Archive for February, 2012

The rant that started this weeks rantings.

February 16, 2012

Evil but honest but I am not sure if it is true.

This weekend I watched “Sara’s Weeknight Meals episode 215”, and was really surprised. She was talking about how critical of her husband and how that drove him not to cook anymore. Being how critical she was about food and how highly she was trained in the culinary arts, I was surprised she was drinking Pinot from a glass similar to the following at the end of the show.


It is funny since trying to find that image of her online, I found the following two images.



Maybe I am over critical but you would think people who represents wines would want the wines to be shown in its best light. Are they saying that all we have been told is false? E.g. There is no aromatic bouquet to be enjoyed or that storing wines upside down to prevent the cork from drying and oxidizing the wine is silly?

Being how critical and highly trained Sara and her staff was, I was surprised to learn that she did not know what Mu Shu Pork was. It is not just the dishes flavor but what it is made with. Sure there are no wrong answers in cooking but if she understood the meaning and origins of this dish, it would have helped her in choosing her ingredients. Mu Shu Pork, roughly translate into “wood shed pork”. It is because the dish has shedded pork and wood ear in it. Wood ear does not taste or look like wood but is a crunchy black fungus. Hence if she was looking for a crisp texture, I would not have gone with vegetables such as bean sprouts since it gets wimpy and releases water when it is heated for prolonged periods. There are many ingredients that will remain crisp when heated and not release as much water such as wood ear, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts (to name a few).

Vine ripened, really?

February 15, 2012

Maybe it is me but does this look natural to you?


Although this is a good price, I have never seen any fruit ripen like this (e.g. Triangular green spot).

Is there truth in advertisement? Or is this a new truth that I do not understand?

Oh my, America’s Test Kitchen does Shu Mai!

February 15, 2012

I am beginning to think ATK really does not think highly of Chinese food. Sure many of today’s Chinese cooks do a lot of short cuts and use the ingredients he listed but I would hope there was some more investigation and explanation before they claim why their approach was better.

Shu Mai, is not a dim sum I normally order, since like Mr. Kimball eludes to, that it was once considered an after thought. I have heard that it was once made from the kitchen’s cutting board scrapings, but I do not believe this is the case in the USA. The chicken bullion powder and MSG are shortcuts to increase the flavor of meats sold in the US. Unlike pork in Asia, most chiefs feels that the meats in the USA lacks the natural flavor, which I have also seen echoed in some food documentaries. Hence we see a call for the slow food movement and eat local. The ad I believe that illustrates this message the best was the Chipotle ad featured during the 2012 Grammys (featuring Willy Nelson singing “The Scientist” by ColdPlay).

Like making hamburgers, we also try to utilize all the parts of the pig as possible. And not all parts are equal. Some are really fat and some are really lean. Hence we grind the lean parts with the fat parts but I never heard of mixing lard directly sine it is harder to keep this in the meat after cooking.

Although I have seen some of the ingredients such as soy sauce and ginger added to ground meats, I do not believe it is done in a restaurant setting. Depending on the restaurant’s burn rate those ingredients can affect the meats texture and flavor. If you had a Chinese (Canton) styles poached chicken with the ginger onion dip, you will know that storing the dip with chicken will change its texture overnight . In a sense, it is continuing to breakdown the cooked meat. Soy sauce will cause the meat to taste a little sour, if it is mixed and cooked improperly. So I do not really agree with their assessment.

Although they mention a lot of ingredients that add flavor and texture, they also missed a lot of characteristics of a good Shu Mai. Like good Asian fish or meat balls, there is a texture and mouth feel that the meat should have which, is developed similar to kneading bread. Another questionable decision or recommendation they gave was to use spring roll wrappers for the skin. The reason is that the spring roll wrappers are usually thicker and cooked. Normally we use wonton wrappers. And why not steam with strips of lettuce instead of paper? Although there are many alternatives to the bamboo steamer, it is really preferred. Bamboo being natural, is composed of many fibers which prevents the condensation from falling back on the product.

I am sure their Shu Mai might be tasty and is a good alternative to many home cooks but please have some humility and say so like the basil chicken segment and call it like it is, an alternative.

The philosophy of Philz Coffee in the Bay Area

February 1, 2012

I have heard and read about Philz in a while and in some ways I agree with his philosophy that with a right mix of things a greater outcome can occur.

Today I stopped by the San Jose State branch of expanding empire of Philz and now believe I truly see the respect that the owner gives to his coffee. The experience I had there was unlike the ones I had at other coffeehouses so far. Sure there are many that brew one cup at a time (e.g. For a unique machine you might want to stop by a selected few of the Starbucks which has the Clover machine. Then there are the infamous siphon/vacuum brewers. But what takes more time than a cup of Vietnamese phin brewed coffee besides cold brewing. Philz like Blue Bottle or Pete’s uses filter drip.), but they are truly a full service bar. This was the only time I was asked if the coffee was to my liking. However the care goes beyond the blends and brews, it goes all the way to the cup. So what is so special about a cup?

Like Ruffles the cup has ridges. I do not believe it is the first but, it is the first I have seen at a coffeehouse. So what is special about these ridges? Well like what Steve Job’s dad said, to truly care about and take pride in what we do, it is not about doing things that people notice but do not notice, as well. The ridges in my opinion are really innovative because they offer three functions. First it acts a sleeve to prevent the temperature of the coffee effecting the hand. Next it provides extra rigidity to the paper cup. But the most important feature to me, is that help keep the temperature of the coffee.

Thanks Phil for your enthusiasm!

Please pheel free to let me know what you think.