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DavyJonesLocker

Chinese Recipes - Specific quantities

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DavyJonesLocker

Probably @abcdefg is the person for this one

 

Ok I finally started having a crack at cooking Chinese food. i downloaded 下厨房 APP and had a go at 糖醋排骨 and 孜然羊肉. Actually pretty easy and turned out reasonably well. 

 

However i notice that many recipes don't actually specifically quantities, and when I ask my colleagues the standard answer is "go by feel" . Well I have zero feelings so it's not really helping :)

 

so where do you start with this? I tried 1 x 料酒,2 x 酱油,3 x 米醋,4 x 冰糖 (1 being 20ml) and it was too sweet for my liking so easy to drop back on the sugar next time. Overall it was too rich so i will scale it down to 2/3rds of the volume

 

As for other recipes , what are we talking about with quantities , where do you even start?. e.g. 孜然羊肉, a teaspoon, tablespoon  etc? (300g meat)

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abcdefg

Congratulations @DavyJonesLocker-- Glad you have decided to do some home cooking.

 

And  that's a great question about the quantities. You have discovered one drawback of many Chinese recipes, they don't spell out ancillary ingredients 辅料 in detail. They may specify 200 grams of beef, one medium potato, and three large red peppers, but after that you may be left pretty much to your own devices. 

 

How much garlic, how much ginger? The answer is 适量 ("an appropriate amount.") How much salt and how much sugar? The answer is 稍许 ("a little.") 

 

I found that maddening when just starting out, though it no longer bothers me today. If in doubt I err on the side of using too little of a seasoning ingredient, then add more after doing a preliminary tasting. Some recipes are more specific, however and spell things out clearly. 

 

16 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

As for other recipes , what are we talking about with quantities , where do you even start?. e.g. 孜然羊肉, a teaspoon, tablespoon  etc? (300g meat)

 

One tablespoon is where I would start with that  one. 

 

When I make a new recipe I keep margin notes as to how much of the various seasonings I've used. After the dish is finished and eaten, I go back to my recipe and annotate it with changes for next time. Then I make it for my friends at Chinese Forum with actual weights and measures to save them going through too much of that "discovery grief."   

 

And, despite being careful and experienced, I do have my fair share of disasters that must just be tossed out or converted into a strange big stew. 

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abcdefg

I wrote an introduction to using Chinese recipes (written in Chinese) last year, but it didn't get much play. Intended it as a rough guide to making a stir fry. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-玉米炒鸡肉/

 

Just now downloaded the 下厨房 app and had a look at the 糖醋排骨 recipe which you probably used:  http://www.xiachufang.com/recipe/1064357/ 

 

Looks like a good recipe, but it has some annoying conventions such as listing the amount of salt in grams instead of teaspoons. Often Chinese recipes start with a list of ingredients, but they aren't comprehensive. The "instructions part" 做法 introduces others as well. Need to be on the lookout for that; didn't notice it here. 

 

I often find that the "tips" section at the end of a recipe  小贴士 is very important, sometimes critical to the success of the venture.  They may contain instructions that should have been in the main body of the recipe. Need to be on the lookout for that. Didn't see it here. 

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abcdefg
21 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

so where do you start with this? I tried 1 x 料酒,2 x 酱油,3 x 米醋,4 x 冰糖 (1 being 20ml) and it was too sweet for my liking so easy to drop back on the sugar next time. Overall it was too rich so i will scale it down to 2/3rds of the volume

 

If my assumption is correct as to what recipe you were following, I think I can help. http://www.xiachufang.com/recipe/1064357/ 

It has confusing wording regarding the condiments:

 

852225460_spareribs1.thumb.PNG.676a6c53e8d8aba580964f4133392f38.PNG

 

A 汤勺 is usually a tablespoon; it contains 容量 15 ml of a liquid. If you were measuring with a 20 ml spoon, that might have given you a sauce that was too rich and too strong. 茶勺 usually means teaspoon, 5 ml by volume. 

 

I would also suggest using light soy sauce酱油/ 生抽 for this recipe (not 老抽)and make the 米醋 one that is aged and mellow, one with the designation 老陈醋 on the label. These usually have a number to indicate how many years it has been aged. The one I use most often is 5 years old. Has less bite. And as to the 白糖,be sure it is 白砂糖, granulated sugar, instead of rock sugar 冰糖。I personally prefer dishes to be less sweet, similar to what you said, and would cut the sugar back to 2 or 3 tablespoons. The recipe author's "golden ratio" 黄金比例 is baloney. 

 

The thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn't require pre-boiling, steaming or deep frying the ribs before simmering with the flavoring ingredients. Do they still come out tender? That would be my main concern. If yes, then with a few adjustments, it's potentially a real winner. 

 

Once you get this dish down pat, hope you will post a "how to" here on these pages! 糖醋排骨 is a global favorite, something I order in restaurants every now and then, but don't make at home. 

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DavyJonesLocker

@abcdefg

 

Thanks for the great detailed response ! Very helpful, read them twice. Sorry for the delay in replying. I am having trouble connect to the internet on my PC and it can be tedious to response and quote on a phone.

 

------------------------------

 

糖醋排骨

 

On 9/7/2018 at 10:00 AM, abcdefg said:

Just now downloaded the 下厨房 app and had a look at the 糖醋排骨 recipe which you probably used:  http://www.xiachufang.com/recipe/1064357/ 

 

Great spot, this is exactly the one I used. Here is my end result. Actually I am still pleased with it given I practically never cook! I know its low by other people's standards but today i yet again over-boiled an egg haha So there is is an indication as to my skill level.

 

On 9/7/2018 at 10:41 AM, abcdefg said:

The thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn't require pre-boiling, steaming or deep frying the ribs before simmering with the flavoring ingredients. Do they still come out tender? That would be my main concern. If yes, then with a few adjustments, it's potentially a real winner.

 

Yes very tender actually. The pork ribs shown in the picture are pretty good. I get them from SAM's Supermarket  here in Beijing and the standard of meat in that store is always good and moderately priced (unless imported). I didn't use all in the packet shown. I'd say about 600grams 

 

On 9/7/2018 at 10:41 AM, abcdefg said:

I would also suggest using light soy sauce酱油/ 生抽 for this recipe (not 老抽)and make the 米醋 one that is aged and mellow, one with the designation 老陈醋 on the label.

 

i used  生抽 for the sauce, but then it looked a little light on color so i added some  老抽 to darkened it up, however I probably used too much. I wonder it that what caused it to be too rich? Good tip about the 米醋 I just picked any sort of 醋 a while ago but never bothered to check the differences. 

 

Also other mistakes i think I made was:

  • I over fried the ginger at the start. Seemed a bit soggy compared to a restaurant one. 
  • I didn't brown the ribs enough, more gray that brown color but I was concerned about over cooking them. 
  • I could have boiled off the liquid at the end moreso as it wasn't as dry as I''IMG_20180902_213401.thumb.jpg.69abd6c17f2bc18e6b0a423b2cdfce40.jpgd like .

 

General

 

On 9/7/2018 at 10:00 AM, abcdefg said:

Looks like a good recipe, but it has some annoying conventions such as listing the amount of salt in grams instead of teaspoons. Often Chinese recipes start with a list of ingredients, but they aren't comprehensive. The "instructions part" 做法 introduces others as well. Need to be on the lookout for that; didn't notice it here. 

 

I often find that the "tips" section at the end of a recipe  小贴士 is very important, sometimes critical to the success of the venture.  They may contain instructions that should have been in the main body of the recipe. Need to be on the lookout for that. Didn't see it here. 

 

Indeed i noticed this about other recipes! 

 

Chinese Learning

 

i can generally read any HSK 5 text book including the many many words that are not in the syllabus dotted around the books. However I was surprised by how many words I didn't recognise and sometimes the style of language used. Reinforces my view of getting out of textbooks early when learning chinese. My Chinese learning towards traditional style approach is going to take a back seat for about a year until I really get more exposure to everyday life such as cooking dish names, reading apps, forums  etc

 

 

Next steps

i will have a browse of your links. I never really had the confidence nor inclination to do cooking specially chinese cooking, but it has aroused my interest now.  My main driver behind this is (1) health aspect as I really like to lower the oil content and sugar content in dishes and (2) meat content too low for me

 

 

 

IMG_20180902_201835.jpg

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DavyJonesLocker

forgot to ask!

 

what oil should i use for generally frying (i.e. the ribs and ginger at the start)? Seems a multitude of choices in the supermarket!

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abcdefg

Picture looks real good! 

 

I will be glad to help you fine tune this recipe. What I often do is make something several times back to back until I have all the kinks worked out. Then write it down in detail, photograph it, post it to the forum and consider is a "keeper."

