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Why does my Chinese food keep coming out awful

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UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 04:13 AM

And the worst part is they taste nearly all the same
I tried making general tso chicken, Chicken with broccoli, and some egg rolls they all came out bad but everyone in the reviews of the recipes said they loved it and tasted just like in the restaurants.
Here are recipes I followed
http://rasamalaysia.com/general-tsos-...
http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chick...
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/baked-po...

Could it be the brands I bought for all the ingredients?
Sesame oil is Kadoya
My dark n light soy sauce are pearl river bridge
MY hoisin sauce is Lee Kum Kee
Soy sauce was sempoy Jin's which I liked the taste of
Oyster sauce was Kikkoman
Rice vinegar was marukan
I forget the brand of my Rice wine
My Shaoxing Cooking wine didn't really have a brand name on it well or one I could read
I still have cooking sherry but didn't use it

When I ever I try it taste bland and looks like a pile of burnt doodoo and it certainly gives me diarrhea sometimes.

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  1. d
    dfrostnh RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 04:42 AM

    I'm just going to make a guess that you are overcooking everything. I no longer put garlic and ginger into the hot oil by themselves because they burn. I throw them in when I saute vegetables.
    I just looked at the General Tsos recipe. Your idea and theirs of what light brown is might be a lot different. You might try frying one piece to the palest shade of brown. Take it out, let it cool and check to see if the chicken has cooked. Things continue to cook a bit even after they are out of the pan. Note the time with a digital timer. I think recipes that state the length of cooking time instead of "until light brown" are more helpful. Sometimes I don't agree but I note the time that works for the next time.

    The second recipe gives times. The broccoli cooking time seems a little long to me and might depend on how small you cut the pieces.

    In the final mix everything together stage, this should only be long enough to coat everything with sauce. If you are overcooking things, I think that will add to making things taste bland.

    Good luck on your next try.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dfrostnh
      u
      UnrealCaker RE: dfrostnh May 29, 2013 01:48 AM

      light brown? Mine came out darker than black and the sauce was really gelatinous.

    2. q
      Querencia RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 05:27 AM

      I'm with you. I have given up on trying to cook Chinese because my attempts turn into slop. I can hit Indian 50% of the time and Middle Eastern 100% of the time---it is foolproof---but when I want Chinese I put on my coat and head out the door. Don't feel bad about this as you are not alone.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Querencia
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        cleobeach RE: Querencia May 26, 2013 05:37 AM

        I also gave up on Chinese. Recently I heard a segment on a radio show that attributed home cook's challenges as it relates to Chinese food to heat and speed, that commercial kitchens have woks that are so hot and so large that the food cooks in a way that is hard for a home cook to achieve.

        1. re: cleobeach
          b
          bulavinaka RE: cleobeach May 26, 2013 06:48 AM

          It's apparent when observing a Chinese restaurant with a wok station - the btu's are off the charts. The speed and heat seem drive each other. Wok hei (wok hai, wok hay) is a term commonly referred to when describing that resultant sizzle/char/caramelization from the contact of ingredients in a wok that is extremely hot and the movement caused by agitating the wok and the movement of the ladle.

          I know Chris Kimble has covered the subject and the only remedy I recall was to use a cast iron skillet heated as hot as one can get it, and saute the ingredients either in steps or smaller portions (I don't recall which it was). The results seemed to satisfy him and the participating chef - I think they were trying to achieve results that closely resembled typical chinese take-out style food.

          I just glanced at the recipes and I could see where the lack of wok hei would result in less-than-satisfactory results. But also, I'm guessing the typical egg roll is deep-fried - not baked. That would end up with very different results as well. And even still - if the ingredients inside the wrapper have no wok hei, whether deep-fried or baked, the flavor won't be as complex and the textures will probably be tired.

          1. re: bulavinaka
            c
            coolaugustmoon RE: bulavinaka May 26, 2013 06:17 PM

            Commercial woks are about 130,000 btu per hole. A high end range maxes out at about 30,000. Even a commercial deep fryer is usually under 100,000. A wok cooked dish is a 3 or 4 minute event max. Fry or velvet the protein, remove from wok, add aromatics and sauce ingredients, add veg, return protein.

      2. lilham RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 06:16 AM

        I'm not sure what went wrong in your cooking. The recipes look fine to me, and certainly should not be bland. (I can imagine a simple broth for noodles, or stir fried green veg with garlic could be bland to people used to stronger tasting food).

