmas in July in August which my friend is cooking which means I have to come up with the recipes which means I will end up cooking Did you follow all that?

I don't know about the hot and sour soup. I know about Thai hot and sour, which is called tom yum. At a guess, I would say the take away is using Thai tom yum as a base. The next question is are they making thier own or using a commercial product?

I would guess they are using a commercial tom yum paste. They are so good it's hard to tell them apart from home made. As for the "secret" ingredients I am guessing good old salt and pepper! Does the soup have a soy or fish sauce aroma to it? If not then they are using plain salt...

Hot and sour paste is used "to taste". Which means you use as much or as little as you like to your taste. Being take away, they would be going middle of the road. Because amount is user determined it does not have any seasoning. For example, if someone liked it really strong it would be to salty if it were pre-seasoned. See what I mean?

So the soup needs to be seasoned or it would be so bland you would not pay for it...Actually another thing I just thought of. They might be frying the tom yum paste. It is normal to add the paste directly to the water or stock to make the soup. But a very quick and hot fry first would release the flavours more. The paste is made "cold". It is blended or crushed into a paste, that is how it is made. A quick and hot fry would cause the cells of the ingredients to burst in the exact same way as they do when making a curry. That bursting would release all the oils from inside the cells and the flavour would be much more intense. They use oil such as peanut etc, to bind the ingredients together in the paste, so no need to add extra oil. Just drop the desired amount of paste into a hot wok for say 10 seconds maybe 15 seconds, then add the water (or stock). Then build the soup from there with the vege.

I hope that is of help
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Old 08-04-2008, 10:04 PM   #14
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What I use in my stir frys is black bean garlic sauce. Its made with fermented black beans and garlc. It don't smell to great but is great in stir frys. Also I use the fresh chinese noodles that you can get at a wholesale house. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-06-2008, 01:19 PM   #15
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i made a chicken a veggie stirfry yesterday kinda like the dish "guy ding", one of my faves that i order when i go get chinese takeout, and i used the sherry. getting close!!! it is definately one of the things i have been missing. used it with cornstarch to make the clear type gravy. mmmm
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:42 PM   #16
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Did you make anymore headway yet? I want to attempt Lo Mein. Ordered some last night from a new restaurant an was as bland as could be.
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:55 PM   #17
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I find one of my biggest challenges cooking Chinese food is using a wok on an electric stove as a lot of the heat stays at the bottom of the wok- not distributed evenly. Am going to try cooking it on our gas burner outside next time. I do find dry sherry or rice vinegar and peanut or sesame oil makes a difference as well.
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:11 PM   #18
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All you need is a good authentic Chinese cookbook, a few simple cooking implements, & good fresh ingredients. The actual cooking part isn't difficult at all. Those 3 things alone can easily keep you away from mundane & sad Chinese takeout.

Oh - & I do all our wok cooking on our electric stove without a problem - as I have since the '70's. So long as you have the ring turned the proper way, heat adjustments are easy & flawless.
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:25 PM   #19
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The main thing missing is the wok hei.

That comes from a screaming hot wok. (See also Outdoor Stir Fry Stove - Stirfry Techniques - Chao and Bao. ) Chinese restaurants run special wok stoves that put out 100-200,000 BTU. If you're cooking on a home stove, you have to change your technique.

Grace Young will tell you how in "The Breath of a Wok".

The executive summary follows.

Cook smaller amounts to keep the wok from losing too much heat. This often means cooking in batches or single ingredients at a time as noted above.

Those super hot woks put a sear on the food in a second or two. Your home stove wtih a wok will take up to two minutes for beef, chicken or pork. Less for seafood and some vegetables. Leave the food alone when you first put it in to pick up that seared and smokey flavor of a screaming hot wok from your only US hot wok. Then proceed with the standard business of stir fry.

SERVE IT IMMEDIATELY!!!! at the height of its flavor.

Most chinese restaurants will blanch the meat in hot oil before stir frying. See Big Bowl by Bruce Cost and Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong

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Old 09-15-2008, 03:28 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TanyaK View Post
I find one of my biggest challenges cooking Chinese food is using a wok on an electric stove as a lot of the heat stays at the bottom of the wok- not distributed evenly.
That is precisely how a wok is supposed to cook

Quote:
Am going to try cooking it on our gas burner outside next time. I do find dry sherry or rice vinegar and peanut or sesame oil makes a difference as well.
Yes, do. If you have a high output gas burner, you can wok cook with better results.
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