For a number of years now, I have had an induction stovetop in my kitchen. It is nice in many respects, but a traditional, round-bottomed wok will just not work properly with it. After way too long with disappointing results I purchased a flat bottomed wok in cast iron… this was a nice piece of cookware, and may have had some practical uses in other ways, but as a wok it was just too damn heavy and didn’t allow for easy heat control. Accordingly, back this past May, I purchased the Joyce Chen 14 inch flat-bottomed wok you see above. Sadly, though I have purchased quite a few Joyce Chen products that were well worth the money, this $50 item that I purchased here at Amazon, was a bit of a disappointment …Read More →

There are countless recipe book entries and web-pages promising to reveal the secret for cooking the perfect steak. Most involve complicated preparations and procedures and generally repeat certain ‘wisdoms’ which, for the most part, are largely nonsense. In my experience, most seasoning and ‘special’ techniques are mere window-dressing and, really, all that is required for a great result is choosing a good cut and avoiding over-cooking.

I love to barbecue but, often, pan-frying is the only practical method available. Some people pooh-pooh this as an appropriate cooking method for steak at any time, while others grudgingly suggest it may be okay for lesser cuts. In truth, however, as long as you are careful, you can begin with a pricey, top-quality piece of beef and produce some excellent results just using a pan…Read More →

I think I can safely say that rarely a week goes by that I don’t use Mirin in the preparation of at least one meal. It is invaluable as a marinade component and a glaze, as well as being a great addition to steaming mediums, broths, and stir-fry and dipping sauces. Indeed, I have listed it as an ingredient in so many recipes published on my blog that is high time that I gave this useful foodstuff a proper introduction…

Essentially, a true Mirin is a brewed rice ‘wine’, similar to the Japanese beverage Sake, wherein the starch rice is converted into a sugar by a Koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) and, during this same process, fermented to produce alcohol. In Sake, the fermentation will consume all, or most, of the sugars but in Mirin, a good deal remains and thus it may be described as a ‘naturally sweet rice wine’.

Products sold as Mirin that destined for the kitchen (as opposed to being purely potable) may be ‘true’ Mirins, but they may also be artificially sweetened Sake, or else non-brewed concoctions that have the taste, and usually not the alcohol content, of proper Mirin. The three products we will look at here are chosen because they provide a pretty good illustration of the range of purchasing possibilities… Read More →

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Few North Americans would associate smoked meats with China but, in fact, the smoking of various foodstuffs is not at all uncommon. Tea-smoked duck is a well-known favorite in Sichuan cuisine and Jinhua-ham from Zhejiang Province is used in a variety of preparations across the country. Other foodstuffs, like shrimp, tofu, and chicken are often also smoked in various ways before being used as ingredients in more complex dishes.

Hunan Province is also reputed to produce smoked pork products that rival the best equivalents in the west like Prosciutto, Smithfield, and Westphalian Ham. I can’t recall actually ever coming across anything identified as being Hunan smoked ham in any stores I have visited but I did once buy something identified as ‘Chinese Ham’ which could, I suppose, have been Hunanese in origin.Read More →

In a recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post, I introduced an item, common in Indian cookery but new to me, called Tindora. I searched for and found quite a few Tindora recipes and was inspired to try the above dish which is something of an amalgam of a few of them but otherwise a unique creation. Although the flavours are quite unmistakably Indian in character, the cooking style is more in the nature of a Chinese stir-fry. I love Indian food but I find that vegetables are often cooked far too well for my taste so, in this dish, I flash-fried things very quickly to preserve the fresh taste and crunchy mouthfeel of the Tindora. The term ‘masala’, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, is commonly used in Indian cookery to refer to a spice blend and I will be dealing it with masalas at greater length in future posts.Read More →