 

You are fortunate to be able to buy high-quality ribs. The ones I usually get are tough and must be steamed or deep fried in oil to make them tender. Keep on using them! You have found a winner!

 

Your soy sauce combination is fine: using mostly light soy sauce 生抽 with a dash of 老抽 for deeper color is just fine. Won't adversely affect the taste. But I think your photo shows the wrong kind of vinegar. What you've got is 白醋。It is only sour without supplying any of the rich elements of an aged rice vinegar. Need to buy a bottle of 老陈醋。Try to find one from 山西. Won't be difficult or expensive. These start at 10 or 15 Yuan for a liter. 

 

On 9/8/2018 at 11:46 AM, DavyJonesLocker said:

I over fried the ginger at the start. Seemed a bit soggy compared to a restaurant one.

 

Don't worry about that as long as you don't burn it. Be sure the fire under your wok is high or medium high at the start. Otherwise things will "stew" instead of "sear." That might be why the ribs turned gray instead of golden (heat too low.) 

 

On 9/8/2018 at 11:46 AM, DavyJonesLocker said:

I could have boiled off the liquid at the end more so as it wasn't as dry as I'd like.

 

The fix for this is 水淀粉。Buy some 小份。It can be corn starch or made from some other starchy vegetable. In the supermarket it will be near the salt and MSG. A small bag of it costs 4 or 5 Yuan. Put a teaspoon of it in a small bowl (rice bowl.) Add two or three tablespoons of water, enough to make a light suspension. Stir it well and pour it into the dish right at the end. This thickens it, gives it a "professional" sheen, and makes a gravy. Stir the dish half a minute after adding so as not to be left with a starchy flavor. 

 

Like you, part of why I cook at home is for health reasons. I can buy good ingredients, I can use less fat and less sugar. I can use a bit more of the things I like. Can go heavy on the ingredients to which I'm partial. 

 

On 9/8/2018 at 11:49 AM, DavyJonesLocker said:

what oil should i use for generally frying (i.e. the ribs and ginger at the start)? Seems a multitude of choices in the supermarket!

 

I usually buy corn oil.  Here's a good brand, and the one I usually get.

 

37658461_IMG_5672-60.thumb.jpg.3578d4221281e412e79037cd224f1a6d.jpg

 

Sometimes I get peanut oil 花生油 and sometimes rape seed oil 菜籽油。Rape seed oil is very popular here, but it tends to impart a flavor to the food you are cooking instead of being "neutral." You can't go wrong with a good quality corn oil, such as the one pictured here. 

 

I don't buy blended oil “混合” or "调和油。" It's just too unpredictable. I don't use olive oil in a stir fry; it breaks down at high heat, making it unsuitable. Sesame oil is a best thought of as a seasoning, not a basic frying oil. 

 

And, as a simple rule of thumb, I seldom buy the cheapest grade of oil or of any liquid condiment (soy sauce, vinegar, or such.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DavyJonesLocker

 

24 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

You are fortunate to be able to buy high-quality ribs. The ones I usually get are tough and must be steamed or deep fried in oil to make them tender. Keep on using them! You have found a winner!

 

Advantage of a large city, all kinds of quality meat available if you are prepared to pay (still not expensive). Why people buy imported pork is beyond me! Chinese pork is far better than UK pork in my view!

 

excellent! I will be pop to the supermarket later with this thread open on the phone  ☺️

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abcdefg

You're welcome. BTW, I took another look at the photo and it seems that your sugar is small-lump 冰糖。That sometimes is sweeter than standard granulated sugar 白砂糖。Might want to pick up a small bag of the latter. Not sure it will make a huge difference, but since regulating the sweetness of the dish is one goal, wouldn't hurt to have some different sugar. 

 

1146660908_IMG_5673-60.thumb.jpg.fed2aea9719c67186919e6f8a18e550e.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of luck!

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DavyJonesLocker

ok had a crack at 孜然羊肉  and 可乐鸡翅

 

The 孜然羊肉  was a bit complicated (for me) but actually came out very well, taste wise!. No marks for presentation. 😎Again I added too much 老抽. It seems like a dribble goes a long way! the taste was better than i thought, the only thing is one of the spices overpowered the rest a little  but given there is a lot in there i am not sure which one. It might well be the 花椒粒. They seem so small but really pack a punch, maybe i over-fried them. i used the measures like you suggested above for the rest. I didn't use the sugar as added onion and i should really have cut the meat thinner I think Actually if you get used to it you could knock this one out pretty quick i reckon.

 

The 可乐olt翅 was ok. Pretty ugly as again too much 老抽 but taste not bad.  I think 翅中 are a bit small so i think 翅根 might be a better choice as it's mainly the sauce you are tasting rather than the chicken. I can't see myself making this one, apart from the odd time 

 

Medocrate effort but learned a few tips and tricks for next time 👍

IMG_20180908_213133.jpg

IMG_20180908_202920.jpg

IMG_20180908_201307.jpg

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Tomsima

@DavyJonesLocker
im basically in the same position as you, downloaded 下廚房 about two weeks ago and have cooked all my meals at home since then. I did 可樂雞翅 two days ago and also found it underwhelming. The cola caramelised on the surface of the skin nicely, but that was about it, I marinated the wings overnight and it seemed to make absolutely no difference to the inside taste, which was really bland. In the end I ended up with over strong flavour on the outside and then really weak on the inside. I did score the skin open so don't know what I'm doing wrong…

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DavyJonesLocker

@Tomsima

Yeah I scored the chicken too. It's just a dish that didn't really appeal to me. I think western style herbs are better suited to something like this and whack in the oven.

 

The 孜然羊肉 wasnt bad actually. There are simpler recipies than what I use. However you need to like 孜然 flavour to be of interest 

 

I think one of the issues with China is that chicken is a bland meat . But isn't it similar around the world now with all the hormones that are whacked in there. Long way off the chickens my grandmother cooked back in the 80s Totally free-range as they often had to be shooed out of the house lol

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Tomsima

I've just got back to the UK and was amazed when I went to the local butcher I used to go to with my mum as a kid, same butcher and all, went to buy a whole chicken and he said it's illegal to sell the whole chicken, as in Chinese style head, feet and ungutted. I asked about buying intestine and I pretty much got laughed out of the shop…😐

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XiaoXi
On 9/6/2018 at 11:30 PM, DavyJonesLocker said:

Ok I finally started having a crack at cooking Chinese food. i downloaded 下厨房 APP and had a go at 糖醋排骨 and 孜然羊肉. Actually pretty easy and turned out reasonably well. 

 

However i notice that many recipes don't actually specifically quantities, and when I ask my colleagues the standard answer is "go by feel" . Well I have zero feelings so it's not really helping :)

 

so where do you start with this? I tried 1 x 料酒,2 x 酱油,3 x 米醋,4 x 冰糖 (1 being 20ml) and it was too sweet for my liking so easy to drop back on the sugar next time. Overall it was too rich so i will scale it down to 2/3rds of the volume

 

As for other recipes , what are we talking about with quantities , where do you even start?. e.g. 孜然羊肉, a teaspoon, tablespoon  etc? (300g meat)

This made me laugh, the classic 适量 thing in recipes. Unfortunately China is a 敷衍, 适量, 差不多就行了 type of country. The 'feeling' Chinese people talk about is only there if you have already cooked the dish many times before (or many similar dishes) so of course you will not have that feeling. Ironically probably only the person writing the recipe has that 'feeling' so all the 适量 stuff is only useful to himself.

 

I think it's a bit like Taobao, they just rush to get things written but miss out important information so people have to ask questions. I saw one recipe site where a recipe had been posted that allowed comments and there were loads of comments asking why an item in the ingredients list was not used in the body of the recipe or 'how do you do this' or 'how much is 适量‘ etc. You might be better searching for the recipes in English.

 

适量 literally means 'the appropriate amount'. It's kind of like asking for advice and being told to 'do the right thing' lol.

9 hours ago, Tomsima said:

I've just got back to the UK and was amazed when I went to the local butcher I used to go to with my mum as a kid, same butcher and all, went to buy a whole chicken and he said it's illegal to sell the whole chicken, as in Chinese style head, feet and ungutted. I asked about buying intestine and I pretty much got laughed out of the shop…😐

Why is it illegal then? Because it makes it look too much like a real animal has died or something?

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abcdefg

Glad you guys are making progress! (I'm out of town and on the road; probably won't be able to help much until sometime next week.) 

 

5 hours ago, XiaoXi said:

I think it's a bit like Taobao, they just rush to get things written but miss out important information so people have to ask questions. I saw one recipe site where a recipe had been posted that allowed comments and there were loads of comments asking why an item in the ingredients list was not used in the body of the recipe or 'how do you do this' or 'how much is 适量‘ etc. 

