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Dear Learning,

COOKTEK is offers DROP IN units of various types, 1800-3500 Watts. I suggest the commercial, countertop model with an analog switch, NOT digital. http://www.cooktek.com/find-rep-2014

Cooktek is not cheap, but I have NO connection with them. They come in 2 formats, a flat top, and a concave wok-shape to fit a wok of 14 inches supplied separately.

These models are countertop or drop-ins. Take a look, cook with them, and see what you like or dislike about these types of induction tops. Every family has different needs, different styles of cooking, and may live in climates or conditions or architectural styles that may suits one design or something totally different.

Hope something is of use.

about 19 hours ago
GTM in Cookware

Appliances for Indian cooking

Hi makf,

Glad to know you got a Preethi. Some thoughts and hope your critiques will be forthcoming so we can learn more about your experiences with this machine and with YOUR entry into the world of "Indian" cooking [European cooking anyone?].

a) Sanjay Thumma, Vahchef, is a fantastic person, deserving thanks for 10 million reasons and more. FOr generosity and for making everything so accessible to so many. He is someone I admire with passion, not words I use for the many who have scalped the US/Western public and made fortunes with simpering, ignorant nonsense. Well, let that be. Sanjay has one great problem, besides his natural exuberance and his great hurry to get too many things completed within a very short frame of time. That can be a strength and a weakness. The weakness shows in the hotel training, where the fine technique and careful cooking has never been taught and slapdash hotel methods have been inculcated which teach more-or-less OK methods. FINESSE IS ALWAYS LACKING, ALWAYS! Sorry, Sanjay, and this comes from your fervent fan and well-wisher.

When you grind spices in a coffee grinder, several problems arise. I really don't care who else below claim how many decades they have been cooking "Indian" or whether cinnamon grinds or does not, because I do the same every day, and find no problems! But the execution with coffee-grinder powders is not worthy of high quality cooking. The textures are annoying, and flavors are unsound. Probably not to many, but to those who have grown up with stone-ground spices, they are! This is where your stone-grinder MAY or MAY not be able to help you out. I don't know, ask Preethi users.

In a proper Bangali kitchen for example, a Rarh kitchen, some basic spices will be always available in a wet paste.

Dry red chilies, de-seeded, and you can use Korean Kochukaru for their Cleanliness, freshness and flavor, combined with red coloradito and Indian red chilies, soaked in water. Grind them up, and keep them in a ball, frozen if need be.

Turmeric rhizomes, dry, soaked and ground. This is the most difficult one, and you may wish to substitute fresh turmeric, with some trepidation. Turmeric powder is a somewhat of an abomination, with the exception of McCormicks, whose extortionate prices are an abomination.

Washed, unroasted, INDIAN, not Moroccan, coriander seed, ground to a paste in the stone grinder. How do you tell? One is round, the other is oval. Ask if they are the produce of India. Coriander seed grinds poorly in the coffee grinder, leaving gritty bits of fibrous coat and cotyledons that entirely destroy the emaning of Indian gravies. Certain classical qormas use coriander paste and ginger paste to thicken, and this does not happen with coffee grinder and oster blender spices. As Lucky Fatimaji knows, I cook only a few genres with painful exactitude, and really do not care who claims what about their personal fame & expertise. I have cooked these for more than 46 years, under so many different conditions, and have come to know their cookery rather too well. I shall defer to the traditional ustads and their trained shagirds. None else. Period.

Cumin, washed, untoasted, stone-ground. Even the roasted cumin, I grind in the coffee grinder, but it is not good enough for serious banquet cooking, OK for personal meals. You will notice immediately that the plastic cover of the coffee grinder is always coated with a superfine layer of dust of whatever you are grinding. The bowl contain the ground mixture in at least 3 fractions. The finest at the bottom, the medium-fine at the center, and the coarsest somewhere either at the top or at the bottom, depending on the species of seeds. This is fine for black peppercorns, where you can shake up the bowl and decant the the grinds, using the different coarsenesses to your advantage. With things like cumin and coriander, this does not work well, and most certainly NOT with dry mustard!!!!!

Black peppercorn, the important last leg of the Bangali "dhone-jeerey-morich": this is NOT Bangladeshi, but Rarhi brahman cooking, that eschews all garlic and onion, and depends solely on these 3 spices for almost all its cookery, adding and subtracting ginger, and whole cardamom, cassia and clove, cassia leaf etc. and other whole seeds.

Mustard, black [large] and white, washed, soaked, always, always, ground with a thai green chili and some sea salt, always.

Along with the seed pastes, GINGER is ground with scant water, and GARLIC never allowed to touch any grinding stone. You will also find not using GROUND garlic paste a relief from the onerous burden of the "fry ginger garlic paste". It makes food heavy, and taste the same. Try chopped garlic instead and be pleasantly surprised at how much lighter your food tastes. If you don't like it, go back to the blunderbuss regime of "ginger and garlic paste" and tons of tomato drowning out all flavor. Remember, garam masala and these types of cooking were invented by circumstances I do not care to describe. In normal home cooking, ONE cardamom, ONE clove, a tiny piece of cassia etc. is used!!!!!! They are expensive, and in many circles, NO garam masala is allowed to be eaten. Just helping you understand the context of real Indian food eaten by real Indian people, i.e. 1.1 billion out of the 1.2 billion!!!! You can challenge my words and take it to the court of the Indian public, not the cookbook writers!!

