Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chinese Kitchen: The Basics

The last class I was able to fit in during my Chinese New Year holiday was The Basics. Different than other classes, instead of cooking three dishes, we spent the time learning about different ingredients. We received a 7 page packet of information detailing uses, origins and pairings. I was heart broken when I arrived home and found that my neighbor and I accidentally swapped packets, leaving me with nearly blank margins. I hope he is enjoying all my notes.  

This is a wood ear fungus and a lily flower. Putting something called fungus in my food doesn't sound appetizing, so let's call it a mushroom. If you are not put off by the name or the interesting appearance, you will find that they are quite tasty and added a lot to our one dish of the class -- Mu Xu Ruo or what we might call Mu Shu Pork. Wood Ear Mushrooms and Lily Flowers are essential to Mu Xu Ruo. Although I've never been tested, I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to lily pollen. I decided to try them anyway, no effects that I noticed.

The main reason I wanted to take this class was to learn to make my own chili oil/paste and fragrant oil.  When cooking for the whole family, I usually try to omit any spicy ingredients from recipes and if possible add them at the end. Often though it doesn't work as well and both Brian and I enjoy spicy food. We learned the process (pour hot oil over dry chili flakes -- super easy!) and were able to bring a jar home. The fragrant oil was also easy. I've used it a few times, but I haven't really noticed an improvement. Maybe I need to do a side by side comparison.

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