Having spent most of my adult life in Los Angeles and Honolulu, I love Asian cuisine. There used to be a place at Ala Moana Shopping Center that served yummy teriyaki rice bowls, char siu, bao and orange chicken. A row of Peking Ducks we’re perpetually hanging by their feet in the glass storefront window. After 43 years the Chun family closed.
So far, the Chinese and Thai Food in Texas has been more than disappointing. Never mind good sushi (which is something else altogether), although Uchiko is supposed to be great. https://uchikoaustin.com It is master sushi chef Tyson Cole’s sister restaurant to Austin’s award winning, best kept secret, Uchi.
So, anyway, craving an edible version of orange chicken, I ordered the slightly exotic ingredients off of Amazon (because a decent Asian market is an hour’s drive away) and gave Chef Jet Tila’s orange chicken and Hong Kong fried rice recipes a try. The fried rice was good and fluffy. Similar to what’s served on the west coast. Not the greasy, soy sauce laden fare that passes for fried rice in Texas. The orange chicken, however was awful. Way too much corn starch in the tempura batter and a sauce that was more of a bland, Panda Express fast food version than the tangy umami taste of authentic orange chicken. Ugh!
To be fair, part of the problem obviously stems from the fact that my electric range doesn’t hold a steady high temperature for frying. I wasn’t keenly aware of this until I monitored the temp in the process with a digital thermometer. So the battered chicken had to hang out in the oil far too long. I ate a few bites to get the flavor and texture profiles in my memory so the next time I make it, I’ll be able to adjust by comparison. The rest went in the trash. Before I try again with Babish’s new improved recipe http://https//youtu.be.com/8iCWUvHMPxQ I’ll be trying my hand at Joshua Weismann’s Char Siu https://youtu.be/_6GsSRmnads another dish that’s just not served around here.
One thing I love about cooking is that it’s a kind of performance art. The ingredients, the measurements, the cuts, the spices, the order of their entrance and the precision of technique all play important roles in the outcome. Ultimately you hope the dish will land in your mouth with a satisfying, and maybe even audible “Ahhh! So good.”
So this week’s kitchen experience was not a failure. I learned a lot. Most importantly, I need an induction hot plate for precision temperature control. These relatively inexpensive portable heating elements are energy efficient and you can set them for an exact temperature, which neither gas nor electric ranges offer. Huh!
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