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?
In this Wednesday’s New York Times Food and Wine section Mark Bittman presented a stir-fry dish using fermented black beans (or douchi 豆豉). What a refreshing surprise it was to see such an esoteric ingredient presented in the mainstream media. I applaud Bittman for introducing this ingredient to his readers. It gives me an opportunity to expand on the information about fermented black beans and their uses.
A few of my friends from downtown visited me in my kitchen on a Saturday night a few weeks ago. It was a rather unusual gathering. I was sharing with them some basic Chinese cooking techniques by way of demonstration. More often then not I would simply be cooking to entertain these friends. But on this occasion I had specifically been requested to show them stir-frying technique before we sat down to dinner. As I collected the ingredients and was explaining the different sauces and cooking wine, my neighbor Kim dropped in unannounced to borrow some fresh cilantro for her guacamole. (She is now officially a family member!) In her normal inquisitive manner she proceeded to ask me if there was a basic set of Chinese sauces and ingredients one should assemble as a “starter kit” for Chinese cooking?