Asian Recipes

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The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

How do commercial meat tenderizers work?

Most of the powdered meat tenderizers sold in grocery stores use papain as the tenderizing agent. Papain is derived from unripe papayas and works in such the same manner as the natural enzymes in meat that help soften connective tissue as the meat is aged. Both are termed proteolytic enzymes because they break down the proteins in muscle fibers and connective tissue into smaller molecules.

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04:04:03 on 12/31/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What other factors determine a marinade's effectiveness?

Marination is a chemical process. The lower the temperature, the more slowly the chemical reactions occur. This explains why marinating at room temperature is considerably faster than doing it in the refrigerator.

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02:31:06 on 12/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is wet aging for meat?

Nearly all wet aging uses the "Cryovac" process. It involves tightly wrapping and hermetically sealing the meat in polyethylene bags. Though this modern technique hardly tenderizes the meat, the mass-market meat industry favors it over the old-fashioned method because less shrinkage occurs and because the so-called aging can conveniently take place as the meat is shipped across the country from the slaughterhouse to your butcher's refrigerated walk-in storage locker.

Another wet-aging disadvantage is that moisture is trapped inside the wrapping. This can give the meat a relatively mushy texture compared to the firm texture of a traditionally dry-aged meat.

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11:28:43 on 12/29/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does dry aging make a real difference in the meat's tenderness and flavor?

If meat is stored in a proper aging environment, it undergoes an enzymatic change that softens some of the connective tissue. The optimal period and temperature are 10 to 20 days between 34F and 38F (Freezing would inhibit the chemical process, and too high a heat would foster excessive bacterial and mold development).

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08:11:37 on 12/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

If slow moist heat softens the collagen in connective tissue, why does it sometimes leave meat tough?

Heat and prolonged cooking have opposite effects on the two main solid components of meat: Both soften connective tissue, but at the same time they harden muscle fibers. Fortunately for the cook, the tenderizing of the connective tissue more than compensates for the hardening of the muscle fibers - that is, if the meat is cooked properly.

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12:27:47 on 12/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does slow moist-heat cooking soften connective tissue?

The prime component of connective tissue is the protein collagen. That name derives from the Greek words kolla (glue) and gen (a word appendix signifying "production of"). In everyday English, collagen produces glue or, in this case, gelatin. In a hot, moist environment (boiling water, for instance), collagen can be partially transformed, over a period of time, into gelatin. When this metamorphosis occurs, connective tissue softens and dissolves, making the meat more tender. The second major constituent of connective tissue is elastin.

Unlike the predominant whitish collagen, the yellow-tinged elastin protein does not soften - or at least, not perceptibly - in the dual presence of heat and water.

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10:24:53 on 12/26/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is a chuck roast poorly suited for roasting?

A chuck roast comprises several distinct muscle sections. It is difficult to cook because its muscles range from tender to tough. The most tender muscle is best roasted, though it can be braised with good results. The toughest muscle requires braising, not roasting, if it is to become tender. On balance, braising is your best option.

Europeans rarely have to choose between roasting and braising a chuck roast because they seldom encounter it. Unlike the American butchering method, which cuts the meat across a group of muscles, the European method separates the individual muscles.

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12:51:17 on 12/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is a connective tissue in meat?

A steer's muscle is approximately 75 percent water, 20 percent protein, and collectively 5 percent fat, carbohydrates, and minerals. To simplify a complicated biological structure, we can describe such a muscle as consisting mainly of bundles of microscopic muscle fibers bound together - much like a coaxial cable - inside tiny, semitransparent tubes of connective tissue. Without this tissue, the meat would be flaccid mass.

The quantity and firmness of connective tissue in a raw piece of meat are determined by three factors: the anatomical location of the cut of meat, the animal's activity, and the animal's age.

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04:57:16 on 12/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does the anatomical location relate to toughness in meat?

An animal uses certain muscles more than others. Muscles in the legs, belly, and neck of a four-legged animal do more work than those located along the mid-backbone. The least exercised, and therefore the most tender, primal is the short loin, followed by the sirloin and rib primal cuts. The degree of toughness even varies within each primal.

