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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Less IS More

Last night, the family got together to celebrate Grandma Josephine’s birthday. We got together at a somewhat central location (okay, it was closest to her house) at a Mexican restaurant called Don Pedro’s. I didn’t realize that even when in a large party room, 19 people can sure make a racket.

In the midst of all the frivolity and bonhomie came the reality check. My overly critical analysis of my food resulted in David asking, “So are you going to write about this one?”

My reply was a quick shake of the head, as I told him that I had decided to dedicate my blog to only elements of Chinese food, to which he replied. “How many times can you write about chow mein?” It was a thought provoking question, and I ended up doing a little research on the whole world of Chinese food blogs, and food blogs in general. On one blog site,, their food home page features 318 different food bloggers, of which there are plenty of those who write about Chinese food. (Look for me there soon…)

So the question in my mind then became, “What are they writing about that makes people want to read their articles, and where do I have to go from here, to get there?”

One thing I did notice was that of the blogs that I opened up from alltop, not a single writer published daily. I had to concede, during my conversation with David, that writing about Chinese food every day is hard and I will admit that there are times that even I have to dig deep into the treasure trove of memories to find something to write about, and often times I feel that what I have written is pedantic and uninteresting. Think about it. 75 posts, in the course of 3 months. Such prolific writing does not come easily, and I constantly worry about repeating myself. It has nearly become a second, full-time job, and that is just the writing part of it. Successful bloggers spend hours networking, working on adsense, and monetizing it.

Many of the food blogs had no pictures at all, while others had as many as 14-18 pictures. Where is the happy medium? Some of the blog entries were little more than a recipe. Really? And people read them just for the recipe? Others were meandering tales of who-knows-what and had little substance for the readers to truly gain any insight from.

That single element of writing prowess piqued my curiosity, then, as I pondered that idea, it started making a lot of sense. After all, I am a huge fan of GulfGal’s writings, and I eagerly await her weekly dose of humor and insight. Perhaps my daily musings have started to dilute the overall pool of postings. Could it be true? I can only wonder, but I think, for a while, I will go to a twice-a-week format, to see if the interest (for my publisher’s peace of mind) and response is out there.

A couple of years ago, The New York Times published an article by Kim Severson about “Recipe Deal Breakers.” In it she asked if there is an ingredient or a technique whose omission or inclusion would stop you from using a recipe. The article was humorous and light-hearted, which I enjoyed immensely. However, that didn’t stop a firestorm of reactions from spreading all over the culinary blogosphere. Michael Ruhlman joined in the fray with his blog post the next day. Kate Hopkins at Accidental Hedonist continued the discussion with a poll. Now it’s my turn to ask a similar question. What is a deal breaker for creating authentic Chinese food in an American Kitchen?

While many Chinese and Asian ingredients are becoming more available in the American markets, most are still not quite adequate for reproducing truly authentic dishes from Asia. For some of you living in large cities, such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, you are fortunate to have access to well stock Chinatown markets. Would difficulty in obtaining proper ingredients in other parts of the country be a deal breaker?

How about substituting specific ingredients? Certain ingredients in Chinese cooking can be substituted. But is this an acceptable alternative? I personally like to create recipes that can stay true to the original culinary culture. How about knowing what the real ingredient is supposed to be? Adherence to that particular form is a challenge here in San Antonio, though. Substituting less authentic ingredients is (almost) a deal breaker for me. What about you?

Authentic Chinese cooking techniques can be unfamiliar and intimidating. Deep-frying and high-heat stir-frying, for example, potentially involves hot splattering oil. Would these techniques with their inherent dangers discourage you from taking on a recipe?
Of course having children who are very picky eaters creates a challenge as well, and I am sometimes forced to mask a true ingredient with “a less-gross” alternative. I can always take time to find rare ingredients and master special techniques whenever necessary. For me there seem to be few deal breakers. Are concerns with your family’s well-being and what they will eat a deal breaker for many recipes?

Many of my recipes are geared toward fast, fresh, healthy and simple Chinese cooking, but a large number require difficult to obtain ingredients and special techniques. Still, these recipes are written for you. So feel free to write a comment and let me know about your deal breakers.

Until next week, Good Eating, Friends…


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