I have had a small coffee grinder in which I grind small quantities of coriander, cumin, cassia, cinnamon [true], black and green cardamom, pepper, and all Indian spices, every week. I cook Indian for the most part, 90% of the time. I have not damaged my machine, God forbid, but I am very careful with all my equipment, knives, spatula, etc. and they seem to reciprocate the care and tenderness in spades! Longevity proves nothing, one way or the other.

Please choose a particular regional cuisine you like and cook it often. Find some good native practitioners and learn directly from them if possible. There are so many Indians floating around, it will be entirely probable you will be able to find one nearby. For example, my friend from North Carolina brought me some chapatis prepared by a lady who runs a catering business in Raleigh. We sampled the wares of several such home-based caterers and decided that one lady's chapattis were absolutely superb. Chapattis are merely whole wheat and water, perhaps a little salt. Most North Indian types lack even the oil preferred in Gujarat. This lady had the special touch, and was wonderful. She would be the person I should unhesitatingly recommend as a teacher in her genre of cooking. She probably could not write a smarmy, nonsense cookbook, but she surely can cook better than most I have seen. Serious cooks should make a beeline for her and study vegetarian cooking techniques, the basics. Not the rubbish Indian Chinese and weird biryanis and stuff she serves on clients' demands. Learn the latter from some amazing Pakistani/Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims who are really trained and talented. They hide their glory under deep bushel baskets, and the language/cultural barrier ensures that it might forever remain so.

My beef is with the poseurs on TV shows and simpering fools who have captured the Western imagination [and purses]!. Their name is "legion"! What a disappointment these are, with the exception of Julie Sahni and a few truly regional ones. Zero, Zero, ZERO technique, whereas Indian cooking is ALL ABOUT the technical details.

This chapatti was a genius in terms of technique and perfect execution. The same applies with dosa and idlis, e.g. http://mangalaskitchen.blogspot.in/20...

Please perfect technique.

about 19 hours ago
GTM in Cookware

Steamship of Pork...a.k.a, Fresh Ham - - Slow Roasted @ 210* for 12 hours, with Pictures.

We had a Chinese gentleman atempt experiments on eGullet, I believe. AFAIK, using vodka or 40%ethanol, NO baking soda, little or no salt, allows the skin to puff up and rise away from the fat layer. Try it with pork belly to see if it really works. A smaller and less expensive piece of meat to experiment with: scald, dry in fridge, vodka rubbed into scalded, razor-ripped rind, dry in fridge, roast.

Somewhere along the way, cannot remember where,apple cider, of the sweet fresh kind, was another liquid found useful when introduced into the roasting pan with the fresh ham.

White wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, black peppercorns and raw garlic cloves, ground in a blender for a basic "sauce": the fresh ham cooked to very pink, sliced and tossed on a hot pan with drippings and a judicious quantity of this blender sauce. Not so useful for presentation as a whole ham but useful when you want slices for sandwiches or wraps.

Oct 17, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

And you still remain good friends, eh? Dine on said chicken and all that? Maybe even invite Gordon Ramsay over for this truly innovative chicken, just to watch his face and hear what he has to say? Pat, you are a true saint!!!

On the series "Food Wishes" on Youtube, there is a recipe for "Million Dollar Chicken" which involves baking a chicken over some toasted bread and pouring heavy cream on it to prepare the final sauce. Very interesting. Without being facetious, the WC sliders seriously can be used in this method of cooking to add an extra something? Ask your friend and perhaps both of you will have created the Two Million Dollar Chicken and won a prize from Food Wishes which now is owned by FoodNetwork!

Oct 17, 2014
GTM in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

Where I live, in Ithaca, NY, there is a whole [ and VERY VERY substantial] demographic that believes with absolute vehemence that a dinner out at Applebee's is better than a 3-Starred Michelin experience. Of course, never having tried either, I could not comment!

Life is simple here in Upset NY: take your date to Applebee's and you won't have to look back, ever. If she ain't that kind of a girl, you ain't thinking straight, let me tell you that! Any more along these lines and I shall get flamed by THIS board's administrator(s)!!

Oct 17, 2014
GTM in Features

ISO a store-bought tomato based pasta sauce

Posters have suggested cream and the rinds of parmesan and pecorino. Some other ideas could include cubes or crumbles of paneer, a fresh Indian casein curdled sans rennet,which is good for vegetarians; found today in many supermarkets or by mailorder from here:


These have a refreshing taste and will cut the acidity, while removing the aggressive tomatoey taste. You will have a main dish without needing to add anything else.

I have seen New Haven, CT, tomato sauce where whole dressed blue crabs were added to the sauce. I should prefer to add such crabs very lightly sauteed in olive oil and garlic, with a sprinkling of parsley and black pepper.

Oct 10, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Absolute Tomatoey-est Tasting Tomato Sauce You Will EVER Eat

Many people are only able to buy tomatoes on the vine, sometimes as cheaply as a $1/lb per 10lb box in restaurant supply stores. Admittedly, they are not great, but there are times you feel like making sauce during the winter, do you not, when the cold weather whets your appetite for things that require the oven to be on for hours?

These are greenhouse fruit, and the solids are no more than 4-5% tops, unless you are rich enough to buy pounds of Campari or Champagne tomatoes!

What else can one do to supplement this shortfall of great tomatoes with supermarket produce? Cherry tomatoes genetically should have a slightly higher solids content, ideally as much as 9-10%. We will not be so lucky, but cherry tomatoes [not grape or currant tomatoes] can be found in 16oz. x 10 boxes for a reasonable price in those same restaurant supply stores, SOMETIMES, not always. I do interesting sauce base things with them, but that is not the point here. How can we incoporate them into this recipe without too much trouble, is the question. No problem, if you do not mind seeds. Their seeds do not turn as acrid/bitter and foul-tasting as do the jelly/seeds of certain other types when cooked long and cooked dry. At least that is how it tastes to me. YMMV.

You can cook these cherries with a bit of salt and olive oil in another baking tray, or better yet, a pizza sheet, along with the other tomatoes, which you are baking with their stems or flower-stalks on. Perhaps the flower-stalks need to be put in only at a later stage to retain freshness, as described. You can adjust where in your oven your pizza tray goes, so as to best regulate the flow of hot air around both sets of tomatoes. The cherries should be pierced with a sharp knife and they will release juice and also begin to dry. Enough OO should be there to create a juice/OO mess; for me, this is good. No burning happens so long as this mess is visible!! Whole cloves of garlic, large ones, gently perfume this mess, and can be removed as per your desire or not. A food mill with fine sieve removes seeds at the end, and enough juice remains to make milling a fun activity. Everything else remains the same. The cherry toms add the extra solids and sugars the insipid tomatoes on the vine lack.

Canned tomatoes have an awful tinny taste, and the sauce made from them falls into a whole different category, best doctored up with anchovies, carrots, celery, alliums, strongly flavored meats, whole blue crabs [New Haven style, and quite possibly the errant MIL or two [see crabs]!

Oct 10, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Best Spice Brands?

Seven years too late, but here is an Indian chipping in with his 2 cents. One point to consider is, what spices do you use, how much you use of each, and what is your turnover rate?

A normal Indian home uses a LOT of certain kinds of spices and their ideas of quantity, quality and value for money could be very different from what is suitable for your particular needs. Some of these spices are purchased in pound quantities and some in smaller lots, that are still very dear. In NO case would I ever buy from Penzeys or Kalustyan's, the latter a Bangladeshi bunch I know well. The prices are extortionate and sit well with the boutique cook who cooks from "Gourmet" recipes and is an occasional dabbler in these particular cuisines. Otherwise, unless the person is very rich or wants bragging rights, these two establishments offer little value for money.

Next, a type of Mexican or Peruvian home that uses a lot of certain kinds of chiles, e.g. yellow chiles, and specific Mexican chiles, and certain Mexican spices, on a daily basis, would seek to buy these in bulk as well. C.Alden Spices,has great values for bulk quantities of certain chiles, Peruvian yellow chiles, among them. This is where I should buy my Hispanic chiles, for domestic cooking.

If you REALLY know what you are doing and can shop carefully, comparing prices with other Indian mailorder stores, then http://shop.khanapakana.com/spices-he... offers good bargains at times for large quantities. Pistachios, sour plums [alu bukhara] and many other specialty items go on sale. Items dear to the heart of the North Indian banquet cook are to to be found here at excellent prices, e.g. bulk mace arils of various grades. But you need to be familiar with a particular style of cooking to derive much benefit from this website.

There are specific sites to go for saffron and vanilla.

I find myself feeling cheated, mocked and wickely patronized by the superior and patronizing tone and extortionate pricing of both Penzey's and Kalustyans, who are praised to the sky by a band of gushing devotees who feel well-served by them. There is vicious circle: food writers promote a small group of favored sites, wealthy clients migrate to them, find them good, and become devotees. There is no thought given to other sites that also sell the equivalent albeit less slickly packed, less convenient, less alluring to the Upper Crust, but far more economically priced.

These people purchase from the same bulk importers that supply budget brands like Laxmi and Swad, except that they spin their merchandise far, far better!! Perceptions sell, and also, who you know!

Frontier Spices is a reasonably decent mid-level brand for American spices and American style curry powder. One and two pound pouches that are found in restaurant supply stores and which can be kept in the freezer.

I should love to learn what is that Penzeys and Kalustyans do better that the above houses cannot provide cheaper, fresher and of higher quality? I feel sick to the stomach when I look at extortionately prices California olive oils harvested from hedgerow orchards!

Oct 10, 2014
GTM in General Topics

What brands of whole dried shiitake mushrooms -- from online sites -- do you recommend?

When I go to buy the 5 lb.bags, they are packed in clear plastic, presumably repacked from larger lots. No information on provenance, quality or anything, not even weight!

In most Chinese establishments, any questions are met with blank or hostile stares, as if you are prying into affairs that are none of your business. Sometimes it is a language issue, but most times it is a genuine hostility/suspicion, that precludes further investigation!!

Oct 10, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?

Hi Jethro stella.

Can you clone your super-wonderful wife and send me a copy? I should worship the ground she walks on! French fries, ketchup, butter, and white bread sandwich, every day for breakfast. Yum! Have I already stolen her away from you?!!!

Oct 09, 2014
GTM in Features

Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?

Sam Bklyn and Awshucks, two of the saner and more civilized voices on CH. Run for President and VP, you will have me as full-time campaign worker!

Oct 09, 2014
GTM in Features

Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?


Oct 09, 2014
GTM in Features

Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?

In our society today it is absolutely NOT OK to question my choice of sexual identification, e.g gay, straight, gender fluid, nor my choice of a life partner!

So why should another equally personal and intimate choice, that of my hot dog topping, be it ketchup, Miracle Whip, or Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing or all 3 together sans any trace of mustard and kraut, be anyone's business?

Why should any organization feel qualified to issue a patronizing note on my presumed state of personal maturity, or whether I have outgrown my blankie and whether it is indeed important that I have done so? I find it gratuitously offensive and presumptuous, and am sure an equally sharply-worded, biting remark would not be seen as funny by the moderators! That would be termed unnecessarily combative!

