Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Is plastic wrap safe for all kitchen use, or does it affect some foods?

Plastic warp is indispensable in the modern kitchen, but there have been fears in recent years that some of the substances used in its manufacture could migrate into foods, particularly those with a high fat content such as fried meats, pastries and some cheeses. The manufacturers have carried out research into the matter and now give consumers the following advice.

All plastic wraps, as well as food wraps that contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PE (polyethylene), are suitable for use in contact with all foods, except almost pure fat, such as lard, oil or foods in an oily medium (for example, tuna or meat that is being marinated). If plastic wrap is in direct contact with these, a small migration of substances will occur.

Never use plastic wrap on warm food, or where it may melt into it, such as in a conventional oven. When reheating or cooking food in a microwave oven, do not let the plastic wrap touch the food.

** Asian Recipes **

09:47:18 on 07/31/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to prepare a fresh pineapple?

First cut off the top with its spiky green plume and then take a thin slice from the base; stand it upright. With a large knife, cut the skin downwards in wide strips. Then, with the tip of a knife, remove the hard brown eyes from the surface of the pineapple flesh.

If you want to serve the pineapple in rings, cut it into slices of the required thickness. For wedges or cubes, cut the fruit lengthways into quarters, slice off the core from each piece, then cut up the flesh. Pineapples can also be hollowed out to act as a container for sorbet, ice cream or fruit salad. First, slice off the top of the pineapple leaving a good wedge of skin attached to the green plume, then cut a sliver from the base and stand it upright. With a pointed stainless-steel knife, carefully cut down into the pineapple just inside the skin. Work the knife right round the pineapple. Make several cuts across the flesh and remove as much of it as you can. Continue cutting until all the flesh has been removed.

** Asian Desserts **

15:34:55 on 07/30/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to seal jars used for pickles?

Lids with plastic-coated linings or specialized preserving jars with glass tops and rubber sealing rings are essential. Never use paper or cellophane covers for pickles (or chutneys) as the jars need to be completely airtight. If the jars are not adequately covered, the vinegar will evaporate and expose the ingredients to the air and harmful bacteria. The preserve will shrink and the top will dry out.

Avoid using metal tops for jars as the vinegar in pickles will corrode them, leading to possible rust and contamination. If the vinegar does evaporate during storage, top it up with more as the ingredients in the container should stay covered.

** Asian Pickles and Chutneys **

00:59:05 on 07/29/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does it really matter what type of vinegar to use in making pickles?

You should use only high quality vinegar with an acetic acid content of at least 5 percent, which includes all wine vinegars and most others. Malt vinegar, which was once the staple of the traditional homestyle pickle, is the most economical but it has a distinctive taste. Brown malt vinegar has the best flavor.

White distilled malt vinegar, with its concentrated acidity, is useful for pickling watery vegetables such as cucumber, but there are more subtle, less harsh alternatives you can use as well, such as cider vinegar and red or white wine vinegar. Sherry vinegar and balsamic vinegar can be used half and half with wine or cider vinegar in order to impart their special flavors.

When choosing a vinegar, try to complement the vegetable or fruit that is being preserved. Think about the color and flavor you wish to create. For example, white vinegar gives a better appearance to light colored pickles, such as those made from gherkins, cauliflower or cucumber, whereas dark red wine vinegar is best for pickled beetroot or red cabbage. Cider vinegar, with its apple base, is particularly good for sweet pickles. Sherry vinegar, which is a deep caramel color, has a very mellow flavor. It is perfect for giving a boost to pickled shallots.

** Asian Recipes **

14:00:22 on 07/28/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a pestle and mortar still useful as kitchen equipment?

A pestle and mortar is invaluable for jobs like crushing and grinding small amount of spice. You are able to control the grinding very accurately and the weight of the pestle helps with the process. This fine grinding is used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking where freshly ground spices are preferred.

A pestle and mortar is excellent for lightly crushing soft herb leaves such as mint and basil to release their fragrance for use in dressings. Making garlic mayonnaise is also easier with a pestle and mortar. Soak a slice of white bread in water, squeeze and then crush it in the mortar. Add two peeled cloves of garlic, a pinch of coarse rock salt and pound into a smooth paste. Gradually add a lightly flavored olive oil in drops, mixing vigorously with the pestle. When the mayonnaise has become sufficiently thick. season it with a little lemon juice.

** Asian Recipes **

06:05:44 on 07/26/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are peppers the same as capsicums and do all peppers taste the same regardless of their color?

