Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Recipe: "Ginger Pork Stir-Fry with Mushroom"

Tonight we made Ginger Pork Stir-Fry with Mushroom. This is the first time we cooked with the wok. Some thoughts...

* We prepped the ingredients in advance at various times. My partner Doug likes the cleaver-cutting-meat method that he learned from another video.

* I find that mincing ginger by hand is a lot more tedious than grating it in the spice grinder. However, other wok recipes call for cutting ginger into slices or sticks, so I can try other options another time. There are also things like ginger or ginger- garlic paste, though they're not as good as fresh.

* Wokking is really time-consuming. Stuff that I thought would take half an hour took over an hour. >_< However, I thought of some ways to speed it up, like slicing instead of mincing ginger. If I can cut the time with experience, I may keep going. Otherwise, this is likely to get relegated to an occasional tool, because it's such a pain in the ass, and there are much less labor-intensive ways to cook things.

* Wokking relies on precision timing. I am generally bad at that. However, some steps have other clues that can be used, like cooking meat until it changes color.

* Also we don't have a good physical setup for this. The wok doesn't fit well on the burner, the nearest open counter is several feet away, and the microwave timer is clear across the kitchen. The table for chopping things is even farther. :/

* Heating the oil until it smoked caused some of it to burn to the bottom of the wok. :/ I have no idea if that will come off. On the bright side, it didn't make everything taste burnt.

* Stir-frying onions at wok heat actually works pretty well, They start to brown up fast. \o/

* Pork also changes color fast. I probably could brown it without needing a timer. On the downside, I think it got overdone by the time other stuff was cooked.

* Frozen shredded carrots work fine. \o/

* I thought the mushrooms would be underdone, but they actually tasted quite good. A little longer cooking on those might have been nice, but they weren't objectionable. We love mushrooms in general, so they're pretty forgiving.

* The sauce took a long time to boil and never did thicken up, a common problem I have with sauces and gravies. This may be what caused the pork to come out a little dry and tough. However, I'm not particularly fussy about texture of sauce in a dish like this. Just throwing in some flavor is probably fine.

* I'm really not a fan of the junky ingredients in traditional Chinese food. Fresh vegetables, meat, and spices? Bring it on! Bottles of stuff with questionable or downright bad ingredients? Not so great. I will likely reduce quantities of things like soy sauce. My partner Doug did pick up some mirin, on the grounds that all the corn syrup and other crap in it makes it a cooking additive (like vanilla extract) rather than a beverage. I'm not excited by it myself. However, some of the suggestions for substitutes, like NA beer and kombucha, are things I really want to try.

* We both agreed that the amount of pork in proportion to the vegetables was off. This was not helped by the recipe calling for 10 ounces of mushrooms and we could only get 8 (unless we wanted 16 which would be way too much). But this was supposed to be a 4-serving recipe, and a quarter-pound of meat per person is not an unreasonable amount. Me, I would've loved more carrots, but my partner Doug dislikes them. Hmm, it probably would've been fine with a whole onion instead of half. In the future, I'll have to look closely at proportions. Part of the point to stir-fry is that, done right, it stretches a modest amount of meat over a large amount of vegetables and tastes really good.

* This experience strengthened my suspicion that, once I learn the basic skills and concepts of wokking, I'll probably get better results from composing recipes than trying to use other people's recipes.  I think some of what I want is just off on a tangent.  But that could be cool, because one of the ideas I have is that most cuisines could be wokked if you chose your oil, flavor liquids, spices, and main ingredients to fit other cuisines than Asian.  Ghee + garlic and ginger again + onions and tomatoes + noncow meat + masala = Indian.  Red palm oil + onion + squash / tubers + beef or goat + berbere spice blend = African.  And so on.  It occurred to me that a wok really isn't that different than the old sort-of-conical trade pots used around much of the world, and this is where my head went with that.  The farmemory probably helps, although it might be more familiar if I was shoving the thing in a campfire instead of trying to fit it over a solid metal burner.  Eh, I'll figure it out.

* The end result was okay. For a first effort, this is probably pretty good. Even though some parts didn't come out as well as I hoped, and the whole wasn't worth the sheer amount of time and effort to make it, the flavor was pretty good. While the process was a pain in the ass, and often exasperating, it was interesting. Certainly I learned a lot.

* A wokking class really isn't necessary if you're familiar with cooking in general, and you can learn well from books and/or videos. It's probably only essential for people whose dominant learning mode is social.

* Cooking -- especially a completely different style with new equipment and ingredients -- takes courage. If you're not making any mistakes, you're not learning, you're coasting. Push yourself under controlled circumstances, when the costs of failure are modest, and you develop skills for handling bigger challenges. Screw up with enthusiasm! Find exciting new mistakes to make! It's all about managed risk. That's what keeps life interesting, and ensures that when you face the unexpected, you can work the problem instead of panicking.
Tags: education, ethnic studies, food, how to, personal, recipe

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