        As for not being able to cook Chinese food at home because we don't have access to commercial grade stove. That is just nonsense. Does the person on the radio show think Chinese eat out every meal?

        3 Replies
        1. re: lilham
          Kris in Beijing RE: lilham May 28, 2013 04:50 AM

          You'd be surprised.

          Don't forget about street food.

          1. re: Kris in Beijing
            lilham RE: Kris in Beijing May 28, 2013 06:04 AM

            My parents and brother now live in HK. My brother probably eats out every meal. Though he does have occasional home cooked meals posted on instagram. Mum and dad maybe 2-3 nights in a week. But the fact is some people still cook some meals at home. And don't forget home cooking is always different from restaurant cooking. However, two of the dishes linked are things we'll cook at home. (I have never made spring rolls at home).

            1. re: lilham
              Kris in Beijing RE: lilham May 28, 2013 11:13 AM

              Spring rolls/ egg rolls fall into that aggravating category of "Things people think I MUST know how to make because I've lived there."

        2. Chemicalkinetics RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 07:33 AM

          Are these the only three Chinese dishes which you made taste bad and that the other Chinese dishes are fine? Or all your Chinese dishes do not taste very good?

          Most of your ingredients look fine. The only one which I would ask to improve is to buy Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce or Sa Cheng oyster sauce. The reason is that Lee Kum Kee is the brand which invited oyster sauce, so it is as authentic as it can get.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BFYr...

          Anyway, that is a real minor recommendation, and I don't think it has anything to do your food tasting bad.

          <When I ever I try it taste bland and looks like a pile of burnt doodoo and it certainly gives me diarrhea sometimes.>

          As for tasting bad, it often has to do with your meat selection and cooking technique. Also keep in mind that many restaurant recipes over-season their foods compare to home cook recipes. However, both the general tso chicken and broccoli chicken recipes have plenty seasoning.

          <pile of burnt doodoo>

          Well, that certainly has to do with technique more than ingredients.

          <it certainly gives me diarrhea sometimes.>

          Hmmm... that is a different problem. Even badly cooked food does not cause diarrhea.

          In conclusion, my guess is that the problem lies with the cooking time and cooking techniques. You can always taste this by stir fry something very simple. For example, you should able just stir fry the chicken or stir fry the beef (with no condiment). It should has the correct texture and be tasty. If not, then the stir fry technique is all, and no amount of condiment sauces can help.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            u
            UnrealCaker RE: Chemicalkinetics May 26, 2013 06:08 PM

            I use boneless chicken breast like nearly all recipes call but some people say they use chicken thigh and it taste better, as for the egg rolls, I used pork tenderloin instead of ground pork and it tasted even worst. I've never seen ground pork before. Also could my spices be expired in taste.

            1. re: UnrealCaker
              c oliver RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 06:29 PM

              I think you may have self-diagnosed. BSCB is a mile away from thighs. And ground pork is usually pork shoulder and that's going to be way, way more flavorful than tenderloin. And, sure, your spices could be dead. When you open the jar/package and stick your nose in it, does it smell great?

              1. re: c oliver
                DuffyH RE: c oliver May 26, 2013 07:29 PM

                Using BSCB and pork tenderloin shouldn't be a problem, cooked properly. I see the recipe for General Tso's calls for a marinade followed by velveting. The marinade should impart flavor and the velveting will keep the chicken moist. Again, not over-cooking is key. I'd suggest you look at several versions of the recipes (and suggestions from cooks who've reviewed them) and see if you can figure out from them what went wrong. It'll at least point you in the right direction. Good luck!

                1. re: DuffyH
                  c oliver RE: DuffyH May 26, 2013 07:33 PM

                  But fat is lacking and fat gives flavor. Reduce the fat, fine. But replace that loss of flavor with something. I don't think it's just a matter of moisture.

                  1. re: c oliver
                    Chemicalkinetics RE: c oliver May 26, 2013 07:36 PM

                    I think both of you are correct. Pork tenderloin certainly can be used for Chinese cooking, and it is a popular choice of meat for certain stir fry dishes.

                    It is just that the timing for stir frying for pork tenderloin is different than that for pork butt.

                    For slow cooking (like Chinese braising or Chinese red stew), then a fatty meat is better.

