From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Journey to the Orient

It started with the typical "Where do you want to go eat?" and ended with "ehh... It wasn't bad." The lukewarm response came from the simple fact that while 2 of us liked the food, the other 2 did not. 

Served to us, from a Chinese kitchen here in San Antonio was:

  • Chicken & Broccoli, with mushrooms added

  • Kid's Lemon Chicken, sauce on the side

  • Combination Fried Rice

  • Pepper Steak with Steamed Rice (made spicy)

  • Egg rolls & Egg Drop soup and 1 serving of Hot & Sour Soup.
Sadly, the egg rolls were cold and soggy.  NEVER a good combination. The soup offerings were okay, with the Hot & Sour soup having the perfect blend of spice and vinegar.  Because our younger daughter did not like the Egg Drop soup (she can down a whole 12 ounce serving in one sitting if she REALLY likes it) that soup gets low marks.  It was a little too thick, with the cornstarch having been over portioned, and it was not very clear, meaning that the cornstarch was not cooked INTO the soup, it was simply added to it then mixed. 

My Pepper Steak was good.  There was plenty of sauce, and the vegetables were not overcooked.  I might consider it slightly over-salted though.

The Chicken & Broccoli was not what Dave had wanted.  He had actually wanted something closer to their Kung Pao Chicken, without all of the other "stuff" but with Broccoli and Mushrooms, and got talked out of ordering it that way.  Satisfied? Yes.  Happy?  Not so much.

The Lemon Chicken was a generous portion, with the breast butterflied and battered, then flash fried and grilled.  The batter was a bit greasy, but it did not detract from the overall taste of the dish.  The sauce, thankfully, was on the side, allowing Maryann to control just how much she wanted.

My older daughter LOVED the fried rice, and in fact, was unwilling to declare a favorite between theirs and mine.  To me, it looked bland, colorless and was overly salty.  But to each, their own.

The greatest irony for me was the fact that it is a kind Vietnamese gentleman who owns the restaurant.  His attempt at Chinese cuisine was to be commended, and those who do not know the real thing clearly love it, as I could see a steady flow of traffic.  People were ordering the food for take-out and the dining room was half full.  Not bad for a Monday night.

In truth, I know I should have tried all of the dishes to get a first person perspective on the taste.  I simply wasn't convinced that I could be objective.  That is going to be the first true lesson regarding my ability to be successful in documenting my travels and cooking exploits. 

I already know that I LOVE Martin Yan's cooking.  I already know that I LOVE my own cooking.  Now, I have to be able to see if I can ever bring myself to love someone else's.

The odds are in your favor, as the reader, that you will come out of the final reading experience having gained a new perspective into the world inside your kitchen.  There is truly a special element in that one room in any house or restaurant that brings life to a family or gathering.  It has taken me a lifetime (yeah, right) to realize that there is that world that can be revealed in these pages.  The difference between this journal and those of the pros is that they are Cooks Writing, not a Writer who is Cooking.  That is the one thing that I hope to be able to bring out.  You CAN cook, too.  It is created by a Cook.

What will become clear as this journey and journal continues its trek is that some of the styles and expressions and cooking demystification are not for the beginner, but if the basic instructions are followed, even a beginner can duplicate the most savory of recipes, the most complex of procedures, and the most delicious of dishes.  You don't have to be an experienced cook to appreciate this post.  In fact, I TRULY HOPE you are not an expert.  However, a novice cook may not be able to truly appreciate the value of the expose.  I will be continuing to fill the pages with techniques, strategies and original (and hopefully creative) ideas that come from the minds of  fellow cooks and collaborators, those of you who create the best on the face of the earth.

I really thought that cooking was tough.  Early on, there were so many different things that I saw others do that I simply could not replicate.  That was before I decided to start documenting my experiences.  If there was a book on writing a book, I wish I had read it before launching this campaign.

As I continued to collaborate with fellow cooks, and professional restauranteurs, I had to stop and ask them if they had any reservations about revelations into their "trade secrets" and if so, then I would immediately put a halt on whatever section I was working on to re-focus the research.

Each entry is done individually and almost always will be completely separate from the rest.  As a result, many elements and steps may be repeated in different postings.  I am, however, most willing to divulge, release, and give my thoughts on recipes or cuisines from other parts of the world by request.  If you are a novice cook, or if you are someone who simply wants the mystery taken out of Asian cuisine and many others, then I hope you derive the most benefit from this journey.  I hope that you will be able to apply the techniques and lessons into your everyday cooking, even if you only put a little effort into it.  I also hope that it is not too sophisticated for you.

No one person will be able to master every cooking technique available.  I would never hope to master them all, but I would LOVE to learn more to be able to bring more to the table.  An open mind at the chopping block, and while selecting vegetables and meats for the next meal will make experiences like the one I had last night more objective.  Because Chinese cuisine is as varied as the country, there are Imperial dishes and local cuisines, ethnic minority's dishes -such as Mongolian dishes, Tibetan dishes, Manchu dishes, or Zhan dishes- and vegetarian dishes, even dishes with strong religious flavor, such as those from an Islamic background that can  be brought to the limelight.  That is where we are going as we enter the next phase of this journey together.

Until Tomorrow... Good Eating, Friends.

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