Last Wednesday The New York Times published an article by Kim Severson about “Recipe Deal Breakers.” In it she asked if there is an ingredient or a technique that would stop you from using a recipe. The article was humorous and light-hearted, which I enjoyed immensely. However, that didn’t stop a firestorm of reactions from spreading all over the culinary blogosphere. Michael Ruhlman joined in the fray with his blog post the next day. Kate Hopkins at Accidental Hedonist continued the discussion with a poll. Now it’s my turn to ask a similar question. What is a deal breaker for creating authentic Chinese food in an American Kitchen?
While many Chinese and Asian ingredients are becoming more available in the American markets, most are still not quite adequate for reproducing truly authentic dishes from Asia. For some of us living in large cities, such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have access to well stock Chinatown markets. Would difficulty in obtaining proper ingredients in other parts of the country be a deal breaker?
How about substitution of ingredients? Certain ingredients in Chinese cooking can be substituted. But is this an acceptable alternative? During the panel discussion at Asia Society last week the very same issue was discussed. One panelist John Nihoff, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America, who is an expert in Korean cooking, strongly believes ingredients should be true to the culture. He insisted that Korean sesame oil imparts distinct flavor when used in Korean cooking. On the other side, Susanna Foo, Executive Chef of the restaurant Susanna Foo’s in Philadelphia, claims she is very comfortable using Kikoman soy sauce from Japan in her Chinese restaurant. For me I like to create recipes that can stay true to the original culinary culture. Substituting less authentic ingredients is a deal breaker for me. What about you?
Chinese cooking techniques are sometimes unfamiliar and intimidating. Deep-frying and high-heat stir-frying for example involves hot splattering oil. Would these techniques discourage you from taking on a recipe?
Of course being without children I can pretty much cook without concern to many issues faced by moms like my neighbor Kim. I can always take time to find rare ingredients and master special techniques whenever necessary. For me there seem to be few deal breakers. Are concerns with your family’s well-being and what they will eat a deal breaker for many recipes?
Many of my recipes are simple Chinese cooking, but a large number require difficult to obtain ingredients and special techniques. Still these recipes are written for you. So write a comment and let me know about your deal breakers.