Friday, January 28, 2011

Spirit of the Wok: How to Seize the Moment and Develop a Personal Project: Chapter I

I am in Hawaii on Maui for two months and decided I needed a challenge.  Like "Julie & Julia", I would learn to cook not French but Chinese-Asian food.  Ingredients are so fresh and plentiful here.  After a week of just stocking the pantry, armed with two cookbooks, and after three successful but complex meals, I'm hooked.   I will begin this first chapter of my new weekly blog, JudithMPhotography with some photography of food as a fun personal project.   Since I needed to pack light, I only brought one light-stand, one shoot through umbrella and two Nikon 900 flash as well as Ray ring flash attachment so I am limited, adding to the challenge. The condo has green walls!!   Lou Manna's guide to "Digital Food Photography" will led the way as well as reviewing the work of Theresa Raffetto.  Both of these terrific photographers were instructors at the School of Visual Arts, NYC.  I met both of these inspirational photographers while completing my masters program in digital photography.
Hopefully, this will encourage you to find a personal project that gets you excited! Follow along, even if you are not a foodie; but who isn't.  My husband is delighted in my new found passion, since he is the beneficiary of the cooking.

Some of the required implements for Chinese cooking are photographed here:
Two types of Rice

Bamboo Steamer and ladle


Wooden spoon, wok ladle, vermicelli and bamboo steamer
I think I did more shopping here than I ever have; once or twice daily.  Finally, I was able to find the bamboo steamer basket and wok ladle after searching daily.  In a Walmart.  Who would ever think!  The bamboo steamer is placed in a wok with water so that the steam is absorbed by the bamboo and the condensation does not drip back down on the vegetables, buns or dumplings.
Spices are an adventure.  Still black vinegar is illusive to me. I learned that I needed sticky rice, not long grained rice that Northerners prefer, for authentic Chinese rice.  So I have purchased short and medium grain rice and will let you know what is best. Fried Rice is best when made from left over rice.
My next challenge will be to cook a Peking Duck in the Sichuan style of tea smoked duck (smoked with tea, Cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and star anise).  Served with spring onions and tucked into steamed buns (man tou).   Will report on this next time.  Meanwhile, find your personal challenge and share it with me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spirit of the Wok: Chapter 2

Sake and Ginger

Sliced Ginger and Spring Onions

Tea Smoked Peking Duck (recipe from "Authentic Recipes from China" by Kenneth Law, et al) was excellent but took over 3 hours to make. First there was a sauce to make (hoisin sauce, sansho pepper, sesame and other oils), then Sichuan Pepper and Salt dip and of course, steamed buns or Man Tou.  The Duck had to be cleaned, spring onions and ginger placed inside the cavity, salted and spiced with ground Sichuan peppercorns or sansho pepper (not sure what spice this is for sure so I used Sichuan Chili pepper which looked close enough).   Sake was then poured over the duck in a deep pot and then steamed for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Next came the smoking in a dry wok for 10 minutes.  Dried loose tea leaves, bay leaves, star anise and cinnamon are placed in a wok.  When the tea leaves and spices start smoking,  the duck is added to the wok over a rack and then the wok is tightly closed.  I had no lid for my wok, so I used a pizza plan weighed down by other pots..  The aroma was wondrous.

Then the duck was roasted for one hour while I finished making the buns (Man Tou) -to be steamed in the bamboo steamer the very last minute.  Of course I had no rolling pin at the condo we  leased, so I used a well cleaned full plastic soda bottle.  Needed to improvise, but it worked just great.
Finally the duck was deep fried in a large wok over high heat for 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side).
It was Crispy but moist, served sliced in the steamed buns - split open - with the sauce drizzled over the duck and then dunked in the Sichuan Pepper and Salt dip.  Spectacular!!