Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

How far should we place a food from the broiler's heat source?

Most foods are cooked between 3 and 6 inches from the broiler (measured from the flame or electric coil to the highest point of the food). Generally, the thinner the food, the closer to the broiler you can place it. If you place a food too close to the broiler in relation to its thickness, it will be dry or overcooked on the outside before the inside is properly cooked. If you place a food at too great a distance from the broiler, the exterior will not develop the sought-after deep color and somewhat crusty texture by the time the center of the food is cooked.

Your preference about degree of doneness should also play a part in determining the distance between the broiler and food. The rarer the meat is to be cooked, the closer you can place it to the heat source, because cooking time will not be long enough to overcook the food's exterior.

12:47:14 on 04/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to use the ripening effect of ethylene gas to our own advantage at home?

Sometimes your produce merchant's entire supply of fruits such as apples, avocados, and peaches is unripe. This is not intolerable problem as long as the fruit is not more than slightly unripe and you give it time to ripen further. The additional ripening will make the fruit taste sweeter because some of the starches will be chemically converted into sugar. In addition, the fruit will likely lose acidity, making it taste comparatively sweeter. But if you let these fruits finish their ripening process at home, you run the risk of having them spoil before they become fully ripe. Your best solution is to hasten the ripening process by harnessing the ethylene gas that the fruit naturally generates. Rather than letting the gas dissipate into your kitchen air, trap it by placing the fruit in a paper bag. The ethylene gas becomes concentrated and therefore accelerates ripening.

Be sure to pierce the bag with a half dozen or so well-distributed pencil-sized holes, for in order to stay sound, your fruits need to "breathe". Like animals, they take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide (though the non-fruit part of the plants does the exact opposite.)

04:48:58 on 04/29/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are young zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, and other fruit-vegetables better than those that are larger and more mature?

Most fruit-vegetables reach the first stage of maturity before they have completed their growth. If harvested then, they are more tender than if allowed to grow to their maximum potential size. Because of changes that occur in cellular structure as the cell walls begin to thicken, the food toughens appreciably. At the same time, the woody cellular substance lignin, which cannot be softened by cooking, becomes more abundant. Fully mature fruit-vegetables have another undesirable quality which is more seeds.

Despite the superiority of young mature fruit-vegetables, supermarkets usually stock the fully grown ones. Profit is the motive. On a pound-per-pound basis, it costs less to grow the biggies because of labor savings. The fully grown specimens sell better, too, because most shoppers associate largeness with quality.

18:50:52 on 04/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does bread usually stay fresher in a breadbox than in a refrigerator?

There are two reasons to it. First, the relatively dry refrigerator air draws more moisture out of foods than does normal room-temperature air. Second, the bonding between the starch and water molecules is weaker at refrigerator temperature than at room (and freezer) temperature. Consequently, bread will turn stale more quickly in the refrigerator. On the other hand, if the bread is not located in a cool, dry place and is not kept in an airtight bag, it might be attacked by airborne mold spores. If so, mold could develop on the bread's surface at such an accelerated pace that the bread would have been better stored in the refrigerator, despite the staling factor.

For optimal long-term storage, freeze the bread (it freezes well). Wrap the loaf well in plastic or place it in a heavy-duty, zipper-lock freezer bag. Whatever storage medium you choose, be it breadbox, refrigerator, or freezer, minimize moisture loss by keeping the bread well wrapped.

13:29:00 on 04/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does yeast dough need to be kneaded?

The most obvious reason is to distribute the yeast cells and other ingredients uniformly throughout the dough. One result of uneven dispersal of yeast cells is that the dough will rise faster in some places than in others. It is equally important to develop a firm gluten that will provide a supporting framework for the expanding dough. Gluten is a mixture of proteins in the flour that, when kneaded, become a cohesive network of elastic strands. As the carbon dioxide gas develops, it becomes trapped inside the gluten structure. The trapped gas finds a home in the countless, minute, preexisting air pockets within the dough, or it creates its own minuscule cavities. As more gas develops, pressure builds up within these spaces. This pressure stretches the elastic gluten strands, thus increasing the volume of the dough.

20:11:11 on 04/26/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the function of sugar, honey and molasses in bread making?

Although these sweeteners are not essential, they can make the bread more tender because they postpone protein coagulation and thus allow the dough or batter to swell to a greater volume before heat stabilizes the structure. They can also add flavor, deepen the color of the crust, and extend the bread's shelf life.

On the negative side, they add calories and, if too much is used, their caramelization can discolor the bread. A superabundance of these sweeteners can also slow down the yeast's growth enough to keep the dough from rising properly. When substituting molasses or honey for sugar, remember that your dough will require a little extra flour to keep the optimal balance between the dry and liquid ingredients.

13:35:21 on 04/25/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is unbleached flour preferable to bleached flour?

Unbleached flour has a more natural taste because it has not been tainted with the chemicals used to process bleached flour. Millers treat their bleached product with chemicals for more than one reason. The most obvious is cosmetic. Bleaching agents whiten the flour, but just as important, millers cut their costs with chemical processing. Flour must be aged to strengthen its gluten content, and natural aging of unbleached flour requires keeping the product in a warehouse for several months. Flour processors discovered that they could avoid that storage expense by using chemicals to age the flour artificially.

When you purchase unbleached flour, look for an established brand, which is your assurance that the flour has been sufficiently aged.

11:13:17 on 04/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should we use less yeast or baking powder when baking at high altitudes?

Since the atmospheric pressure is lower at, say 5,000 feet than at sea level, the carbon dioxide gas generated by the yeast or baking powder encounters less resistance from the surrounding air. Therefore, a given quantity of carbon dioxide expands with greater force, and the dough or batter is leavened more quickly and to a greater volume at higher altitudes. Unless the baker cuts back the quantity of leavening agent used, the baked goods may have a rather coarse texture that would not please many bread connoisseurs.

15:37:29 on 04/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does baking powder leaven baked foods?

Perhaps you can recall from your high school or college chemistry class experiments that carbon dioxide bubbles are generated whenever water is poured over a dry acid and alkali mixture. Well, that is exactly what happens when you use baking powder, because this cooking ingredient is essentially a blend of acid (calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate, or cream of tartar, to name three) and alkali (sodium bicarbonate, popularly known as baking soda). Add water to this mixture and a chemical reaction results, producing carbon dioxide. The gas generated creates minuscule air pockets - or enters into existing ones - within the dough or batter.

When placed in a hot oven or on a hot griddle, the dough or batter rises, primarily for two reasons. First, the heat helps release additional carbon dioxide from the baking powder. Second, the heat expands the trapped carbon dioxide gas and air and creates steam. The resulting pressure swells the countless air pockets, which in turn expand the food being baked.

05:49:00 on 04/22/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can baked foods be made with oil?

One of the failings of oil is that, unlike fats such as butter and lard, it is inclined to collect instead of remain uniformly distributed through the baking dough. For that and other reasons, your baked goods will tend to be too grainy, an effect that is undesirable except in a few specialties. Fat gives your baked items a fluffy, moist texture and, as a bonus, a commendable flavor.

We do not recommend the all-purpose oils, the type that have been engineered to be suitable for both baking and deep-frying. These products do not give the best of both worlds: good baking properties plus a high smoke point for deep-frying. In order to give the oils improved baking quality, the food manufacturer must use additives that appreciably lower the oil's smoke point. An all-purpose oil, therefore, is a compromise, noticeably inferior both to regular oils for frying and to fats for baking purposes. No matter how hard the food technologist may try, their laboratory quest for a truly all-purpose oil will be futile.

15:27:36 on 04/21/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is shortening?

Shortening is classified as a fat because it is solid at room temperature. Shortening can be made with animal or vegetable fats, or a combination of them. Those based on vegetable oil are made solid by hydrogenation. Read the label. If it says "pure vegetable shortening", the product is exactly that. The phrase "pure shortening" means that either animal or vegetable fats, or both, could have been used. If the word "pure" is missing, the manufacturer has included additives to lengthen the shortening's storage life or improve some of its cooking properties. Those additives, unfortunately, lower the smoking point when cooking.

13:22:22 on 04/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it safe to eat a cheese with mold?

There are two types of cheese molds: desirable and harmful. Desirable molds create the crust on brie, camembert, and other soft cheese - and the veinlike mold inside Roquefort and other blue cheese. Without these beneficial molds, the cheese would not properly ripen or taste as good.

Harmful molds are virtually everywhere and attack both soft and hard cheese. Their high toxicity level can make you sick, or worst. They normally arrive airborne, landing uninvited on the cheese at the factory, on the truck, at the store, or in your home. These harmful molds quickly multiply on the cheese surface and bore into the cheese with their threadlike filaments called hyphae.