              2. re: UnrealCaker
                Chemicalkinetics RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 06:45 PM

                Hi Unreal,

                Boneless chicken breast require a bit more skill because it is a very lean cut. If you want to stir fry with boneless chicken breast meat, then you have to do so in a much shorter period or else it will taste dry. It is a very interesting point and really differentiates the Chinese cooking from the European. While breast meat is priced in many European cuisine, the Chinese view the breast meat as a lower quality meat.

                Pork tenderloin also is a lean meat. Again, it is not impossible, but it requires a different timing and technique to use it in Chinese cooking. My advise is to start learning to use chicken thigh and pork butt (pork shoulder) for now. You can switch back to chicken breast and pork tenderloin after you get a handle.

                Spices can indeed expired, but you don't have a lot of spice-spice in your list. What you have are condiments, and many of these last years and years.

                1. re: UnrealCaker
                  lilham RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 04:12 AM

                  I always use chicken thighs. To me, a chinese brought up in Hong Kong, chicken breast tastes too dry. I prefer fat in my meat. However, I think it's a personal taste thing. If you are happy with chicken breasts in your other cooking, it should be ok to use in chinese recipes. Also in HK, most meat are cooked on the bone. However, overseas, it tends to be off the bone. Things like this should only have a minor effect on the final dish.

                  As for ground pork. I think you can substitute with ground beef maybe? Pork is the standard meat in Chinese (and Japanese cooking).

                  PS. And it's true what ChemicalKinetics say about breast meat. When I was growing up (in the 70s HK), we bought chicken breasts from the markets for our dog. No one will touch that stuff. It probably has changed now.

                  1. re: lilham
                    Kris in Beijing RE: lilham May 28, 2013 04:54 AM

                    The first time my mom visited China [From "The South" of the US] she was blown away because skinless boneless chicken breasts were about 60% the price of bone in legs and thighs.

              3. girloftheworld RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 06:22 PM

                do you use a wok? What kind of oil are cooking in? If it can not handle the high heat you may be burning everything.
                diarrhea,, check your products for msg.. you may have reaction to it.

                1. monfrancisco RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 06:31 PM

                  Take a look at this thread:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834378

                  Super-duper helpful and tasty.

                  1. ursy_ten RE: UnrealCaker May 26, 2013 08:07 PM

                    I found I got much better results when I followed the following guidelines:

                    1) Velveting my meat (also cutting it thinly): http://chinesefood.about.com/od/cooki...
                    2) Blanching certain vegetables (eg: broccoli, carrots - but NOT onions) so that they are partially cooked before they hit the wok. Also cut your vegetables fine, so they cook quickly.
                    3) Having my wok as hot as it will go, and using an oil with a high smoke point. I use rice bran oil, but I think peanut oil is good too.
                    4) Not overcrowding the pan. If you put too much in, it steams/stews rather than fries. I cook in batches (cook your vegetables to tender-crisp). It's very tempting to throw it all in and mix it all around, but it doesn't give good results and ends up in an amorphous mess.
                    5) In most cases, add the sauce at the end. Heat it through in the wok and then throw all of the previous batches back in. Don't let it stew in the sauce, it just gets gluggy. You just want to coat all the elements.

                    It really makes a difference.
                    Hope that helps!

                    1. chowser RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 06:35 AM

                      Looking at the recipes, in general:

                      1) use fattier cuts of meat, eg chicken thighs over breasts

                      2) always velvet the meat

                      3) taste as you go, don't depend on a recipe

                      4) use chicken broth/stock instead of water

                      5) always pass on baked spring rolls

                      6) don't go by reviews, or at least consider the source. I've seen too many glowing reviews for cake mix tres leches, velveeta pasta bakes, dump and go crock pot recipes. People have different tastes. Try to find people w/ similar tastes and then go by those reviews. Case in point, read the reviews on this Mexican goulash:

                      http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Mexican-...

                      7) Find a good source for chinese recipes. If you don't know any, ask here. Check out mamachef's post here, Even if you don't follow it, the techniques will be helpful.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8343...

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: chowser
                        c oliver RE: chowser May 27, 2013 07:52 AM

                        "...consider the source." Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice ever. When googling, I've learned to avoid allrecipes and a few others that don't immediately come to mind. That recipe above is nasty sounding.

                        1. re: c oliver
                          DuffyH RE: c oliver May 27, 2013 09:41 AM

                          Well, I wouldn't normally go to Allrecipes US site first for Chinese food, or a good Jerk chicken recipe. But it does get an (undeserved) bad rap from foodies. It has millions of members worldwide and lots of authentic (yes, you heard me, authentic) recipes that turn out stellar food. The US site has some really good Tex Mex recipes.