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11:12:30 on 12/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is "anemic veal"?

In the past several decades, the premium veal industry has increased profits by putting into large-scale operation a technique that prevents a weaned calf from developing myoglobin. The chosen animal, which spends the last part of its short life in an indoor stall with limited opportunity for exercise, is fed a special formula of water infused with dry milk solids, fats, and other nutrients.

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12:00:41 on 12/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes a lid to stick to a pot?

Remember when your carrots were done before the rest of your meal, so you turned off the heat, only to discover that in ten minutes you could not remove the lid from the pot? Charles's Law and Boyle's Law, taken together, explain that kitchen phenomenon. In simplified terms, the combined law would read: At a constant volume, the pressure of a gas is proportional to its temperature.

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20:08:58 on 12/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a pressure cooker worthwhile?

For someone who lives at a high altitude or who cans and preserves foods, a pressure cooker is an asset. In Denver, for instance, water boils at 203F instead of 212F, as it would, say in San Diego. Consequently, any given ingredient takes longer to cook in Denver. The predicament of having a relatively low boiling point for water can be solved with a pressure cooker, since it allows water to reach a temperature of up to about 250F.

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08:09:32 on 12/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the pros and cons of the three cook-top types?

You need a range that can be adjusted in small increments and can respond quickly to any heat adjustment. That is crucial when, for instance, something starts to boil that shouldn't. The range must also heat food reasonably fast. The original radiant cook-tops disappointingly botched the above duties.

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09:38:29 on 12/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does a self-cleaning oven work?

When the oven is heated to nearly 1,000oF, at the "self-clean" setting, any grease of spills leftover from the earlier baking which still clings on the walls will disintegrates into fine particles that either free themselves or can be easily wiped away with a damp cloth. This process helps with the cleaning without using any chemicals. However, bear in mind that this feature comes at a price besides dollars. It also consumes space inside the oven unit and thus reducing an oven's interior dimensions and - consequently - the maximum size of a pot, pan, or sheet you can place inside the oven.

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10:16:37 on 12/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does soap help clean a dirty dish?

Soap (and detergent) reduces the relatively high surface tension of water and so enables the water molecules to penetrate better the pores of the food residue clinging to the dish. Unless that happens, some of the food particles - although surrounded by a sinkful of water - can remain dry, hard and difficult to remove.

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07:16:30 on 12/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is it more important to preheat a dinner plate than a serving dish?

The mass of the room-temperature (70oF) dinner plate is usually much greater than that of the hot food. Consequently, an unheated plate will perceptibly cool the food before all of it has had a fair chance to be eaten and enjoyed. The cooling effect is almost as acute for a serving platter. A deep-sided serving dish for a stew, soup, or vegetable poses less of a problem. The quantity of the heated food will usually warm the serving dish before the dish can appreciably cool the hot food.

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14:56:22 on 12/11/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which will keep food warm longer, a glass or metal serving dish?

Assuming that both containers are identical in size, shape, and thickness, the glass one will keep food warm longer. Glass is a considerably poorer conductor of heat than is metal, and therefore the rate of heat loss through the sides of the container is slower. The same principle is true for glass's close relative, ceramic.

Many other variables also affect heat retention, including the food's fat and moisture content. Fatty foods stay warm longer than lean ones. Ditto for solid foods versus liquid ones like stews. Of course, the most influential variable of all is whether the food is covered.

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13:16:02 on 12/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What should cooks know about water-soluble vitamins?

Unlike the four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), the eight B vitamins and vitamin C dissolve in water. Though your body can store the fat-soluble vitamins it needs in its fat cells for weeks, your reserve of water-soluble vitamins is relatively short-lived. The primary reason is that the B complex and C vitamins easily flee our bodies in our perspiration and urine. Consequently, you need to replenish your supply of water-soluble vitamins on a daily basis. Here lies the wisdom of drinking a daily dose of orange juice (high in vitamin C) at breakfast and eating ample portions of vegetables (high in various B vitamins and sometimes in vitamin C) for lunch and dinner.

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10:08:17 on 12/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does anti-impurity filter attached to the water tap do more harm than good?

Unless you frequently replace the filter or thoroughly clean it, you risk unsafe bacterial buildup. In some filtering systems, the bacteria multiply so rapidly that within a couple of weeks, the number of microorganisms that flow into your drinking glass may exceed the quantity that would have traveled unhindered through your tap.

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07:07:10 on 12/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes staphylococcal poisoning?

"Staph", as this common food-borne disease is nicknamed, is caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. That microorganism creates the toxin most readily in the 40o to 120oF temperature zone, particularly in low-acid foods. Custard-filled foods are notorious sources of staph. Such foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for long.

For the record, mayonnaise has been given a bum rap: It's not the underlying reason chicken and other mayonnaise-dressed salads become contaminated under the hot sun at picnics. In fact, the relatively high salt and vinegar-lemon content of commercially prepared mayonnaise slows down bacterial growth. The real culprits are low-acid ingredients such as the chicken. However, homemade mayonnaise usually is too low in acid and salinity to retard the bacterial growth.

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04:34:55 on 12/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes botulism?

A person can be stricken with botulism after ingesting the toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The bacterium can form the toxin only in the absence of oxygen, so canned goods and products like meat that are wrapped in airtight casings are potential sources of botulism.

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05:05:32 on 12/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does trichinosis attack the body?

You can contract this disease when you eat pork or pork products that contain the live worms, round in shape and microscopic in size, that are called trichinae. Although most people associate trichinosis with pig meat only, other animal flesh, including deer and bear, can also be contaminated. After you eat infected meat, the parasites lodge and reproduce in your intestines. Their larvae enter the bloodstream, travel to your muscles, and , while growing there, cause pain, fever, muscle deterioration, and sometimes death.

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08:47:53 on 12/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the single greatest cook-induced source of bacterial contamination in the kitchen?

Usually it the humble can opener. Although many cooks wash their cutting board surface dutifully after each use, they forget to do the same to the can opener. Even if just one tiny food sticks to the blade, it can make an excellent medium for pathogenic microorganisms. These bacteria have ample time to multiply by the time the cook uses the can opener the next day.

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11:28:19 on 12/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is a pressure cooker a must for most home canning?

To kill the bacteria that can produce the deadly botulism toxin in low-acid canned foods, you have two options. You can cook the food at or near the boiling point for a ridiculously long time, a process that cooks the food before it kills the bacteria. Or you can use a pressure cooker. Because a pressure cooker can reach a temperature of about 250oF, it better preserves the texture, color, flavor, aroma, and nutrients of the food by appreciably shortening the required cooking time.

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13:13:03 on 12/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why vacuum storage bottle maintain temperature of beverages better than thermal bottle?

The heat of a stored hot beverage is mainly lost to the colder air around it through conduction, and a cold beverage will gradually gain heat from the environment in the same way. A thermal or a vacuum bottle retards the transfer of heat (in either direction) between food and its surroundings by placing a poor heat-conducting medium between the two.

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10:34:59 on 12/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Should we avoid buying a frost-coated package of frozen vegetables?

Yes. This is too often a sign that the frozen food has thawed to some extent at least once before we saw it. The source of the frost is usually moisture that has escaped from the food inside the package. But even if the ice crystals are caused by moisture from another package, its existence portends deterioration, because if one package inside a shipping container has thawed, then chances are that some of the contiguous packages have also.

Sometimes thawing occurs in the store's display unit. Research in several dozen supermarkets indicates that the surface temperatures of the topmost frozen-food packages in open display units are sometimes about 32oF. It is also observed that a similar problem for refrigerated items like meat and milk that are stored in open display units. The temperatures of the topmost (or foremost) refrigerated packages are occasionally higher than they should be. This condition reduces storage life and probably creates a health hazard now and then. When buying, remember to select deep.

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15:31:02 on 12/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -