Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chinese Food Failures

Kandice: This week’s post will not be the greatest post that JK publishes. Tonight was a night of epic mistakes and failures. Let me just say, that tonight Josh and I failed to appeal to our hunger for Chinese cuisine.

Josh: About a month ago, Kandice and I had come up with the idea to make sushi for our audience. We knew that sushi is a popular dish, so we wanted to try our hands at it.

Kandice: But I’m not a big sushi fan; to me it tastes too much like the salty ocean. So to go along with the Chinese theme of our main dish, I thought that it would be best if I made a second “main dish” and side dish that would go along with both recipes.

California Sushi Rolls

Josh: Food preparation is all about art. From prep to presentation, every move is important, and every second counts. A real chef not only creates wonderful flavors through seasoning, herbs, and spices, but also through the colors, shapes and arrangement of the food that they create. Heck, that's why it's called "Culinary ARTS."

One of the most artistic foods out there is sushi. When done correctly, sushi is a beautiful statement on a blank plate. Notice I said, 'When done correctly". Unfortunately, tonight, things weren't so correct.

2 cups Uncooked Sushi Rice (approx.)
2 2/3 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Avocado
1 Cucumber
5 oz. Crab Leg Meat
Nori Sheets
Lemon Juice

Sushi seems easy to prepare. Everything's raw, right? Simple. It should be simple. It really should. I thought exactly that when I said in one of our brainstorming sessions, "Yeah, I'll do sushi."

I should have done some research.

The only thing that really gave me a problem was the rice. I'm not going to include any cooking instructions for it, but only because we saw many different instructions. The instructions varied from box to box, so if you just follow the steps on your particular box you should be fine. The box I bought had a whole page worth of instructions on the back of the box. No joke. Cook for 15 minutes, and then 2 minutes, and then 5 minutes, and then set for 15 minutes, and then let steam for 15 minutes. Blah blah blah. I was so frustrated that it would take me a week to even finish the rice!

But while the rice was doing its thing on the stove, I prepped the other ingredients, which fortunately didn’t take too long. The first thing I did was I halved and pitted the avocado. Then I sliced it to make a lot of thin strips. For those of you who haven’t really worked with avocados before, like me, you will want to find avocados that have a gentle give when you squeeze them. I know it sounds the least bit helpful, but when you find a good one you'll know. Also, when avocados are cut they brown really easily. To help prevent this put some lemon juice on the cut slices. This will help keep them from browning for a little longer.

When the avocados were done, I began preparing the cucumber. This was very easy. All that needed to be done was to cut the ends off and then continue to halve it lengthwise until you have small, thin strips. This same technique applies to the crab meat sticks.

Once all the prep work was done, I waited on the rice. My instructions told me not to lift the lid AT ALL until it was finished cooking. I had no idea at all if I was even cooking it right. Thankfully, the rice came out just fine. I then scooped all of the rice into a bowl and sprinkled the rice wine vinegar over it. You have to cut the vinegar into the still hot rice, which is basically the same principal as folding ingredients into each other, but with more... vigor. I also needed a fan so that I was cooling the rice as I was introducing the vinegar. In the end, the rice tasted great.

Now the fun begins. I got a large bowl of water, to keep the rice from sticking to my hands, and began to spread some of the rice onto a rolling sheet that I got. It looks like a long page of skewers strung together. I don't think it's needed, but it was nice to have it. After a layer of rice, I cut a nori sheet in half and put it on top of the rice. After another layer of rice, I added a strip of crab, some avocado, and a strip of cucumber and began to roll it all together.

It is very important to think about how much you're adding to your roll. You want a THIN layer of rice. Believe me. I learned this the hard way, and ended up with this:

I call it, ROLLZILLA!

After you make sure it's all nice and neat, you can carefully cut the roll into sushi sized pieces. Then, all that's left to do is add soy sauce or wasabi and enjoy!

Chinese Lemon Chicken

2/3 cup Fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Soy sauce
2 tsp Cornstarch
10 oz Boneless, skinless chicken
Fresh herbs
1 tbsp Honey

Kandice: I first came across this recipe in our 100 Calorie cookbook and I thought that it would be a simple and delicious recipe to make. It certainly looked good by the picture. The first step to creating this entre was to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and place them into a bowl. Then in another smaller bowl I whisked together the lemon juice, soy sauce, cornstarch, and honey. The honey was an additive; it was not called for in the original recipe. I added it to try to balance out the lemon flavor. This mixture was then added to the chicken and set aside to marinade in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Once the chicken was done marinating, I tossed it and the remaining sauce into Josh’s brand new wok. I cooked the chicken for approximately 10 – 12 minutes on medium-high heat. It smelled good coming off the stove, but when Josh and I went to taste the chicken we were met by a strong, bitter taste. The lemon totally overpowered any other flavors within the meal. While I was chewing my piece of the chicken, I kept on thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is disgusting! It needs more honey!” Come to think of it, what would it have tasted like as the original recipe (without the honey)?! I don’t know what it would have been like, but I’m sure glad that I modified the recipe in the first place.

Some recommendations that Josh and I can promote would be to add more honey! Approximately another tablespoon and a half would help this recipe a lot. Another ingredient that would have been good to add to the recipe would have been sesame seeds. Adding the sesame seeds while the chicken is cooking would toast them and add a nice crunchy texture. Josh and I both urge you to try these modifications if you are to make Chinese Lemon Chicken.

Lo Mein

1 lb. Chinese egg noodles
3 ½ oz Bean sprouts
½ Carrot
4 Cabbage leaves
2 tbsp Cooking oil
6 tbsp Soy sauce
4 tbsp Sugar
4 tbsp Sake

Kandice: For the side dish I wanted to go with a classic; something that could be found at most Chinese restaurants. For this reason, and because of the fact that I really enjoy it, I choose to cook Lo Mein.

The first thing that I had to do was to prepare the carrot, cabbage, and bean sprouts. With the carrot I peeled the outer skin off and thinly sliced the rest of the carrot. For the preparation of the cabbage I cut out the cores of the leaves and set them aside. Then, using the easiest way, I cut the cabbage into strips by stacking the leaves together. I used the cores of the leaves by cutting them into thin slices, like the carrots. Finally, I rinsed off the bean sprouts using nice cold water and a strainer.

Once all of the vegetables were done, it was time for me to make the sauce. To make the sauce I whisked together the soy sauce, sugar, and sake. I’ve never had nor smelt sake before, so when I popped open the bottle it had a really strong smell to it. It almost made me gasp. I still haven’t tasted the flavor of the liquor yet, but I do know that it kind of smells bad. (At least Josh and I think so.)

Finally, it was time to do some cooking, but that’s when things went wrong again. See in the recipe it said to use Chinese egg noodles. Well, the store that Josh and I had gone to didn’t have “Chinese” egg noodles. They just had regular egg noodles. We went ahead and bought these figuring that there wasn’t too much difference, just their shapes. We eventually found out that we were wrong. See, the recipe called for us to steam the noodles before cooking them with the other ingredients. So I steamed them until they were flexible, just like instructed. But when I went to combine them with all of the ingredients into the wok, they didn’t continue to cook and soften like I thought they would. So when everything else was finished cooking in the wok, the noodles were still slightly hard or a little too al dente. The dish, itself, looked and smelt great, but when it came to eating it … well … let’s just say that it didn’t exceed standards.

In the future when making this dish, I know now that it’ll be best to just boil the noodles in a pot of water. Once they are done, I will strain the water off and toss them with a little vegetable oil to keep them from sticking together.

Josh: In the end, our culinary trip to the east didn't turn out so great...

Kandice: But it was a learning experience, so we're okay with admitting defeat.

Josh: ... My sushi was the best dish.

Kandice: What?!

Josh: Nothing! We hope you enjoyed readi-

Kandice: What did you say!

Josh: Check back next week for another dish!

Kandice: JOSH!

Josh: Buh-bye!


  1. There's a really great recipe for honey lemon chicken that my friend Matt makes. You dredge each little hunk of chicken in flour, and then butter, and bake them in a honey, soy sauce, and lemon glaze. Sorry you guys didn't have the greatest adventure. Can't wait to read next time's :D

  2. You two amuse me with your silliness...and I'm sure everything tasted fine.