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What to buy at an asian market?

This 14-year-old comparative tasting of oyster sauces may interest you, if only because the tasters did not like whatever type of Sa Cheng oyster sauce it was that they tried. It interested me because two brands I think are inferior to Lee Kum Kee Premium - Amoy and LKK's lesser Panda - were preferred over LKK Premium. Chacun a son gout....

http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataa...

Jul 15, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Pickled Sichuan Peppers [split from General Topics Sichuan Pepper thread]

True enough - but I'm not interested in canning, only in making "refrigerator" pickles, e.g., kimchi.

Jul 15, 2012
SichuanFan in Home Cooking

What to buy at an asian market?

No argument about accidental-ness of the discovery of Teflon and of many other "discoveries." I meant only that "discoveries" such as Teflon and Post-It notes are more likely to be made by people working in corporate-funded or government-funded or university-funded labs. As you know, a usual price one pays to work in such labs is assigning one's patents and most of one's royalties to one's employer.

Fortunately, when Lee Kam Sheung invented oyster sauce, he was self-employed.

Jul 15, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

...except that Roy Plunkett was working in a lab co-funded by DuPont and GM :-)

Jul 15, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

Point taken, though I'd deny that chocolate-chip cookies are a "creation" of anything unique or new, or the result of an "aha" moment. But yes - I've been too rigorous. specially about the history of a cookie.

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

Lack experience re much-reduced seafood sauces and would rather somebody else find out....

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

I concur with the prevalence of accidental discovery vs. intentional design. Also - strongly - with simultaneous, inter-dependent, somewhat aleatory development of breakthrough technologies, most famously, planar semiconductors.

Perhaps accidental discovery is likeliest when the product is most practical, like oyster sauce or the microplane (whose designers, having extrapolated from centuries of rasp design, had no idea that a wood-working tool would achieve its greatest success as a culinary tool).

I would demur about chocolate chip cookies (not an invention: non-standard recipe, neither patent-able nor copyright-able nor trademark-able). Also, on balance, about Teflon, which was the product of DuPont's famously fecund - and targeted - research program. But I don't know enough facts about the history

The narrative about Post-It notes does lend support to the accidental discovery viewpoint, but Post-It notes were, after all, a product of 3M's uniquely large and steady investments in R&D targeted to adhesives ("uniquely" compared, anyway, with Eastman Chemicals, Bayer, and even DuPont.) Super Glue - cyanoacrylic - may well be another story, but I know nothing about it..

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

This isn't (entirely) a tease: If anybody makes a much-reduced sauce of lobsters comparable to the much-reduced oyster sauces of LKK and Sa Cheng, please tell me the producer's name so I can find some to taste.

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

Issue isn't whether or not the LKK narrative is spin - most narratives are exactly that: stories, and thus not susceptible to rigorous fact checking.

The verifiable histories of science and technology - the verifiable histories of new principles and new applications - support Chemicalkinetics' view that accident is more frequent than intention (and that perception of nexus, a.k.a.the "aha moment" or "creativity", underlies all; anybody - LOL - want to found a thread called "Perceptions of Culinary Nexus"?)

But I do draw the line at chocolate-chip cookies: non-standard recipe, not an invention, neither patent-able, nor copyright-able, nor trademark-able. Maybe Chemicalkinetics was referring to the technology for making "chocolate chips," but I don't know anything about the verifiable history. (Don't much like cookies.)

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

No issue with the basic facts/timelines of the LKK and Coca-Cola narratives. As an investigative journalist, I'm prone to checking the tiniest details and hypersensitive to spin. For examples: Did the Coca-Cola inventor really formulate his beverage to be one of the many cocaine-based tonics of 19th C. America? (The record says, probably yes.) Did Lee Kum Sheung really forget to check his oyster pot? (Don't know the record, but other cooks/chefs are supposed to have discovered recipes by having inadvertently overcooked something.)

No offense. I am indeed grateful for your enlightenments re oyster sauces, both LKK Premium and Sa Cheng (Premium?).

"All people have opinions; some people know facts; no person can say for sure what happened."

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

The Wikipedia entry sounds to me like a corporate P.R. myth - but an appealing one, absent other sources.

And one must admire the enormous business success of LKK.

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Pickled Sichuan Peppers [split from General Topics Sichuan Pepper thread]

The brine for the "refrigerator pickle" recipe that I last used for pickling chilis was a Korean water-kimchi recipe from Saveur (http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...). I just eliminated all the vegetable ingredients except chilis - which, again, disappointed me after several months in the fridge. I expect that any pickled pepper recipe which involved hot brine or canning also would fail my "crispness test".

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in Home Cooking

What to buy at an asian market?

No criticism felt - I was quite pleased by your "enlightenment" re LKK history and would even appreciate links to your sources (English only or computer-translatable, I'm afraid).

As Pearl River Delta (Guangdong) seems to have been where Lee Kam Sheung invented oyster sauce, it makes sense that Sa Cheng, too, would be operating from that area.

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

Thanks for enlightenment about oyster sauces and for Sa Cheng pic. Look forward to comparing that sauce with LKK Premium ("sampan" picture).

BTW, since I'm unfamiliar with the producer address shown in the Sa Cheng label pic, would you tell me exactly where in China (province/city/county/town) the Sa Cheng you like is manufactured?

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

There seems to be more variation in the quality - and prices - of oyster sauces than in the quality and prices of any other "sauce." My rule is to ignore price - they're all relatively inexpensive - and find the label that lists "oyster extractives" as the first ingredient, The only one I've found that does so is the Lee Kum Kee "Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce". The label sports an unforgettable "painting" of what seem to be a mother (paddling) and a son (poling) a "sampan" loaded with mega-oysters whose shells are in various stages of open-ness.

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

What to buy at an asian market?

Aside from the usual items that don't need refrigeration, the main thing that lures me to Asian supermarkets is the array of non-Western leafy greens. In the refrigerator, placed loosely in open plastic bags or wrapped in paper towels, most of them stay in good shape for up to a week.

Jul 14, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Which Two Cuisines for the Rest of your Life?

According to Calvin Trillin, Americans' favorite flavor is "crisp" - not a flavor at all, but a taste sensation of crunchiness, oiliness, and saltiness. I expect he's right, given the overwhelming popularity of french fries, pizza and fried tortillas (taco shells, tortilla chips, etc.).

As a New Yorker who has catered many dinners of French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine, I'd pick - as my two desert-island cuisines - Chinese and Greek/Middle Eastern. Chinese because the repertoire is so very large, from Mongolia to Beijing to Sichuan to Shanghai to Canton (and many other regions). Greek/Middle Eastern because the diet is both delicious and the most healthful I know (lots of olive oil and vegetables and nuts/seeds and legumes and fish, but with little white flour - aside from phyllo sheets - or meat or butterfat, though one must watch the sugary sweets, e.g., halvah, baklava, etc.).

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Pickled Sichuan Peppers [split from General Topics Sichuan Pepper thread]

NB: Though pickled chilis are essential to Hunanese cuisine, they don't seem to turn up in any recipes I've seen for Sichuanese dishes...

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in Home Cooking

Pickled Sichuan Peppers [split from General Topics Sichuan Pepper thread]

Many thanks for recipe link. Any ideas whether splitting the chilis so I can seed and vein them before pickling affects the quality/longevity of the end product under refrigeration? (My last attempt to pickle seeded/deveined chilis resulted, after some months under refrigeration, in a uselessly-mushy product.)

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in Home Cooking

Authentic Sichuan Chinese Ingredients

BTW, if one accepts Dunlop as THE English-writing authority on Sichuanese cuisine, then one must accept that "Chili-Garlic Paste/Sauce" is unknown in Sichuan.

Nonetheless, I like the stuff as a relish. My favorite is Lee Kum Kee's "Guilin Chili Sauce," which contains fermented soybean paste as well as salted and dried chilis and dried garlic and (fresh?) shallots, among other ingredients.

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Authentic Sichuan Chinese Ingredients

Oops! I just checked Wikipedia, which shows a picture of dried "facing heaven" chilies that's a dead ringer for the "Fishwell" brand chilis at posharpstore (and some retailers). Guess I'll keep using those and start using - for some dishes - the hotter but vacuum-packed Yidayuan-brand chiles from Sichuan. Evidently, "facing heaven" chilis are more typical of Chongqing, and the Yidayuan-type chilis more typical of Chengdu.

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

The Holy Grail of Authentic Sichuan Cooking

As of this afternoon, posharpstore had available all 3 likely-authentic Pixian chili bean pastes: Juan Cheng Broad Bean Paste(red envelope); Chengdu Chuanxingmei Pixian Broad Bean Paste (yellow envelopes); and Chengdu Dandan Pixian Chili Broad Bean Paste (2.2 lbs. in a bamboo-leaf-looking envelope - NOT the other Chengdu Dandan packages).

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in Features

Authentic Sichuan Chinese Ingredients

On www.posharpstore.com site, search "Sichuan", and first page of results shows several different brands of Sichuan peppercorns (prickly ash).

Search "chili garlic" and you'll find a Vietnamese brand sauce and a Chinese one.

But I, too, can't find "preserved salted" - i.e., fermented - black beans there (maybe because they're so widely available at retail).

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Authentic Sichuan Chinese Ingredients

Only 2 of posharpstore's dried chilis come from Sichuan - the "Fishwell" and the "Yidayuan" brands. The former are uniquely rounded, with a round point; I've used them satisfactorily for years. The Yidayuan chilis are lanceolate but somewhat wider than most Chinese dried chilis, and the tips of some specimens do curl a bit. Because of that - and because the Yidayuan package illustration shows strings of fresh chilis with up-turned points - the Yidayuan chilis may be the "facing-heaven" ones that Dunlop mentions. Anyway, I've e-mailed her for clarification on what a dried "looking heavenward" chili looks like and will post her answer, if any.

I may switch to Yidayuan because I like the flavor and - more important - because they're vacuum-packed and so are fresher than your run-of-the-mill dried chili.

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics

Authentic Sichuan Chinese Ingredients

www.posharpstore.com is a great mail-order source for Sichuanese ingredients (owner Chris Wren is himself Sichuanese and quite responsive to inquiries). But the website itself has certain issues - mainly, not listing ingredients for each product - that I hope Chris will fix over time. I also hope that he will list the producer's address, where possible.

Juan Cheng Pixian doubanjiang has been my go-to for several years, but I'm planning a taste-off against a few other pastes which Chris offers and that are made in or near Pixian County and will report my impressions.

Jul 13, 2012
SichuanFan in General Topics