A contaminating mold's hyphae penetrate considerably faster in a soft than a hard cheese, owing to less physical resistance and more moisture, which aids the mold's growth. Hyphae are not always easy to spot, so it is wise to discard a soft cheese that shows any sign of contamination.

You can usually save part of a hard cheese if the mold covers just a small surface area and there is no evidence of hyphae penetration. Cut away the afflicted area to a distance of 1 inch in all directions (including down) from the mold. Do not let the knife blade touch the tainted area.

11:03:58 on 04/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does butter go rancid?

Oxygen is the chief culprit. Off-tasting and -smelling compounds are formed when oxygen comes in contact with the unsaturated fats in butter. You can slow down this chemical reaction by lowering the temperature (frozen butter lasts longer then refrigerated butter, which last longer than room-temperature butter) and by tightly wrapping the butter (to maximize surface exposure to air). Another method for fighting rancidity is to change the butter into clarified butter.

Just because a butter goes rancid doesn't necessarily mean it has become unwholesome. In fact, butter's vulnerability to bacterial spoilage is lower than most people think because butter is a water-in-oil emulsion. Consequently, each water particle is sealed in an envelope of fat. This means that the bacteria dispersed in the water and in the butter cannot spread freely.

06:17:14 on 04/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is standard stick butter better for cooking than whipped butter?

Whipped butter is merely standard butter inflated with air. A disadvantage of whipped butter is that almost all recipes are based upon standard butter measurements. You must increase the volume of butter called for by one-third if you use whipped butter, because that product is approximately 25 percent air. The situation becomes even more complicated if you use tub butter, which cannot be measured as easily and exactly as units of stick butter.

Whipped butter's advantages lie beyond the stove. Because it is airer, whipped butter spreads more readily on bread and melts more quickly when used as a topping for warm foods like waffles.

** Asian Recipes **

11:54:58 on 04/17/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does homemade cream of tomato soup sometimes curdle?

Acid can curdle cream (or milk). The tendency to curdle increases as the ratio of acid to cream, the temperature of the mixture, or the salt quantity increases. Since three of the star ingredients of cream of tomato soup are cream, acid-rich tomatoes, and salt, the threat of curdling lurks in your kitchen whenever you prepare the soup.

To thwart the curdling tendency, heat the liquefied tomato mixture and cream separately, then slowly add the acidic liquid to the cream near the end of the cooking process. Once mixed, do not heat the cream of tomato soup for very long or at a temperature above 180 degrees F. Add the salt just before serving.

Another pointer is to use the freshest cream possible. The more a cream ages, the more susceptible it becomes to curdling because its lactic acid content increases.

** Asian Recipes **

11:38:28 on 04/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When and why must we scald milk for use in a recipe?

To scald milk means heating it to just below the boiling point. Use a thick-bottomed saucepan or a double boiler to prevent scorching the milk. Scalding has two primary purposes: to kill pathogenic microorganisms and to destroy certain enzymes that would keep emulsifying agents in the milk from doing their thickening job. Since those two goals are accomplished when milk is pasteurized at the dairy, scalding need only be done when you use raw (unpasteurized) milk. Some cookbook writers do not know this fact and therefore direct their readers to scald the milk even though it is usually unnecessary today.

** Asian Recipes **

14:48:00 on 04/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How do virgin and extra-virgin olive oils differ?

An extra-virgin olive has a maximum of 1 percent oleic acid because it comes solely from the first cold pressing of the olives. Virgin olive oil has a moderately higher acidity level (between 1 and 4 percent). This occurs when the olives are pressed harder or are pressed more than once. This extra processing extracts more oil, but at the expense of drawing out more of the unwanted acids from the olive pits and skins. Olive oils with acidity levels above 4 percent were refined with heat or chemicals and cannot use the term "virgin". They are simply labeled "olive oil".

09:17:17 on 04/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the signs of a deteriorated oil?

Visual clues include changes in color and viscosity, the presence of impurities, and a lowered smoke point. An oil perceptibly darkens with use - and especially with misuse - because the molecules of both oil and food burn when subjected to high or prolonged heat. Because sugar caramelizes, sugar-rich foods can particularly deepen the oil's color.

The more you use an oil, the more slowly it will pour. This decrease in fluidity is mainly caused by an alteration of the oil's molecular structure, but also by the accumulation of loose, absorbent food particles, which can be seen as sediment or suspended flecks. When smoke appears on the oil's surface before the temperature reaches 375 degrees F, your oil will no longer deep-fry effectively.

An oil's downfall is also indicated by rancidity, primarily caused by prolonged contact with air. An oil's rancidity can best be described in sensory terms by comparing it with the taste and smell of a stale potato chip. If the oil's natural odor and flavor have been unduly contaminated by foods cooked in it, oil should be discarded. The same is true if it tastes burnt or inordinately oily.

07:38:38 on 04/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a margarine made with oils that are high in mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats good for the heart?

Margarine contains significant amounts of trans fatty acids. These hydrogenated fats have a different form than saturated fats but act like them when it comes to clogging arteries. They pose an equal or greater heart-disease risk to consumers than saturated fats.

Although margarines are generally made with vegetable oils that are high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fats, food manufacturers hydrogenate many of the mono-unsaturated fats in order to solidify a liquid oil into a spread. Margarine makers also know that a hydrogenated oil has a longer shelf life because it is less susceptible to oxidation and hence to rancidity.

Hydrogenation changes the form of a mono-unsaturated fat by adding hydrogen atoms to its hydrocarbon molecular chain. This converts the unsaturated fat molecule into a trans fatty acid molecule.

Therefore, do not be hoodwinked by a company's sales pitch that its product is made totally with unsaturated oils. What counts is not the absence of saturated fatty acids in the oil when it enters the margarine factory, but the presence of trans fatty acids in the product when you melt it over your steaming corn on the cob. If you see the word "hydrogenated" or the phrase "partially hydrogenated" preceding "vegetable oils" in the ingredient list, you know the product contains trans fatty acids. On the other hand, if you do not see the "hydrogenated" qualifier, do not automatically assume that the food has not been hydrogenated.

Generally, the harder the margarine, the more trans fatty acids it contains. Therefore, other factors being equal, pourable margarine has less trans fatty acids than tub margarine, which in turn has less than stick margarine.

10:25:12 on 04/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which fat is better, mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated?

A couple of decades ago scientists believed that the polyunsaturated kind was more desirable. Now researchers are voting for the mono-unsaturated variety. Like polyunsaturated fat, it decreases the amount of LDL in the bloodstream. Unlike polyunsaturated fat, it doesn't decrease the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the bloodstream. HDLs are highly beneficial because they tend to remove excess cholesterol from the circulatory system. This helps explain why olive oil has become the desired fat for consumption among informed cholesterol watchers - approximately three-fourths of its oil is mono-unsaturated.

21:15:10 on 04/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a vegetable oil or margarine that "contains no cholesterol" ideal for cholesterol watchers?

Many shoppers assume that if they buy a vegetable oil or margarine whole label says "contain no cholesterol" they run no risk of raising their serum cholesterol level. For the record, since cholesterol comes only from animal sources, these two vegetable-based foods never did contain cholesterol. Therefore, the shopper shouldn't be paying attention to the manufacturer's claims about cholesterol. He should be minding whether the product contains a fat called trans fatty acids, and if so, how much. Trans fatty acids are a major contributor to heart disease.

07:32:21 on 04/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is cholesterol unhealthful?

Cholesterol is not a dire threat to good health per se. It is essential for bodily functions, including the building of cell membranes and sex hormones. You can get your necessary supply of cholesterol from your liver (where it is produced) and by eating foods of animal origin: meat (especially fatty cuts and organs), dairy products, and eggs. Although your body needs some cholesterol, an excess amount in your arteries can cause coronary heart disease and premature death.

If your serum cholesterol level is below 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood, you probably don't have to be concerned about lowering your level because you're classified in the "desirable blood cholesterol" group. If your level is between 200 and 239, you should give serious attention to reducing your level because you're in the "borderline high blood cholesterol" group. If your level is 240 and above, you're classified in the "high blood cholesterol" group - and failure to go on an immediate and strict cholesterol-lowering diet would be foolish if not ultimately fatal.

So please check your cholesterol level regularly.

03:00:20 on 04/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is fat consumption unhealthful?

We must eat fat to stay alive. What is unhealthy is over and under consumption of fat. Thanks to the barrage of warnings from the mass media, most people know the dangers associated with eating too much fat: obesity and coronary heart disease, to name two. However, overcautious people who go to the other extreme (consuming as little fat as possible) unwittingly risk their health another way.

Fat is the vehicle that transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) through the body. If your body has used up its stored fats and carbohydrates and does not have a fresh supply of fat as an energy source, your body is forced to resort to its supply of protein, an organic compound that is far better utilized for other missions, such as building body tissues. However, fat, too has its building chores. It is essential for cell development. Besides its nutritive value, fat adds flavor and interest to prepared dishes, and because it takes longer to digest than protein or carbohydrates, it helps keep the stomach satisfied between meals.

30 percent of a normal adult's calories should come from fat, but in practice, the figure is much higher for the average American. Consequently, most Americans need not fret about a fat shortage in their diet. They should worry about the other peril, excess fat intake.

05:11:58 on 04/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is an oil a fat?

To a scientist, an oil is a fat. However, it is common culinary practice to use the term 'fat' for those fats that are in a solid state while at room temperature. Those that are liquid at room temperature are called oils.

Fats from animals are solid and, generally, fats from vegetables are liquid at room temperature. The notable exceptions are vegetable oils from the coconut and palm kernel. Chemically speaking, there is less difference between animal and vegetable fats than most people would suspect. Even though their saturation and cholesterol profiles do differ, both fats are made up of a glycerol molecule linked with three fatty acids. They share the attributes of being water-insoluble and having a greasy feel.

14:09:01 on 04/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between black, white, and green peppercorns?

All three are produced from the berry of the same tree. Their distinguishing characteristics derive from variations in harvesting time and processing methods.

The most common of the three, the wrinkle-skinned black peppercorn, is picked slightly immature and then dried whole. The relatively smooth-surfaced white peppercorn is picked at full maturity. After it is soaked to facilitate the removal of its skin, it is dried skinless. Green peppercorns are picked immature and then preserved, skin and all, by pickling.

Some cooks prefer to use white peppercorns in pale preparations such as white sauces and cream-based sauces. If black peppercorns were used, the black specks of the ground dried skin might detract from the food's visual appeal. Other cooks prefer to take advantage of the wonderful intense flavor and fragrance that the skin of the dried pepper provides. Green peppercorns, the mildest and classiest of the three, are often cooked and served whole in dishes like braised duck.

Pink peppercorns, by the way, are not true peppercorns - they come from a different plant. Although the dried pink peppercorn berry resembles the true item in size and shape, it has a different color, taste and aroma.

14:52:26 on 04/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does marinating tenderize meat?

The marinade's acid (be it derived from lemon juice, wine, or some other ingredient) is the potent substance that chemically softens the connective tissue. Acid also reduces the time required for heat to convert collagen to gelatin. To be effective, sufficient marinating time is necessary. With some dishes you can achieve adequate results in as few as several hours, though there are specialties that call for a weeklong marination. It all depends on the recipes.

06:38:29 on 04/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why does the darker flesh of many fishes tend to run along their backbones and near their tails?

When a fish swims leisurely through the water, it propels itself chiefly with its back and tail muscles. These muscles consist mostly of slow-contraction muscle fiber because the work is performed with relatively slow movements over long durations. The large amount of myoglobin in the tissue around these slow-contraction fibers turns the flesh brownish red. The muscles in the other areas of a fish's anatomy are typically lighter-hued (usually off-white) because they predominantly consist of fast-contraction fibers, which don't require the presence of the oxygen-rich myoglobin. These pale-hued muscles are generally reserved for quick-movement activities, such as chasing a prey or escaping a predator.

10:51:08 on 04/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How can we visually determine whether a fish steak or fillet is from the center or tail area?

Most fishes fall into one of two shape classifications: round or flat. Salmon, trout, tuna, carp, and bass are examples of the first group, and sole, flounder, and halibut are members of the second. When a round fish is cut into steaks (slices cut perpendicular to the backbone), the pieces from near the center have a slit or missing segment extending up to the backbone, giving the steak a vaguely horseshoe-like appearance. That opening is the wall of the stomach cavity. A steak cut from near the tail has no slit because it was sliced from a section of the fish located behind the abdominal pocket.

A whole fillet (a boneless slice cut lengthwise from heat to tail) of a round or flat fish is tapered, the narrow end being the tail portion.

21:22:27 on 04/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -