Category Archives: Wal-Mart

How Asian Food Turns Me On

I love the flavors associated with Asian cuisine.  When I was a child my mother would take me to many restaurants to sample the fare, but at home until I was almost grown she shied away from cooking with these flavors.

One day when I was around twenty I went into the cabinet and the refrigerator and pulled out every Asian sounding ingredient I could find.  By now my mother was stocking besides the teriyaki sauce, and soy sauce most American’s kept in their fridges – rice wine vinegars, wasabi powder, garlic-chili sauce, etcetera – but I had never seen her create something with them.

I went to town not keeping track of how much of anything I was placing into a bowl.  Like the first trip to a sundae bar by yourself as a child, I attempted to put one of everything on my plate.  In the end the chicken I was making turned out overly salty and the sauce was too runny from lack of cornstarch and way to many vegetables – but I was excited, turned on.

From them on I was hooked.

Creating a new dish is a high for me.  For someone other than me to actually enjoy it just puts me over the edge.  I take pleasure in playing with salty-sweet combos and pushing edges on what people think they like, forcing them to try new things against their will.  I have found that in many instances people are like my uncle who insists he detests the flavor of onion – but who loves everything made for him with onion that he cannot detect with his eyes. 

To be truthful I know nothing about the proper way to cook Asian food.  I don’t have a book on it, I haven’t watched a program on it – nonetheless I continue to report back to the flavors and play around like in a sandbox, unabashedly and full of joy.

Such a playtime romp went on today as I prepared Beef with Plum and Black Bean Garlic Sauce.  I simply decided on a protein and then went and looked for Asian flavors I enjoy and asked them to come over and play in my sandbox.

The following is what came about;

 

Beef and Soba Noodles with Plum and Black Bean Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

1&1/2 lb of Thin Sirloin Tip Steak (thinly sliced into approximately 2 inch strips)

2 Packages Chuka Soba Noodles (angel hair pasta could be substituted)

3 Cloves of Minced Garlic

1 Inch of Minced Ginger (more or less depending on your fondness of ginger)

1 Yellow Pepper Cubed

2 Cups Broccoli Florets

1 Medium Sweet Onion

6 Scallions (more or less to taste)

1 Can Water Chestnuts

1 Can Baby Corn

¼ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp Black Bean Garlic Sauce

2 Tbsps Plum Sauce

1 Cup Chicken Stock (you could use beef but I enjoy the lightness the chicken adds)

1&1/2 Tbsp Cornstarch

¼ Tsp Hot Oil

½ Tsp Sesame Oil

2 Tbsp All Purpose Flour

Salt and Pepper to Taste

3-6 Tbsps Vegetable Oil

Directions

I started off by blanching my broccoli both for color and to start the cooking process.

Salt and pepper beef strips and then lightly coat in flour, shake off excess.

Preheat a large skillet with half the vegetable oil (use the other half for the second frying if needed) in it over medium high heat.  Add the beef in two batches.  Brown the meat and reserve to plate for later use.

At the same time put on a pot to boil for the noodles, follow the package directions for times.  Mine took three minutes to cook.

Reduce heat to medium and add the sweet onions, yellow peppers, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for approximately 4 minutes (depends on doneness of vegetables you prefer).

 

While the vegetables are cooking in a mix together the plum sauce, black bean garlic sauce, hot oil, sesame oil, and chicken stock.  After making sure all the ingredients are incorporated whisk in the cornstarch and set to the side.

 

 

Add the broccoli, water chestnuts, baby corn, and scallions – let them cook for about one minute. 

Return the beef to the pan 

and pour in the sauce.

Mix and make sure each item is coated.  Turn heat to low and cook another three minutes.

Turn the heat off, add the noodles, and toss to coat.

Plate and enjoy.

 

 

I enjoy the mild flavors in the dish.  There is nothing to salty, or to acidic as some recipes insist on using vinegars and prepared sauces that are vinegar based.

I hope you try it and I hope you enjoy it, and don’t tell me you can’t find any of the products I listed in here.  I checked the local Wal-Mart and if a Wal-Mart in the middle of New Hampshire is carrying all of these products – even soba noodles than I hope everyone can find them.