Oct 09, 2014
GTM in Features

What brands of whole dried shiitake mushrooms -- from online sites -- do you recommend?

Hi Monamifood,

Lcool has suggested some good solutions for your local area. I only have heard of the Falls Church area Vietnamese mall(s?) by reputation. Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Korean groceries, to name just 4 ethnic stores, tend to stock produce from their home regions; although you will need to make sure. Large quantity bags are available here. I double-bag portions in large ziploc freezer bags, date them, and store them in my capacious freezer [purely for my mental satisfaction, and also because the aroma retention is better].

I cannot speak to pesticides in Chinese product, but the way shiitake is grown in sterile sawdust culture doped with wheat bran and a few natural, edible additives in clean rooms, should not allow for flies or any insects to enter the premises. Double doors are the rule to exclude flies, as in silk-rearing houses, with which China has had long experiences. The same applies to paddy-straw mushroom cultivated indoors and also the common button mushroom, oyster mushroom etc. Any infestation of insects is impossible to clear by pesticides in a mushroom rearing facility, and the same applies to other pathogens. I should trust that these elementary precautions are known to Chinese growers, as clearly as the principles of asepsis are followed in surgical theaters in any civilized society.

Certainly, in the semi-civilized regions of societies, norms are thrown to the winds and medical standards do not exist. The same could be happening to agricultural produce and most certainly does happen to vegetable crops like eggplant and certain fruit. Mushrooms, however, react violently to applications of common insecticides, including the very harmful FORMALIN that is routinely applied to fresh fish and fruit to retard spoilage in the absence of refrigeration in nations like Myanmar and Bangladesh. Urea, Formalin and other evil contaminants are resisted by edible fungi precisely because their delicate bodies have little tolerance for these.

HOWEVER, when the mushrooms have been dessicated to some extent, they are indeed able to tolerate poisons applied to them. I am unaware what goes on at these final stages and why? Logic says that the drying in countries like China is accomplished TODAY is short order via ovens and blowers, and not in sunlight over a protracted period. Hence, where is the window for insect attack?

We should indeed be wary of contamination in Chinese produce, but for just cause. Are Chinese mushrooms and wood ear fungi known to be contaminated? Can we find real evidence and food science data? Can we get such material tested in a US food lab? That could be a Chow project worth pursuing.

I am more wary of the substrate, the sawdust, the straw, the wheat bran, being used by any source. What are the levels of control over contaminants being exercised on these substrates? Does FDA regulate or examine anything entering the USA? Would Chowhound consider doing a report on such? It is beyond our private resources, but the authorities would surely agree to be interviewed by CH? Thank you for bringing up an important issue.

Oct 09, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Thanksgiving Potatoes that can be served at room temperature or cold

Hi Daisy,

If this is going to be a regular feature in your lives, I wonder if there is some way you can spring for an insulated catering container?

They are not cheap, running close to $100 for an entry level model. But if taking meals to nursing home folk for holidays is going to be something your family is going to be doing over the years, this is worth thinking about. They keep food at the 40-140F range for 6 hours, so you can be sure you are keeping the safety of elderly or fragile folk firmly in mind.


Oct 08, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

how do doctor up canned baked beans?

The pink beans with the green chile + cilantro actually are in a slightly soupy broth. This forms the body of the dish. The other plain pink beans also have this soupy quality in their cans.

I find PINK beans to be a bit more toothsome than the red kidneys, although botanically they are the same. Just for my mouthfeel, I always go for the pink beans.

Pinto beans are good for me, black beans, white beans, all of which are botanically equivalent to red kidneys. I really don't like the last type, the only one I avoid of all the beans!

But I am told that there are slight variations in phaseolin proteins and these come in at least 6 types in the common bean, so are there really any noticeable differences in this and perhaps other storage proteins and the types of starches in the various market classes?

Oh, you can always add a can of the fat-free refried beans of your choice to this "mess" if you want to create a thicker spread, that is very good stuffed into tortillas.

I have been guilty of using a can or two Campbell's cream of mushroom soup instead of the turkey/chicken gravy, when I needed to make a vegetarian version. Perhaps I shall be excommunicated from the CH community now!!!!

The nice thing with this recipe is with the current scares again telling us how olive oil helps the heart muscles function better and animal fats do the opposite, one can feel a tiny bit less guilty when chowing down on this type of food. It is extremely filling, and needs NO cheese, no sour cream, and nothing except a bit of pico de gallo or salsa. Not even tortillas.

When I cook with canned chickpeas, I do drain the liquid, and proceed as above. NO added gravy, no soups. Just sauteed onions, garlic and green chilies, maybe a bit of cumin powder, add chickpeas, mash them up. Sometimes a little water help with the mashing. Sometimes I am lazy and add the whole can liquid and all, and this helps the mashing, although one needs to watch the sodium content. Just dry it out a little, add cilantro, or green onions, and a squeeze of lime, a pinch of sugar to balance flavors, some more fresh chopped thai chilies if you want. This is a great filling for those fire-puffed whole wheat tortillas, along with some onion relish.

You can use a mandolin slicer to slice onions into cold water, and then use hands to free the rings. Now you can do things according to your fancy. Maybe just salt and lime juice, or lime juice, orange juice & grape fruit juice, or some zaatar or some sumac. Whatever you want. Gentle crush the onions, and so long there is a tiny bit of salt, they will release water and cure. Great with this type of mashed chickpeas and fresh chapatis or fire-roasted tortillas.

I love raitas made with Low-fat KEFIR far better than those made with yoghurt: grated carrots, kefir, chopped mint, hint of sea salt, mix. Great with the chickpea + tortilla, and just by itself.