                          In the US, our default is the US website. Remember, Allrecipes isn't the source, the cook who posted the recipe is the source, so the vast majority of recipes will be Americanized versions of whatever. But looking for authentic Chinese? Go to Allrecipes.cn! Chinese food posted by home cooks in China. Make sure your browser has a translator. :)

                          1. re: c oliver
                            chowser RE: c oliver May 27, 2013 12:27 PM

                            The problem w/ allrecipes is that there are millions of users. I find it tough enough here but w/ fewer posters, we can at least distinguish which have similar tastes. I come across so many recipes w/ great reviews on allrecipes that make me scratch my head, like the goulash. Even more here, I think there are specialists in so many areas and I look to them for answers. I can't get that at allrecipes.

                            1. re: chowser
                              c oliver RE: chowser May 27, 2013 12:34 PM

                              So true. I'm not a regular on the COTM threads and frequently I'm cooking from one of their books years later, but I can read their reviews and in light of what I've gleaned of their tastes and get a great sense. And the same, but not necessarily in the a good way, on CHOW.

                              1. re: c oliver
                                DuffyH RE: c oliver May 27, 2013 04:05 PM

                                chowser and c oliver - I see your point. Reflecting on it, I've been using AR for many years, and have learned how to get the most from the reviews. There are a number of members there whose tastes I've learned to know and trust. My feathers get a bit ruffled when people dismiss that site wholesale. Many people mistakenly think it's mostly stuff made with canned cream soup, mix boxes and such. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, there's plenty of that, but with over 40,000 recipes, that's expected. I wanted to check this, so went with beef stroganoff, something that's just asking lazy cooks to use canned cream soups. I found 42 recipes and 18 of them, fewer than half, used canned soup, gravy or gravy packets. Almost half of those were from paid sponsors like Campbell's. So we're talking roughly 25% of the member-submitted recipes use cheats. Now please get me a ladder, this horse is much too high for me to safely jump off. :)

                                Back on point, I think it's been very easy to get what I want from that site, and most others as well, because at 59 yrs old I pretty much know what flavor profiles my family will go for. With a lot of misses over the years I've learned that certain ingredients or quantities in a recipe will make a big siren sound in my head, because I just know it's wrong and will ruin the dish. I've learned to disregard that siren at my peril. And I agree there is no way a new cook will have that knowledge.

                                1. re: DuffyH
                                  chowser RE: DuffyH May 27, 2013 04:12 PM

                                  I completely agree about AR. I've found some good recipes on that site, now that I've cooked long enough to be able to distinguish somewhat the good from the bad. It's almost like a compilation of every single recipe in existence! It's too bad they can't designate "Quick and easy for people who like convenience foods" to "scratch cookers."

                                  1. re: chowser
                                    DuffyH RE: chowser May 28, 2013 09:01 AM

                                    <It's too bad they can't designate "Quick and easy for people who like convenience foods" to "scratch cookers.">

                                    Now wouldn't that be a wonderful search filter? We can only dream!

                          2. re: chowser
                            DuffyH RE: chowser May 27, 2013 09:20 AM

                            <Case in point, read the reviews on this Mexican goulash: >

                            Not sure how that recipe makes your point that reviews are of little value. I doubt anyone reading the ingredients and directions would think it's an authentic Mexican recipe, as Mexico is not known for goulash, nor one for Hungarian goulash. It is a homemade Hamburger Helper, with Mexican flavors. More to the point, I'm certain most reviewers knew what to expect of the dish. The reviews seem to reflect how well the dish meets those expectations. Isn't that the purpose of a review?

                            Also, most of the reviews noted that it was quick, easy and kids liked it. Many others mentioned it was budget-friendly. That's kind of the point with recipes like this, isn't it?

                            As you noted, tastes differ. Reviews for this recipe make your point that it's best to find people with similar taste. Cooks like you who don't care for HH, American goulash or for Velveeta wouldn't bother to prepare and review it. That doesn't mean it's not a good version of a Hamburger Helper, does it? For all we know, it could be the best ever.

