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Chinese takeout recipes?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hey all, this is a question that plagues me and yet in a number of years I have never been able to get answered. Since most American Chinese takeout restaurants (basic neighborhood ones not fancy/real/specialty) use essentially the same pre-printed menu, and many taste very similar to each other regardless of what state you are in... where are these recipes? There has to be some sort of shared code out there or else hundreds of different places wouldn't have almost identical Hunan Beef, or General Tso's, or Pork Lo Mein. Where is this rosetta stone? Does anyone have any of these recipes? I would love to find the "true" Chinese takeout recipe for Hunan *insert protien here*. The ubiquitous fermented black beans/brown sauce components.

The funny thing is that while I can cook traditional Hunan cuisine just fine, and have a lot of Chinese friends, none of us can duplicate this simple dish exactly as it is done across America.
post #2 of 21
interesting thread

would love to know how to do hunan dishes, kung po, generol tso and orange flavor beef


also black pepper chicken
post #3 of 21
The Shun Lee Cookbook is a restaurant based Chinese cook book. Probably a higher end chinese cookbook than what you're looking for. But it does share some of the info. Also look for It's All American Food by David Rosengarten. It covers lots of classic takeout dishes from many cuisines.

Also monitor the blog Rasa Malaysia: Asian Recipes and Cooking for lots of other good restaurant food of Asia.

Most every bit of meat that comes to your table in a Chinese-American restaurant will have been deep fried, even if it doesn't come in a coating. The velvety chicken and pork. The beef particularly. I usually see this translated as passing through oil. You par cook the meat this way so it cooks quickly to finish in the final dish. There are also texture effects created this way.

Velveting has been discussed here before. In it's most classic application, this is an egg wash, a cornstarch coating and a brief deep frying. Lots of your pork and chicken bits will have been treated this way. It's often abbreviated to just a corn starch coating before stir frying but this is not as effective.

With the finely sliced beef strips, passing is a key technique. You can not toss the beef in to a hot wok and stir fry them all to an even finish. They're going to stick together and you've always got a pink spot here, a burned spot there. And no way to get an even medium rare. The deep fryer gets into all the crannies and cooks the surface evenly leaving you a pink center if that's what you want.

Passing can be a hassle at home but it's a great do-ahead technique for production cooking in a Chinese restaurant.

It seems to me that most of the brown sauces in Chinese restaurants is mostly a chinese chicken stock, some oyster sauce, a bit of shaohsing wine and corn starch to thicken. Tilt it to match the dish with some garlic and or ginger for the ubiquitous garlic sauce.

Black pepper chicken is quite easy.

about 1 pound of chicken meat sliced thinly. I'd use boneless skinless thigh.

Marinade:
1 tablespoon light soy sauce*
1 tablspoon shaohsing wine
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

2 cloves garlic sliced thinly
One medium onion, sliced thinly
One large bell pepper (any color) sliced thinly I prefer red
5 green onions cut on the diagonal, green parts inlcuded

oil for stifrying-- about 2 tablespoons

pinch of sugar,
lots of fresh ground black pepper. Some ground sichuan pepper is a nice touch as well.

soy sauce to finish. Light is usually used but a LITTLE dark soy would look good on chicken.

Technique:

I usually do this in a round bottomed wok on a 30,000 BTU burner. If you're doing this on a normal home stove, you'll need to make some changes in technique. See http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/cooki...t=wok+remedial

Marinade the chicken for about 15 minutes.

If you wanted to you could velvet the chicken. I don't usually bother.

Heat the wok. Add the oil--a generous tablespoon--and swirl up the sides a bit. Stir fry the chicken and garlic slices a few minutes until just about done. Remove from the wok and reserve. On a home stove, this is a two or three batch process to keep the heat high enough.

Add a little more oil and stir fry the remaining vegetables. On a home stove, do this in small batches as it will lose too much heat to the water in the vegies and steam more than stir fry.

Return the chicken and its juices as well and all the vegetables to the wok. Season with the sugar, plenty of pepper a little soy and toss to mix and finish cooking the chicken. Serve immediately.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
I appreciate the insight phatch, and the info/recipe is also appreciated... unfortunately most of that I know... what I don't know is how all of these places can manage to produce almost identical end results if they aren't working from some central recipes that must be available somewhere. I mean most chain restaurants would kill for the sort of consistency achieved by the standard Chinese takeout fare across such diverse geographic regions and with zero communication between them. That is the crux of my question.

How is it that my Hunan chicken tastes darn near exact when I order from the place down the street, in another town, or another state? They must be working from some written central recipes. Those are the recipes I am looking for.

I do have a number of Chinese friends, one owns a restaurant but it is much higher-end traditional fare... even he was at a loss as to how they all manage to have the same dishes when I brought it up. It's one of those things so mundane no one ever gives it a second thought, but when you do think about it, it is intriguing. I still really hope to find the answer one day, I had hoped someone here worked in one of these kitchens or knew the secret. (I still do :)
post #5 of 21
I forgot to footnote my asterisk on soy sauce.

Soy sauce comes in two types, light and dark. Light does not refer to calories or sodium, but to color from caramelization of sugars. Most soy sauce in grocery stores is light such as Kikkoman. And that's not a bad soy sauce. Most afficianados of Chinese food settle on Pear River Bridge soy sauce for their light. Their dark is good too, but I don't see the same concensus on dark soy brands.

Dark is sweeter and has much more color impact on the dish.
post #6 of 21
There is a food service company that caters exclusively to the Chinese restaurant buffet places. Most of the food comes in frozen and the cooking is finished before serving.
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Pear -> pearl river bridge, and yes, very much agreed. Sort of like when in doubt with fish sauce, go with Three crabs brand. I go Pearl river bridge with dark soy too.

The Rasa Malasia blog was new to me, thanks for that! I also have found, but never bought, the Chopstick Bowl DVD set which supposedly explains all of the 'secret" Chinese take-out secrets and recipes... but the 4 disc set is like $120+ and I'm not so sure about it.
post #8 of 21
Never seen that Chinese Takeout DVD before. Interesting. Keep an eye out for it used and you'll save some money.
post #9 of 21
Is this Chopstick Bowl Series - DVDs what you are talking about?
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Chef,
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post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yes, that's the one. Have you seen it? It looks like it must be on sale actually, although still a bit expensive.
post #11 of 21
Thanks, phatch, i was wondering why my stir fry tastes good but i have such a problem with the meat sticking all over the wok and not coming out even. I probably won;t deep fry the meat first,anyway, but at least i know it;s not my bad technique.

I would love to know how to make take out fried rice (with pieces of that red pork in it) and also egg rolls.

Here in rome, the chinese restaurants all have the same menu too, but they;re awful, greasy, and few vegetables. I imagine the combinations are more like chinese home cooking, one veg in a dish, rather than three or four or more. At least that's what joyce chen explained in her old cookbook (anybody remember joyce chen?). In fact they make fried rice here like she says the chinese do at home, just egg, scallions and maybe peas and a bit of ham. Not the complex thing you get in the states, that;s brown, (the one here is white and yellow) and all those nice crunchy bits.

And i remember when joyce chen introduced spring rolls, rather than egg rolls. They have them here. But i love egg rolls, with all that crunchy stuff, little pieces of meat and all kinds of stuff in thyem.

anyway, thanks
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #12 of 21
When I think of basic chinese takeout, I think of meat tenderized with baking soda. I can't say that I consider this technique an improvement, but it definitely is a technique I don't see used in home cooking.
post #13 of 21
I've done it now and then depending on the cut of beef I'm working with and the results I'm looking for. Usually with an eye of round that I've eaten part of in one dish and know that this particular eye of round is on the tough side.

Alkaline water is an ingredient the Chinese have used historically in many aspects of cooking that the baking soda treatment replicates to some degree.

Phil
post #14 of 21
Passing is one way to solve that problem, but you're probably experiencing a different one.

While we think of stir fry as a lot of action in the pan, this is only true if you have a powerful heat source. On a standard home stove, stir fry changes quite a bit.

The biggest one is that you have to let things sit a while to pick up a seared outside that will self release from the pan. So put the items in the pan, spread into a single layer and let them sit for a minute or two. Then stir fry to finish. How long depends on the item of course. Shrimp probably only 30-45 seconds. Chicken probably closer to two minutes. Same for vegetables and starches.

Related to that is you have to work in small enough batches that the temperature doesn't drop too much. Big batches lead to lots of released liquid that steams the food, not stir fry.

This is true whether you use a flat wok or skillet for your stirfrying.
post #15 of 21
I dont think its so much a central recipe place but they are all taught and spread like a disease, with the exception of the General Tso's, I have seen it done dozens of ways, brown sauce, sweet and hot, soy based even OJ based. I personally prefer the brown sauce with heavy garlic and a nice underlying heat.
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Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #16 of 21
I have had a chance to look at the DVDs as well. They were really interesting and informative!
post #17 of 21
>where are these recipes? There has to be some sort of shared code out there or else hundreds of different places wouldn't have almost identical Hunan Beef,<


My son's ex-girlfreind worked in a chinese takeaway for a while. She told us that they buy in ready made sauces in big gelatinous blocks and simply cut off a chunk of sweet and sour, kung po etc. as and when, which quickly melts into the rest of the ingredients.
I would imagine that explains a lot.

The curry sauces come from a powdered packet, available at your local cash and carry
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post #18 of 21
thanks phatch. I'll keep that in mind. I have a pretty good stove, with a double ring burner, but i guess it;s still low compared to a professional one.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #19 of 21
You might try to find a copy of

The Chinese Restaurant Cookbook by Barbara Myers, copyright 1982.

Published in 1984 by Greenwich House, ISBN 0-517-43606X

It's pretty complete, with detailed descriptions of the five major regional cooking styles- Szechuan, Hunan, Peking, Shanghai and Canton, as well as hundreds of recipes.

Mike :cool:
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post #20 of 21
Siduri, you've got a private message....
post #21 of 21
Many of the base ingredients are the same, especially the aromatics. Garlic, ginger, onion. Combine them with with soy, chicken stock, and oyster sauce, sometimes chillies, and they do taste similar.

But its like any cuisine. You ask for a classic dish, and it should taste pretty much the same anywhere.

I don't particularly like take out oriental food, although maybe I'm getting it from the wrong places. Deep fry does seem to come into it a lot, frankly, I'd rather make my own. I get my wok smoking before anything comes near it, and fry for as short a time as possible.

A good fried rice with enough of the right ingredients cooked well is hard to beat :)
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