Oct 08, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

how do doctor up canned baked beans?

So this is on a completely different track from the Bush's beans sweet baked beans flavor and I don't know whether it will fit the criterion of "baked beans"?

Goya canned pink beans: these come in 2 flavors, one plain, another with chiles and cilantro, with pull-off tops. Both will work.

Saute onions in large pan in olive oil, add chopped garlic, no browning, add chopped green poblano or some mix of hot green chiles like thai and jalapeno to your taste. Gently cook for a few moments and then add the beans with liquid. Bring to simmer.

Per 2 cans [c.16oz] you will need one small bottle of turkey or chicken gravy, off the shelf, or a small container of frozen turkey gravy. Add and bring to simmer.

Mash up some of the beans with the back of your spatula and you are nearly done when the beans begin to change color and smell done, a circular reasoning. It takes less than 10 minutes, depending on the quantities and the stove. Add a generous handful of chopped scallion, everything but the root, and shut off the heat. The beans will thicken a lot. A squeeze of a fresh-cut lime and/or a grind or two of pepper may be indicated.

This is a fairly low-key dish but great with 100% whole-wheat tortillas that have been puffed up on flames until slightly charred. Add some pico de gallo, and you have a complete meal. Add a Hass avocado and/or a slice of Cabot Sharp Cheddar or similar with some buttercrunch lettuce, and the superlatives increase.

Oct 07, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

What brands of whole dried shiitake mushrooms -- from online sites -- do you recommend?

Shiitake mushrooms depend on what purpose they are being used:

1. Say a Chinese wedding, with a dish of braised mushrooms, where these are stand-alone. This is an auspicious occasion, a matter of prestige, a matter of honoring guests, a whole bunch of social and cultural issues wrapped up, all the reasons you need to serve shark fin, Yunnan Ham, jellyfish, sea cucumber and other specific expensive items. So here, the best quality should be used.

2. You are making a sort-of red-cooked stew at home, be it Lao. Chinese, Thai, whatever, and you want some shiitake: you want to buy the 5 lb. commercial bag used in the restaurant trade that is good on flavor and has no fancy trademark.

3. If you are making dashi or Korean dashida, that same 5 lb. commercial bag!

4. If you are chopping up mushrooms for dumplings, or for flavorings, guess what? Slicing for stir fries? Slicing for brown rice fried rice?

The expensive mushrooms are great for special foods like ryori cooking, for special occasion foods, etc. For all other occasions, use the commercial grade, unless you are rich.

Note: the commercial grade, and especially their stems, will tend to be a bit bitter. Why? They are being grown in various types of sawdust, bran, wheat, etc. now, not fresh-sawn tree logs, and probably pick up excessive tannins or some metabolites.

Not to worry. A judicious glug of mirin solves this problem. Please use real Mirin. I am able to purchase Takara Mirin at my local spirits store, and it is OK. I regularly make kombu/shiitake dashi, with this commercial grade shiitake.

For me, $10-11/lb is a fair price for cooking grade shiitake. Other more fortunate people may find it worthwhile to spend much more. But when cooking in certain types of sauces, the advantages of Hana mushrooms become muted, and most certainly if they are being sliced, diced, chopped, then using the commercial grade makes sense. What do you think?

Oct 07, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Fish sauce

Hi Sushigirlie,

My 2 cents! Fish sauce, for us simpletons, is nam pla: nam = water, pla = fishies!

Generally, this is made from salt-water fish like anchovies, packed with salt, and left to ferment. The amino-acid rich brine is drained off, hopefully aged some, and it is a clear gold-brown liquid.

Nam Pla raa is better known as Pla ra or padek, a product identified with Lao cooking and the closely related peoples of the Thai north-east, which is termed ISSAN, after the Sanskrit word for north-east, iishaana.

Padek is made by salting various freshwater fishes. Ricefield crabs also are preserved in a similar manner and pounded into Laotian fresh "salads". Unfortunately, some parasites sometimes survive this salting process in both the padek and the crabs.

The Centers for Disease Control at Atlants, GA, advise us to NOT consume RAW padek or the raw preserved crab in any form.

Fortunately, PADEK can be made safe for cooking Lao/Issan food in one of the 2 following ways.

1. The raw padek looks like grayish-black liquidy clay. It may or may not contain fish bones. The Cambodian equivalent is PRAHOK, and often may be called SIEM RIEP fish in the English brand names. Anyway, all of this can be mashed up with water and very gently simmered. You then decant the supernatant. It is now safe.

Of course, raw padek can be mashed and strained and used in Lao stews that are brought to boil for a while, without this preliminary treatment.

2. The second way to treat padek to to cook it very carefully until it is nearly dry, almost pan-roasted. This is called OR PADEK. It concentrates flavors and assures your neighbors that you are indeed an expert Lao chef!!!

Oct 07, 2014
GTM in General Topics

what brand of fish sauce?

Hi Nancy,

You may find reading this post by Andrea Nguyen helpful for your Vietnamese cooking efforts. Remember, though, that the Vietnamese fish sauces are used for dipping and Thai fish sauces are used for cooking to a far greater degree. This distinction is not a true one, like all generalizations, but Thai and Vietnamese "process" create different types of sauces!! By the way, Nuoc Mam, I believe, is the generic Vietnamese term for "Fish Sauce". So, the brand name would be whatever comes after that general descriptor.

There is a widely consumed TIPAROS brand fish sauce in a plastic bottle: I am sure you have eliminated the closely similar names in your search, have you not? TIPAROS is very commonly available as you may have discovered, and widely used by Thai food vendors, and good for Thai cooking.


Oct 07, 2014
GTM in General Topics

USA heavy cream vs UK double cream

Hi MacGuffin,

I am an Indian from West Bengal. Cream, very thick heavy cream is indeed an IMPORTANT item of everyday food. However, with each passing day, these traditions are becoming extinct owing to expense and the decline of traditional ways of cooking and eating.

If you research the terms MALAI, BALAI, noni and navani you will immediately understand the significance of HEAVY CREAM, CLOTTED CREAM,CULTURED CREAM, and the differences recognized among the various creams and butters created from them and that churned from yoghurt and fresh sweet cream. This goes to the heart of Indian existence, in some ways, and I shall leave you to explore WHY I say so! The derivative BUTTERMILKS are indeed the other staples of the diet of the west and the north. Where rainfall is unpredictable, the cow is most demonstrably the giver of life, the single factor that allows human beings to exist in a very harsh land. This is not understood in the West, nor the fact why the cow is so revered.

However,take a look at the cooking shows on TV: Examine the thick yellow cream ORDINARILY used in Pakistan, in Punjab, in Uttar Pradesh,even Bangladesh, in ordinary cooking such as in palak paneer, and you will understand why such dishes became justly famous. No comparison can be made to their horrid restaurant descendants. This sort of cream is sold in soft golden masses on green leaves of Shorea robusta, or banana; it is not liquid at all but more like very soft butter!!

Clotted cream is a distinct creature, skimmed from milk that has been very carefully warmed very gently to barely activate the kappa proteins in cow's milk; a structure trapping the fat emerges and is carefully skimmed.

We also make "cream foam" during winter nights from raw milk, which is relished with a sprinkling of chopped nuts.

This is not the place to dwell on the different types of HEAVY cream and the manipulation of textures used in Bengali sweets, although these are becoming extinct as time passes. Shorbhaja and shorpuria of Murshidabad and Krishnanagar, are end products of a textured type of CLOTTED cream.

Sadly, most writers of the well-known volumes on Indian cooking have little knowledge of the dairy culture of India and little specific insights into the regional cuisines. Even those who write about regional cuisines seem to be at some remove from the heart of their own cultures, somewhat deracinated and thus able to connect effectively with their Western audience. That degree of deracination appears to be a necessary condition for communication, but also means a corresponding loss of accuracy and authenticity.

Oct 06, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Mysterious Creature from the Deep, Grilled

Cactus Wren,

Most adult humans, after they reach the end of their teen years, lose sufficient intelligence to open a jar! [ Aside from the intelligence to accomplish many other useful things!]

What is your verdict? Hammering on rocks? Stewing with wine corks? Stewing with plastic wine stoppers? Ceviche? Steak tartare? Sashimi?

Oct 02, 2014
GTM in Features

Signs of a NOT Authentic Chinese Restaurant


Here is my favorite series [The Art of Cooking] that shows how to cook resto style "inauthentic Chinese" dishes, including Walnut Shrimp, below. Enjoy!


7 Things to Do with Canned Sardines

Very fresh raw sardines are landed on the oast of Virginia/Maryland and such. They are considered an absolute treat by people from Bengal and Odisha, India and Bangladesh, and I have seen frozen raw sardines being sold in Lebanese stores. But since I am from Bengal, I fancy only the very fresh, landed straight from the boat.

These need only to be gutted, nothing else needed. Along with our brethren in Odisha, we prepare them in a hot mustard paste and cook them in mustard oil, thai green chillies [get the real ones], and some fresh cilantro at the end. Those from Odisha and Bangladesh often add crushed garlic, crushed ginger, and more bells and whistles. My folk prefer just to heat the mustard oil flavor it with nigella seeds or a mix of 5 types of seeds, including cumin, fennel, nigella and a hint of fenugreek [ I am omitting the fifth, randhuni], followed by the mustard paste. This is a mix of white and black mustard seed that has been soaked in water and ground with a bit of salt and 1 green thai chili in a blender with just enough water to release the blades. Some turmeric powder has been mixed in. This slurry enters the flavored oil and is briefly cooked, the raw fish goes in, more salt. Sardines will disintegrate, and that is good. Add more green chillies, unbroken, for flavor, sea salt to taste, and last, chopped cilantro and a thread of raw mustard oil off heat. Eat with steaming jasmine or parboiled rice. How much gravy you make is your choice.

I feel sad that small fish like whitebait, sardines, mullets, Glossogobius, etc. that are so treasured as food fish, are seen as inedible or of less value here. Snakeheads are esteemed in tropical Asia and their fry are as valuable as elvers are in Spanish cooking. Harvesting the fry of snakeheads is much easier than eliminating the adult fish since fry flock together. I wish Fish & Game authorities would pay more attention to the needs and counsel of the more than 180 ethnic groups that make the US their home, and not go about destroying resources in a bullheaded,ignorant fashion. They waste a whole lot of taxpayer money without any results.

Oct 01, 2014
GTM in Features



I know hana katsuo IS used all the time. It is just NOT the correct thing for real or excellent dashi is the point I am trying to make. I once spent a long time trying to study the curing process, which begins/began in the Maldives, but know has a number of other destinations. The fish is lightly boiled and the concentrate from this boiling once formed an important seasoning in Sri Lankan cooking. That fish is transferred to Japan, and cured in successive stages to a hard, dark red katsuoboshi that has a specific name and is NOT hana katsuo. Please ask a Japanese expert and he might be able to set you right about the correct use for hana katsuo.

