Gung hay fat chow? Ciao?
Happy Lunar New Year! 2015 ? the Year of the Goat, an archetype symbolizing calmness, care-giving, intelligence, dependability (something we Tigers can learn a lot from). Fruit is a common gift given during the holiday, but I want to give a shout out for foods with a more Chinese/Asian flair. Interestingly, many households don't have these indispensable products in their kitchen cupboards, or if they do, it is often the cheapest brands available. Do yourself a favor this Lunar New Year and purchase a high quality bottle of one or both. They are your short cuts to super-easy vegetable, grain and pasta seasonings.
Variations between soy sauces can be as abundant as those found in wine, dependant on the types and ratios of ingredients, and the length of fermentation time. A cheap soy sauce can be produced in less than 24 hours, with the help of modern food science and hexane, a chemical that hastens the process. But soy sauces can also be artisan-slowed-brewed, resulting in complex flavors and a deep umami resonance. At Vega we made our own, cured for an entire year before deemed ready to enjoy. Every morning, students would head down to the cellar to stir the large wooden wine barrels filled with fermenting soy beans, water, salt, wheat berries, and Aspergillus enzymes. What a lovely smell down there! I encourage you to shop around and try different styles and brands of soy sauce and tamari. Spend a little more money, and you will find an excitingly delicious, deep dark world, with so many new applications.
TOASTED SESAME OIL
One sniff of this super seasoning and you will be hooked by its full flavor profile that easily adds an unctuousness and toasted depth to sauces, vegetarian options, and vegetable seasonings. Uses are numerous. Again, more money means higher quality and you are worth it. Don't buy big bottles of oil unless you use them up in three months (and toasted oils can go rancid even faster than non-toasted oils).
HOW TO USE
These seasonings, and other Asian classics such as mirin, brown rice vinegar, umeboshi vinegar, sake, and sambal oelek (limes and lemons too) are your go-to-immediate-seasonings. Keep them in your cupboard at all times. NO RECIPE REQUIRED. Just mix equal parts in a measuring cup and adjust to taste. Experiment and find your favorite combinations to drizzle on vegetables, grains, pastas and meats, no matter how you cook them. Or add in cornstarch or arrowroot for a thicker sauce.
Goldmine's White Shoyu (soy sauce) mentioned below
By the by... I'm excited to be going to Shanghai and Beijing in April for the first time. If you have any restaurants, grocery stores, farms, food manufacturers with an organic / sustainable focus to suggest - please do. Planning a food tour. Thanks!