Chinese food

I yearn for a Chinatown more than I will admit. I miss my mother's cooking (more than I will admit) -Cantonese, Singaporean and Malaysian -and the restaurants around here just don't hit the spot. In fact they don't even get close to the 200 miles surrounding the target. This year is the Year of the Ox, which just happens to be my year. Woohoo. The Ox. Not the Dragon, nor the Tiger, not even the Monkey. No. It has to be the one with the largest bottom, biggest feet and most boring personality ever. Nice. Putting my bitterness aside, I decided to cook a Cantonese lunch for family the weekend of Chinese New Year. My mother will conjure up between 2 and 6 dishes in the blink of an eye -so I figured I would give it a shot myself. No idea where this newfound confidence came from, must have been something to do with the moon. The menu comprised: Pork and watercress soup -using pork bones/pork ribs only, no "nice cuts of pork" here. The bones add flavour. Pork sui-mai (dim sum style) -I used filo pastry instead of the usual wrapping. Filo is lighter and looks nicer than the thick, sometimes starchy wrapping pastry one finds in the supermarket. Prawns in garlic and ginger -Roll the prawns in flour before wokking them. Belly pork and Bat's Ear mushrooms in garlic, honey and soy sauce -HEAVEN. Lots of garlic -crushed with skins on, an enormous amount of honey (the one that comes in a teddy bear squeezy bottle does the job fine), and light soy sauce rather than the dark one (too salty). Beef and broccoli (I know I know, HOW chinese restaurant can one get???) -I threw in some bamboo shoots and water chestnuts just to be super tacky -I blanched the broccoli then fried it with the beef in an oyster sauce -threw in the bshoots and wchestnuts 1 min before the end. No wok sadly -it is somewhere in storage. I have a new one that needs to be seasoned. Either way, there was no wok available this particular day, and I used a large, wide-bottomed frying pan with deep sides. It worked well. Wok -I know people are divided on this, but I really believe the best ones are bought from a chinese supermarket and have NO teflon or other nonstick coating on them. Buy a chinese one (usually $5 for a big one) -season it well and you will have it for life. The handles are usually plain metal and therefore get hot when cooking...double-wrap them in rope/twine and you will be fine. To season a new wok -this only works on woks that have NOT been treated with teflon etc.. 1. heat up wok to high temperature. 2. swirl cheap vegetable oil around the base and sides of the wok. let it burn. it will smoke, this is fine. 3. wipe out oil with paper towel. add more oil -repeat again 2 more times. 4. the wok will be almost blackened inside -this is what you want. it protects the metal. After cooking, do not wash the wok with any soaps -just pour hot water into it, rub over with a clean cloth and then dry with paper towels. It's like a teapot -rinse with very hot water and dry. The build-up of weeks, months, years of use only adds to the flavour of dishes. I know it sounds nasty but it's not. Flat bottom or rounded bottom woks? The latter for me. If you have an electric stove, hmmm, I suppose there is no choice but to use the flat bottom version -however, being a puritan about this, and knowing you would be stuck with a teflon coated wok as default -I would say don't expect authentic stir-fried food. Part of stir-frying is to get the flames up high enough to cook the food or evaporate liquids extremely fast -moving of the wok back and forth and side to side is also essential in cooking Chinese style. If you can't do these 2 things, it is merely frying food at a lower temperature. The essentials -all you need to cook Cantonese style: Wok Light soy sauce (Wholefood sell it in a large bottle -Pearl River??) Rice wine vinegar (Wholefoods again) Dark soy sauce (for dressing and dipping rather than cooking) Cooking sherry Spring onions (scallions in the US) Regular onions Ginger Garlic Chicken stock (cubes by Knorr - you don't need much and they are pretty potent) Sugar (balances the acidity from the soys/vinegar/sherry) Cornflour or flour to thicken sauces.