I am speaking from the research I made, not off the cuff comment as you seem to be making from what you have picked up along the way. I also have made dashi from hana katsuo; also more than 36 years of cooking Japanese food, taught by more than one Japanese cook [not chef], and cooking in take-aways and such [no gourmet places, alas!].

So, I am not just pulling a bit of nonsense out of the top of my head.

Have you noted my precise temperature specifications for steeping kombu? I do the same for onsen/eggs. I try to cook as carefully as I can, using a medium-decent grade of Mirin, produced by Takara Sake, and their Sake,too. No mirin-fu, no supermarket "hon-mirin" etc.

Are you satisfied that I am not a casual dabbler?

Oct 01, 2014
GTM in General Topics


I wonder how many in the USA are making their dashi from the block katsuoboshi as opposed to the Hana katsuo, which I believe undergoes a different type of curing and is meant to be used primarily as a furikake-type of topping? [I should like to be corrected if I am wrong about this.] The former is pretty expensive!!!!

The boxed granules are another story: since I read that the first ingredient in Hon-dashi, a common brand was Glucose, then salt, I quit buying this convenient product! Even for ordinary cooking.

I now make a vegetarian stock with kelp squares, soaked for several hours, and soaked shiitake mushrooms of the type purchased for flavoring and cooking. These are brought gently up to 70-90Celsius, since I read that the kelp releases its best at this range. It can be be retrieved and chopped up for furikake, roasted in a dry pan.

Anchovies, niboshi, sold in Korean groceries, at around $16-20/lb depending on size, is a sort of alternative to bonito, but not for all uses. Certainly, Korean anchovy dashida is best made with these, with the addition of other ingredients like garlic, onion, shiitake, and sometimes daikon chunks.

Maldive fish, a cured tuna, found in Sri Lankan groceries, at $20/lb, also can be used as a bonito substitute for SOME purposes.

Oct 01, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Basmati rice in rice cooker

When I did have a rice cooker, it was a National/Panasonic 10-cup, plain aluminum [no non-stick] and it performed like a dream for more than 15 years. No settings on it for basmati,Sticky rice or anything else! Just Cook and Warm. As you say, one an cook a whole gallery of interesting stuff, providing one knows what is doing and takes a little time: a range of biryanis, many Japanese foods, and so on.

I experience extreme sticker shock when I see the prices being charged for many of the modern Japanese and other rice cookers. Perhaps they are liked by equally modern buyers who lack time and the necessary skills to use the older models. Likewise, I detest anything digital in my appliances, since I think analog circuits work well, work on simple, accurate, reliable principles sufficient for the home and commercial kitchens where I have worked for a long time. Digital spells trouble. They do not like heat, hot grease and the difficult conditions present during heavy use in busy kitchens.

Oct 01, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Basmati rice in rice cooker

Yes, it would be. But, you appreciate that the end product would taste more like rice pilaf than the light, white cloud-like rice, do you not?

May I ask you if you are open to another experiment, since you already are willing to go to the trouble of cooking in butter? If you are set on using your rice cooker, please melt your butter in it. Then wash well and lightly soak your rice, 10-20 minutes depending on the particular brand. Cook the rice on the stovetop in a fairly large saucepan as you do a good pasta, in an excess of boiling water, to which you have added a squeeze of lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice will do. Rice will stay in boiling water no more than 5-6 minutes. Drain in a good colander or chinese hat.

Center will be hard and will crumble between your index finger and thumb as you pull it down towards the base of your index finger in a characteristic 3 part fracture. It will break into 3 distinct grains with chalky white insides. If it is cooked beyond this stage, it will adhere as a whole grain! Too much! But don't worry, cooking is about learning and having fun. There is no one watching over your shoulders. Practice is important and you should not be disappointed if you need several runs.

Place this drained rice, steaming hot, into your rice cooker, in which a nice quantity of butter has formed an inviting bed! Cover. You may decide to use a thin cloth, or just leave things be, since the cooker lid has a tiny hole. The cook button should go from Warm to COOK. Depending on the cooker, and I have not had one for ages, it might take you 10-15 minutes to steam this rice. You should get smooth, light fluffy rice.

This is the way to make excellent simple biryanis in your cooker, without too much fat or too many complications. That is, if you like the idea and flavors of biryanis made with rice cooked like this. Let me know, and we can discuss this issue further.

Just keep an eye out for tiny details, without getting too wound up. Sometimes,one glosses over aspects that are familiar to one but may not be to another, owing to this being a new method. But some tiny detail might be important that has been left out. Please let me know if that has been the case. One such detail is to not stir the boiling rice more than once to settle it in the water. Otherwise it will break and also release more starch than otherwise. Keep it at a rolling boil. Very brief boiling, go by the cooking stage, not by time.

Happy cooking.

Oct 01, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Basmati rice in rice cooker


Please pardon my saying so, but your post above struck me as the joining together of two opposite methods of cooking. You speak of wanting to cook YOUR basmati rice in a rice cooker, [make not specified, e.g. Zojirushi fuzzy logic, vs. various others calibrated to sense when the rice runs out of water and the temperature begins to rise in the pan] and seek results comparable to the LIGHT FLUFFY rice served in Iranian and Indian RESTAURANTS.

There are 2 separate issues here. First, Iranian and Indian restaurants, for the type of rice you are speaking about, cook their rice in a way that is quite different than how a rice cooker cooks it. If you do it their way, your basmati will be almost as fluffy and light.

First, they know what vintage their rice is, as it varies from batch to batch, and all basmatis are not created equal.

