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Regional Egg Roll Styles

This is the typical Midwestern egg roll that I'm talking about. Mostly tight-packed cabbage with just a little bit of "red" in it. Very cheap and simple food but great with hot mustard and chile oil. There are some regional variations too, like in Chicago where egg rolls often have a little peanut butter mixed into the filling for some extra richness, but the basic formula is the same.

about 20 hours ago
RealMenJulienne in General Topics

Tough beef in stir fry

I've been getting back into Chinese cooking for weekday dinners because it's fast, cheap and fun. You can make a little meat go a long way if you know how to stir fry. The problem is that my flank steak stir fry is turning out pretty tough after cooking.

I'm definitely slicing the flank thinly across the grain before marinating. The marinade is your standard soy sauce, scallion, ginger, pear juice, corn starch blend, and the meat usually soaks for a whole day while I'm at work. I don't think i'm overcooking either: I briefly sear the meat, then remove it and fry the vegetables til almost done, then toss to combine meat and vegetables.

Should I go with another beef cut like skirt, or just stick to my trusty pork and chicken for stir fry?

Oct 15, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

Your favorite canned vegetable and how do you eat it?

My favorite is not canned, but jarred: preserved bamboo shoots in chili oil. Spoon some over rice, and let the chili oil soak into the rice. Add a couple over easy eggs and you've got a great meal right there.

Also Glory brand canned collards are quite good if you rinse some of the salt out of em. Heat them with a splash of cider vinegar and they can almost pass for fresh cooked.

I have a soft spot for canned mushrooms on pizza...

Oct 15, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

Regional Egg Roll Styles

I grew up eating (and loving) egg rolls in Indiana. The midwestern egg roll, like the typical midwestern resident, is pleasantly plump and straightforward in character. The shell resembles a thick wonton wrapper and it is double wrapped so the outside layer gets super-blistered while the inner layer remains pliant. The filling is cabbage that's been thin-shredded, salted and drained, sometimes pre-cooked in a wok. There are a few granules of red-tinted mystery meat in there, which might be BBQ pork, but who can say? That's it most of time, just cabbage and pork. If you go to a fancy place with cloth napkins and chopsticks you don’t have to peel apart you might see some mixed greens or maybe one lonely shrimp in your roll, but the cabbage/red meat combo is by far the most prevalent.

It sounds simple, but a cabbage-stuffed egg roll with house-made Chinese mustard is still one of my favorite things to eat.

Does anybody else miss chicken skin?

If you've got the skill and patience to build a two zone fire, then carefully tend the grill so that each chicken leg gets cooked through on the cool side and crisped up on the hot side, with fully rendered fat and crisp skin, then by all means leave the skin on!

Most restaurants don't care enough to do that so I'd rather have no skin than flabby skin.

Does anybody else miss chicken skin?

Eh, I am OK with the prevalence of skinless chicken in restaurants. Chicken skin can be great, if the cook takes the trouble to crisp it properly and render the fat. But the sad fact is most places just "turn and burn" without the skill or motivation to do it properly. Nothing ruins a juicy grilled chicken leg like a gummy skin with pockets of fat underneath.

favorite fish dish

Sweet and sour fish, our family recipe. Works with any inexpensive white fish: tilapia, cod, swai, etc. Coat white fish fillets with cornstarch or rice flour, the pan fry until crisp. Set fillets aside, then make a pan sauce with ginger, red chile, scallions, garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar. Simmer until sauce thickens then fold the fish fillets back in and toss to coat. Served with chopped cilantro.

Does your city have an International District/Chinatown?

Not my intention to sell Chicago short, I actually love living and eating here. I just call it like I see it. There's no doubt that many of the Euro ethnic neighborhoods are now assimilated and gentrified. When was the last time you heard German being spoken in Lincoln Square or Italian spoken on Taylor St? Anyway, I never claimed anything close to the whole city was that way, only certain neighborhoods.

I defer to your knowledge on Greektown, but it sure doesn't seem like an actual ethnic enclave when I'm there. As far as I can tell the crowd is 100% suburbanites, tourists and transplants, and nary a Greek to be seen (besides the restaurant hostesses)

Accidentally left uncooked roast out overnight...toss?

Rinse it off and give it the smell test. I've eaten meat from markets in other countries where the cuts were just hanging outside at ambient temperature until someone bought them. I never got sick and the populations of these countries aren't exactly keeling over in droves. Sniff it, use your judgement, and perhaps cook it a little more well done than you normally would.

My Chinese supermarket items to get

Chinatown is kind of far from me when you factor in city traffic, so I always stock up on:

Canned bamboo shoots
Red and green chiles - freeze them and use in any dish requiring some heat. One tray will last a LONG time.
Daikon - good braised in spare rib soup
Napa cabbage - good any which way
Aromatics - Ginger, garlic and scallions are cheap and very high quality
Frozen gongwan meatballs - A good quick addition to soups
Dried egg noodles
Sesame paste
Miso paste
Fried tofu
Xiaoxing cooking wine
Sliced beef for hot pot
Sa cha jiang "BBQ sauce" - anchovy based hot pot condiment
Tung-I instant noodles beef flavor - no other brand will do!

Paste-Based Marinades on chicken thighs

Thinner marinades like your soy-based recipes can more easily soak into the crevices in the meat, while chunkier or pastier marinades will tend to stay on the surface if you don;t give them some help. Soy sauce is also very salty, and the salt absorption will help the chicken taste like it is more evenly flavored through and through.

For a pastier marinade I open up the meat by slicing it down to the bone, or into smaller pieces. Then I spend extra time rubbing the solution into the grain of meat before the resting period. Also keep in mind that creamy stuff like yogurt will dilute salt and flavor, so you may need to add more seasonings and acid to make up for that.

Should i add a carbon steel pan to my collection?

In my opinion, no, you have the bases covered. Carbon steel does the same thing that cast iron does. The only difference is that it heats up faster and doesn't season as easily.

I have a DeBuyer 8" fry pan that I seldom use because my cast iron pan is much more useful. I don't regret buying the Debuyer as it is a quality pan, but it is somewhat redundant in my kitchen.

Oct 08, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Cookware

Why doesn’t Indian cuisine make use of tofu?

Thanks for the links, that's something else I did not know. I though Indo-Chinese had been around since the Mughals or something.

Why doesn’t Indian cuisine make use of tofu?

Well, the paneer thing was just an example that occurred to me when I was eating that dish. Tofu could conceivably exist in Indian cuisine as its own thing, without necessarily replacing cheese or any other foodstuff. I'm just trying to find out why it doesn't, especially considering that Indian-Chinese fusion food is well established (and delicious) in India.

Why doesn’t Indian cuisine make use of tofu?

"And, of course, one has to decide what is China. Today China is (once again) large, but much of that India/China propinquity you mention was India/Tibet, (the PRC not withstanding)."

Thanks for the well-thought out reply. I think this point is especially pertinent and is something I had not considered.

I think another reason the lack of tofu baffles me is because there is a well-established fusion cuisine of Indian-Chinese cooking in India. When I was in Hyderabad, "Chinese" restaurants were all over the place. I had an Eggplant Manchurian dish that was hands-down one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. So clearly, even despite the Himalayas, there has been some diffusion of Chinese culinary culture across the mountains. Yet tofu doesn't seem to have made it.

Fry Pan - what is the most practical size?

I feel like within reason, bigger is better when it comes to frying pans. Even if you're just cooking for one, a large skillet gives you hot and cool zones which allow you to cook an entire dish in just one pan without taking stuff out.

For example, I was cooking a Chinese eggplant dish which requires three main steps: browning the eggplant, building a pan sauce, and combining to finish. After searing the eggplant, I pushed it to the cool side of my large pan and added garlic, scallions, soy sauce, etc. to the hot side. Then it was easy to give it just one toss and mix everything together. No ingredient transfer acrobatics or holding bowls needed.

Oct 06, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Cookware

Delicious drippings from my roasted chickens...

"I'm sure I could fry up potatoes, etc., but I'm just not sure on the specifics"

I like to make kind of a dirty version of Potatoes Anna. While the chicken is roasting, cut potatoes into slices and briefly parboil in salted water. When chicken is done cooking, take it out of the skillet and let it rest before carving. Scoop out few spoonfuls of the chicken fat and reserve. While the bird is resting, place the potato slices into the skillet in a spiral pattern layer by layer, sprinkling salt, pepper and herbs between each layer. When done layering, drizzle the reserved chicken fat over the top. Cover and cook on the stovetop over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, moving the skillet around to even out the hot spots. Be sure to get some flame going up the side of the pan to crisp the edges too. Invert the whole thing onto a plate, slice and serve.

Oct 06, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

The yogurt section at the supermarket is freaking me out!

Yeah, I hear you on that. Try an Indo/Pak or Arab grocery store to find even more variety. I found a Pakistani grocery near me when i was looking for plain yogurt for a chicken marinade, and was astounded at how many types of yogurt there were. Very affordable, too.

Why doesn’t Indian cuisine make use of tofu?

I was eating a dish of saag paneer the other day and thought: the cheese in this dish could just as easily be firm tofu, and it would taste the same. That got me thinking. When you look at the cuisines of East Asia, pretty much all of them have tofu as a key ingredient. In China alone there are hundreds of varieties to to choose from. Preparations run the gamut: deep fried, simmered, stuffed, braised, and served raw with dressings. With such proliferation in East Asia, how come tofu never made it to the subcontinent? Geographically speaking India and China are right next to each other, and India has always had a high population of vegetarians. A soy-based meat substitute seems like an ideal addition to Indian cuisine.

Soybeans grow in many parts of India so it's not a problem of climate or terrain. Or maybe it's because the Himalayas got in the way. But on the other hand, there were plenty of other forms of cross-cultural transmission between India and China. Buddhism made the trip across the mountains, after all (see "Journey to the West"). Are there other reasons I'm not thinking of?

The food's terrible...and such large portions

"I know people who just really don't care about food, so long as it's cheap and they give you lots of it."

Hey, do we know each other somehow? I am this guy from time to time. Sometimes I just want to eat a shit load of food, waddle home and then fall asleep on the couch. The ultimate confluence of cheap and gross is probably Pizza Hut lunch buffet. The price is low, the quality is bad (and it gets worse under the heat lamps), and the quantity is unlimited (by definition).

And whoa whoa please lay off Old Country Buffet. I grew up loving it because it was the only place we got to eat “American” food; the rest of the time it was healthy home-cooked Chinese stuff at our house. Even now, I would still rather go to OCB for $7.99 breakfast than get dragged to some god damn trendy brunch place and pay $15 for an omelet (something that happens all too often these days as many of my friends are yuppie and female).

Oct 01, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Chains

Chicago: you finally have your own Olive Garden!

Funny, that location is close to my house, I see it on my commute. They basically built it right in the middle of Little Mexico, a safe distance from any decent Italian restaurant. The only restaurant options around there are fast food, a crappy Chinese buffet and Little Caesar's so i can see it doing quite well.

Oct 01, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Chains

Does your city have an International District/Chinatown?

Chicago has a Chinatown but it’s not that big compared to NY or West Coast cities. It is mostly Cantonese restaurants with a sprinkling of specialty places from other regions like Szechwan and Hunan. Argyle St, Lawrence Ave and Devon Ave on the North sides are our little Vietnam, Korea and India, respectively.

A lot of the West Side is heavily Hispanic. I would put our taquerias up against any place I’ve tried in LA.

The South Side is mostly Black American with Mississippi roots. So you see a lot of fried fish, chicken and shrimp joints, as well as soul food places. There also seems to be more of the old school blue collar ffood stands, taverns and diners on the South Side.

A lot of the old White ethnic neighborhoods have changed in makeup as their inhabitants moved to the suburbs. Little Italy and “Jewtown” are now gentrified student housing. Greek Town is a just single row of restaurants. Bridgeport, the historic cradle of Chicago-Irish corruption, is turning Chinese and Mexican. Ukrainian Village is a mostly assimilated white-collar transplant neighborhood. There are still many Poles on the northwest side, which means there are still delicious Polish restaurants hanging on here and there.

Will my pizza dough keep overnight?

This seems strange to me. Ifyou've gone to the trouble of cold fermenting a great batch of dough, why would you run a roller over it and intentionally deflate the bubble structure? I don’t doubt your results but I learned to hand stretch, to press the dough down as little as possible and to never roll it out.

To the OP, I would not punch down before refrigerating, and yes you'll probably find that it tastes better tomorrow. When I do a cold rise the dough always seems to taste the best at about day #3, then the dough texture starts to drop off after that.

Sep 29, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

Lo Mein using spaghetti?

Depends what you are going for. If you like the strip mall super-Americanized lo mein with brown sauce (and I do), then spaghetti may be the way to go. I think the "Great Wall Dragon Garden Express" take out joints are actually using cheap spaghetti, not any kind of actual Chinese mian. I made a thread about this a long time ago that got some really helpful responses:

Sep 26, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

Best way to cook rainbow trout?

I think this way, grilling over charcoal, is the best way to cook medium-sized whole fish. I like to add some scallion stalks and lemon slices in the belly cavity, then tie it up with butcher's twine so the stuffing doesn't fall out when I turn it.

Sep 19, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

Gumbo question

If a couple turkey wings had enough salt to saturate a pot of broth, hell that is a lot of salt and it would be enough for me to switch turkey wing suppliers.

If you want to keep using those wings, just add some extra (unsmoked) bones to the stock pot and increase the amount of water you use. That will dilute the saltiness.

Finally, make sure you're not adding any salt to your trinity/roux while sweating it down. Then when you add your salty broth it will even out to just right.

Sep 19, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

World's Best Mustard? Please stake your claim.

The Poles make the best mustard on the planet. It has the perfect balance of heat, sweet and pungent flavors. Sorry I know everyone has an opinion on this controversial subject but in this case the only correct opinion is that Polish mustard is the best.

I like Kamis Rosyjska in the green bottle but just walk into the Polish grocery, pick a jar at random and it's hard to go wrong.

Polished Cast Iron--The Way It's Supposed to Be

I have a Debuyer carbon steel skillet and a cast iron skillet, brand unknown. Both have a smooth finish and an even black seasoning.

I like the cast iron skillet a lot better. The seasoning is much more durable and it is more nonstick. Eggs and pot stickers are no problem in the cast iron but they are tricky in the Debuyer. The only advantage to the carbon steel is lighter weight and quicker heat response.

Sep 16, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Cookware

Help with sandwich buffet for birthday...

Great suggestion. Someone brought a giant muffaleta to a BBQ this weekend and that thing got better and better as the olive oil soaked into the bread over the course of the afternoon. Do to the high acid olive salad and salt-cured meats inside it I don’t think there's much in there that can easily spoil at room temperatures.

Sep 15, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking

Using deboned chicken drumsticks as kebabs

Update: I ended up using a 50-50 mix of thighs and deboned drumsticks for the kebabs. The deboned drumsticks turned out well but they took a lot of trimming to get all the gnarly bits out so I'm not sure it was worth the bother.

Sep 15, 2014
RealMenJulienne in Home Cooking