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Oriental

You are probably reading this hoping it’s a software glitch in the Anova or a hacking of the Joule that has led to this culinary failure. It is technically true that an app was responsible for the issues. But in reality, it’s my own dumbass behaviour that was the problem. The app in question is WhatsApp and the issue had nothing to do with the sous vide end of the cooking. I started over two days out, planning a 48 hour cook of my short ribs. At this stage, everything went according to plan.

In an ideal world, all women would be a 10 so dress manufacturers would only need to make one size. Shopping would be a lot simpler too. Men would be happy with mid grey polyester-cotton trousers in 32” waist/ 34” leg. Retailing would be so much easier. In the same idiom, butchers could only sell mince meat and chicken breasts. Things would be so easy. But, for women, men and butchers, life is not that simple. Butchers need to offer a bit more than the top margin products that virtually sell themselves. Some try to do it by buying in a range of day-glow sauces and “adding value” by disguising the meat in these industrially produced “authentic” flavours. This may keep the wolf of competition from the door in the short term. Business logic tells me that the advantage will be eroded by supermarkets and this variety of independent butcher, like the guy trying to fit into size 32, will be under pressure again.

I love this stuff. Imagine if I had moved an apostrophe in “Idiots’” above. Then I would be saying, in a self-deprecating way, that I am an imbecile and that this is my guide to Oriental Lamb Shanks with Sauce. But, I’m not saying that. I am saying that this is a recipe which any fool, klutz or cretin has the wherewithal to prepare. If you don’t believe me or if you are still doubting your own prowess in the kitchen department, read on my friend, read on…

I admit it. I’m a hoarder. Not one of those guys who lives in a clapperboard house, having to crawl through tunnels of old newspapers to get to the loo. But, not far off it. It’s the plates and bowls that have got me into trouble. I can’t help buying more and more plates that will “Look good in a shot”. They need to have a bit of style about them and they also need to be a bargain (I may be obsessed, but, I’m not stupid.). I did a quick count in my ‘blog room’. I have ninety six, yes 96 different plates and bowls. That’s an obsession, before we look at the glasses, knives and forks, chopping boards, decorative saucepans and table cloths, backdrops and so forth. With all this in mind, you would think that I would be able to find a suitable bowl for my take on Thai Style Basil Chicken. As you can see from the photo, I obviously can’t.

There are things that I love about food descriptions and things that I hate. In Oriental cookery, many of the descriptions are truly evocative and allude to history and culture in equal measure. Great examples include “General Tso’s Chicken”. This evokes thoughts of the great Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader. That’s as far as it goes as there is no known connection to him or the dish in his home province of Hunan. This dish is punching above it’s cultural weight as it really is just a sweet, sticky American chicken with rice. Then we have “Man and Wife Beef”, “Squirrel Fish” and the classic “100 Year Old Egg”. Great names all. But, sometimes possibly going wide of the trade descriptions act.

“Fancy a quick one?” There was a time when one could ask that without drawing the ire and raising the hackles of half the planet. It’s an innocent question. If it has been misinterpreted in your cesspit of a mind, that really is your problem, not mine.  I’m talking about a Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry. It’s really easy (You could misinterpret that too.) and quick. Try giving it a lash.

Back in the day, in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, pork belly futures were traded. It was a market that made sense. Year round, pork was produced, the bellies were frozen and in the summer, when demand was high, bellies were defrosted and bacon was produced. So, there was a time lag between the expensive end of production and eventual consumption. This created an opportunity to turn a couple of quid. Weather patterns, political and social attitudes and even religion could have a marked effect on the future price of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Traders in brightly coloured jackets, worked the floor of the ‘Belly Pit’ in the Mercantile right up until 2011, squeezing a profit out of pork belly futures.

A tandoor is a type of traditional Indian oven that generates huge heat. Using a tandoor requires a deft touch and really accurate timing. Using my barbecue in the back garden is a lot more forgiving. I really enjoy a good Tandoori chicken. But, not being armed with the right equipment could be a handicap.

One other handicap many of us in the western world face when preparing ‘authentic’ Indian dishes is the pretty awful marinades and spice blends available. This is very often the fault of the sauce manufacturer’s marketing department (SMMD).

I am a very lucky guy in lots of ways. Both professionally and socially, I know more than my fair (or should that be fare) share of chefs and restauranteurs. Over the last few years, they have all, in various ways, been inspirational for me in developing my blog and the food that I prepare here. Kevin Hui, the affable and talented owner of China Sichuan here in Dublin is one such person. Recently, I told him that I planned to prepare Bao, the delicious steamed Chinese buns. I was surprised by Kevin’s reaction; “Don’t prepare the buns yourself. They are a pain to make. I’ll give you some.” This, of course had the opposite effect to that intended by Kevin. I had to make them.

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