 

I've noticed that sometimes too. Some on-line recipes are carefully tested and accurately written, while others aren't worth much. I always look at three or four ways to make the same thing before starting in myself. If possible I also ask a trusted friend who has done it many times and is aware of any pitfalls in the process. 

 

FWIW, the recipes I post here on the forum are tried and true, with reproducible results. 

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DavyJonesLocker

Update:

OK I tried again, much better this time around. I dropped the 老抽, reduced the other measures to 15ml (I measure) and used 老陈醋 from 山西 instead of 米醋。I only used half the sugar they suggested

 

I used 750g of 排骨。

Overall far better and less rich than 1st day. Only factor I noticed user was the 排骨was less tender but this is because I used a different brand than 1st time.

 

I suggested to some people about adding onion in at the very end but I got strange looks lol. 

 

Happy with my result and easy to knock up start to finish 45 mins with 20 mins just waiting

 

IMG_20180912_171501.thumb.jpg.3c3eaff98b60b9b9d630d98a1b4420b1.jpg  

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XiaoXi
9 hours ago, abcdefg said:

FWIW, the recipes I post here on the forum are tried and true, with reproducible results. 

Oh I didn't know you post recipes here, I'll have to check them out. Must be a "适量free zone" I'm sure. :P

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Dawei3

To give this topic a wider dimension:  Lack of specificity is a common characteristic in regulations and in other ways in China. 

 

While England & its former colonies generally want specific roles & responsibilities, Chinese regulations tend to be quite general.  E.g., The Chinese press has noted unclear rules & unclear regulatory responsibilities has fostered food quality issues.  The China Daily wrote an article comparing work-place discrimination laws in China & the US;  that the Chinese reg's are vague with vague penalties & the US ones much more clear and specific.  There are many other examples like this.  This lack of specificity makes compliance for companies difficult and it makes enforcement by regulatory authorities difficult as well.

 

To China's credit, this issue is openly discussed in the media and it's notable that they compare their laws to those in the USA, i.e., they want to improve the situation and look to other countries for better approaches.  China wants better quality products.  

 

When a Chinese friend was interviewed for a laboratory job in the US, one of the question he received was "what's the biggest difference between labs in the US and China?"  He said "In the US, you do things according to the protocol."  This was the correct answer & he got the job.  More recently, I was reviewing lab protocols from a Chinese lab and one of the issues we commented on was that they needed to be more specific on how the results would be interpreted.  It's a good quality lab, but they had a different perspective on how detailed the protocol needed to be.    

 

Hence, from cooking to regulations to running a lab, there are notable differences in perspective.  However, in regards to cooking, the lack of precision could be positive in that it promotes a level of creativity.  

 

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abcdefg
On 9/12/2018 at 5:24 PM, DavyJonesLocker said:

Happy with my result and easy to knock up start to finish 45 mins with 20 mins just waiting

 

Sounds like you have now customized this dish and turned it into a real winner! Nice going! I look forward to giving it a try when I get back to Kunming. 

 

On 9/12/2018 at 5:24 PM, DavyJonesLocker said:

I suggested to some people about adding onion in at the very end but I got strange looks lol. 

 

I've had that happen too in situations where I thought they would definitely add a nice touch. Might be a clue in the common name for onions: 洋葱。Too foreign. 

 

19 hours ago, XiaoXi said:

Oh I didn't know you post recipes here, I'll have to check them out.

 

Here's an index to most of them:

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/52430-alphabetical-index-of-food-articles/ 

 

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XiaoXi
11 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

To give this topic a wider dimension:  Lack of specificity is a common characteristic in regulations and in other ways in China. 

Yes you see it literally everywhere. Everything in China is 'half assed' but the benefit is it's fast. You see it in everything from TV shows where the voice is not in sync with their mouths when they speak to the terrible drainage system in the Northern cities which results in floods every time it rains. But the benefits are the cities developed fast and they can product TV shows quickly and cheaply.

 

28 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

Ok great thanks.

 

11 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

Hence, from cooking to regulations to running a lab, there are notable differences in perspective.  However, in regards to cooking, the lack of precision could be positive in that it promotes a level of creativity.  

Yes the lack of existence of something would tend to promote creativity. Although it's kind of the same logic as saying I can't afford to buy a bike so I have to walk which promotes exercise.

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