Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

How and why is milk pasteurized?

The dairy heats the milk to either 125 degrees F for at least 30 minutes or, more often, to 161 degrees F for at least 15 seconds. Either temperature-time combination kills pathogenic bacteria in the milk. Pasteurization (as well as homogenization) also makes milk more digestible.

Pasteurization accomplishes another mission. Whether or not milk is pasteurized, it will eventually spoil when nonpathogenic bacteria multiply sufficiently. The heat treatment stalls this inevitable process by significantly reducing the original number of nonpathogenic bacteria in the milk.

Contrary to statements by the dairy industry, pasteurization does give milk a slight cooked flavor. However, this flavor short-coming is noticeable only to educated palates and is more than compensated for by the fact that pasteurized milk is, on balance, much safer to drink than raw (unpasteurized) milk, a potential source of diseases, among them tuberculosis. If you do drink raw milk, be certain that the product came to you from a reliable dairy, distributor, and merchant. If your source is a healthy pet cow in the pasture within view of your window, all the better.

05:26:14 on 08/31/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the advantages of clarified butter?

Clarified butter is superior to regular butter in two salient ways. You can fry with it at a higher cooking temperature, and you can store it longer. These benefits are not won without a sacrifice: Clarified butter lacks most of the characteristic buttery flavor that mainly comes from one of the removed substances, the protein casein.

You can fry with clarified butter at a higher temperature because you raise its smoke point from about 250 to 350 degrees F when you remove the butter's protein, which is the component that scorches first. Clarified butter has a longer storage life because it is primarily the protein in the butter that makes butter vulnerable to spoilage. If it is superclarified, as in the fabled ghee of India, you can store clarified butter at room temperature for months without ill effects.

13:53:02 on 08/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to keep butter from scorching?

Butter begins to scorch when the heat changes the character of the protein. One way to help prevent or minimize this problem is to use clarified butter, from which the protein has been removed. Another is to use a 50-50 mixture of butter and vegetable oil, which has a higher smoke point than pure butter. Whether you employ the clarified butter or the 50-50 method, do not expect your cooked foods to pick up the full, rich flavor of whole butter.

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17:20:11 on 08/29/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are aerated creams poor substitutes for homemade whipped cream?

An aerated cream has a cooked flavor because it was heated to a temperature high enough to sterilize it. Natural flavor is further altered by preservatives, and texture is too foamy and unstable. Even worse than aerated creams are the pseudo-whipped creams that are marketed under banners such as "dessert topping". These fakes smack of their nondairy ingredients: hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial flavoring, and preservatives.

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06:27:58 on 08/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When poaching fish, is it necessary to add wine, lemon juice, or another acidic ingredient to the liquid?

Without acid as a counterbalance, the alkali that is probably in the pot's content would chemically react with the flavone pigment in the flesh, giving the pigment, and therefore the flesh, an unattractive, yellowish, off-white hue. If just enough acid is added, the pH factor of the contents of the pot will be 7.0 (that number denotes the neutralization of the opposing effects of the acid and alkali). If yet more acid is mixed in with the poaching liquid, the pH factor will fall below 7.0 (signifying acidic ascendancy). When that happens, the flavone pigment becomes even whiter than it was when you procured the fish.

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09:44:32 on 08/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is the flesh juicier and more flavorful if a fish is cooked with its head and tail on?

Without a doubt. Decapitation and tail removal allow the juices in the flesh in the main part of the body to leak out during cooking. The head and tail also add flavor and nutrients to the cooking flesh, as well as to the developing sauce or stock. Serving the whole fish with head and tail intact also is prudent because the fish stays warmer on the serving platter, loses fewer juices, and makes a more dramatic presentation.

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09:27:52 on 08/26/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why doesn't fish have to be cooked to tenderize it?

Unlike red animal meat, the flesh of fish has meager connective tissue, the muscle component that can make raw red meat relatively tough and dry. The small amount of connective tissue in the flesh of a fish is more easily gelatinized by moist heat than the kind found in the flesh of landlubbers. Excess cooking (and it doesn't take much) is inappropriate because it toughens the muscle fibers unnecessarily without tendering any meaningful benefit in return.

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13:44:36 on 08/25/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which is better gastronomically in fishes, the darker or lighter flesh?

The dark areas (which are sometimes individual muscles) often have a higher fat content than the predominant lighter-colored flesh and therefore have more flavor. On the negative side, the flavor of the dark-hued flesh can be too pronounced and oily for some tastes. Moreover, since this flesh is high in myoglobin, which turns brown when heated or overexposed to oxygen, it can detract from the lily-white appearance of the rest of the fish. The high proportion of fat normally associated with these dark areas also shortens storage life. On these grounds, the consumer sometimes chooses to remove the dark areas.

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11:49:37 on 08/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is the center cut of a fish superior to the tail cut?

The meat from the center cut usually has a higher fat content and therefore a richer flavor. Thought the tail's flesh has a more intense flavor because of the extra work the tail must do to propel the fish through the water, the gain in quantity of flavor does not begin to match the loss in flavor quality. In terms of texture, the center cut is usually just right - not too flabby, nor too firm. The tail section is tough by comparison.

Try this fish steak experiment. Buy a center cut and a tail cut fish steak of equal thickness and cut from the same fish. Saute or broil both and cross-taste. Which steak tastes better and has a more desirable texture?

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08:52:33 on 08/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do river fishes generally taste better than lake fishes?

Exercise builds flavor into the flesh. Since a river fish must swim against the current just to remain stationary, it obviously needs to expend more energy than a typical lake fish. Not all river fishes oscillate their tails with equal vigor and intensity. An angler should expect less flavor in a fish that lazily wends its way along the silky bottom of a river than, say in a trout that maneuvers its course through a cascading, cold mountain brook.

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04:34:58 on 08/22/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do freshwater fishes have more of those small, annoying bones than marine fishes do?

Salt water contains a greater concentration of minerals (particularly salt) than does fresh water and therefore has a higher specific density. Thus, a fish has greater buoyancy in salt water. This added buoyancy allows a saltwater fish to have a heavier bone structure. When some of the oceangoing fishes made the switch to a freshwater home eons ago, they evolved a lighter, thinner, more delicate bone structure to compensate for the diminished buoyancy. All well and good for a fish, but what about the millions of diners who dread choking on tiny and spiny bones?

00:35:32 on 08/21/07 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

What are the other major freshness tests for a whole fish?

Eyes should be bright, clear, and bulging and look alive rather than dull, cloudy, or sunken. Scales, if they exist, should be securely attached. If scaled, the skin should be shinning (not slimy), and resilient when pressed with the tip of the finger. If the fish is gutted (as it should be if dead for more than an hour), the stomach cavity should be free of excess residue. Any exposed flesh should be firm and lustrous, not flabby or dull, and should cling tenaciously to any bone. When the fish is held horizontally by head and tail, the midsection should not sag appreciably.

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14:02:07 on 08/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are gills an early warning system for decay?

The gills are the respiratory organs located underneath the ear-like flaps behind the eye. When a fish is alive, blood is pumped through the gills and absorbs oxygen from the water. During that absorption process, the blood's hemoglobin undergoes a chemical process and turns bright red.

If the fish is properly stored after it dies, the oxygen in the air will help keep the gills bright red for a few hours. Then over-oxidation gradually changes the hemoglobin from bright red to pink to brownish red and finally to grayish brown. Gills provide an excellent early warning system because they are more perishable than the flesh of the fish and will develop an off-odor before the flesh starts to acquire the telltale scent.

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03:00:38 on 08/19/07 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

What causes a "fishy" odor?

Bacteria are responsible. When bacteria attack a dead fish, the chemical trimethylamine is gradually released from the flesh. These molecules, along with other substances created by the decomposition process, waft through the air, filling your nasal passages with odors reeking of ammonia. Sulfur, too, is generated by the deteriorating flesh. A fresh, just-caught ocean fish does not have the "fishy" odor. It smells like a fresh sea breeze.

Not to be confused with the fishy scent is the equally nauseating oil-and-kerosene odor that often emanates from fish that swam in bustling harbors.

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11:53:57 on 08/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why the expression "Stew an old chicken, fry a young one"?

A mature chicken, and especially an old one, has considerable connective tissue that is best tenderized with a slow moist-cooking method such as stewing. If you fried the mature fowl, you would have a tough, chewy bird. Since the young chicken has comparatively little connective tissue, slow moist cooking is not necessary. Moreover, this method of cooking would be counterproductive because the lengthy cooking process would over coagulate the protein molecules. Once again, you would end up with a tough, chewy bird.

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13:50:55 on 08/17/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does yellow skin indicate a superior chicken?

A yellow skin was once a worthwhile (though not 100 percent reliable) clue that the chicken was imbued with extra flavor and surface fat. If the chicken had a yellow skin, chances were it grew up bathed in sun rays and enjoyed a nutritious diet, either by scratching for its subsistence around the farmhouse or by eating the right mix of foods tossed to it by its owner.

The validity of the yellow-skin criterion was undermined when, within the last several decades, some of the mass-marketing chicken farms began to use a ploy to take advantage of its wide-spread acceptance. They added marigold petals or similar sources of gold, yellow, or orange pigment to their feed formulas. Since the petals are natural, the companies are not legally forced to reveal their ruse to the shoppers.

