Monday, 18 May 2009

Cooking class 9: A Chinese party banquet

Another cooking class at ABC Cooking Studio. The Japanese pickings have been a little slim since ABC changed their set-up in April, so it was Chinese food this time.

In the old days, the Saffron household had a "live-in" Chinese chef, so there was never really any reason to have a go at it myself. More recently, the mouth-watering film Eat Drink Man Woman has been about the size of it when it comes to Chinese food (or Taiwanese, as the case may be). Being that it has been a long time between Chinese mouthfuls, I was happy to give this Japanese version of Chinese food a go. It certainly looked yummy on ABC's website.

The main dish was youlinji, or deep-fried chicken with a katakuriko ("dogtooth violet starch" if you will; a common Japanese ingredient) coating the same as Japanese karaage. This was served served with match-sticked veggies, wrapped in uncooked spring roll wrappers, with a garlic-ginger dipping sauce. The chicken was really gorgeous and crisp, the result of two fryings: first at 160 C to cook the meat, then at 180 C until the desired rich golden colour was reached.

There were 2 side dishes. The cucumber and zhacai (Chinese pickled vegetable) salad featured lots of different textures: slippery cloud ears (a Chinese fungus also known as tree ears), crunchy strips of reconstituted kanten, and bumpy bashed cucumbers (a common Japanese presentation), alongside the pickle. It was lightly dressed with sesame paste and sesame oil. I thought the salad had potential, maybe with a little more seasoning.

The "mixed" rice, was very tasty and took all of two seconds to make. A little gently fried pork cut into strips, a little salt and soy sauce, and a little sliced spring onion were simply folded into cooked rice and served up. The girls in the class were quite excited by this one.
We also made a sweetcorn soup, but I felt the egg white was a little rubbery and I'm not so fond of the chicken stock granules used at ABC, so enough said about that one, methinks.

For dessert we took an inordinate amount of time to make sweet bean paste-filled sesame-coated rice flour dumplings (zhima qiu in Chinese, goma dango in Japanese). These were lovely to look at and tasted fine, but if I wanted to eat them, I'd probably just nip down to Yokohama China Town and forgo the palaver of making them (then again, I'm not really a sweet person, so it might just be me...).

I did learn about shiratamako and ukiko (aka jin-ko), which Googling reveal to be "non-glutinous white rice flour" and "wheat starch". As a total novice when it comes to rice dumpling-making, I don't know a thing about either of these, but it seems that ukiko is also used in the translucent wrappers for har gao, the steamed prawn dumplings of yum cha fame. Another interesting nugget is that these fried sweets contain lard. For pliability, apparently. There you go, we both learned something today!


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