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Old 07-29-2008, 04:31 PM   #1
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ISO chinese flavor

Ok so i figure that we are all looking for that special flavor from our favorite chinese dishes. Every day on this forum i have been reading about people in the same situation as me, looking for the secret to the sauces from chop suey the flavors of beef and broccoli, and the taste that is always missing when we try to cook chinese food. So another dish made by myself tonight and yet another disappointment. Not sure if anyone has found out the secret yet, but i sure haven't. I have tried using peanut oil, sesame oil, oyster sauce, msg, fish sauce, i've done the cornstarch and chicken stock with sugar, everything! My mind is tired, and i have a headache from researching online. I guess i will just have to go to my fave chinese resturant and give up with the experimenting at home. Thanks to everyone for all their wonderful suggestions over the past few weeks!!

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Old 07-29-2008, 04:33 PM   #2
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What dish did you make and how did you make it?
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:44 PM   #3
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i have made chow mein, chop suey, beef and broccoli, etc. I was wondering about sherry, some recipes call for dry sherry or chinese rice wine. Maybe that is the secret ingredient. What do you think kitchenelf?
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:49 PM   #4
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In my modest experience, the key to getting that "chinese" flavor is finding the right balance of garlic and fresh ginger in dishes like beef and broccoli, etc.. Also, it generally helps to use very high heat when cooking.
I am sure that there will be others here who have much more experience than I do in this matter.
I have been pleased with my attempts to recreate chinese american dishes by experimenting with the amounts of garlic and ginger. Good luck!
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:53 PM   #5
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it is definately not the ginger or garlic but thanks!
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:55 PM   #6
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Old 07-29-2008, 05:40 PM   #7
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How are you preparing these dishes? What oil are you using?

Chinese restaurants cook their food in well-seasoned woks at screamingly high temps. Much of the "taste" of the food comes from this cooking method and not necessarily from the ingredients or seasonings.
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Old 07-29-2008, 05:48 PM   #8
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I think as GB's link indicated it's the technique and not just the ingredients that go a long way to replicating that restaurant taste. I will say that the only way I can get my stir fry beef or chicken dishes to come out right is:

Slicing them thinly and cooking them in a very hot wok with some oil for 5 minutes. and then fishing the meat out. I drain the liquid out in a bowl and add some quintessential sauces to it - soy, hoisin, chili garlic or whatever my heart desires. If I am in a mood for a sweet and spicy taste some brown sugar goes in along with a tiny bit of cornstarch.

I then add some more oil to the wok (clean it first) and let it get smoking hot. I then add some dry red arabol chilis, ginger and garlic, reserved beef or chicken and sauces, cook it for another 5 minutes.

Toss is freshly chopped scallions, hit it with a tiny bit of sesame oil and sesame seeds and it tastes pretty close to what you get in a restaurant.

I think it's technique for sure given at home we can't produce the same amount of heat that normally chinese restaurants use to cook these stir frys unless you have one of those Wolf burners that is designed exclusively for stir frys.
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Old 07-31-2008, 07:40 PM   #9
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Yes, as posted above...a lot of the "chinese" flavour comes from the wok it's self. But it is not just the wok...

Here in the great land of Aus, Chinese cooks (many of them anyway) actually call wok cooking "wokking". I have seen many actually cook their own dinner before they start wokking. It's not because they are hungry, it's because the wok is "fresh". They will cook thier own dinner using strong flavoured things like garlic, salt fish etc. Then when it comes time to start wokking for customers the wok is "seasoned" already.

You can get a similar effect at home. Cook each ingredient seperately and for a very short time (10 or 15 seconds). Then leave each on a plate until you are ready to finish. Each ingredient will leave it's own hint of flavour in the wok. Then later, when you are ready heat the wok to almost red hot and the flavours will turn into the wok hei mentioned above.

I use one of those portable single burner camp stoves for my wokking. It takes a disposable 220 gram gas can...Do you know the type I mean, or would you like me to post a photo? Using one of those means I can simply take it out side where the smoke and smells don't matter.

The other thing you ask about is "secret" ingredients...You bet ya! They sure do have little secrets. Your sherry is one of them. Of course you can use rice wine also. Even if a recipe does not call for it, many stir frys are improved with a small splash of rice wine or sherry.

Try this...Instead of marinating or tenderizing your meat in a white-wash (corn flour and water). Make the same type of corn flour mix using sherry or rice wine instead of water.

There are lots of "secrets" with Chinese cooking. Way to many for me to rattle off...Even if I did know them all, which I don't. One of my favorites is coffee! Use instant coffee powder. A tea spoon in Mongolian lamb makes all the difference. A small sprinkle in black bean beef works wonders!

Maybe other people can post some more "secrets".

Hope that is of help.
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Old 07-31-2008, 07:49 PM   #10
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Hmmm...I will check with my Taiwanese friend to see what she can suggest.
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