Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Why were many older refrigerator models designed with the egg storage compartment on the swinging door?

Accessibility, rather than storage life, is the prime reason for the egg compartment's traditional location. The door is one of the least sensible locations because the eggs are jarred each time you open and shut the door. Moreover, the eggs are repeatedly exposed to temperatures well above the ideal. That perfect temperature, by the way, is about 30F, just above an egg's 29F freezing point.

Whether or not you have such a refrigerator, keep eggs in their original carton (if it's clean) at the rear of the coldest shelf. Not only does this technique minimize jarring and temperature fluctuation, it saves you the transferring chore - and helps shield eggs from the refrigerator odors.

** Asian Recipes **

05:41:32 on 01/31/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Should raw eggs be frozen in their shells?

No. Always shell the eggs first, because freezing expands the contents of the eggs more than the shells' capacity. Result will be cracked eggs. You can freeze the yolks and whites separately or together. The relatively high fat content (32 percent) of yolks gives them a shorter freezer life than whites. Since freezing deteriorates texture and flavor, freeze eggs only when necessary.

** Asian Recipes **

10:01:29 on 01/30/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do some egg yolks have blood spots?

A yolk membrane can pick up blood spots as it travels down the hen's reproductive tract before the surrounding albumen (egg white) and shell have been formed. If the tract is bleeding, some of the blood can attach itself to the yolk. The blood spots are harmless blemishes and, contrary to some food books, do not indicate fertilization.

** Asian Recipes **

09:52:19 on 01/29/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are brown eggs more nutritious and flavorful than white eggs?

No. Though some chickens that lay brown eggs produce more nutritious and flavorful eggs than the breeds that lay white eggs, the opposite is true just as often. Therefore, shell color is not an indicator of quality. Eggshell color marketplace preference is regional. In some places, the brown egg is more popular, whereas in most other areas, the white is the top choice.

** Asian Recipes **

06:58:32 on 01/28/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does cheese sometimes refuse to melt in a sauce?

Chances are the cook heated the cheese at too high a temperature or for too long. Such treatment separates the protein from the fat and makes it tough, rubbery, and stringy. A cook who continues to heat the sauce in the hope of melting the unsightly protein lumps is pursuing an impossible dream. Once the damage has been done, further cooking only makes matters worse.

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07:46:03 on 01/27/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Should we purchase cheese that has an ammonia scent?

Many a cheesemonger has convinced uninformed customers that the ammonia scent of a surface-ripened cheese such as camembert indicates that it has reached its peak of maturity and that French gourmets love eating their cheese in this condition. Not so. Once you can smell more than a trace of ammonia, the cheese is over the hill because it is a sensory confirmation that certain enzymes are attacking countless amino acids, a process that spoils the cheese.

** Asian Recipes **

05:42:47 on 01/26/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why hard cheese can store longer than a soft cheese?

A hard cheese has a lower water content. Since water is a medium conducive to the growth of spoilage-causing bacteria and mold, a hard cheese like Cheddar (about 37 percent water content) will last much longer than cottage cheese (between 70 and 80 percent water content).

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06:51:44 on 01/25/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the principles of clarifying butter?

To clarify butter, you must separate the fat from the nonfat ingredients. The more completely you remove the nonfats, the more suitable your clarified butter will be for frying and storing. Many otherwise intelligently written cookbooks detail unnecessarily burdensome procedures for doing this. There are less complicated methods. Moreover, it eliminates the risk of scorching even one molecule of butter, a threat posed by the frequently recommended technique of melting it in a pan over a flame.

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09:01:16 on 01/24/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is butter color a reliable indicator of quality?

Natural butter can vary from the palest of yellows to a deep yellow, depending on the cow's breed and feed. Certain breeds produce deeper yellow butters and all cows produce their deepest-colored butter in the springtime and early summer, when the grass they eat is particularly rich in orange-yellow carotene. When winter comes, so does a paler butter.

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09:03:51 on 01/23/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How is soy milk made?

Pure soy milk is produced by straining the liquid of mashed soy-beans cooked in water. Often soy milk is doctored with a sweetening agent, infused with flavoring agents like almond, and fortified with calcium, other minerals, and vitamins. Soy milk is a misnomer - it does not contain any milk and does not even vaguely taste like genuine milk. Soy milk is popular with people who suffer from lactose intolerance (soy milk has no lactose) or milk allergy (it has no casein). Vegans - and other vegetarians who abstain from dairy products are also soy milk drinkers.

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08:13:21 on 01/22/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does cream sometimes curdle when poured into a cup of coffee?

Again, acid is the troublemaker. Chances are the cream was not as fresh as it should have been. As cream ages, its lactic acid content increases. Your coffee, too has acid - and the stronger your brew or the more acidic the beans, the more acid-rich your cup of java. Any acid in sufficient quantity, especially with the help of the coffee's heat, will curdle cream.

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09:40:38 on 01/21/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is heavier cream heavier than light cream?

Contrary to what the senses in our mouths tell us, heavy cream is actually lighter than light cream, and light cream is lighter than whole milk, which is lighter than skim milk. Skeptical? As proof, consider that cream invariably rises to the top of nonhomogenized milk. This phenomenon can be easily explained because fat has a lower specific density than water. Now, consider that the fat and water percentages for heavy cream are, respectively, about 40 percent and 55 percent, whereas those for milk are, respectively, about 4 percent and 87 percent. The figures for skim milk are about 1 percent and 90 percent.

What fools our senses is primarily the fact that fat has a higher viscosity than water. Having been taught at a very early age the misleading phrases "heavy cream" and "light cream" biases our interpretations, too.

** Asian Recipes **

08:32:12 on 01/20/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should nonfat dry milk be reconstituted the day before it is to be used?

Nonfat dry milk is whole milk minus its fat and water. About 35 percent of the dried powder is protein (mainly casein), and about 50 percent is carbohydrate in the form of lactose, a milk sugar. Although sucrose (the common table sugar derived from sugar beets or cane sugar) dissolves rapidly, lactose does not. Unless you give your reconstituted dry milk a rest in the refrigerator, it is apt to taste grainy. The instant dry-milk powders eliminate most, but not all, of the solubility problem.

** Asian Cooking **

07:24:31 on 01/19/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do canned milks have an unpleasant taste?

Evaporated milk is heated in its can to a temperature well above 200F in order to sterilize the milk. A cooked or burnt flavor is the outcome. The metal of the can also imparts an off-flavor. Another canned product, condensed milk, does not have to be sterilized because its high sugar content (over 40 percent) serves as a preservative by hindering bacterial growth. Of course, that much sugar does not make condensed milk all that appealing either.

** Asian Recipes **

12:18:48 on 01/18/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why doesn't today's buttermilk taste like yesteryear's?

True buttermilk is made from whole milk and is the direct byproduct of butter making. Virtually all of the buttermilk marketed today is artificially soured skim milk and thus not authentic buttermilk. Dairies produce it by adding harmless bacteria to the milk. This thickens the milk and creates a tangy flavor.

Real buttermilk - which is nowadays difficult to find - is preferable for cooking and drinking because it has a richer taste, fuller body, and higher nutritive value than the imitation.

** Asian Cooking **

09:10:40 on 01/17/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is adding chocolate to milk a good way to entice children to drink milk?

Though the chocolate flavoring is often an enticement, it is unsound from a nutritional standpoint. The oxalic acid in chocolate inhibits the digestive system's ability to absorb the calcium in chocolate milk. The oxalic acid chemically reacts with the calcium, producing a new compound, calcium oxalate. The intestines cannot absorb this calcium oxalate because it is insoluble. This loss of the essential mineral calcium is nutritionally detrimental, especially for growing children.

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08:24:48 on 01/16/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is cow's milk often diluted with water and sweetened with sugar before it is fed to a baby?

The percentage of casein protein in cow's milk is higher than that in human milk because a calf has greater nutritional needs than a human baby - its growth rate is about twice that of its human counterpart. Because its casein content is higher, cow's milk is harder to digest than human milk.

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09:44:32 on 01/15/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is lactose intolerance?

A baby produces the enzyme lactase, which helps break down the otherwise hard-to-digest lactose (milk sugar) in the intestinal tract. If children or adults stop drinking milk for an extended period of time, they may lose the ability to produce lactase in sufficient quantities.

