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Basics of International Cooking

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hello! smile.gif

 

I'm in the process of teaching myself the necessary skills to learn how to cook.  I love cooking, but at the moment I'm not sure if there is a career in it for me-I'm just enjoying my time learning about food and techniques.  I would love to learn how to cook International food, but I'm wondering about the basics.

 

I love to sample all kinds of dishes, but I'm mostly drawn to Asian food and their cookware.  I was wondering if anyone could give me a few simple pointers.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 3

A sharp knife is the primary requirement. Beyond that a wok often proves useful, but not essential for most western stoves. If you have a really high output heat source, woks come into their own.

 

This is a bit old now for the links and such, but still useful

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/49722/wok-99r-the-remedial-class

 

My favorite authors for chinese food (my focus) are:

Grace Young

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Kenneth Lo, though he hasn't written since the 80s, if you can find his books used, they're quite good.

Fuchsia Dunlop

Yan Kit So

 

Nina Simonds, primarily for Classic Chinese Cuisine

Ken Hom is hit and miss for me. I did like his recent Complete Chinese Cookbook

New Clasic Chinese Cooking is another I like. This is by Mai Leung and out of print, but used copies are readily available still. She has a different take on a lot of dishes. She especially uses Dark Soy and its different varieties in ways I've not seen before. She has an understanding of the nuances of dark soy I'm still trying to winnow out of her recipes.

 

Martin Yan has covered most of Asia in various of his books. He's not afraid to make simplifications that are reasonable for casual western cooks, but do lessen the dish more often than not. Still a good starting point.

 

I've liked Mai Pham for Vietnamese coookery. I've not found a Thai book that really wowed me. Japan and Korea are not so much my interest for cooking though i'm happy to eat those cuisines.

 

And I'm still looking for a book that really hits theory more than recipes. They exist for the European cuisines and techniques, but not so much for Asia. A fair amount carries over,--knife skills, heat control but there's more to be explained. Grace Young,  Eileen Yin-Fei Lo and Fuchsia Dunlop have hinted at parts of it here and there. I though Fuchsia was going to get into it  in her latest book Every Grain of Rice where her goal was to cook more with what's on hand, rework leftovers and such as home cooks so often do intuitively. But still, it's more recipe bound than into the theory of the cuisine.

 

There's a scene in Ramsey's US Masterchef (season 2 I think) that really punched this home for me. A contestant with an Asian background built a sort of Red Cooking master stock for one of her dishes in which Chinese cuisine was the theme. Ramsey was in love with the stock and liked what she was doing as she cooked. When she presented, he was expecting a French-technique based sauce from the stock and railed on her. She had built a stock in minutes it would take a westerner hours to build but then she hadn't used it as a westerner. Ramsey didn't get it. I did. I lost a lot of respect for Ramsey in that moment for not understanding the cuisine.

 

Barbara Tropp does about the best job explaining Chinese knife skills as anyone. Her book too is out of print, but available. The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. I like her technique and other discussion, but have found the recipes more hit and miss.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 3

as well as all the above, you are going to need a basic store cupboard for so many cuisines. I have that, but only cos ive added over many years. To have it all at hand at once would cost a fortune, so maybe you should start somewhere and take some time to build up a store of items that don't go out of date too quickly. 

 

For instance :- Correct me if im wrong, but you are au fait with Chinese cuisine? perhaps you cd build a store of other asian basics...The freezer is your friend here, as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and cilantro freeze well. Dried spices too will keep well whole and you can grind them as you need them. Chop and freeze chillies, ginger and blanch n freeze aubergines, courgettes green beans when you can get them cheap. ( Im assuming as a student ur on a budget) Keep them in small batches so you can practice when the mood takes you. Empty a tin of coconut milk into 3 plastic tubs and freeze too.

 

For Mediterranean cuisine, make up some basic tomato sauce and batch freeze. Buy whole fish and experiment with fennel and thyme. try grilling marinated lamb/ kebabs. squeeze fresh lemon juice on grilled meat...Wow!.. experiment with olive oil. 

 

I could go on and i can as many at CT will confirm

 

The best advice i can give you is to taste, taste, taste as much as possible. Find out what you like and run with it

 

we all look forward to hearing more from you

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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