The term "basmati" is much abused. Originally, LONG GRAIN basmati [there are medium and short grain aromatic rices as well] were found in isolated pockets in northern India, just 2 in fact, and similar small areas in Iran, producing mainly 2 types, Dom-siah [black-tailed] and Ambar-boo [Amber-fragrance]. There were variants of the first type, the long-grain aromatics. We can call all of these "land-races" i.e. varieties preserved by farmers selecting the best plants from their fields each year according to their own judgment. Local conditions continued to act as the selection pressure, so that the basmati of the Dehra Dun valley retained its characteristics, that of Jammu its own, and so did the Iranian types. These were reserved for the VERY FORTUNATE FEW. It was rare in my childhood for an ordinary middle class Indian to eat basmati more than once or twice a YEAR, if that.

Later, plant breeders cross-bred these types, which have natural barriers to breeding with other [higher yielding] rices, and produced genetic hybrids with many other sorts. These crosses technically remain basmati, in the sense that they retain > 20odd percentage points of aroma, X amount of longitudinal expansion, Y amount of breadth upon cooking and a whole host of parameters. BUT not everything can be reduced down to chemistry and rheology. That is why there is basmati that is sold at a wholesale rate of less than $1000/metric ton.

These basmati crosses present a problem, because they have decidedly lower quality, masquerading under the "basmati" name. Even in the US, we have Texmati and many other such derivatives.

Iranian and Indian restaurant soak their rices, and Iranians are also very careful of the acidity and alkalinity of the water when cooking or soaking rice. A little acidity in the cooking water allows rice to hold its shape and color much better, and this has been known by generations of pulao and biriyani cooks. Lemon juice or white vinegar works well. Just a touch.

The other factor, as mentioned by Fatimaji, is correct washing, not breaking grains during washing, and correct soaking time. Then, restaurants and even homes, drop the rices in a large excess of boiling water that may or may not be salted. It is brought back up to the boil and the rice is cooked for a scant 5-6 minutes, depending on the end use, say 50-60% cooked and the insides are hard. When you press on a grain they will tend to come apart longitudinally in 3 pieces. This is best learned under an experienced cook.

The rice is well-drained [or not, depending on the end use]. I am supposing a simple chelo type rice. A heavy bottomed pan is liberally coated with butter or ghee and the steaming rice is added, in a cone. Some more butter or ghee is poured over, melted or warmed, of course. A heavy lid that is wrapped with a cotton cover is placed over the rice and the pot placed over a reasonably high heat [dispersed/diffused] which is then lowered once steam has developed and the rice allowed to cook in the steam. Careful maipulation of time X heat allows a bottom crust to develop [slowly]. This is what gives you light and fluffy rice. The draining out of the cooking water and the subsequent steaming with butter or ghee.

The rice cooker allows all the starchy water to remain with the cooked rice, leading to a slightly heavier mouth-feel. That is both logical and unavoidable by the very nature of the chosen cooking process. It can be countered by the various methods indicated, some of which try to gelatinize the starch prior to boiling. Hence, the cooking in oil before adding water. Without this pre-gelatinization, the starch released by the cooking will remain and eventually settle around the cooked grains. You can minimize but not eliminate this effect. You should get reasonably great rice by following the steps of experienced cooks here, but please know why the restaurants have a different quality, which you can also exactly duplicate.

Oct 01, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

what brand of fish sauce?

Hi Monica,

I don't know if this is still relevant, but here is my 2 cents, gleaned from cooking at a Laotian restaurant, which of course depends heavily on Padek or pla-la, creating various forms of it by boiling in water and decanting or reducing to almost-dry, etc. Since we also cooked a lot of food from central and southern Thailand, we got to learn the preferences of THAI fish sauces used for THAI dishes.

The VIETNAMESE fish sauces are different than THAI fish sauces, and this point has been dealt with in several Thai and Viet food blogs, including SHE SIMMERS and Bangkok Glutton. Several Fish Sauces like the 3 Crabs brand recommended in Vietnamese cookbooks, are made in Thailand FOR VIETNAMESE TASTES, e.g. for dipping sauces. They do not work out well in Thai cooking.

I see many here have urged the purchase of premium Vietnamese fish sauce, labelled 40N,even 43N, which is what quality handmade Phu Quoc anchovy extract of the first press should turn out. There can be higher grades for bragging rights, as with EVOO and port wines. But please remember that you will be simply wasting your money when you cook Thai food with these.

Central and southern Thai food is best cooked with Thai fish sauces. The best are not available in the US, but of those that are, Kasma Loha-Unchit and many others agree that the following are the best:

Tra-Chang, the brand showing a scale
Golden Boy, " " " a fat boy

Ordinary restaurants and street vendors use:

Squid brand and Tiparos.

Authentic Issan [north-eastern Thailand] and Laotian food is prepared with Padek or pla-la. This should be crushed and then gently simmered in water for safety, and the supernatant decanted. You lose some zing, but gain a lot of peace of mind, since you can always reach for this liquid when cooking or making any raw "salad". The other way is to crush and strain padek [which resembles malodorous charcoal-grey liquid mud filled with fish bones and things in 5-10 gallon tubs] and gently cook/roast it over a low fire until it is concentrated and almost dry. This is Padek Or, another variation, and quite strong. In the right hands, it adds deliciousness to many dishes, as does padek itself. Don't let its horrible appearance fool you. But also never eat raw the bottled preserved field crabs that are so much a part of Laotian pounded "salads". The Centers for Disease Control have warned against raw padek and these preserved crabs.

Sep 30, 2014
GTM in General Topics