Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Why should corn be eaten as soon as possible after it is picked?

A chemical reaction converts the sugar in the corn into starch - and the longer the corn is off the stalk, the greater the conversion. Corn connoisseurs can detect the drop in sweetness within an hour after harvesting, which explains the rationale for this seemingly snobbish recipe: Don't pick the corn until a pot of water, not more than a minute's run from the cornfield, is boiling.

Heat also affects the conversion process. The higher the temperature of the ear, the faster the chemical reaction occurs. For this reason, unless you intend to cook the corn immediately, refrigerate it as soon as it enters your kitchen.

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05:54:32 on 09/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are leftover potatoes better than fresh ones for making pan-fried potatoes?

You can't cook raw potatoes at as high a temperature as you can previously cooked potatoes. If you did, the outside of the potato pieces would be burnt before the interior was properly cooked. This problem doesn't exist for leftover potatoes because their interiors don't need cooking. The advantage of pan-frying potatoes at a fairly high heat is to minimize the development of a sticky film of starch on the surface of the potatoes. This substance can cause the individual potato pieces to stick to the pan and break apart when you try to dislodge them.

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06:44:51 on 09/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is it imperative not to overcook or overwork mashed potatoes?

Both excesses rupture many of the potato's cell walls, allowing many starch granules to escape from their cellular prison. These granules, which have become gummy during the cooking process, give your finished mashed potatoes a pasty, rather than a fluffy, consistency. Your potatoes will be airier if you mash them in a vertical rather than stirring motion - and if you don't perform that task until just before serving time.

Whatever you do, don't try to mash potatoes in a food processor. Its sharp and fast blades can rupture the cell walls so quickly and effectively that you'll end up with gluey potatoes in practically no time.

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11:40:19 on 09/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes garlic to become bitter during storage?

Moisture hastens sprouting, which imparts a bitter flavor during both the storage and cooking periods. Keep your unpeeled garlic in a dry, well-ventilated, and cool (but not refrigerated) place. Remember: Botulism easily develops in garlic stored in a sealed container, especially at room temperature. If you store peeled garlic in a jar, steep it in oil and keep it refrigerated. Make sure you periodically open the jar. Discard the contents within ten days.

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05:30:02 on 09/25/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are onions cooked in butter more flavorful than those cooked in water?

The butter not only contributes its own distinct flavor but lets you cook at a temperature higher than 212 degrees F. This increase helps expel some of the raw onion vapors. It also chemically converts some of the onion molecules into new, sweet-tasting ones. Butter, being a fat, also captures more of the desirable onion essences that would otherwise dissipate into the air.

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05:34:29 on 09/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does the inside of a whole onion sometimes pop out when boiled?

The force that pushes the inside section of the onion out through one of the polar openings is pent-up steam. To avoid this, give the steam one or more extra escape routes by piercing the onion with a thin skewer before you add it to the water or stew. Another popular countermeasure is to make a 1/4 inch deep, X-shaped incision into the root end. Whatever technique you employ, simmer the onion, because boiling increases the chances of onion-pop by bouncing the bulb around the pot.

03:12:03 on 09/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When a recipe calls for sauteing both onions and garlic, why is it essential to add the garlic near the end of the sauteing process?

If you saute the garlic for as long as is required for the onions, you will certainly burn the garlic, producing a bitter flavor. If you shorten the sauteing time of the onions to accommodate the garlic, your onions will be insufficiently cooked, giving your dish a raw, un-sweet, oniony flavor.

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09:10:00 on 09/22/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes boiled white onions or potatoes to turn yellow?

The whiteness of these vegetables, as well as that of salsify and cauliflower, is due to the pigment flavone. When this chemical compound is subjected to prolonged heat or alkali, a brownish-yellow tint develops. Several countermeasures can help keep your vegetables white. First and foremost, do not overcook them. Also, buy young, fresh vegetables in good condition. If your pipes carry hard water, try adding a touch of cream of tartar or lemon juice to help neutralize its alkalinity. The more of these acids you add, the whiter your boiled vegetables will be, but do not add so much that the flavor of the whitener becomes undesirably obvious.

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11:46:46 on 09/21/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can mushroom be too white?

The common supermarket-variety mushroom is bright white when harvested. By the time it reaches the produce bin or salad bar table, it will have developed a light-to-medium brown discoloration. This is natural. What is not natural is for the mushroom to have a bright lily-white hue at this stage. That would indicate that the mushroom was treated with the chemical sodium bi-sulfite to retard discoloration. This type of preserving agent can cause allergic reactions.

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08:05:02 on 09/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does lemon juice prevent discoloration of avocado and potato slices?

The discoloration of the exposed flesh is largely caused by oxidation, and ascorbic acid in the lemon juice slows down that process. Another technique is to cook the food, because heat inactivates the enzymes in the food that would otherwise bring about discoloration in the presence of oxygen. However, don't cook avocados, because when heated, avocados undergo a chemical reaction that produces unwanted, bitter-tasting compounds. That's why you seldom see hot avocado dishes on menus or canned avocado products on supermarket shelves.

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11:23:30 on 09/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What gives carrots and other yellow-orange fruits and vegetables their color?

Carotene. Besides adding a colorful excitement to foods, this chemical compound - unlike the other major fruit and vegetable pigments - is a valuable nutrient. Because it is a provitamin A, it can be converted by your body into vitamin A. If you've ever seen a vegetarian with a yellow skin tone, he may be suffering from hypercarotenum. It is often caused by consuming vast amounts of carrots or carrot juice. Some of the carotene overdose is deposited in the fatty tissue beneath the skin.

05:04:31 on 09/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes red cabbage to turn bluish purple when cooked?

The principal pigment in red cabbage is the chemical compound anthocyanin. Acid turns it red, and alkali a bluish purple. The cabbage is red to begin with because of its high acid content. When it is cooked for more than a brief period, much of its acid escapes into the air with the steam. When enough of the acid has dissipated, the alkali in the pot becomes predominant and turns the cabbage bluish purple. The harder the water, the greater its alkalinity, and therefore the more the cabbage discolors.

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11:02:20 on 09/17/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do green vegetables cooked with baking soda have a brighter color?

Baking soda helps maintain the vivid green because it is an alkali and therefore neutralizes the discoloring acid in the vegetable and cooking water. However, it is strongly advice against using baking soda for this purpose. It destroys vitamins (particularly vitamin C and thiamin) and by softening the hemicelluloses of the vegetable's cell walls, gives the food a mushy texture.

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06:47:12 on 09/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes a green vegetable to turn muddy green when cooked?

Acid, coupled with heat, is the villain. In combination, they denature chlorophyll, the chemical compound responsible for giving green fruits and vegetables (as well as the leaves of the forest) their characteristic pigmentation. By cooking without a lid, you minimize the discoloration caused by acid (which is generally volatile and dissipates into the air).

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00:50:29 on 09/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it better to boil a vegetable covered or uncovered?

Whether or not you use a cover depends on your priorities. When you cover a pot, you reduce the number of nutrients that dissipate into the air. A covered pot also cooks at a higher temperature than a lidless one, so the vegetable cooks more quickly, and nutrients have less time to leach out of the food. Without a lid, the vegetables better retain their vivid green.

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08:23:52 on 09/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does prolonged cooking bring out the flavor of either cabbage or turnips?

Too many homes reek unnecessarily with objectionable odors because the cook has been misled by a recipe or by grandmotherly advice into believing vegetables like cabbage and turnips should be cooked for a long time. For your nose's sake, and for the sake of texture, don't overcook such vegetables. Another way to avoid the disagreeable qualities sometimes associated with cabbages and turnips is to buy them young and fresh. As these vegetables mature or spend time in storage, their flavor and odor strengthen. If you are forced to use some that are overmature or have been stored for a while, you can still minimize the potent taste and smell. Cut them into small pieces and cook them in an uncovered pot with plenty of water. Each of these three steps encourages the leaching out of unwanted flavor and odor compounds into the water.

Interestingly, cooking onions and garlic for prolonged periods (just as long as you don't burn them) has an opposite effect. They become mild-flavored.

12:28:11 on 09/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it advisable to cook vegetables in as little water as possible?

Water can leach water-soluble vitamins (B and C) out of food. The less water you use, the fewer vitamins you lose. Many leafy vegetables, including spinach, need no water because the moisture that clings to the leaves after you have washed them is ample for the first minute of cooking. As the leaves cook, they contribute enough water of their own for the pot. However, cooking in a generous pot of water is called for when you want to reduce the strong flavors of some vegetables.

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10:45:37 on 09/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How necessary is moisture for the softening of cellulose?

The need for moisture can be demonstrated by trying to cook a beet with dry heat (baking, for instance) rather than with moist heat (simmering, for example). The beet does not contain enough moisture to soften its high cellulose content. Near the other end of the cellulose and moisture spectrum is a tomato, which has so little cellulose and so much moisture that its structure will collapse if overbaked.

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05:52:01 on 09/11/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why add a little liquid to scrambled eggs?

Your cooked scrambled eggs will be fluffier and more tender if you beat 1 or 2 teaspoons of water per egg into the raw eggs. This liquid steams as your egg mixture cooks, giving the scrambled eggs a lighter texture. The eggs will also be moister because the cooked protein molecules can bind with more water molecules than can uncooked ones. Milk produces the same effect as water and has the extra advantage of enriching your preparation. For even better results, use cream.

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10:31:21 on 09/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does the portion of the egg white that lies nearest the egg yolk set more slowly than the outer portion?

An obvious reason is that it is thicker. Another one is that it doesn't come in direct contact with the pan - the portion of the egg white that lies nearest the egg yolk sits on top of the second type of albumen, the one that constitutes the entire bottom layer of the cooking egg. A third reason is less known. The inner albumen layer coagulates at a temperature about 5 degrees F higher than does the second type of albumen.

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06:38:12 on 09/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should eggs be poached in vinegar-spiked water?

Vinegar helps give your poached eggs a more compact shape because its acid content lowers the cooking liquid's pH factor. This precipitates the setting of the egg whites before they have had a chance to spread too far in the simmering water. Vinegar also blanches the egg whites, enhancing their snowy luster. These benefits are overshadowed, however, when the cook uses other than a quality vinegar or pours the vinegar into the pan with a heavy hand, a bad habit common among short-order chefs. A proper ratio is about 1 teaspoon of vinegar (or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice) per quart of water.

Salt also helps speed the coagulation process, but like vinegar, you must use a sparing amount lest you overpower the egg's flavor. A pinch or two of salt per quart of water should suffice.

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10:28:09 on 09/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is a hot hard-cooked egg easier to peel than a cold one?

As the cooked egg white cools, it begins to stick to the shell's innermost membrane. Two other egg-peeling tips are to start at the larger end (the one with the air pocket) and, if the shell is giving you a difficult time, to remove it under cold running tap water. If you want to slice the egg, chill the whole peeled egg in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. By so doing, the yolk is less likely to crumble or break away from the white.

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14:27:43 on 09/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to prevent the yolk of a hard-cooked egg from becoming green-tinged?

That unsightly surface color is produced when extreme heat or prolonged cooking chemically combines the sulfur in the eggs with the iron in the yolk to form a harmless substance called ferrous sulfide. You can eliminate the problem by following three rules. First, use fresh eggs (ferrous sulfide develops more readily in older eggs). Second, never cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes. Third, once cooked, bring a halt to further cooking by quickly cooling the eggs in cold water.

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07:58:11 on 09/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are refrigerated eggs easier to separate than room-temperature ones?

The viscosity of the egg white (albumen) and the surface tension of the yolk membrane are noticeably greater at refrigerator temperature than at room temperature. This means that the albumen will more readily slide away from the yolk - and that the yolk membrane will be less likely to rupture during the separation process when the cook moves the egg back and forth between the halves of the eggshell.

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10:47:33 on 09/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the chances of being exposed to salmonella from a raw egg?

Salmonella is a food-borne bacterium that can make people seriously sick with intestinal flu-like symptoms. Thanks to improved farming and storage procedures, the chance of an egg containing salmonella is rare - maybe about 1 in 10,000. Those odds are trifling compared to the odds of a store-bought chicken being infected with salmonella. What this tells us is that people should be hundreds of times more concerned about eating undercooked chicken than under-cooked eggs.

08:10:22 on 09/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to tell whether an unopened egg is raw or cooked?

Spin the egg on its side on a flat surface. If the egg rotates smoothly, with effortless grace, it is hard-cooked. If the egg wobbles noticeably, it is uncooked. The wobbling occurs because centrifugal force continuously changes the raw yolk's position inside the egg and so keeps altering the egg's center of gravity.

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04:46:19 on 09/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does commercial fruit-flavored yogurt have so much sugar?

As makers of fruit preserves, jams and jellies know, if enough sugar is used, it helps preserve fruits. Yogurt manufacturers also take advantage of this storage-extending ability. Often, though, even more sugar than needed is added to satisfy the sweet tooth of the typical customer.

It is a sad fact that many lovers of fruit-flavored yogurt think they are eating a particularly healthy food. If you offer the same people bread smoothened with jam, they probably wouldn't give it too high a nutritive rating. Yet, fruit-flavored yogurt is essentially yogurt with jam or preserves.

What tricks people into thinking that they are consuming a healthful product is the phrase "100 percent natural" printed on the container. Sugar is an empty calorie food. It has virtually no nutritive value and can harm teeth and other parts of the body, yet the manufacturer can use the phrase because the sugar is "100 percent natural" by definition. So is a rotten apple.

If you enjoy yogurt, eat it plain or add your own fresh fruit. Unless you plan to store your yogurt mixture for a few days, there is no need to add sugar to preserve the fruit.

11:08:46 on 09/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why doesn't homogenized milk separate?

Dairies use high-pressure equipment to force the milk through fine openings. This breaks up the milk fat into tiny, well-dispersed globules that cannot recombine into larger fat globules because of their minute size and the movement of the water molecules in the milk. This anti-combining action is furthered by the milk's casein protein, an emulsifying agent. If the fat globules were allowed to combine, they would float upward to form a distinct layer over the fat-free milk.

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16:04:36 on 09/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -