Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chinese Phood Epilogue: Do It Yourself Sichuan Lobster & Sichuan Steak

Introduction: I was asked by a friend for some recipes based on one of the dishes that I had mentioned as a part of the Chinese Phood trilogy. This got me thinking, perhaps it may be a good idea to start including DIY instructions whenever possible. Now, I intentionally used "instructions" instead of "recipe" because I don't really use recipes. To me, Chinese cooking is increasingly becoming a state of mind, a philosophy of food preparation, as opposed to any set repertoire of dishes.

So I'll add some basic directions, and assuming you have any skill at all in operating a large skillet or wok without getting burned, modify to your heart's content.

Sichuan-style Lobster (from Pt 2)

This one is easy. Unless you really want to put on a show, you probably (literally) want to dig into the meat of it. Start with some de-shelled lobster meat, preferably the tail, cut the flesh into large chunks, then toss over a large flame with oil, salt, a light dusting of 5-spice mix, some chili powder, then together with some dried chili peppers.

  1. Do not add water. The lobster's natural juices will generally suffice as a cooking medium.
  2. If you're starting with a whole, uncooked lobster (or otherwise shell-on), and still want to de-shell, you may find it easier to lightly boil the lobster (<1 minute) and then proceed to remove and de-shell. The meat will separate easier from the shell that way.

Sichuan-style Steak (from Pt 2)

This one's a little harder, because you'd really need to already have a feel for how much heat/cooking time is required for chunks of meat (as opposed to a thick cut of steak). What I'd probably do is start with a good cut of meat - look for something better/more fatty than sirloin. Start by heating up a wok with a decent amount of high smoke-point oil (grapeseed is nice for this). Add a little bit (seriously, only a little bit) of sugar, then watch as the sugar quickly caramelizes into the oil. As soon as that happens, drop the cut steak into the wok, and start to toss. Color will change quickly. Get some pre-cut scallions (esp the white root part), then dried chili peppers, then toss together with salt, 5-spice, and some chili powder as you desire. The whole cooking part on high heat, starting with the meat, should only take around 5 minutes. The trick is to cook the meat to a proper temperature, but before it starts to toughen up.

Notice a pattern here? The chili powder holds the secret to the spice (not the dried peppers, which are just for show).

Peking Duck (from Pt 1)

If you learn anything from Part 1, it should be to not try this one at home. It's messy, complicated, and most likely you won't get this right. Repeat: leave this one to the pros.

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