Without the "colorful" diet, supermarket chickens would likely have ghostly bluish-white skins because they seldom, if any, leave their cramped, sunless, indoor coops. The next time you view the golden chickens in your supermarket, think flowers, not sunshine.

15:16:19 on 08/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does the method of processing a chicken affect flavor?

Today's mass-production methods diminish a chicken's flavor. One reason is that mass-produced chickens are machine - rather than hand plucked. The mechanical plucking device removed part of the flavorful epidermis (outer skin layer) along with its feathers. Another reason is that dressed chickens are typically chilled by soaking them in water at the plant, a process that leaches out some of the built-in flavor. This loss would not occur if the chickens were chilled in air inside a refrigeration unit, as they used to be.

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10:53:43 on 08/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does chicken breast skin sometimes stick to the roasting rack?

The skin contains collagen. When subjected to high heat, this collagen undergoes a chemical reaction, changing into a gluey gelatin. When you lift up the chicken, some of the skin adheres to the rack and peels off, diminishing the bird's table appeal. This cosmetic problem can be lessened if you grease the rack well and begin the roasting process in a preheated oven with the breast side up for at least 20 minutes. This gives some of the newly created gelatin a chance to infuse into the fat and flesh under the skin or to ooze out into the pan. For the same reason, you should begin sauteing or broiling a bone-in-chicken breast side up.

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12:30:30 on 08/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a canned ham that requires refrigeration better than one that doesn't?

Generally, yes. In order to sterilize a ham so that it can be stored at room temperature on a grocery shelf the processor must heat the ham to a very high temperature. That intense heat negatively alters the ham's flavor, aroma, texture, and nutritive value. Moreover, processors seldom reserve their best hams for their need-not-refrigerate products.

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11:01:07 on 08/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When cooking meat with dry heat, should we pepper before or after it is cooked?

Ground pepper becomes bitter when scorched - and the heat of a hot frying or saute pan, broiler compartment, or barbecue unit is sufficient to do the bad deed. If an oven is warmer than 325 degrees F, the same fate probably awaits the pepper. Consequently, if you use dry heat, it is recommended that you sprinkle on the pepper near the end of the cooking period.

Some chefs add the pepper to a side of steak as soon as it has been cooked and turned, but unless you are careful not to scatter the pepper particles beyond the meat, your food or sauce may end up with the distasteful flavor of scorched pepper. Scattered salt is not as much of a problem because it will not scorch.

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04:01:29 on 08/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When broiling, grilling, or barbecuing, why is it unsuitable to cook a steak that is less than 1 inch or more than 3 inches thick?

The inside of a steak less than 1 inch thick will be disappointingly dry and tough by the time the surface is appetizingly brown. Such a steak is best pan-broiled. The outside of a steak more than 3 inches thick will be over-cooked before the center of the meat is properly done. Technically, a piece of meat such as this is a roast and should be cooked as one, by oven-roasting, slow barbecuing, or pot-roasting.

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06:37:22 on 08/11/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should we remove a roast from the oven slightly underdone?

Assume that you want to cook your roast to 140 degrees F of doneness and you leave it in the oven until it reaches that internal temperature. Although the middle of the roast may be 140 degrees F, the meat near the surface is probably hot enough - around 160 to 180 degrees F - to continue cooking the colder center while you are allowing the roast to rest before carving. By the time the temperature equalizes throughout a thin cut of meat (under 3 inches at its minimum diameter or point of thickness), its interior temperature will have climbed about 5 degrees F. The center of a roast over 12 inches thick will increase in temperature approximately 15 degrees F after the meat is removed from the oven. The center of a medium-thick roast experiences roughly a 10 degrees F rise. These figures refer to medium-rare meats. The rise will be about 10 percent less for rare roasts, 10 percent greater for medium, and 15 percent greater for those that are well done. You can test the temperature of your roast with an oven thermometer.

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05:08:30 on 08/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to minimize the shrinking of a roast?

Rather than using the 350 degrees F oven temperature recommended by many cookbooks, roast the meat at 225 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches about 130 degrees F. Slow roasting (as it is called) takes roughly 50 percent more time than roasting at 350 degrees F, but there are several major advantages. The roast requires no basting and virtually no monitoring. And it shrinks appreciably less and is more tender compared to a roast cooked at 350 degrees F.

The secret of slow roasting has been long known by commercial cooks who make roast beef for deli sandwiches. Because there is minimum shrinkage, the deli can either make a bigger profit or charge less. Another big plus: The roast (if not overcooked) has an inviting pinkish (instead of a dull grayish-brown) hue that stretches from the center to almost the surface of the meat. Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature.

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10:37:46 on 08/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does high heat produce a better crust on a roast than low heat?

The higher the heat, the more the Maillard reaction takes place. There are other variables that also determine the quality of a roast's crust. One variable is cooking time: the longer the roast cooks, the crustier the meat is. Another is the use of a lid or foil: an uncovered meat develops a crispier, richer-colored, and more delectable crust than a covered one. Yet another variable is the fat content of the meat or basting liquid. Fat helps to keep the meat's surface from scorching and drying out, thereby retarding crust formation.

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07:42:58 on 08/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does it usually take twice as long to roast than to boil or steam a meat?

One could easily conclude that roasting would be faster because it uses a higher temperature. It also employs all three types of thermal energy: conduction, convection, and radiant heat. (Boiling and steaming use only the first two). These advantages of roasting are more than counterbalanced, however, by the fact that liquid and steam can transfer heat to food much more efficiently than air can. Moreover, as the oven temperature increases, the air expands. The increased rarefaction lessens the ability of the air in the oven to transfer heat to the roasting meat.

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08:07:46 on 08/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should a roast be brought to, or near room temperature before cooking?

This is principally a precautionary measure against having the roast's outside overcook and dry out before the inside is properly warmed and cooked. And since a room-temperature roast cooks more quickly than its colder counterpart, you save energy. Of course, if the roast is 6 inches or more thick, its surface will undergo bacterial contamination before the center of the meat reaches room temperature. In that case, at least allow the interior of the meat to partially reach room temperature. An hour in the open should not pose a health threat except, for example, when the room is hot and humid.

When you cannot bring meat to room temperature, you should roast it at a slightly lower temperature than usual, counterbalanced with a slightly longer cooking time than usual. Less complicated but less effective is to maintain the original temperature but to extend the cooking time; if you remove a 6-inch-thick roast from the refrigerator and place it directly in a preheated 350 degrees F oven, add 12 to 15 minutes to the cooking time.

If the roast is frozen, increase the original cooking time by about 50 percent. Naturally, your roast will not be as tasty and juicy, nor will its exterior be as attractive, compared to a roast that was brought to room temperature before cooking.

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11:05:07 on 08/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the needed cooking temperature to kill trichinosis in pork?

Cooking the meat to an internal temperature of at least 137 degrees F will kill any trichinae present. You can also kill it by freezing the meat at a temperature below minus 10 degrees F for several weeks, but freezing alters the meat's cellular structure, making it mushy when cooked.

Intelligent safeguarding is not the same as overreacting, which is what many cookbooks are doing when they recommend cooking pork to a temperature between 170 and 185 degrees F. If you follow those directions, your meat is bound to be less palatable and nutritious, and furthermore, prolonged cooking causes dryness, toughness, and excess shrinkage owing to moisture loss and coagulating proteins.

You can tell whether pork has been overcooked with the knife-and-fork test. If the meat does not cut easily, it's overcooked. The other side of the coin is that you don't want to cook your pork to just 137 degrees F because the meat's flavor would not develop fully. For pork that is both rewarding and safe to eat, it is recommended to be cooked to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, with a 13 degrees F of safety margin. The center of a pork roast will be slightly pink. Use a cooking thermometer to determine the cooking temperature.

05:01:16 on 08/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is ground meat more perishable than a steak?

Grinding fosters bacterial contamination in two ways. First, the meat is exposed to the spoilage-causing microorganisms that may be present on the butcher's machine or hands. Second, the surface area of the ground meat has been enlarged to many times its original size, thus making the meat more vulnerable to airborne bacteria.

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05:53:11 on 08/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How do experienced cooks tell whether a meat is cooked simply by touching it?

These cooks are testing for resiliency. As the meat cooks, its flesh becomes less flabby because it loses water and its muscle fibers contract. The more a meat cooks, the firmer and more elastic it becomes. The skill of accurately measuring doneness of meat by its springiness cannot be taught in words. The best way to learn the technique is empirically, by testing the resiliency of the meat each time you use a thermometer. Eventually, your educated finger will relegate the thermometer to the drawer.

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13:10:55 on 08/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should the fat layer surrounding a steak be slashed at intervals?

Fat shrinks faster and more extensively than meat during cooking, and consequently a thick, lengthy belt of fat will warp the steak as it is pan-broiled, broiled, grilled, or barbecued. When the steak curls, various points along its previously flat surfaces will cook unevenly. And a buckled steak isn't attractive. For best results, make the slashes 3/4 inch apart.

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07:58:32 on 08/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should charcoal not be flaming when cooking meat?

Flames (including flare-ups) char the food, ruining its flavor, texture, and color. They also generate dirty and noxious smoke. Before beginning the cooking process, allow sufficient time (20 to 30 minutes) for the flames to cease completely. Trim off some of the excess fat, which flares up when it melts and drops onto the hot coals or gas grill bars. But don't trim off too much - fat contributes flavor and helps baste the meat as it cooks.

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08:04:30 on 08/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -