Who here can actually cook excellent authentic or close to it Chinese food?
I enjoy eating good Chinese foods like Dim Sum. Once in a while I get the urge to cook some Chinese food. Almost without fail these dishes are a disaster. Yes yes I follow the recipes but I can't get that special taste/look. I've even succumbed to using MSG with no success. The last time I tried making steamed won tons I gave us salmonella poisoning. That was the first and only time that's ever happened. Anyway do you experts at Cooking Chinese food have any thoughts on what's going wrong? Is there a really easy to use cook book you'd recommend?
Real Chinese cooking depends on "wok hey". Most normal home stove can't do that. We always have a stand alone stove outside with a propane tank. In term of steam or boiled items it shouldn't be too hard in a normal kitchen. I would suggest going to a Chinese store to get the typical brands used to get more of the correct flavor. Take soy sauce, most Chinese restaurants don't use Kikkoman, Chinese brands are used cuz it is not as salty and flavor is different. Good luck.
Disregard the comment that you need "wok hey" to cook delicious & authentic Chinese dishes. Completely untrue.
That said, I'm kinda feeling you have other basic cooking problems going on, although Salmonella poisoning was due to the original product, not your cooking. I'm hoping you pursued the source of the product that gave you this food poisoning.
There are so very many Chinese cookbooks out there, & unfortunately, the ones I have & refer to are decades old & out of print. My advice to you would be to simply start reading, reading, reading, Asian cookbooks. Try your local library. Oldies are goodies in the cookbook game.
And then start experimenting. While a good carbon-steel wok is nice, it's not essential. You can still cook great Chinese dishes in a good-quality large skillet.
Just read, jump in, & try different recipes. Since Asian cuisines are vegetable-based, if you screw up, it's not the same as having to toss out a rib-roast - lol!!
I'm with Bacardi on this (mmmm rum....)
What is the taste/look that you are aiming for? What recipes/books are you trying? What techniques do you use? I learned to cook Chinese food from Chinese people, and that was a big help. No MSG necessary. But truly, technique is the key. And while I can't get the wok hey, I can get my wok pretty fricking hot.
Another point- the items I make are not "american chinese" foods, but more what the cooks and owners made after close.
For stir-fry the heat does make a difference - Chinese restaurant stoves are much hotter than you can get a wok at home (think strong gas flame flowing over the base of the wok). For home, maybe a flat bottomed wok for an electric burner (more contact with the heating element). My Taiwanese stove has a great hot flame, and a burner that's designed to hold a wok, but has absolutely no simmer capability.
Freshly cooked matters - with good Chinese food, you're getting hot stir-fried dishes right after they are cooked. For home meals, I don't do more than one dish like that, because otherwise I don't get to sit down.
I second the idea of hitting up an Asian grocery for the seasonings. As with many other cuisines, fresh, good ingredients make a big difference.
I'm not sure about cookbook recommendations. Most of the books I use are poorly translated bilingual Chinese-English book that are kind of light on actual details. Very, very authentic, though. :-)