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The Food At My Local Chinese Restaurant Is Just Tso-Tso.

Last week I had such a good time talking about Curry that I wanted to keep that ball rolling and go further down the rabbit hole this week with Chinese food in America. How many of you think that the Beef and Broccoli that you are getting from your local Chinese take out place is authentic Chinese Food?  Well, I have extra bad new for you.  It's NOT!

So - remember last week when I said that there was a theory that the Chinese invented "Curry"? Well, Chinese food in America is definitely NOT Chinese food in China.  In the 1800's Chinese immigrants started coming to California because of the Gold and the Choo-Choo.  Like the Indian cooks in Britain, the Chinese cooks started setting up stalls and cooking food for the Americas that were trying to strike it rich with their Gold claim.  (And also to feed their workers that were building the railroads)  As these Chinese cooks were savvy with their businesses, they knew that in order to be more profitable and bring in revenue from the Americans, they needed to cook food that suited the Americas palate.  This is where the basis of Chinese food in America comes from. 

As traditional Chinese food balances many spices, flavors and techniques, Americanized Chinese food is completely different.  Traditional Chinese food generally requires long cooking processes which are technique driven and concentrate a lot on balance, purity, and concepts; usually emphasizes vegetables, soy beans, or wheat products, not meat; and is typically not deep-fried.  The Chinese consider deep fat frying to be very unhealthy. 

So does that mean it's bad? Not necessarily, anything thing in moderation, right?  However I will tell you that if you love Beef and Broccoli, and are about to go to China, you'd better fill up on it while you're here.  Americanized Chinese food features ingredients that aren't even found in China, like, duh... broccoli, or onions, or dairy (sorry Crab Rangoons!)  Oh, and fortune cookies? Nope invented in LA.  Orange slices are a traditional finish to a meal in China. 

Please don't think I'm trying to beat up on Americanized Chinese Food.. I'm not!  I love it too!  There's something about General Tso's Chicken that I will never be able to get enough of.  All I'm saying is you can very easily cook your favorite Chinese restaurant take out food at home.  Below you will find three of the favorites that are on just about every Chinese Restaurant in America's Top Ten List.  Potstickers, Sesame Chicken, and Moo Shu Pork!  Break out those Woks that have been collecting dust in your basement and get to work!

Steamed Potstickers with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce

• 1 C. shredded cabbage

• 2 tsp. salt

• 1 # ground pork

• 5 shitake mushrooms, sliced thin

• 2 T. ginger, microplaned

• 3 cloves garlic, microplaned

• 6 green onions, sliced very thin, white and green part

• 1.5 tsp. soy sauce, dark

• 2 tsp. Shaoxing

• 1 tsp. sesame oil

• 1 tsp. salt

• Pinch or 2 sugar

• 2 tsp. arrowroot

• 1 pack round wonton wrappers

• 3 T. soy sauce

• 1 T. brown sugar

• 1 T. chili garlic paste

• 3 garlic cloves, microplaned

• 1.5 tsp. ginger, microplaned

• 1 tsp. sesame oil

• 1 tsp. sesame seeds

1. In a bowl, combine the cabbage and the salt. Let sit for 15 minutes to wilt and release some liquid. After 15 minutes, rinse off the cabbage and squeeze out as much water as you can. Water is the enemy.

2. In a bowl, combine the cabbage, pork, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, green onions, soy sauce, Shaoxing, sesame oil, salt, sugar, and arrowroot. Mix all ingredients together well.

3. Place 1 T. of filling in each wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper with a little water and fold over (away from you) into a half moon. Repeat with remaining filling. You can either keep the edges folded as they are, or you can pleat the edges for a different appearance.

4. Using a bamboo steamer, steam the dumplings until they are cooked through. When finished either serve steamed or you can also pan fry.

5. For the Sauce, combine the soy, brown sugar, chili garlic paste, garlic, ginger, and both sesames. Stir well to combine. Use as a dipping sauce for the potstickers.

Sesame Chicken

• 1 T. arrowroot

• 1.5 C. chicken stock

• 2 T. chinkiang vinegar

• 3 T. soy sauce, dark

• 4 T. honey

• 2 T. brown sugar

• 2 tsp. chili garlic paste

• 1 clove garlic, microplaned

• 1 tsp. ginger, microplaned

• 1 tsp sesame oil

• 1.5 # chicken breast, diced into 1” pieces

• 1.5 C. flour

• ¾ C. cornstarch

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. baking soda

• 3 egg whites

• 2.5 T. oil

• Pinch of salt

• Oil for frying

1. In a saucepan, combine the arrowroot with the chicken stock, chinkiang vinegar, soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, chili garlic paste, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. Simmer until thickened and set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, egg whites, oil and salt. Stir well to combine. Add the diced chicken to the batter.

3. Heat oil to 350 degrees. In batches,drop the battered chicken pieces individually into the hot oil and fry the chicken pieces until they are golden brown and they float. Remove to a sheet tray lined with paper towels and salt immediately. Repeat this process with all the chicken. When all of the chicken is cooked, place in a bowl and toss with enough sauce to coat. Serve with rice.

Moo Shu Pork

• 1 # pork loin, cut into thin stirps

• 1.5 T. dark soy sauce

• 2 T. Shaoxing

• Pinch of white pepper

• Pinch of sugar

• ½ tsp. sesame oil, dark

• 1 tsp. arrowroot

• 2 T. chicken stock

• 3 T. soy sauce, low sodium

• 1 T. Shaoxing

• 1 tsp. chinkiang vinegar

• 1 tsp. arrowroot

• A few drops sesame oil, dark

• 2 T. oil + 1 T. oil

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 6 oz. shitake mushrooms, sliced thin

• 2 oz. wood ear mushrooms, chopped

• 6 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 T. ginger, microplaned

• 3 green onions, sliced

• 3 C. napa cabbage, shredded

• 1 C. hoisin sauce, thick

• 2 T. soy sauce

• 1 T. rice vinegar

• 12 pancakes

1. In a bowl, combine the pork, dark soy, Shaoxing, white pepper, sugar, sesame oil, and arrowroot. Mix well; set aside.

2. In another bowl, combine the chicken stock, soy sauce, Shaoxing, chinkiang vinegar, arrowroot and sesame oil. Mix well; set aside.

3. In another bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, stir well and set aside.

4. Heat the 2 T. oil to very hot in a wok, swirling the oil around the sides of the wok. Add the pork and stir-fry until the pork is cooked. Remove the pork and set aside momentarily.

5. Add the remaining oil to very hot and add the eggs. Stir-fry until cooked. Next add the mushrooms and stir-fry until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions and cook until fragrant.

6. Next add the napa cabbage and continue stir-frying until the cabbage begins to soften, 1-2 minutes.

7. Add the pork back to the pan and add the chicken stock – cornstarch mixture. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened.

8. Serve with warmed pancakes and the hoisin sauce mixture.