Yes. Green, red and yellow peppers are members of the same capsicum family as chilies, and are also known as capsicums. Different colors of peppers taste differently. Red peppers are distinctly sweeter than green, which are simply unripened red peppers. Yellow peppers are mild. The flavor of all peppers will be even smoother and sweeter if they are grilled or roasted. If you want to peel the peppers but do not want to cook them, a sharp potato peeler will take off almost all the skin.

** Asian Recipes **

15:05:40 on 07/25/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Difference between black, white, green and pink peppercorns

Black, white and green peppercorns all come from the fruit of the same Asian tropical vine. However, they are picked at different stages and processed differently, which affects their flavor. Black peppercorns are the most pungent variety, followed by white, then green. The vine bears green berries, which may be canned in their unripe state. These green peppercorns give a pepper flavor but without much heat. They can be used in subtle ways, such as scattered over strawberries, and will not overpower poultry or fish.

If these green berries are dried rather than canned, they darken to form the familiar black peppercorns. If, instead, they are left for longer on the vine to ripen, they turn bright red. White peppercorns are made by taking the ripe, red berries and removing the skin and pulp. The inner white seeds are then dried in the sun. White pepper is more expensive and less aromatic than black, but it is preferred for use in some sauces where black pepper would look unattractive.

Pink peppercorns are the berries of a different tropical bush. They are picked ripe and then dried. Pink peppercorns have a fruity heat and spicy flavor that is reminiscent of both cinnamon and allspice, but must be used sparingly as they are toxic when eaten in large quantities. Try a smattering of pink peppercorns in pickled peaches to add attractive color to the presentation.

All dried peppercorns should be freshly ground in a mill to maintain their flavor, which is quickly lost after processing. An opened can of green peppercorns can be transferred to an airtight jar and stored for six weeks in the refrigerator.

** Asian Recipes **

05:00:23 on 07/24/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are snow peas and sugarsnap peas similar to garden peas?

They are all the same family of pea, but they are sold at different stages of maturity. Snow peas are flat with barely formed peas inside. Sugarsnaps contain more developed, plump peas, but are not as mature as garden peas. Both snow peas and sugarsnap peas are grown for their crisp, sweet edible pods.

For peas eaten whole, a good helping is about 125g for each person. Garden peas should yield just under half their unshelled weight. For two people, allow about 500g of unshelled peas, unless you are serving them with other vegetables or using them in a salad.

** Vegetarian Recipes **

00:11:29 on 07/22/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to stop pears from turning brown during preparation?

Use a stainless-steel potato peeler and put the peeled pears into a bowl of cold water. Add the juice of a large lemon or 2-3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice. Alternatively, depending on the recipe you have chosen, the pears can be put directly into a wine or sugar syrup to keep them from discoloring. For the most appealing presentation, try to choose either Comice, Conference or Packham varieties that are a standard size and have a true pear shape.

Peeled pears may be poached, stewed, baked or even pickled in a wide variety of recipes. They are delicious with fish and poultry.

** Free Cooking Recipes **

12:14:54 on 07/21/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can peaches and nectarines be used interchangeably in recipes?

Yes, peaches and nectarines are completely interchangeable in recipes, although nectarines can be a little sweeter so may require less additional sugar then peaches.

Raw and ripe, both peaches and nectarines are perfect for making fruit salads - combined with just one other fruit such as fresh raspberries (with which peaches and nectarines have a natural affinity) or with a mixture of other fruits. Poached in a light sugar syrup, they can be served hot with cream or ice cream, or chilled and used to top a flan or gateau. They can also be spiced, baked, or grilled, cooked with pan-fried ham steaks and pork fillet, or added to casseroles, curries, and stews.

** Asian Recipes **

10:59:07 on 07/20/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

At what time of year are peaches and nectarines at their best?

The best time to buy peaches and nectarines is during the summer months, from November through to the end of February, when they are in season and readily available. Peaches and nectarines that appear in the shops around Christmas time are perfect to eat fresh in the hand or use in refreshing desserts. Look out for white-fleshed peaches also as these are considered to have a better flavor than the yellow-fleshed varieties.

Peaches and nectarines are close relations: the nectarine is not, as is widely believed, a cross between a plum and a peach. The only difference between them is that peaches have a fuzzy skin while nectarines are smooth. Before they are eaten, peaches and nectarines should be rinsed under a cold running tap to rid them of any fungicides.

** Delicious Dessert Recipes **

06:25:27 on 07/19/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What does it mean when a food is described as potted?

Cooks have been potting meat and fish since the 16th century as a way of preserving it. Potted meat or fish is seasoned and cooked until tender, then either pounded to a paste, pressed into a pot and covered with melted butter, or left whole in its cooking pot and covered with melted butter. The butter sets into an airtight seal so that the contents can be stored in a refrigerator for up to two months.

Once opened, potted food is eaten within two days. This preserving method is largely a think of the past, but potted shrimps are still popular in English restaurants and recipes can be found in traditional British cookbooks.

** Cooking Recipes **

08:14:37 on 07/18/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to stop butter from seeping out of puff pastry when cooking?

You will need to use a hot or very hot oven, usually 220C. If the oven is not hot enough, the butter will run out of the pastry layers before it is absorbed by the starch. If the butter runs at this oven setting, check the temperature of your oven or use a higher setting. If you are using bought pastry, check the oven temperature on the pack and be sure you preheat the oven for long enough; at least 20 minutes.

Some recipes advise reducing the oven temperature after the initial cooking. This allows time for the filling of the dish to cook sufficiently while preventing the pastry from cooking too quickly.

** Cooking Temperatures **

04:52:58 on 07/16/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it justified to make homemade puff pastry when you can buy it prepared?

Making puff pastry takes time and practice, but once you have the skill, making puff pastry may be fitted in with other cooking and will seem less of a chore. Is it worth the effort? That is for you to decide. Homemade puff pastry will taste rich, light and buttery because it is usually made with equal quantities of butter and flour. Frozen puff pastry tastes less rich but there is no denying that it is convenient to store, easy to use and gives good results.

It really all depends on how much pastry cooking you do, and whether making your own puff pastry gives you immense satisfaction or simply becomes a burden.

** Asian Recipes **

07:22:01 on 07/15/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between puff and rough puff pastry?

The aim with both pastries is to form thin layers of fat between very thin layers of dough to produce a pastry which rises well. Puff pastry is the richest and lightest of the two, and usually uses equal quantities of fat to flour. Some of the fat is rubbed into the flour, as in shortcrust pastry, but then the rest is added in a single piece and distributed through the dough by a lengthy process of rolling and folding, which builds up the number of layers and the subsequent lightness of the pastry.

If the butter is cut into pieces instead of formed into a compact slab, and if the folding process is shortened, the result is flaky pastry, which does not rise quite as effectively as puff pastry. Rough puff pastry uses less fat then puff pastry and is easier to make. The fat is cut into small pieces and added all at once to the flour. Rough puff pastry also needs less rolling and folding.

** Asian Desserts **

12:46:44 on 07/14/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What makes the tops of single-crust pies come away from the side and slip into the filling?

It happens because the lids have shrunk during cooking. Pastry that has been chilled for 20-30 minutes before rolling will relax and shrink less. Short, light strokes are also important when rolling out pastry as pushing the rolling pin heavily will stretch the pastry and it will shrink during baking.

Pies made in deep oval dishes are always made with a single crust as the shape makes it difficult to line the dish properly. But there must be sufficient filling to mound above the rim of the dish and support the pastry lid.

08:02:52 on 07/13/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which makes the better pastry: butter, margarine or lard?

Butter gives pastry a fine flavor, golden color and a crisp texture. For rich pastries, such as puff or pate sucree, or sweet short crust pastry, where flavor is important, it is best to use butter. Firm margarine can be used to make plain types of pastries such as shortcrust pastry. Some soft mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated margarine can also be used for pastry; check the label and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Use the margarine straight from the refrigerator or easy handling.

Lard gives shortness to pastry but not much flavor so a mixture of equal quantities of butter and lard is often preferred. An exception is the lard pastry used in Chinese egg (custard) tarts served as dim sum.

06:37:39 on 07/09/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Making pastry without cool hands

You do not need to keep everything cool when you are rubbing fat into flour for shortcrust pastry, but even if your hands are not naturally cool (and few people's are) you can keep everything else cool, chill the mixing bowl for about 30 minutes beforehand and use iced water to make the dough. A marble slab is excellent for rolling out pastry as the surface remains cold.

You could also buy an inexpensive gadget called a pastry blender that rubs in the fat for you. Hold the handle and draw the rack of rounded metal blades across the flour and fat until the mixture resemble breadcrumbs. The water can then be added and mixed in with a round-bladed knife or fork. Grating the chilled butter into the flour also reduces the rubbing time and hence the heat generated.

Or try a quick-mix pastry where you do not have to use your fingers. Sift 250g (2 cups) plain flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Using a fork, cream 150g butter at room temperature with 1.5 tablespoons of water and half the flour until well mixed. It takes about 30 seconds. Stir in the remaining flour to form a firm dough, then knead it on a lightly floured work surface until smooth. Or use frozen pre-rolled pastry sheets.

09:48:59 on 07/08/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is eating oysters ever risky?

There is very little chance of eating a contaminated oyster as long as you choose ones with their shells tightly shut. Oysters grown commercially will usually undergo a cleansing period in purified water for 36 hours. Fresh oysters that are tightly shut can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a few days. Wash off any mud before storing them, but do not soak them. Oysters that have been opened are best eaten straightaway but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 hours.

Always buy opened oysters from a reputable fish market or retailer. Oysters are a very concentrated form of protein and some people find them difficult to digest for this reason. As oysters are often eaten on festive occasions, they may be consumed with more alcohol than usual, which can also contribute to adverse side effects. Oysters do seem to cause particularly severe problems if mixed with spirits, so it is better to drink chilled white wine or champagne, or even cold dark stout, with them. These are better suited to their taste.

Oysters are most often served raw, topped with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. They may also be grilled lightly in the half-shell, or topped with breadcrumbs or garlic butter. They can also be gently cooked in soups.

** Asian Recipes **

09:27:25 on 07/06/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

The difference between Sydney Rock oysters and Pacific oysters

The famed Sydney Rock oyster (Saccostrea commercialis), has a smaller, rougher, longer shell than the Pacific or Japanese oyster (Crassostrea gigas). Both varieties, which are farmed commercially, are available and are good to eat all year round. A third variety, becoming increasingly available, is the Native Flat oyster (Ostrea angasi) which is also grown commercially.

Oyster from natural oyster beds, found along Australian sea shores and estuaries, have the best flavor in the cooler months. Pacific oysters breed differently, so they taste agreeable all year round.

** Asian Recipes **

06:32:57 on 07/03/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

The different types of hotplates

Electric stoves that have sealed hotplates with the electric element embedded in them are easier to clean than radiant rings, but you may not be able to tell at a glance when the plate is hot. Ceramic tops, which hold the radiant elements under glass, often have 'hot' signals which stay on until it is safe to touch the rings.

Some hotplates have halogen areas which heat up and cool rapidly, but they must be used with saucepans that have dull, flat bases because shiny bases reflect the light back into the hotplate. Another type, the induction hotplate, can heat the contents of a steel or iron pan while the plate itself stays cool to the touch.

Most gas hotplates still have the traditional burners, but with different sizes and innovations such as a revolving oval burner that produces a gentle, simmering heat. And several manufacturers offer a special wok ring which produces the very high heat needed to stir-fry. Some gas hotplates also have a long central plate, which is used mainly for cooking in a fish kettle.

** Asian Recipes **

05:46:41 on 07/02/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What factors to consider when choosing whether to cook by gas, electricity or solid fuel

Gas produces heat quickest and is easiest to control: when you turn down the flame on the gas jet there is an instant reduction in temperature. Gas ovens are hotter at the top than the bottom, which is preferable when it is convenient to bake several dishes in the oven at the same time but at slightly different temperatures. The central shelf is usually closest to the temperature the oven is set at, while the top shelf is a few degrees cooler.

Electric ovens and hotplates create no fumes, and ceramic halogen hotplates are almost as quick to heat and easy to control as gas hotplates are. Some electric hotplates can be set at a hand-hot temperature for long periods of time. Like gas ovens, conventional electric ovens do not provide an even heat, but the difference is less acute than with gas. Some electric ovens also offer the option of an automatic timer, which can be set to turn the oven on and off when you are away from the kitchen.

Fan-forced ovens give perfectly even heat throughout an electric oven by means of a fan mounted on the back wall of the oven (which is not practical with gas). This makes the transfer of heat to the food more efficient, so it is cooking at a higher temperature than a conventional oven. Take this into account when setting the oven temperature.

Solid fuel stoves such as Agas and Rayburns use fuel such as wood or coal. They are usually left on all day, ready for use.

** Asian Recipes **

20:32:47 on 07/01/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -