Being ill is so boring isn't it? You can only read so many crap mags and novels, and watch so much TV. My bag making supplies shop has been just as busy as usual (thank you my lovely customers) but standing in a busy post office queue with a thick 'ead and dribbly nose is poo poo! Never mind, it's a beautiful day, and I feel heaps better. Thank you for the lovely get well wishes girls (big kiss!).
Right now I am planning a bit of a special tutorial for this blog. It's special because I am going to use the silk that Al bought me for Valentine's day, and I'm going to give the bag to my Mum for Mother's day, and this is THE BAG that I get asked most by my customers to create a tutorial for...
Whilst I sort the tutorial I fancied posting about something completely different. Al and popped into Chinatown for a little date (and to celebrate me getting better). I thought I'd take some pics, and then I thought why not write a little blog post on 'Chinese Food Cupboard Basics?'. I had recently gone Chinese grocery shopping with an English friend, and I've done this loads of times before for other non-Chinese folks who wanted to get in on some Chinese food action. First some pics taken in London's Soho:
I've been coming to Soho since I was a little girl and I've seen it change alot in my 30ish years. It's mainly become a more modernised and santised (though it does whiff in Summer) version of it's former self. The food is still pretty good, I mean, nowadays you can eat 'Very Traditional Chinese Food!! He! He!
Lovely, funky oriental veg, spices, and mystery sauces in colourful jars...you can't beat coming to the source for international groceries. Big supermarkets such as Tesco et al just rip you off with their prices and the quality is noooo good!
Ever wondered where the idea for Pot Noodle and Super Noodle (those evil snacks much loved by unhealthy teenagers, builders, slobby bachelors, and ME!!) came from? That's right the Japanese, and we Orientals have been snacking on these MSG ridden noodle doodles for ever; we can't get enough of em'. This pic is just one small section on an entire (floor to ceiling) wall of the damn things!
we had I had to tuck into my favourite dish of super fresh stir fried crab in a spring onion, ginger, and garlic sauce atop a bed of crispy noodles...droool! You think it looks ugly now; it looked a whole lot uglier by the time we had I had dealt with it!! As in a lot of things in life, looks aren't everything, and this crab dish looked as unappealing as I did eating it, but AL still loves me as much as I loved eating the crab Heh! Heh!
Right, the Chinese Store Cupboard (very) Basics:
- Soya sauce - comes in various strengths, but if you only have one, make sure that is Kikkoman Brand. This sauce tastes the best by far and there are no nasty chemicals in it.
- Sesame Oil - as a general rule the darker the colour the better the quality. Try not to go for blends if you can.
- Shaosing Rice Wine - lots of Chinese recipes call for a bit of booze and you are often told that some sherry will do as a substitute but if you want that authentic Chinese restaurant/Chinese Momma's home cookin' flavour this is the stuff that you need. It does make a yummy difference and it's not pricey - about £3.50.
- 'Chinese' Chicken stock - again to get that authentic oriental flavour it's best to use an oriental stock base. The most widely used brand is Knorr Chicken Powder. This stuff is super duper useful for making up tasty soups, sauces, flavouring rice and noodles and so on.
- Oyster Sauce - strangely enough this stuff does not taste of oysters at all, instead it tastes really savory and beefy. We use it to flavour sauces, and as condiment for steamed Chinese vegetables YUM!. The nicest tasting Oyster Sauce is by Lee Kum Kee.
- M.S.G - as far as many Chinese folks are concerned, this a necessary evil. Like many others I use it but I always try to use as little as possible.
- Corn or potato starch - Chinese sauces are never thickened using flour and fat, we just use a little corn or potato starch mixed with a bit of cold water at the end of cooking. It's less fattening and it's quicker.
- Ginger - Try to pick ginger that has firm taut skin because then is more fresh. Old ginger wrinkles up.
- Garlic - with the amount of garlic I eat it's amazing that I can still get flu, or have friends!
- Spring onion - Many Chinese dishes call for ginger, spring onion, and garlic in the same recipe. It easy to see why because when they are all sizzling in a little oil in your wok the aroma is just heavenly...mmm you know what? I'm feeling a bit peckish...
That's it! You can quite a lot of Chinese cooking fun with the above. I won't give any recipes (there are loads on the web and in books) but if enough of you ask me for a recipe for the perfect egg fried rice I'll gladly give it.