                            Getting back to OP's problem, I looked at the first recipe link and can't see anything much to complain about regarding ingredients and technique. Given that, I'd take those reviews at face value. The second leaves something to be desired, advising the chicken be cooked at 275ยบ. I didn't read the third b/c I don't like spring rolls, so never bothered to find out how they should be prepared. Recipe #2 does reinforce your point #7, to find a good source for the recipes, or at least compare several looking for common techniques.

                            1. re: DuffyH
                              chowser RE: DuffyH May 27, 2013 12:22 PM

                              I'm not saying reviews are always bad in the least. I'm saying, as you've agreed, that you need to find reviewers who share your taste. Consider the source. If someone new to cooking were looking for authentic Mexican food, read the reviews for the Mexican goulash, they might wonder why they didn't care for it when all the other reviewers loved it. If someone is new to a cuisine, he probably doesn't have the technique, as you do, and know what might work or not. Looking at allrecipe, you'll find a lot of bad recipes, along with the good. A newbie would need a better way to distinguish it than the reviews. Hence, why I recommended #7. Know your source if you don't know what is good, even on CH. There are sources I trust w/out a doubt.

                              I've never made General Tso's chicken; it's not really Chinese food (which the blogger blew off during the comments saying she had no idea what the history really is). I've seen how it's made in an American Chinese restaurant but a home cook can't replicate that w/out the high temp wok. I'd tend to question a source that calls it authentic Chinese food but it might make a perfectly good General Tso's chicken. The blogger has made corrections so she's not a chef, just someone playing around. Not that there's anything wrong with that but for a beginner, it's best to start w/ a trusted source.

                              1. re: chowser
                                c oliver RE: chowser May 27, 2013 12:28 PM

                                I really agree with that. I have an online file with tried and untried recipe folders. Just glanced at it and it seems most of them come from pretty reliable source, i.e., Food & Wine, epicurious, known chefs, etc.

                                1. re: c oliver
                                  chowser RE: c oliver May 27, 2013 12:33 PM

                                  Definitely. And there are sources I trust only for certain things. I love Ina and Martha Stewart for baked goods. But, for Chinese food? I'd pass. I like Food & Wine, known chefs, too. Alton Brown is great for technical stuff but mostly because of Shirley Corriher. Epicurious is good for the most part but I've pulled up recipes from home cooks that have been like allrecipes type. The most recent is a lemon cake that started w/ lemon box mix and lemon pudding. On Epicurious, I read the reviews but find ones where they seem to have more knowledge and can add something to it, not just "Awesome!!!"

                          3. e
                            ebethsdad RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 09:39 AM

                            Try marinating your meat for longer than 30 minutes. Marinate the pork for your spring rolls before cooking and deep fry them rather than baking them.

                            1. Jay F RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 10:26 AM

                              When I was young, Barbara Tropp's "Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" was *the* cookbook from which to learn to cook Chinese. You can still find used copies at thriftbooks.com and amazon.com:

                              http://www.thriftbooks.com/viewdetail...

                              http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listin...

                              1. Candy RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 11:27 AM

                                You have been given good suggestions. What I learned when I first started cooking Chinese recipes was first, read the recipe thoroughly. and second have every ingredient prepped and ready to go. When making almost every Asian recipe it is essential. It goes so quicklythat you do not have the time to stop and measure out a Tbs. of soy sauce etc.

                                I also suggest that you get a copy of Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking. The fist part of the book teaches you technique and has recipes that correspond, like velveting etc.
                                ad why you do that step. I don't know if the book is still in print, it is worth seeking out and there are many good recipes in the book.

                                1. e
                                  escondido123 RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 11:35 AM

                                  I had the same problem with my Chinese dishes until I got a stove that allows you to remove the grate an nestle a round bottomed wok right onto the flame. Now I can "chow" away and then pull things to the side---what a diference. Now my husband says yes to Chinese food I make which he wouldn't have just months ago.

                                  1. g
                                    GH1618 RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 11:48 AM

                                    Oyster sauce and hoisin sauce are pretty strong flavorings, so for variety in flavors you will need to get away from them.

                                    I suggest that you pick one relatively simple dish to make repeatedly to hone your technique. One I like is flank steak with celery and (preferable hot) bean sauce.

                                    The flank steak must be cut into short strips with the grain running across. Partially cook in a hot wok and set aside to drain. Clean wok.

                                    Slice celery across grain into small pieces. Braize in very little oil with garlic.

                                    Add bean sauce. I use Lian How brand broad bean paste, thinned with water and a little soy sauce. If not the hot kind, a little heat can be added here to taste.

                                    Add meat back in and add some green onions to finish. Reserve some green onion to put on top.

                                    Don't make too much at once, because the wok will not stay hot if overloaded.

                                    1. t
                                      tastesgoodwhatisit RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 11:57 AM

                                      If you have too much in the wok at one time you'll end up steaming your food rather than sauteeing it. Try smaller batches in the pan and high heat.

                                      1. boogiebaby RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 02:01 PM

                                        If your food looks burnt and gives you diarhhea, it's not the recipes, it's you. I would look at your techniques and the quality of the food you are cooking. Properly stored and cooked food should not make you ill.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: boogiebaby
                                          chowser RE: boogiebaby May 27, 2013 03:18 PM

                                          Good point. Even bad recipes shouldn't give you anything that "taste bland and looks like a pile of burnt doodoo and it certainly gives me diarrhea sometimes."

                                        2. Atomic76 RE: UnrealCaker May 27, 2013 07:55 PM

                                          Why not just buy General Tso's sauce instead of making it from all those separate ingredients? It's made by the same manufacturers and much less hassle.

                                          I also use a garlic flavored oil, so I don't have to worry about burning fresh garlic. As another poster mentioned, throw the fresh ginger in later on in the cooking process so it doesn't burn too.

                                          I start by getting a deep golden sear on the chicken in a really hot preheated pan (no worries if it's not cooked through yet). Then I toss the *fresh* veggies in (no frozen ones!) and throw a lid on it to steam a bit in their own moisture. Lastly I take the lid off and stir in the sauce and reduce the heat a bit and let it simmer till it thickens up a bit.

                                          I usually skip the "velveting" with the corn starch, but if I do, I lightly dust the meat with it and let it rest for about 10 minutes or so. No need for eggs or any other ingredients.

                                          Lastly, skip the wok and go with an extra large non stick frying pan. That will help avoid over crowding the pan and steaming the meat instead of browning and searing it.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Atomic76
                                            u
                                            UnrealCaker RE: Atomic76 May 28, 2013 12:53 AM

                                            I was just thinking of buying the sauce but it feels less accomplishing and an easy way out. Perhaps I should use more hoisin sauce than the recipe calls for.

                                            1. re: UnrealCaker
                                              Chemicalkinetics RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 06:51 AM

                                              <I was just thinking of buying the sauce but it feels less accomplishing and an easy way out.>

                                              It is (less accomplishing). However, it is a good way to do troubleshooting. Let's say you have a good General Tso's sauce which you trust, and then you cook with your chicken and your finishing dish is still bad, then you know it is a matter of cooking techniques. If you cook with prepared sauce, and suddenly your dish tastes much better, then you know your problem is the sauce.

                                              Something to think about.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                u
                                                UnrealCaker RE: Chemicalkinetics May 29, 2013 01:46 AM

                                                I see but what about when I want to to do others like sesame chicken or Chicken n Broccoli they don't seem to have premade sauces.

                                                Sauce is also kinda a filling for egg/spring rolls. I think I can perfect egg rolls now that I have a deep fryer. Since stir frying or baking it seem really challenging according to most and deep fried has a more satisfied taste.

                                                1. re: UnrealCaker
                                                  Chemicalkinetics RE: UnrealCaker May 29, 2013 05:58 AM

                                                  <they don't seem to have premade sauces.>

                                                  Actually, don't worry too much about premade sauces. I was just saying that you can consider them as options, especially for the complicated sauces. I don't really mean as an endorsement. For home made sauces, taste a little bit before you cook with it. If it tastes bad before you cooking, then it will like taste bad after.

                                                  <Since stir frying or baking it seem really challenging according to most >

                                                  Well, baking spring rolls usually won't very good compare to deep frying. I suppose it is the same for many things like baked French fries vs deep fried French fries.

                                          2. u
                                            UnrealCaker RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 01:00 AM

                                            I forgot to mention, I also tried to make shanghai noodles, but the noodles ended up burning, sticking to the pot or they didn't cook at all.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: UnrealCaker
                                              ursy_ten RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 02:15 AM

                                              Did you use the dried noodles that you boil, or the fresh noodles? I've had better success with the dried ones that you boil (like pasta) than with the fresh ones.

                                              1. re: ursy_ten
                                                u
                                                UnrealCaker RE: ursy_ten May 28, 2013 03:53 AM

                                                yes and it didn't turn out well, was I suppose to let the boiled noodles dry up a bit before stir frying them or used the dried pasta?

                                                1. re: UnrealCaker
                                                  chowser RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 04:01 AM

                                                  Have you thought of taking a cooking class? They can be really helpful and the skills transfer to different dishes.

                                                  1. re: UnrealCaker
                                                    ursy_ten RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 04:08 AM

                                                    I'm thinking maybe you overcooked them, it's easy to do.
                                                    Dried noodles are also a bit more forgiving, in my experience.

                                                    It can be confusing though - there are so many different brands and types out there. I think it's a lot of trial and error until you find the noodle that you like best.

                                                    1. re: UnrealCaker
                                                      Chemicalkinetics RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 06:58 AM

                                                      Well, two things. First, what kind of a wok do you use to fry your Shanghai noodle? You will either need a Teflon nonstick wok or better yet a carbon steel/cast iron wok. A stainless steel wok will be tough.

                                                      <was I suppose to let the boiled noodles dry up a bit before stir frying them or used the dried pasta?>

                                                      Not the fully dried pasta for sure. Somewhere in the middle. For stir fried noodle (assuming you are doing stir fry), try to boil the dried noodle, but not thoroughly. You boil the noodle just enough so that it starts to soften and feel tender, but still feel a bit stiff and dried. Then take it out, drain, and stir fry. If necessary, oiled the partially cooked noodle before putting it into the wok.

                                                      In other words, boil your noodle about 30%-50% done before putting it into your wok for stir fry. In fact, it is better on err on the side of undone (drier) because you can ALWAYS add more liquid latter during the stir fry step.

                                                      Finally, you can learn to stir fry the noodle with your pair of chopstick. Is it necessary? No, but it help for some people.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                        DuffyH RE: Chemicalkinetics May 28, 2013 09:07 AM

                                                        Chopsticks? Now there's a utensil I've yet to master, despite many efforts. It's so embarrassing when I ask for a fork at a Chinese restaurant. I sometimes think I'm the only person in the world who can't handle chopsticks.

                                                        Can't whistle worth a damn, either, but that's another thread. :0

                                                        1. re: DuffyH
                                                          Chemicalkinetics RE: DuffyH May 28, 2013 10:35 AM

                                                          :) You don't need to know how to use chopsticks (to grab food) to use them for stir frying. The idea is similar to like tossing salad with salad forks -- kind of.

                                                          The chopsticks help to prevent the noodle threads sticking together. A challenge of using a turner or spoon to stir fry is that some people have a tendency to push the noodle together and form one sticky noodle ball. Chopsticks have to separate them during the stir fry process. Again, it is not necessary, but it is a nice tool to try.

                                                          I think a wooden fork will probably work well.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                            DuffyH RE: Chemicalkinetics May 28, 2013 12:00 PM

                                                            Like salad forks? No problem, that I can do. I'll git it a try. :)

                                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                          m
                                                          Maggie19 RE: Chemicalkinetics May 28, 2013 09:44 AM

                                                          My GF is Chinese - moved to the US 6 yrs ago - She stir fries noodles with chopsticks - in my carbonsteel wok to very good results.

                                                  2. m
                                                    Maggie19 RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 09:15 AM

                                                    Too little heat from your stove? 15000 BTU minimum IMO. Are you using a carbonsteel wok? Good quality oil? IF you can get these three things correct - you are on your way ... Good luck.

                                                    1. tcamp RE: UnrealCaker May 28, 2013 09:36 AM

                                                      In addition to all of the great suggestions posted, consider finding a good source of Chinese cooking videos and watch to improve your technique. I feel I can make decent home Chinese food but when I wanted to improve my indian food, I started watching videos and have learned a lot.

                                                      1. u
                                                        UnrealCaker RE: UnrealCaker May 29, 2013 01:49 AM

                                                        I have no idea what wok I use but all I know I got it from some cheap discount/99 cents store so I'm guessing the quality isn't very good, I need more than 1 wok anyway and I'll look for those wok cooking rings.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: UnrealCaker
                                                          Chemicalkinetics RE: UnrealCaker May 29, 2013 06:02 AM

                                                          <I have no idea what wok I use but all I know I got it from some cheap discount/99 cents store so I'm guessing the quality isn't very good>

                                                          If you don't know, then you unlikely have a carbon steel wok. You would have needed to season a carbon steel wok, or it would have rusted and oxidized, so you would have known.

                                                          As such, you either have a stainless steel wok or a nonstick Teflon coated wok. If meat readily stick to your wok, then you have a stainless steel wok. If not, then you have a nonstick Teflon wok. I am guessing it is the latter.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                            l
                                                            lagatta RE: Chemicalkinetics May 29, 2013 06:18 AM

                                                            My wok is a fake, western wok called a Joyce Chen Peking pan - it is good carbon steel and has taken a good black finish thorugh seasoning and use. It isn't a real wok because it has a small, flat bottom (the size of a small gas or electric stove burner) and sloping sides like a real wok. I find it works better than a "real" wok on an ordinary Western stove - though of course I'd love a wok-designed burner and a real Asian wok of the same material. And yes, essential to stir-fry, especially meat, in very small quantities on an ordinary stove.

                                                            1. re: lagatta
                                                              Chemicalkinetics RE: lagatta May 29, 2013 06:28 AM

                                                              <My wok is a fake, western wok called a Joyce Chen Peking pan - it is good carbon steel and has taken a good black finish thorugh seasoning and use>

                                                              Sounds very real to me. :)

                                                        2. b
                                                          Bkeats RE: UnrealCaker May 29, 2013 11:04 AM

                                                          My two cents.

                                                          The recipe for General Tso calls for a tablespoon of corn starch. Given the quantity of liquid, that much starch would turn everything to glop. If you cooked the chicken to a dark brown color, it was overcooked. That would have created a dark brown mess of doo.

                                                          Baked spring rolls? That's like baked fried chicken. Sure you can do it, but why bother? If you used tenderloin instead of ground pork, did you cut it into strips or did you grind the tenderloin? You need ground meat or at least finely diced for a roll.

                                                          The chicken recipe looked fine, but I would have not deep fried the chicken.

                                                          My sense is that one of the recipes was off in proportion of ingredients but that you also need to work on technique. Got to get that wok really hot so that when you add ingredients, its smokes and sizzles.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Bkeats
                                                            DuffyH RE: Bkeats May 29, 2013 02:37 PM

                                                            <My sense is that one of the recipes was off in proportion of ingredients but that you also need to work on technique.>

                                                            I'd keep the recipes super simple at first. That way it's all about mastering the technique. One big point that I don't know has been mentioned yet is mise en place. Get all of your ingredients sliced, chopped, measured and ready to go before you fire up the wok. You'll be less likely to overcook things that way.

                                                            1. re: DuffyH
                                                              l
                                                              lagatta RE: DuffyH May 30, 2013 03:32 PM

                                                              Yes, you should start with really simple family dishes.

                                                              Chemicalkinetics, the metal is really authentic, and a very nice weight carbon steel. Only the shape of the base is inauthentic, but it works on the cooking surface I have.

                                                            2. re: Bkeats
                                                              u
                                                              UnrealCaker RE: Bkeats Jun 1, 2013 12:13 AM

                                                              I have corn syrup would that be a better alternative for sauces?

                                                              1. re: UnrealCaker
                                                                ursy_ten RE: UnrealCaker Jun 1, 2013 03:55 AM

                                                                No. It would make it too sweet.

                                                                Corn syrup and corn starch are used for entirely different purposes.

                                                                Better to just omit the corn starch, or use less.

                                                            3. scubadoo97 RE: UnrealCaker May 30, 2013 05:06 PM

                                                              Your ingredient list is fine. Not sure about the recipes

                                                              I don't do oriental dishes as well as I would like. Partly because there are certain techniques and equipment that I lack. I can't replicate dishes eaten at restaurants. I should add that I don't have a wok. ;-)

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: scubadoo97
                                                                Chemicalkinetics RE: scubadoo97 May 30, 2013 05:07 PM

                                                                But you have a astronaut ninja as your icon/avatar

                                                              2. RochCusine RE: UnrealCaker Jun 1, 2013 04:41 AM

                                                                I can relate. My dishes have slowly been improving. I find the key is to throw in some of the more delicate veggies last minute and just barely heat them through. Then they are still tendercrisp by the time they hit the table. After eating at a few more authentic Chinese places, I am finding that I have been over saucing and over seasoning things. I guess after going out and getting all of these ingredients I want to use them all, IN ONE RECIPE! LOL. I have gotten my cooking to taste just like it does in a restaurant. A BAD restaurant. I can still screw things up royaly

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