Trust me they are worth the investment.

The Great Pudding Debate

Have you and your friends/family quarreled over which version of a product on the market today is better?  It would be harder to imagine not having the occasional tiff than not with the multitude of versions of food products out there.  Such a debate sucked me in recently.

I can take or leave a store bought instant pudding mix any day.  They never seem to sit on the palate as well as the original thing.  However I do not always want to play around with heating milk – or dealing with my old, occasionally temperamental friend – chocolate, as this occasion would have required.

To once and for all settle the instant chocolate pudding debate it was decided upon that three brands would be purchased.  Using the same carton of milk and blind taste testing system a group of us would taste and rate the pudding on several categories, finally tallying up the results and arriving at a designated winner.

The three puddings chosen were Jell-O, Royal, and Wal-Mart’s Great Value.  We purchase a brand new bottle of milk and returned home for the testing. 

To secure the test so no one knew what pudding was being eaten at any time the following measures were taken;

         One of us went into a room, opened up the packages and numbered the envelopes with the number 1, 2, or 3. 

After the envelopes were returned this person again left the room and another individual not knowing which number belonged to what product opened the envelopes and emptied them into an identical container which was marked A, B, or C – and then tapped the envelope number side up so no one could see the number.

         The pudding was mixed in front of all so that everyone could rate the ease of preparation factor (since it was instant pudding we thought this to be an important factor).

 

         Next the pudding was allowed to set and cool in the refrigerator while we made up ballots.

 

         The pudding was brought to the table and were judged from 1-10 on the following;

1.      Ease of Preparation

2.      Overall Taste

3.      Overall Look/Color of Product

4.      Texture

5.      Smell

6.      Finally we guessed which brand the pudding was

         After the tasting was done each ballot was tallied and then combined to come up with the following results.

Pudding B received the highest (averaged) score with a 38

Pudding A came in second with a (averaged) score of 25

Pudding B came in third with a (averaged) score of 23

We all guessed that pudding A was the generic Wal-Mart brand.  Most of us were wrong, however on which was Royal and which were Jell-O brand. 

                        Pudding B was Royal

                        Pudding A was Wal-Mart (a real surprise to us all)

                        Pudding C was Jell-O

The Wal-Mart pudding was a surprise to us because none of us picked it as our favorite in any category except ease of use.  It blended together the quickest and set up the fastest garnering high numbers from all.  The overall taste was sweet with no real discernable chocolate flavor.  We wondered if we thought it was “chocolately” because we knew it was supposed to taste that way.  The color was found to be a very plain and flat brown, but it was rated high in texture with creamy being a defining adjective used.

The Jell-O pudding after looking at the math came in last right behind the Wal-Mart based on its preparation issues.  It took the longest to come together of all three, and since we were basing it on the “instant-ness” of the product it rated low on all ballots.  However we believe that the extra whisking was a reason for the high numbers in texture with velvety being one of the adjectives used to describe it.  The taste seemed to be where most people veered – you either loved it or did not.  Some said it was a perfect blend of the sweet mixing with coco powder, hitting your tongue at the same time – while others felt that it was overall to strong with the coco powder and had the flavor of chocolate syrup right from the bottle.

The Royal pudding won out because it could be viewed as easy to use falling in between the two in preparation speed – most likely also helping it with its texture that was described as silky.  It was received the best in color and overall look by having a warm red tone mixed in.  With flavor it seemed to be as split as the Jell-O only this time between people who enjoyed the mix of sweetness and coco powder and those who thought it was slightly too sweet.

In the end did this end the great debate?

Well you could say that. 

You see we each now know what our favorite instant chocolate pudding is and trust me we all enjoyed the pudding we liked best.

Yet I’m sure that soon enough we’ll be trying to win each other over to “our” side of the pudding debate.

What was my overall pick?

Jell-O, and no matter what anyone says I’m sticking to it!

We all enjoyed this so much that we want to make it a regular event.  So if you have any thoughts on food you want taste tested let me know.