Hello my friends, it's been a while. In this series of blogs coming up, we will delve in, and learn together the Chinese Szechwan style of cooking. The style of cooking is influenced by its surroundings, if you look at the map below, right above the yellow Yunnan province, it is on the southern edge of the continent.
Not too many foodies are aware of the different styles of cooking that comes from China. Most westerners are familiar with the Cantonese style that was exported out of Hong Kong and made its way to the states. The more light fare, tasty, lightly salted, not spicy at all stir fries and soups. However the Szechwan style is much more pronounced, with more than a hint of garlic, ginger and Szechwan peppercorns that gives most wok fries more heat than the average Canton foodie can bare.
Some people say, "Ron when I go to my local Chinese dive in town, all the food taste the same, there's a million stuff on the menu, but it's basically the same thing, sweet and sour this, garlic this, same taste." And I agree to some extent. You must remember, the same can be said for all styles of various national cooking. For instance I grew up in a Filipino home, and we use lots of ginger, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. So basically I can claim, most of our dishes are well.. kind of taste familiar And don't forget, Italian foods, they use basically the same herbs, but from different regions in Italy if you study the foods, you can make a various menu, with all similar cooking techniques, but different degrees of flavors, it depends on the chef/cook.
I've seen many cooks do Kung Pao Chicken differently, from deep frying chicken pieces that was marinated in chili oil and soy sauce, and then covered with a spicy chicken broth that was thickened with a slurry of corn starch and water, and the heat came from red chilies and Szechwan peppercorns. Some cooks went to great lengths to sweeten the hot broth, making it sweet/hot. Chefs and cooks are artists right? I can make it, but you may not like it, you'll eat it, but it wouldn't be the same as if your favorite chef in a real Szechwan dive did it, or for that matter someone's Chinese aunty, man those ladies are the best!
So let's go over the ingredients you'll need to make some spicy hot Szechwan style in your home.
Remember to keep it simple, don't get crazy.
Soy Sauce- use your favorite brand, don't use soy sauce that is too salty, you want to adjust any salt towards the end of the cooking process. In Hawaii I use only one brand believe it or not, it's Aloha Shoyu, for everything from dips, marinades, and of course stir fries. Yamasa brand is good as well.
Chili Bean Sauce/Paste- Lee Kum Kee brand is popular in many western markets, it's a combination of fermented beans, garlic and salt. Adding this to a simple stir fry gives it some depth.
Sichuan Pepper- it has a numbing sensation, almost like going to a dentist and getting novocaine on your tongue.
Xiaoxing Cooking Wine- if you can't get this Chinese staple made from fermented rice, use a cooking sherry wine instead. If all possible try getting the Chinese ingredients to make your wok experience as authentic as possible.
Black Vinegar- is well-black. It is a Chinese inky black vinegar that's aged. If you can't get this, try using an aged balsamic vinegar instead.
Chili Oil- If you feel like being a prep cook, make your own chili oil. Or buy one at your local market. You can use a Mexican oil also.
Chili Paste- I use the Sambal Oelek, it's a hot paste with garlic in it, if you want to jack up heat in a Kung Pao, just add this into your wok! LOL. Or use a Sriracha.
Other Items of interest-
- dried or fresh rice noodles
- long dried rice noodles
- wood ears
- dried shiitake mushrooms
- canned mushrooms
- canned water chestnuts
- canned low sodium beef, vegetable, chicken broths
- fresh scallions
- sweet round onions
- fresh black pepper corns
- hot mustard powder
- safflower oil
- peanut oil
- sesame oil
- arrow root or cornstarch
- brown sugar
- sea salt
- canned bamboo
* If you can have these on hand, you'll do ok, so until the next blog on Szechwan cooking, next blog, let's make some dishes. Have a good one guys, keep it Yay Yay!