When I was little, once in awhile, my parents would get Chinese takeout and we’d bring it home…put a tablecloth on the floor in front of the TV and have a “picnic” dinner. I learned how to use chopsticks at an early age…but in my haste to enjoy every bite…I was known to spear the chicken with them to get to eat them faster! My favorite was the spare ribs. I loved the deep red color and the tangy, spicy, tasty sauce. I used to walk in the restaurant with my mom and stare at the tank of exotic fish…and stare at the lion fish that seemed to be doing a dance for me…fanning out her “wings” like in a Broadway performance. The owner of the restaurant would get a kick out of my amazement as she handed the large brown paper bag of the takeout to my mother. The smell of takeout would fill the car and it was an eternity as we rode home in those eight minutes….all I wanted was one spare rib to get me through the car ride…but that wasn’t allowed!
Chinese takeout definitely has positive memories for me. I keep finding new and healthier ways to prepare it. I own almost every Asian condiment that you can imagine…and can prepare simple dishes in a flash.
I went to the Chinese takeout cooking class at Sur La Table. My teacher was funny, intense and drank way too much coffee before class that the poor man’s hands were shaking. I love the intensity. It reminds me of my New York relatives who get worked up about things…but enjoy life at the same time.
In this class I learned a new way to wrap dumplings. I did a little twist at the top. We all made our own, and I didn’t get to eat the dumplings that I made served to me at the end…but it was still fantastic! We steamed them and served with a sweet, salty, savory sauce. I poked holes in the top of the dumpling and dumped in right into the sauce and allowed it to soak in. I lifted it with the chopsticks and popped it right in my mouth. The burst of the satisfying ground pork, mixed with the aromatic ginger, garlic…the texture of the cabbage…and the flavor explosion of the salty, sweet sauce that permeated in the dumpling was such a comforting experience.
Then, we moved on to a chicken stir-fry with fresh noodles. The Wegmans (a grocery chain for the northerners) in New Jersey (where this class was held). One of the ingredients he used was black vinegar. I asked to smell it. It smelled a little like Worcestershire sauce. Since I hadn’t seen it in the Wegmans that I have here, I asked him if I could substitute it with Worcestershire sauce, and he said no. “It needs that extra kick of vinegar, or it won’t work”. I asked, “What I if I used half rice wine vinegar and half Worcestershire sauce”? He said that would work.
The second technique he used was to cook the dense vegetables in the wok first, then brush them up on the sides and put the marinated chicken in the middle. Once that was cooking up a storm, they mixed everything together…then started brushing up the chicken and broccoli up the sides of the wok again. The flavorful water from the marinated chicken was falling to the center and started to cook off. He placed the onions, peppers, ginger, garlic, etc all in the center and allowed it to cook it all of that flavor. At the end, we mixed everything together, then added the steamed, fresh noodles. The noodles absorbed any of the liquid and soaked it all in…and we were ready to try it. The noodles were perfectly cooked, the vegetables were tender with the perfect amount of sauce and the ginger and garlic permeated through the entire dish.
Every single time I take a cooking class, I take away a new technique and sharpen my skills. I highly recommend…whether you have never cooked in your life or whether you pride yourself on your knowledge…take a class and learn something new. Never stop learning! Color takeout with love!