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04:34:45 on 01/14/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes this film in milk to rise so suddenly (and overflow the pot)?

Normally, as steam bubbles emerge from the milk, they quickly burst, well below the pot's rim. However, if a film forms, the milk bubbles are trapped between this skin and milk. As these bubbles grow in number, they push the skin upward until eventually the skin and some of the bubbles may overflow the pot.

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07:43:31 on 01/13/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is it preferable for a lobster to be still alive at the time it is cooked, or to have expired only shortly before?

The enzymes in a lobster's (or crab's) digestive tract are quite potent and can quickly start decomposing the flesh once the creature dies. Unlike the digestive system of fishes, mammals. or birds, that of lobsters (or crabs) is difficult to remove before they are cooked. Another reason for a cook to insist on a living lobster is that live crustaceans are far more likely to harbor pathogenic microorganisms (such as hepatitis-carrying viruses) than are live fish. And when they do, the microbe count in the lobster will also likely be much higher. Those disease-causing agents, given a head start, will multiply at a much faster pace in a crustacean. Your best defense, therefore, is absolute freshness.

Even if you could safely cook and eat a lobster that has been dead for 24 hours, there would seldom be a way to ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt that the uncooked lobster displayed in your local fish store had died a recent death. You can, on the other hand, determine whether the lobster is dead: Pick it up by its back. Unless the tail curls under the body, the lobster is dead of close to it.

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

What are the test for doneness in fish?

In most instances, as soon as the translucent flesh turns opaque, the protein has adequately coagulated. Another test is to probe the thickest portion of the flesh with a fork. As soon as it flakes, the fish is properly cooked. Flaking occurs after heat has gelatinized the collagen in the myocommata, a type of connective tissue that holds the thin, parallel sheets of muscle fiber together. These separated sheets give the properly cooked fish flesh a flaky texture.

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09:22:08 on 01/11/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How long and at how high a temperature should a fish be cooked?

Time and temperature are two inversely related variables of the cooking equation. Temperature should be about 180F if you are poaching the fish; in the low-moderate range (300 to 350F) if pan-broiling, pan-frying, or baking; 375F if you are deep-frying; and about 450F if you are broiling. Lower temperatures than the suggested guidelines would prolong the cooking time too much, which would in turn needlessly sap some of the fish's delicate flavor. Higher temperatures than recommended figures would develop more flavor, but that gain would not compensate for the resulting dryness and toughness of the flesh.

The second coordinate - time - should be as short as the cooking method allows, just long enough to coagulate the protein. Prolonged cooking - even if you use the right temperature - robs flavor and toughens the protein, and the flesh will fall apart at the slightest provocation.

Most cooks, be they the restaurant or home variety, nearly always overcook their fish. The element of error is usually in the time rather than the temperature.

** Asian Recipes **

09:52:13 on 01/10/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why we should not turn broiling fish fillets?

For openers, they do not usually need to be turned. The under half of a thin fillet is cooked by a combination of heat penetrating through the upper half of the fish and heat emanating from the hot pan below. A fillet is also delicate, and the act of turning it is likely to break it apart, particularly if the flesh adheres to the grate or pan. To minimize the sticking tendency that can make removing the cooked fish difficult, butter or grease the cooking surface before placing the fish on it.

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07:33:08 on 01/09/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can the provenance of a fish affect its wholesomeness?

Most fishermen know that it's risky to eat fish caught in rivers and lakes polluted by industrial wastes. Few realized that it's risky to eat fish caught off one of the most popular fishing spots - a bridge. Auto exhaust fumes and the rubbish people dump in the middle of the night can pollute the waters near a bridge.

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04:15:38 on 01/08/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why fish cannot be stored as long as other animal meat?

After an animal dies, some of its digestive enzymes erode the alimentary canal walls and invade the flesh. The flesh of an ungutted fish spoils faster under this assault than that of a land animal, partially because a fish's digestive enzymes are generally more efficacious. Remember, those biological catalysts that labor in the fish's digestive tract must chemically break down swallowed whole fish, bones and all. Compounding the disintegrating effect of the fish's potent digestive enzymes is the fact that fish flesh is easier to digest than terrestrial animal meat.

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08:14:33 on 01/07/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do fishes from cooler waters generally taste better?

There is often a discernible correlation between fat content and richness of flavor. Cooler-water fishes tend to have a higher fat content because, among other factors, their eco-environment contains a greater abundance of plankton at the bottom of the food chain.

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10:54:46 on 01/06/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does seafood in fish stores sometimes look slimy?

This sheen is usually caused by bacterial decay, but not always. The chemical additive tripolyphosphate (nickname "tripoly" in the trade) is sometimes the culprit, especially when it's used excessively by overzealous fishermen and seafood processors. The method is simple: The seafood is soaked for several hours in a tripoly solution. The resulting chemical reaction retards the water loss that occurs naturally in protein tissue when a life form dies. Protein tissue loses water during the postdeath stage because its molecular structure contracts, decreasing its water retention ability. Tripoly raises the tissue's PH factor, causing the protein's molecular structure to unfold, thereby increasing its ability to bind water.

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07:34:03 on 01/05/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does a chicken's living environment affect its flavor?

Free-range chickens are more flavorful than mass-produced chickens sold in supermarkets. Unlike the latter, which are almost always reared in crowded coops, the free-range chickens get to move around a large yard. This exercise develops more flavor in their muscles. Exercise also toughens muscles, but the effect is less pronounced on chicken than a steer. As long as you buy a young free-range chicken, you should not notice an appreciable toughening effect on the meat.

The cramped and sunless living quarters of mass-reared chickens also make these "shut-ins" more disease- and stress-prone. Free-range chickens live more contented lives, which research shows, results in a better-quality meat and a higher flesh-to-bone ratio.

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09:01:20 on 01/04/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Difference between a rub and a marinade. Which is better?

Like a marinade, a rub is a mixture of flavor agents created to infuse meats with extra taste. Unlike a marinade, a rub is not a liquid. A rub's ingredients (such as garlic, herbs, and spices) are chopped together to form a coarse paste, which is hand-rubbed onto a meat's surface, typically one to several hours before it is cooked.

A growing number of cooks prefer rubs to marinades because they impart more flavor and leach out fewer meat juices. And the meat's center is less likely to end up drab brown. However, a rub is less effective for tenderizing because it is less acidic and the tenderizing agents do not penetrate as deeply into the meat compared to marinades.

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12:23:29 on 01/03/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When cooking meat with dry heat, should we salt before or after the meat is cooked?

There are two antipodal, and sometimes contentious, schools of thought on this issue. The season-before-cooking faction argues that unless you sprinkle the salt on the meat before starting the cooking process the salt does not have a chance to infuse the food and trigger a chemical flavor-enhancing reaction.

The salt-after-cooking clique asserts that presalting draws out moisture unnecessarily from the cooking meat and therefore makes it tougher. Moreover, this group maintains, the salt does not penetrate the flesh entirely, and accordingly, the cooked meat is unevenly seasoned. A slice from a roast that was salted before cooking verifies their point: The edges taste saltier than the center.

The pros and cons of each argument more or less balance out, so follow whichever precept your grandmother taught you. Salting steak that is to be cooked on a flat surface, such as saute pan, is another matter. If you presalt the meat, your steak will suffer. As the salt-leached juices exude from the underside of the steak, they boil or turn to steam, giving that face a mushy consistency and a surface that is pallid grayish brown rather than an appealing rich brown. We prefer a compromise solution: Salt each side of a steak after its final turning.

** Asian Recipes **

09:25:49 on 01/02/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does carving a piece of meat across the grain and into thin slices make connective tissue more tender?

Grain defines the direction of the tubular connective tissues in meat. "To cut across the grain" means to slice the connective tissue at right angles. Obviously, the thinner the slices, the shorter the resulting connective tissue segments. The shorter the segments, the less chewy the meat, and therefore the more tender it will seem to the eater.

If you have trouble ascertaining the grain of the meat, try to remember this guideline: Typically, the grain flows in a direction from the middle of the carcass to the animal's extremities (limbs, head, and tail).

** Asian Cooking **

11:40:35 on 01/01/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -