Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

When whipping egg whites, why should I wait to add ingredients like sugar or cream of tartar until midway in the preparation?

While salt and sugar lend flavor, cream of tartar and other acids help stabilize the foam. However, if you add these substances at the beginning of the whipping process, your beaten egg whites will take longer to whip and will never achieve their maximum volume. If you add the extra ingredients near the end, you would not have enough time to incorporate them uniformly into the egg whites before the stiffened mixture starts to become unstable for over whipping. Not only would the foam begin to collapse, it would become increasingly drier because protein molecules would begin to lose their ability to bind with water molecules.

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02:13:06 on 06/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does a vinegar-based marinade lose some of its sharpness after a food has been soaking in it?

An obvious reason is that some of the natural juices of the food seep out and dilute the marinade. A not-so-apparent reason is the effect of the chemical reaction that occurs when alkali and acid are combined in a liquid. More often than not, at least one of the food ingredients you are marinating has an alkaline content that interacts with the acid in the vinegar (or lemon juice or wine), perceptibly diminishing the sharpness of your acidic marinating/flavoring agent.

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12:50:55 on 06/29/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the hottest part of the chili pepper?

The white, spongy ribs contain the greatest concentration of capsaicin, the compound that makes some of us reach for the nearest fire extinguisher. The seeds are the next most potent part, partially because they cling to the ribs. If you discard the ribs and seeds, you will have eliminated over 90 percent of a chili's firepower. Parboiling the flesh reduces the chili-hotness even more.

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11:33:45 on 06/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are some people less affected by chili-spiced dishes than others?

With rare exceptions, the more frequently one eats chili, the more immune one's sensory receptors become to the potential palate-scorching bite of these incendiary capsicums. Chances are you have already encountered chili snobs who base their gastronomical superiority on their ability to eat hotter foods than you can. Remind those braggarts that their skill stems from previous exposure to chili and not from innate talent.

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13:20:01 on 06/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does a candy bar provide a quick energy boost?

Candy is rich in simple sugars that can be quickly digested and absorbed into your bloodstream, so you may feel an extra lift soon after eating a candy bar. In contrast, yoru body must take the time to convert more complex carbohydrates (such as are found in a potato or piece of bread) into glucose before they can be used for energy.

On the negative side, a typical candy bar consists of empty calories and does not provide your metabolism with valuable vitamins and minerals. Nor does it furnish long-lasting energy; an hour or so after munching on the candy bar you may be hungry again or feel a psychological and physical letdown because of the sudden drop in your blood sugar level.

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06:41:56 on 06/26/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which is better, iodized or plain salt?

Iodine is essential in the diet because without it, your thyroid gland could not manufacture thyroxine - a hormone necessary for bodily functions such as growth and the prevention of goiter. In some countries, government are encouraging table salt processors to fortify their product with potassium iodide to help ensure that everyone received enough of the mineral to fight iodine deficiency. However, some medical authorities believe that if you eat a lot of seafood or food grown in iodine-rich soil (commonly associated with coastal areas) or drink water that has acquired the mineral from such soil, you may be overdosing on iodine if you also regularly use iodized salt. The iodine-fortified product makes more sense for people who live great distances from a seaboard.

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05:48:10 on 06/25/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is an essential amino acid?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that your body needs to construct and replenish tissue, red blood cells, and enzymes. Of some twenty required amino acids, your body can manufacture all but eight of them. These select eight are called essential amino acids. Proteins in meat have all eight essential amino acids and thus are referred to as complete protein. Vegetables, with the notable exception of soybeans, do not possess all the essential amino acids, and therefore their proteins are termed incomplete.

People who, for economic or personal reasons, eat scant quantities of meat, eggs, and dairy products and large portions of whole cereal grains are nutritionally safe, too, because animal protein has a surplus of the essential amino acids that cereal grains lack. This pairing partially explains why millions of people in southern China can remain healthy on diet consisting of a high proportion of rice (which, like cereal grains, is particularly low in the amino acid lysine) while usually eating no more than a meager serving of seafood (high in lysine).

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00:13:01 on 06/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are most of a potato's vitamins in the skin?

Vitamins in potatoes and most other vegetables are not concentrated in the skin (as some health food faddist believe), but in the pulp just under the skin. However, since it is impossible to peel a potato without scraping away some of the vitamin-rich pulp, it makes sense to cook and serve it with its skin. Besides, the skin does have some nutrients and adds flavor, texture and color contrast.

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05:25:01 on 06/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are fresh vegetables more nutritious than frozen ones?

When referring to vegetables fresh from the farm, the answer is a resounding yes. However, a frozen-food product is likely to be more nutritious than non-frozen vegetables that have meandered along a time-consuming route from earth to palate. Typically, a slow truck transports vegetables from the farm to a warehouse, where they wait until they are shipped to the supermarket, where they wait until a customer takes them home to the refrigerator, where they wait again until the home cook decides to use them. When this journey is long and drawn out, as it usually is, the vegetables lose more vitamins than if they had been fast-frozen.

Under these circumstances, the product found in the supermarket's frozen-food section is often more nutritious because if food processors are going to preserve their vegetables successfully, they must select only those that are the freshest and in the best condition, and they must normally freeze them within hours after they have been harvested, if not sooner. In addition, their freezing process is extremely cold and quick. However, a shortcoming of freezing, or course, is that it deteriorates the texture of the vegetables.

01:22:38 on 06/22/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is spinach more nutritious raw?

Though most vegetables are more nutritious when eaten raw, there are exceptions, and carrots and spinach are two. Many of their vitamins and minerals pass unused through the body because the human digestive system - unlike that of ruminant creatures - cannot sufficiently disintegrate the comparatively tough cellular walls of these vegetables and therefore cannot extract all the nutrients.

06:20:41 on 06/21/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does chicken soup help cure colds?

Yes, but this therapeutic magic is not chiefly due to its ingredients, as many people believe. The primary reason is because of the heat of the soup. The higher the temperature, the more fluid the mucus becomes and the more quickly it exits the respiratory tract. This is beneficial because mucus harbors cold-causing microbes. Chicken soup is not the only remedy. Another hot liquid such as a cup of tea would also serve the mucus-riding purpose.

If you do use chicken soup, make it from scratch. Commercial soups and bouillon cubes tend to be very salty, to the point where the soup will partially dehydrate you. That would be counterproductive because when you have a cold, your body needs an extra supply of water to combat and flush out the microbes and unwanted byproducts.

06:44:20 on 06/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can I get lead poisoning from glazed pottery kitchenware?

Each year a number of people die or become seriously ill from lead poisoning caused by the lead that leaches out of improperly glazed pottery kitchenware. In the law of some countries, glazed pottery designed for culinary use must be fired at a high enough temperature to fuse the lead component of the glaze into the container permanently. Some glazed kitchenware pottery that is brought in illegally, or in the hands of returning tourists, falls well short of the standards. If used to store or cook foods (and especially highly acidic foods), the lead will likely migrate from the walls of the vessel to those of the diner's stomach. This lead buildup in the body can cause damage to internal organs as well as to the immune, cardiovascular, and other systems. Children can also suffer learning and behavioral disorder.

The type of tin cans that are sealed with lead solder are another potential source of lead poisoning. It is a sound policy never to store a high-acid food such as grapefruit juice in an open can. Instead, transfer the contents to a glass jar or similar unleaded, non-corrosive vessel.

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04:42:53 on 06/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is sugar syrup customarily added to frozen fruits?

Fruits are also candidates for blanching as they, too, are susceptible to deterioration caused by enzymes. However, a more effective alternative to blanching fruit is to preserve color, flavor, texture, and nutrients by adding an antioxidant, such as ascorbic acid or sugar syrup, before freezing. This technique deactivates enzymes and blocks oxidation.

Sugar also serves at least two other important functions. When it comes to freezing, slightly ripe fruits are better than ripe ones, and sugar's sweetening power helps mask the acidic flavor in unripe fruits. Sugar also lowers the freezing point and thus helps prevent the formation of large ice crystals that could rupture the fruits' cell walls and membranes. Punctured cells are undesirable because flavorful juices would seep out, making the texture mushy when the mixture thaws.

07:41:50 on 06/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why must vegetables be blanched before freezing?

Obvious changes in color, texture, and taste take place in a vegetable that is left out on a table or in the refrigerator. The vegetable's own enzymes are largely responsible for that transformation. The extremely cold temperatures of freezing slow down the changes but do not completely stop them. In fact, some enzymatic activity has been observed at minus 100 degrees F, and the temperature in most home and commercial freezers is not below 0 degrees F.

Extreme heat, on the other hand, inactivates enzymes and sets color and flavor. For this reason, most vegetables should be blanched before they are frozen. The process involves partially cooking the food in boiling water or steam for up to several minutes. Some cooks choose to boil or steam their vegetables as they would be serving. However, blanching is preferable to full cooking because it does less damage to the vegetable's texture, color, and taste.

04:21:22 on 06/17/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should aluminum foil not be used to wrap food that is to be frozen?

Aluminum foil usually helps maintain a food's temperature - whether high or low - because it retards the transfer of heat from the food to its surroundings and vice versa. Thus, a food protected by foil will retain heat and not freeze as quickly as it would in, say, plastic film.

Although aluminum foil is not the best choice for freezing, you can profit in other ways from its properties. Example, a food or section of a food can be wrapped with foil for slow thawing. If serving must be delayed, you can keep a hot food warm longer, or a cold food cool, in aluminum foil. Because a shiny surface reflects radiant heat, you can preserve heat by facing the shiny surface of the foil inward toward the hot food. By the same token, when keeping a food cold - perhaps for a picnic lunch - face the shiny side outward so it can reflect radiant heat away from the food.

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14:12:48 on 06/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should meat be wrapped tightly before storing in the freezer?

Freezing does not halt evaporation of the meat's fluids, it only retards it. Therefore, if the entire surface of the meat is not carefully covered with a moisture-proof (or at least moisture-resistant) wrap, some of the food's water, which is temporarily in a solid state, will evaporate. This direct transformation from ice to vapor is termed sublimation and produces what cooks call freezer burn.

The meat's covering should be sealed securely to prevent oxidation and to help ward off rancidity. Although the fat in any meat will eventually become rancid if stored long enough, the grace period is certainly long enough for normal requirements if the food is kept solidly frozen and not exposed to excess oxygen. A tight wrapping also helps prevent the meat from absorbing freezer odors.

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09:22:06 on 06/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to store surplus pan juices?

Take advantage of a basic law of nature: Fat has a lower specific density than water, the principal ingredient of pan juices. After liquid fat and pan juices are mixed together, the fat - because of its lower specific density - gradually rises to form a distinct upper layer, while the pan juices settle. Therefore, to store pan juices, pour them into a container, cool to near room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. When the fat layer has solidified, you can easily remove it, leaving the pan juices behind. However, we do not recommend removing the fat layer until you are ready to use the stored pan juices because the fat serves as a functional seal that helps prevent bacteria and foreign odors from reaching the juices as they sit in your refrigerator.

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04:25:21 on 06/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is irradiated food, and is it safe?

Irradiated food has been bombarded with ionizing radiation to help sterilize it and extend its shelf life. This radiation treatment kills harmful bacteria and destructive insects - and can eliminate the need to use chemical sprays. Some people mistakenly believe that irradiated foods are radioactive. Just as radiation does not remain in microwaved foods, radiation does not remain in irradiated foods. Many leading health organizations say that irradiated foods pose no serious health risks.

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07:21:35 on 06/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should breads and cakes be unmolded from their pans soon after they are removed from the oven?

When a bread or cake comes out of the oven, it is permeated with trapped steam. As it cools, the steam either escapes into the air or converts to water, which the solids quickly absorb. If too little steam dissipates into the air, the bread or cake will become soggy. To prevent sogginess, first let the baked product rest in the pan for several minutes until it has settled, then promptly unmold it and place it on a cooling rack. This maximizes the surface area from which the steam can escape. It also eliminates the possibility that moisture will condense and accumulate in the space between the bottom of the bread and the pan.

06:03:11 on 06/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When substituting buttermilk for sweet milk in a baking recipe, why should we substitute baking soda for all, or some, of the baking powder in the recipe?

In order for a chemical leavening agent to release the optimal quantity of carbon dioxide gas into the dough or batter, the acid and alkali must be in proper proportion, as it is in the case of baking powder. When you substitute buttermilk for sweet milk, you incorporate extra acid into the batter or dough, which upsets the proper proportion of acid to alkali that was worked out in the original recipe. That extra acid will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated, thereby inhibiting the leavening process. To counteract the hyperacidity, the cook needs only to substitute baking soda (an alkali) for some or all of the baking powder in order to maintain the necessary quantity of alkali.

For each cup of buttermilk that you use in place of sweet milk, reduce by 2 teaspoons the amount of baking powder originally called for in the recipe and replace it with half teaspoon of baking soda.

08:00:37 on 06/11/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are dry and compressed yeast products interchangeable?

Yes, one packet (about one scant tablespoon) of active dry yeast has the leavening power of one standard cake of compressed yeast. Since compressed yeast contains 70 percent moisture (compared to only 8 percent for dry yeast), it must be stored in the refrigerator - and even then it loses its leavening effectiveness in about two weeks. Dry yeast need not be refrigerated, but it must be stored in an airtight container lest it absorb water from the atmosphere, rising its moisture content. That would reactivate the yeast's metabolic enzymes, awakening the dormant yeast cells.

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12:30:05 on 06/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 (and omega-6) fatty acids are part of a group classified as "essential" fatty acids. The human body cannot manufacturer them, but needs them. Nutrition experts believe they help prevent or lessen the effects of various ailments, including heart disease, depression, and swollen joints. They are best obtained from omega-3 rich foods, including fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna. Good plant sources include flaxseed and walnuts. Fish-oil supplements are also widely available.

09:05:55 on 06/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a 100 percent peanut or other vegetable oil free of saturated fat?

Just because a vegetable oil is classified as mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated doesn't mean it doesn't contain saturated fats. This classification is based on the predominant oil. All oils are a combination of saturated, mono-unsaturated, and polyunsaturated oils. What's most important to the cholesterol watcher is the percentage that is saturated. The worst offenders are the tropical oils, including the widely used coconut and palm kernel oils. They contain an even higher percentage of saturated fats than does butter.

05:17:59 on 06/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does fat make some meats taste better

Fat does more than add flavor and keep the cooking meat moist. It makes meat more succulent because fat spurs salivation. It also lubricates the meat's muscle fibers, making it easier for your teeth to tear the fibers apart. Butter is the best fat for improving the flavor of steaks, as many restaurant chefs know. They brush steaks with melted butter just before removing the meat from the heat source.

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02:39:23 on 06/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does MSG cause headaches?

There is some preliminary evidence that suggests that more than a slight to moderate consumption of MSG could be unhealthy. However, the widely held belief that even small doses of MSG produce headaches, palpitations, and other physical distresses - and that one falls victim to these by eating in inexpensive Chinese restaurants - is largely untrue unless one happens to be one of those rare people who has a particularly low tolerance for MSG.

For example, why do so many of the victims seem to develop those symptoms only when they eat in low-priced Chinese restaurants and not when they eat in other budget eateries? The local corner coffee shop is apt to use just as much MSG as a run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant. Therefore, unless the chef did use an MSG megadose which is an infrequent occurrence, the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome would appear to be chiefly psychosomatic.

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01:42:07 on 06/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When should herbs be added to a long-cooked dish?

Herbs are supposed to contribute both taste and aroma to a long-cooked dish. Unfortunately, herb's fragrance is ephemeral - it doesn't take long for the heat to dissipate the herb's precious volatile oils. That's why it's wise to add aromatic herbs in two stages to a long-cooked dish. First, coarsely chop half the herb supply you plan to use. Stir it in the pot at the beginning of the cooking process, but after all the cooking liquid has been added. The delicate aromatics of this batch of herbs will be lost, but the herbs will have an hour or two to interact chemically with other ingredients, creating new flavors that will add taste complexity to the dish. Fifteen minutes or so before the dish is cooked and served, finely chop and add the remaining herbs - their flavor and fragrance will be noticeable to the diner.

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05:52:03 on 06/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does instant flour dissolve more easily than a regular flour?

Regular flour does not readily dissolve in water because it tends to lump. The outer flour molecules gelatinize soon after they come in contact with the hot water, forming a membrane-envelope that effectively blocks the water's access to the flour molecules contained within. And the result is that the inside of each lump remains dry, giving your mixture a grainy texture.

Flour manufacturers have developed instant products designed to minimize obstinate lumping and therefore dissolve more easily (though at a sacrifice to thickening and staying power). Typically, the instant product consists of small granules that have been chemically or mechanically processed into irregular shapes. When these granules do adhere to one another, spaces are left through which water can reach the middle of the lump, thus enable it to mix better.

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16:49:32 on 06/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can we make an emulsified sauce in a blender or food processor?

Our answer is a guarded yes for mayonnaise and "not recommended" for hollandaise sauce. Although blender mayonnaise cannot rival the hand-whisked variety, it can be good if properly made. Blenders are slightly superior to food processors for making sauces like mayonnaise because their thinner, sharper blades produce a smoother texture and incorporate more air into the developing sauce.

Some cookbooks have recipes for blender or food processor hollandaise sauce. If you follow these recipes, the egg yolk will be insufficiently cooked and the sauce's texture will lack the silkiness of authentic hollandaise.

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14:11:39 on 06/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is an emulsified sauce?

In the simplest terms, an emulsion is a stable mixture of two liquids - such as oil and water - that normally separate from each other. Emulsions can be temporary (measured in seconds or minutes), semipermanent (hours), or relatively permanent (days, months, and sometimes years). Mayonnaise is the best known and most widely consumed emulsified sauce. Basically, it is an emulsion comprising oil, egg yolks, and either lemon juice or vinegar. Related sauces include chantilly (mayonnaise mixed with whipped cream), gribiche (a piquant mayonnaise made with hard-boiled yolks), and remoulade (mayonnaise plus chopped pickles, mustard, and other flavoring agents).

Sauces are not the only emulsions. Whole milk, for example, is one, too. If milk fresh from the cow is left to stand, the emulsion breaks down and the cream (butterfat) rises to the top. Homogenization, a process that creates a relatively stable emulsion, prevents this separation.

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14:34:12 on 06/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does even a speck of yolk make it difficult to whip egg whites?

Egg whites cannot be whipped to their maximum volume if they come in contact with any fat beyond the trace amount they already contain. Even a speck of yolk will cause a problem because one-third of yolk's composition is fat. So separate your eggs diligently, and if a speck of yolk happens to taint the egg whites, remove that yellow villain with one of the sharp, jagged edges of an empty eggshell. Yolk, however, is not the only potential source of volume-reducing fat. Grease in the whipping bowl or on the whipping instrument is just as bad.

10:41:39 on 06/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -