Sauces, spices and culinary inventions

In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection. —Curnonsky

Chefs today have the license to experiment with new flavors, to imagine new forms of cooking inspired by diverse cultures to create tastes and textures that appeal to the public. Nifty creations that are practical and easy to do is the trend, but not a simple task, as formulating these types of recipes takes experience, a global perspective, knowing the various methods of cooking and ingredients to finally produce a gourmet extravaganza. Fragrance, color and taste provide the framework when conceptualizing a recipe, while passion and style form signature dishes.

I am fond of Cantonese cooking because of its diversity, versatility and various ways of cooking, so much so that I attended two culinary schools in Hong Kong: Town Gas Center and Chopstick Culinary School. In the recent Cooking with the Masters by Lee Kum Kee at Serendra’s Market! Market! Mall, Taguig City, I proudly shared my latest culinary inventions and gave a glimpse of this rich cuisine to a large audience who were given a plate each of what we cooked. With its unique concept of two participants simultaneously cooking the same dish alongside the chef, this was one crowd-pleasing event I truly enjoyed.

In Cantonese cooking the preparation of ingredients is more critical rather than the actual cooking. Whether meat or vegetable or fish, precise, uniform cuts are required for even cooking and must be bite-size because it is eaten with chopsticks. Bones are meticulously removed and used for stocks and soups for added flavor and so the person will not choke while chewing on the food. Large servings are the norm because meals are often shared with family and friends. The major methods of cooking are deep-frying and stir-frying, commonly known as quick cooking. In deep-frying the amount of oil needed must cover the food to be cooked, with the oil heated at a high temperature to ensure a crispy exterior and tender interior. A second frying or double frying is done for a crispier texture. Woks are used to ensure the heat of the oil remains at the center and placing a wooden chopstick in the center until bubbles emerge help ensure the proper heat level. In stir-frying, intense fire is used on a thinner layered wok because it conducts heat faster. Smaller cuts are used for a speedy cooking process, while sauces and spices are mixed first separately before combining them with other ingredients to keep the flavor consistent and intact. Nuts and mushrooms are added to give contrasting texture to smooth sauces. Vegetables must remain vibrant and crisp after cooking, while ginger and spring onions remove any unwanted flavor. Peanut oil or corn oil is often used, though cooking with pork or chicken fat for sautéing is commonly practiced. Steaming is often used for various dim sum and pao.

Sauces and spices are used to flavor dishes and often added in the last part of cooking. Marinating meats and vegetables for long periods of time isn’t done because the cuts are smaller and flavors are absorbed while cooking. Soy sauce or sauce made from fermented soybeans is used to give a rich, salty flavor and may vary in color (light to dark). It can be added to the food or served as a condiment. Hoisin sauce, also known as Peking sauce, is a thick, sweet and spicy sauce made from garlic, chilies, soybeans and various spices and can be found in stores as the 10-flavored sauce. Oyster sauce is a combination of oysters, brine and soy sauce with a very thick texture and strong taste. Sesame oil is extracted from sesame seeds with the roasted version being strong in scent. It is the “perfume” in Cantonese cooking and only small amounts are used to accent the fragrance and taste. Five-spice powder, called Ngo Yong, is combination of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, anise seeds and Szechuan pepper. As my teacher, chef Yvonne mentioned in her class, the spices are not intended to mask but rather enhance the natural flavor.

Sizzling Chinese Beefsteaks With Lee Kum Kee Char Siu (Bbq Sauce)

Ingredients:

a) 250 grams beef tenderloin or sirloin. Slice while frozen into ¼ inch-thick steaks. Pound with a cleaver to spread. Slice into 2-inch x2-inch-wide pieces.

b) Marinate beef in: 1 tbsp. each of Lee Kum Kee Premium soy sauce and sugar, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. sesame oil.

c) Dredge each piece well in 1/4 cup AA cassava (tapioca starch).

d) Pan-fry beef few seconds in 1 1/2 cups cooking oil. Remove beef while still pinkish.

For the sauce: Prepare saucepan, turner. Get 2 tbsps. oil from where you cooked the beef, 1/4 cup thinly sliced diagonally, leeks or spring onions, ½ cup pineapple juice mixed with 2 tbsp. Lee Kum Kee Char Siu sauce, 1 1/2 tsps. Each of Lee Kum Kee premium soy sauce, sugar, AA cassava starch.

Prepare: 1 sizzling plate. Put on top of stove until very hot; 4 pineapple rings.

Procedure: Heat oil in saucepan. Add leeks and stir a few seconds. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until boiling.

To serve: Arrange pineapple rings on one side of hot plate. Put beef. Pour sauce. Serves 4.

Chinese Fried Rice With Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce

Ingredients:

a) 500 grams pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes. Marinate in a medium bowl at least 30 minutes (preferably 1 hour up to 8 hours in the refrigerator) in 1/4 cup Lee Kum Kee hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp. Lee Kum Kee sesame oil.

b) Prepare 6 cups cooked rice, 1/3 cup cooking oil, 1 package or 2 cups cooked peas, carrots, corn, 1 tbsp. crushed garlic, 1/4 cup chopped violet onions,1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh shrimps, 2 tbsps. Lee Kum Kee premium soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. pepper.

For garnish: Two eggs beaten with a fork and cooked over low heat as for omelet. Cool. Cut into thin strips.

Procedure: Heat oil in a big wok. When hot, turn off fire and put in the corn, carrots, peas, and stir 1 minute. Set aside vegetables on a plate. (We do this to prevent easy spoilage of rice.) To the same oil, add garlic and turn on fire. When brown, add onions and cook until soft. Add pre-marinated pork and stir with 2 wooden spoons until meat changes color. Add shrimps, soy sauce, and pepper. When shrimps turn pink, turn off fire. Add rice and mash well. Add vegetables. Turn on fire and toss to heat. Put on a deep platter. Top with eggs. Serves 10.

Copyright 2012 Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Studio

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