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What recipe are you lusting after but have never found the "exact" one?

I think we all have a dish in the back of our mind that we have spent years wishing we could experience again, but somehow the essence of it eludes us.

The restaurant closes or the relative dies & the recipe cannot ever be replicated. But wait, out there somewhere, someone knows exactly how to prepare it. A true case for Chowhounds to sniff out.

Give us some clues as to where you ate it, your closest recipe to it & why you think it is still lacking something.

My search has always been for tomato gravy, already queried here on a thread, but sadly, the flavor is still not "it". As time went on, it occurred to me the recipe may be called "shrimp" gravy since the lady that made it only fixed fresh & saltwater fish at her restaurant, so she may have finely minced some shrimp in the gravy. Well, that sends me off on a different path altogether.

Good luck, someone out here just may have what you are looking for!

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  1. I have never found a good Japanese salad dressing recipe like the one I have a good restaurants. I know there are shredded carrots and onions but the dressing is never as good. Can anyone help me?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Gloriaa

      Boy, that's exactly what I was going to post! There's a miso dressing on Epicurious that's damn close, and a ton of ginger/carrot ones other places that people swear by but isn't at all the thing I'm thinking of. Now I'm off to tinker...

      1. re: Gloriaa

        Agreed, I dream of making that at home.

        1. re: Gloriaa

          Makoto-Style Japanese Salad Dressing

          Ingredients

          o 1 piece peeled gingerroot
          o 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
          o 1 tablespoon chopped onions
          o 1 tablespoon water
          o 1/4 cup vegetable oil
          o 1 teaspoon sesame oil
          o 1 tablespoon tomato paste
          o 1 pinch sugar
          o 1 pinch salt
          o 2 tablespoons soy sauce

          Directions

          1. Combine ingredients in a blender and process until fairly smooth.
          2. Store in the refrigerator.

          1. re: AngelaID

            Is that - say - around a thumb-sized piece of ginger?
            Thanks for the recipe, I've been trying to wing this one at home and failing miserably - mine was always too weak. Never thought of using tomato paste.

            1. re: khh1138

              I worked in a string of Japanese restaurants back in the day. Ketchup or tomato paste is definitely the X-factor you are looking for in the ginger dressing that has a dark orange/reddish tint. We made it in almost grotesque quantities (kept in the freezer in a giant plastic garbage can). We kept a smaller bucket full of a ketchup-less, slightly different dressing for when discriminating Japanese customers came in… The recipe above doesn't have ponzu--a dash of that is usually added, too.

          2. re: Gloriaa

            Mandarin Sauce they use on the Mandarin Chicken at The Golden Star in, believe it or not, Boise, Idaho! I worked their for a couple of years and because absolutely addicted to that sauce!

            Here is the 'recipe' as relayed to me:

            "Mandarin Chicken Sauce

            1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
            1 cup sugar
            small can of crushed pineapple
            1 teaspoon of brown molasses
            1 tablespoon marachino cherry juice and a few halves

            Bring mixture to a slow boil
            Thicken to desired consistency with corn starch/water mixture

            Quantities are just rough approximations. Be sure and taste as you go along. We always made such large batches, it's hard to break it down."

            But I'm pretty sure they left something out, because it's not even close to the sauce I'm addicted to.

          3. An ethiopian eggplant stew, served at Harar in San Diego.

            1. Sweet potato cobbler or sonker as my Grandma called hers. I can't justify experimenting with it much any more since I don't have anyone to help eat them any more. :-( Dang, you had to make me think of it, didn't you? lol.

              My mother made a pineapple coconut cake that we took for granted all those years and thought it so simple we didn't bother asking how she made the icing. I'd love to make it for my sisters for the precious memories.

              I started another thread about pickled beets and turnips I had at a Middle Eastern restaurant. After several trials at least a year ago, I put it aside and just yesterday started another batch. Fingers crossed.

              4 Replies
              1. re: MrsJonesey

                Mrs Jonesey, I was so surprised to see that you have been seeking a sweet potato cobbler recipe. I have been searching for years. My paternal grandmother who was from Alabama made an absolutely delicious sweet potato cobbler, but unthinking girl that I was, I never thought to ask her for her recipe. Most people look at me strangely when I mention it and say they have never heard of sweet potato cobbler.

                1. re: Wtg2Retire

                  Just recently, the NY Times had an article on sonkers: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/din...

                  Alas, they don't provide a recipe for sweet potato sonkers, but they do talk about them.

                  1. re: sr44

                    We must have posted at the same time. You'd think if they were doing that article that they'd have given a recipe, wouldn't you? There is a link to a strawberry sonker, I believe they called it The Lazy Sonker. I might can work with that. I am going to go to Barney's in Mt. Airy to try theirs.

                  2. re: Wtg2Retire

                    Ah, a kindred soul. It was my paternal grandmother as well, only she lived in southern NC. Did you know that there is a Sweet Potato Sonker Festival in Surry County, NC? I think I just might try to go this year. Maybe if I find one like my grandmother's, the baker will share their recipe. The ones I've made have a wonderful flavor but I haven't been able to get the syrup/dough ratio just right. The dough tends to soak up all the syrup. Anyway, here's a bit of reading for you.

                    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/din...

                    http://www.blueridgemusic.org/SearchR...

                    Also, Cooks Country came up with a recipe, but it is so not like my grandmother's. This should be called Sweet Potato Pie. A sonker does not use pie dough! http://www.chefscatalog.com/recipe/de...

                2. The brown style of Lobster sauce for the chinese/polynesian dish "Shrimp with Lobster sauce." Growing up in CT & MA, that's what it always was. Rich & garlicky & eggy with ground pork in it. When the polynesian restaurants went away, and the restaurants were doing more Szechuan style dishes, it somehow became the white sauce. I have tried to make it, but it's never quite right. Would LOVE to find it - thanks

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Lmrbest

                    Here is a recipe I've used many times:

                    Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (or Shrimp Cantonese)

                    • 3 T neutral vegetable oil
                    • 2 T salted or fermented black beans, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped (optional)
                    • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
                    • ½ lb. ground pork
                    • 1 ½ T soy sauce
                    • 2 C chicken broth
                    • 1 tsp. honey
                    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
                    • ¼ - ½ tsp. ground ginger
                    • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
                    • 2 T. cornstarch + 2 T cold water, mixed to a smooth paste
                    • 3-4 green onions, washed, trimmed, and cut into ½ -inch lengths
                    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
                    • Salt to taste

                    Heat the oil in a large skillet (or wok) over high heat. Add the black beans, if using, and stir-fry for about 15 seconds. Add the garlic and pork and stir-fry until the pork loses its pink color. Stir in the soy sauce, chicken broth, honey, pepper, and ginger; bring to a boil. Add the raw shrimp; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3-4 minutes. Add the cornstarch paste to the shrimp and stir until the sauce thickens. Stir in the chopped green onions. Pour the beaten egg over the lobster and stir slightly until the egg is just set. Do not overcook. Remove and transfer to serving dish. Serve with rice. (Serves 4)

                    The last few times I've used Nina Simond's recipe for Lobster Cantonese, usually subbing in shrimp for the lobster. It's a slightly fussier recipe, but very tasty too. If you're interested in that one, I'll type it up for you.

                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                      Thank you so much, I will try this. Love the black beans, I always have some in the refrigerator.

                    2. re: Lmrbest

                      Like you I am driven to make Shrimp with Lobster Sauce like in the restaurants. And growing up in New England, it was always the dark version. I prefer the white version. But I once tried a recipe and ended up with the dark version just by sheer chance. It was the black bean sauce. When I added that I knew immediately that it was the key if you like the dark version.

                    3. Ebinger's Mocha Buttercream Cake

                      The must-have cake for all special occasions when I was growing up in Brooklyn.

                      Any thoughts, New Yorkers?