Why Chinese Food Always Tastes Better At A Restaurant

The Chinese food that you get in Chinese restaurants may seem simple, but trying to make the same dishes at home often yields umamulous results. Is it the soy sauce?

The Chinese food that you get in Chinese restaurants may seem simple, but trying to make the same dishes at home often yields umamulous results. Is it the soy sauce?

Is it the wok, or is it something more? Most people only have a few Chinese sauces in their pantries when trying to make Chinese food at home. The husband of a Chinese restaurant owner said that he was alwaysplexed by the thousands of different sauces his wife used in her restaurant.

Maybe a thousand sauces is an exaggeration, but, as he described on Cora, she has a range of about 10 different soy sauces for different dishes: many different oyster sauces, black bean sauces, and vinegars of all sorts. Shaoxing wine, rice wine or black vinegar will also make Chinese dishes taste more authentic. Not all Chinese sauces are of the same quality, though.

For example, when you look at popular soy sauces that you might encounter at the grocery store, some barely qualify as soy sauce. So keep an eye out for chemical soy sauces that are made from ingredients like hydrolyzed soy protein rather than fermented or brewed soybeans.

Why Chinese Food Always Tastes Better At A Restaurant

MSG in Chinese Food

MSG is an ingredient that Chinese restaurants commonly add to their foods to give them a deeper flavor. There's a myth that MSG in Chinese food causes all sorts of physical problems, including headaches to nausea and chest pains.

However, researchers, according to Mayo Clinic, haven't found a clear link between MSG and these symptoms. So, with the fears at bay, you might consider MSG as a possibility forbringing more flavor to your home Chinese cooking. The MSG is delicious today. The Japanese chemistry professor who first created MSG, Kikunai Ikere, discovered it in his search for a fifth flavor. beyond sweet, salty, and sour and bitter, we now know this flavor as umami.

According to the FDA, MSG is the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid. MSG actually occurs naturally in some umami-rich foods we eat regularly, like tomatoes and cheese. So while it has a chemical-sounding name, MSG is not uncommon and the FDA considers it generally recognized as safe. 

Most commercially available MSG comes from fermenting starches or sugars like sugar, beets or sugarcane. The fermentation process for making MSG is similar to the process for making wine and vinegar. Our bodiesmetabolize MSG, the same way theymetabolize the chemical when it occurs in food, naturally.

The Final Elements of Wok Hei

Final element in wok hei has to do with the way you add the sauce to it. The flavors of authentic Chinese stir fries are achieved through Wok Hei. Wok heitranslates to breath of a wok and presents itself in the smoky flavor that comes from using a searingly hot wok.

The smokeky flavor comes through the caramelization of the food sugars through the maillard reaction, which doesn't occur until the foodreaches temperatures that aren't possible with an ordinary home stove top.

To accomplish wk hei, it's essential to wait until your hot wk begins to smoke before adding oil. That way the food won't stick and it will taste smoky. It's also necessary to avoid crowding the wok and to toss the ingredients nonstop so they don't end up steaming instead of browning.

How to Use a Commercial Commercial Stove at Home

Some exceptional Chinese chefs even allow the cooking flames to enter their wok as part of the cooking process. Cooking enthusiast Ming Liu says that typical home stoves are only rated at about 5,000 btus, while the stoves in commercial Chinese restaurant kitchens are around 15,000 btus.

To use a commercial stove at home that can reach temperatures high enough for achieving wok hei, you'd also need an industrial-level venting system. Western cooks are familiar with Chinese cooking methods like cooking, cooking, cooking, cooking, and cooking. However, it's other, less familiar cooking methods like stirfrying, steaming and red stewing that can throw us for a loop because they're not a part of our normal cooking techniques. Stirfrying at home could be tricky because it's impossible to reach the temperatures on standard home stoves that professional Chinese chefs can.

Stir-Fry Mistakes You Shouldn't Make

We commonly make stir-fry mistakes like overcrowding our woks and not having the wrist strength to continually toss the ingredients. Because of this, as Michelin describes, we may end up with steamed rather than truly stirfried veggies. Chef Jeremy Pang tells My London that stirring ingredients, adding cold ingredients to the wok and even flipping the wok too much, can cool the wok down when it's important to keep it as hot as possible.

One of the biggest mistakes we make when we steam foods is overcrowding the steamer. Chinese cooks often use stack bamboo steamers to be able to cook more food at a time, while giving the food enough breathing room to truly cook properly. Red stewing or red cooking is a technique Chinese cooks use to soften tough meat cuts.

The meat cooks for several hours in a sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, wine, and spices. You either start out blanching or browning the meat before braising it in the simmering sauce. According to gourmet traveler.

Do you want to walk? Because what's really hot? If you're trying to stir fry vegetables in anything other than a wok, you won't get results even close to what you find at a Chinese restaurant. When picking out a wok to use, the best type is made of carbon steel with a long handle on one side and to help her handle on the other side to assist with flipping the wok ingredients.

You should be sure to season your wok to help create a nonstick cooking surface for your stir fry. Some people mistakenly think that seasoning means they shouldn't scrub their wok clean after each use. However, you want to build the patina naturally over years of gentle seasoning. It shouldn't be from old food.

Woks of Life – How to Wash a Carbon Steel Wok

According to the Woks of Life, after you buy a new carbon steel wok, you should wash it with soapy water, then place it over high heat until it starts smoking and turning dark, tilting it toward the heat to darken the whole surface.

After it's cooled down for a minute, you'll add about a cup of hot water to the wok before washing it with soap and water at the sink. Dry it on the stove on medium-high heat before lowering the heat and adding about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Then wipe the oil around the wok with a paper towel and heat until smoking. You should repeat the washing and oiling process every time you use your wok.

How to Locate an Asian Grocery Store

The typical major American chain grocery store, even those with a good-sized Asian section, won't have the ingredients necessary for a restaurant-level Chinese food to find the authentic Chinese sauces, spices, noodles and other ingredients you need.

You'll want to locate an Asian grocery store, since many vegetables in the produce section and products on the shelves may not have ad labels. If you do not know Chinese, you may want to do a little research ahead of time to know what the different vegetables or popular product brands look like. Otherwise, you can use apps on your phone to help.

Taking a photo with Google Lens can help you identify unfamiliar produce, while the camera function and Google Translate can assist with reading Chinese labels. neither of these provides 100% accurate results, but if you don't have a friend who is familiar with Chinese cooking ingredients to go with you to the store, it can prevent you from being overwhelmed.

Of course, you can always ask someone who works at the store for help, which is a far more efficient method than using phone apps. Look out Asian-carbonated beverage market. Here comes trouble.

Chinese Cooks Use Some Types of Sugar

Chinese cooks use some types of sugar that may be familiar, like white-granulated sugar, brown sugar, and moles, but others may not be as familiar. For example, Chinese cooks use Chinese brown sugar, Chinese rock sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar, maltose and rice sauce. Chinese brown sugar, also known as black sugar, has different flavor profiles depending on the region where it's grown.

Chinese rock sugar isn't quite as sweet and overwhelming to the taste buds as regular white sugar, and it comes in a variety of forms including polycrystalline rock sugar, monocrystalline rock sugar, and brown rock sugar bars. Rock sugar helps provide a shiny appearance and delicate flavor for braised meat and a delicate sweetness to drinks.

Palm sugar and coconut palm sugar can substitute for Chinese brown sugar in recipes. Rice sauce, also known as Junyang, is a fermented rice and yeast sweetener that Chinese cooks often use for soup desserts or that may be used as a sweet flavoring in Sichuan recipes.

Fish Markets With Fresh Seafood

According to Mala Food, even if you don't live anywhere near the ocean, it's possible to use fresh seafood in your Chinese dishes. The longer that seafood is dead, the more bacteria it acquires, which may give it a fishy taste and smell. So it's important to find a fish market with fresh seafood for your Chinese dishes.

If you live hours from the coast, you'll want to find a source that flys in fresh seafood or keep seafood fresh in tanks. Often, some of the freshest fish in your city will be at an Asian market. In fact, many times you can choose from a variety of tanks of live fish on the premises. However, you will want to avoid buying fish from tanks with a number of dead fish in the water.

Many fish markets smell fishy because of the sheer amount of fish they process daily. However, the important thing is that the seafood you buy is fresh, so you can have the best tasting Chinese seafood dish possible.

Cantonese Soy Sauce

Different soy sauces have different uses and flavor profiles. Regular soy sauce works for most types of cooking to help deepen the umami flavor and saltiness of any dish. You're more likely to encounter dark and light soy sauce in Cantonese cooking.

Dark soy sauce belongs in braises or adds color and strong and salty flavors, while light soy sauces are more appropriate for dishes that need to stay light in color. Southern-Chinese cooks are the most likely to use sweet soy sauce, which includes caramelized sugar and spices. Some serious Chinese cooks use finishing soy sauces to add an interesting final flavor layer, often sweet, at the end of cooking.

Other types of Chinese soy sauces you may encounter include mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce, double-black soy sauce and cooked soy sauce. Keep in mind that if you're using Japanese or Thai sauce for your Chinese food, you're not going to end up with a dish that tastes the same as one made with Chinese sauce.

So if you've always defaulted to a Japanese soy sauce like kekomon, that's one reason your Chinese food doesn't taste right. And if you've been using a chemical-based rather than soybean-based soy sauce like Lachoi, it's certainly not going to taste as it should. So next time you see non-soy dairy-based soy sauce, it's probably best to avoid it if you're going for authenticity.

Chinese Restaurants – What Spices Create the Most Memorable Flavors

If you visit an authentic Chinese restaurant, even cooks with the most attuned palates may not be able to guess which spices created the most memorable flavors. Fivespice powder contains common spices like cloves and cinnamon, but it also contains star anise, lemon and zechuan peppers.

Zechuan peppercorns leave your tongue feeling pleasant, numb and tingly, while star anise and enamel have licorice-like flavor notes. You might encounter spicy fermented bean paste in dishes like Mapo Tofu.

Other spices may include specific types of chili,flakes or powder, dried mandarin, orange peels, coriander seeds or cumin seeds. Chinese chefs also often use three types of cardamom: black, green and white curry powder is featured in some dishes, and, in addition to ginger and turmeric, Chinese restaurants sometimes use ginger and turmeric's relative galangal. Don't forget the MSG to add deeper umami flavors to your food.

Chinese Restaurant Secrets – What Oils Are Best For Your Chinese Food?

If you're health conscious, it's entirely possible that you're not using enough fat in your Chinese cooking to produce food as flavorful as you'll find in a Chinese restaurant. No two fats or oils taste the same, so the types of oils you choose can make a profound difference in how your home cooked Chinese food tastes. Different oils have different purposes in a Chinese restaurant.

You should never use olive oil for your Chinese food because it has such a low smoke point and doesn't go well with Chinese cuisine. Instead, you'll want to use oils with a high smoke point for cooking, like peanut corn and coconut oil. Soybean and safflower oils are also common in Chinese cooking, but they can develop a fishy flavor.

Many home cooks overuse sesame oil when trying to mimic Chinese restaurant food at home. One Chinese restaurant secret is to use sesame oil for flavor rather than cooking, because using too much sesame oil or burning it can ruin your Chinese food according to the walks of life. Other oils you might encounter in Chinese cooking include lard, chili oil, or set you on pepper oil.

How to Cook Chinese Sticky Rice

You may think you know how to cook rice, but do you know how to cook sticky rice? Cooking Chinese sticky rice is different from cooking some other types of rice. Many Chinese restaurants use a rice cooker to make the process foolproof, but some make it on the stove top instead.

Most Chinese restaurants use sticky rice, which is short-grained rice. You may see it labeled as sweet rice or glutinous rice. If you use parboiled rice like Uncle Ben's, you're not going to end up with the same flavor or texture. If you don't have a rice cooker and plan to use a steaming basket, you should always soak your sticky rice before you cook it.

You'll want to ensure that you cover the rice with at least three extra inches of water to account for expansion over the six to 24 hours you soak it. While some rice cookers have programs for glutinous rice that don't require presoaking, some people still find that you end up with a better rice texture that's not too wet or sticky if you presoak your rice. To ensure you've added enough water to your rice once it's in the rice cooker, you'll want to use the knife method to measure the water.

How to Make Velvet Meat

basically the water should come to the line of your first baby. According to Neck Shark, Velving is a Chinese cooking technique that can help you achieve the most tender meat possible. According to Michelin's discussion with Chinese chef Lu Qinghai, other than locking in flavor, it also enhances the texture and fragrance of the finished dish. It provides a protective coating for heat control, which helps to capture the smoky essence of Hua Kei in Chinese food.

You find in Chinese restaurants. Lu says that there are various ways to velvet meat. You start with the marinate of ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine, and seasonings like garlic. However, the most essential ingredients are starch flowers like potato starch or corn starch or egg whites, which provide a protective coating to prevent the meat from overcooking and becoming tough.

According to Lu, you should marinate your meat for 10 minutes to an hour depending on how tough the meat is. Then you'll par-cook the meat in oil or water until it's about 70% done. Frying the meat at temperatures between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit is the best choice for maintaining the taste of the marinade, but you can also try blanching it in boiling water. Then it's ready to add to your stir fry.

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