It’s NOT Chinese, really!

I have always been amazed at the Jewish obsession with Chinese cooking. Even a Web Comic I read, Carry On, poked fun at this concept with a fun buffet. Now, I personally love the concept of this buffet, myself. In fact, it seems like a few of these dishes could even be made into Good… Wait! I’m not Alton Brown! Now, it’s not going to be a trademarked phrase! No, it’ll be better! It’s going to be KOSHER!!!

Now, urban legend says the start of the Jewish obsession with Chinese stems from two routes. The first is the simple fact that on Christmas, the only restaurants that used to be open were the Chinese restaurants. As such, it became a tradition to take over the town and eat out at Chinese restaurants on this day. Now, the second part comes from the Jewish obsession with pork. It’s forbidden, it’s not to be eaten, but that doesn’t stop us from eating it. Now, Chinese restaurant owners knew this, as the legend goes, and many would label pork dishes as ‘meat’ on the days Jews were most likely to dine there. Everyone knew it was pork, but due to the loophole of not ‘knowing’ it was pork… The passion was born.

Let’s start with the Rabbi Tsao’s Chicken, since we’re using a comic as a partial guide, this seems a good starting point. Now, General Tso’s Chicken is NOT from China. In fact, it was made in the good ‘ol USA in old New York. Peng’s Restaurant on East 44th Street, & New York’s Shun Lee Palaces East (155 E. 55th St.) and West (43 W. 65th St.) both claim to be the creators of this new culinary delight. But, whether you call it General Gau’s, General Tao’s, General George’s, General Zhou’s, or General Chicken, it all tastes very good. A staple in most Chinese restaurants, this is a surprisingly easy dish to make.

We want to start by stirring 1/2 Cup Cornstarch into Egg Substitute for 3 Eggs, or 3 Beaten Eggs. Next we’ll take 1 pd. boneless chicken thighs, cubed and toss in the cornstarch & egg mixture. If you want, you can use chicken breasts, but I just prefer dark meat, myself. Call it a quirk. Now, start warming about an inch of vegetable oil in a wok. If your chicken stuck together, add a few drizzles of oil onto the chicken to separate it.

As the oil warms, let’s make our sauce! In a small bowl, we want to mix 2 Teaspoons Cornstarch, 1 1/2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar, 2 Tablespoons Rice Wine, 3 Tablespoons Sugar, & 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce. Set aside for now, and begin to fry the chicken in small batches until the chicken is cooked all the way thro. Taking the pieces out of the oil, set them on cooling racks over paper towels to drain off grease.

From here, we can toss it on the fridge until we want to cook, but let’s assume we’re going right onto the cooking stage. With just a little bit of oil left in the wok (Think 3-4 Tablespoons), toss all the chicken into the wok and let it cook by stir frying it to a golden brown. When golden, pour the sauce over the chicken and continue to cook the chicken until the sauce carmelizes. This could take only a minute, or up to 5 minutes! You just have to watch it and be patient. After cooking, serve over noodles or rice for an excellent dinner for you and your family!

Now, let’s take a side step to a dish that many eat, but is oh, so trayfe: Crab Rangoon. This appetizer, at its core, has crab, or shellfish. And, as we know, that’s bad juju for Kosher eating. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! In fact, with a little tweaking, we could even make Salmon Rangoon! Now, wouldn’t that be tasty? Now, before we begin, let me assure you all that this is another non-Chinese dish that everyone thinks is Chinese. In fact, the dish supposedly comes from the Trader Vic’s restaurants! None the less, the dish is ingrained into American Culture as Chinese, so here it’ll stay.

To start, we want to combine 8 Ounces Cream Cheese with 8 Ounces Canned Flaked Salmon, Drained in a food processor until blended. If the cream cheese is being stubborn, blend in 1-2 teaspoons of milk just to help it blend easier. To this we’re going to pour in each of the remaining ingredients in one at a time: 1/2 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce, 1/2 Teaspoon Soy Sauce, 1/8 Teaspoon Freshly Ground White Pepper, 1 1/2 Minced Green Onions, 1 Minced Garlic Clove, & 1 Teaspoon Chopped Red Onion.

We next want to prepare the wonton wrappers. You need 1 Package of Wonton Wrappers for these appetizers. You can either make these or buy them. However you get your wrappers, it’s food prep time! Lay the wontons all flat on a cookie sheet or cutting board, and wet the edges ever so gently. Next, using a teaspoon scoop, drop a dollop of the filling in the center of each wonton. Spread the filling slightly, then bring all the corners of each wonton together into a sort of pyramid shape and seal it tightly. If you need to, feel free to add a tiny bit more water to the edges to help them seal better.

Now, from here you want to heat up the wok again with another 1-2 inches of vegetable oil in the wok. Now, sliding about 5-10 Rangoons in at a time, Let them cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the wontons reach a nice crispy golden brown color. You want to make sure to flip the rangoons over after the first two minutes, so they cook evenly all over. After cooking, once again drain on a cooking rack with paper towels underneath to drain the oil off these appetizers.

I’m going to pause here, in the tour of Chinese (Or what we THINK of as Chinese) cooking, for now. But, I do want to point out that any hard to find Kosher Asian ingredients I’ve mentioned can be ordered from IMO Kosher. An excellent source of Kosher Asian foods, I fully support calling them up for any and all Kosher needs. Until next time, Shalom and Good Cooking!

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September 27, 2006. main courses, recipes, side dishes. 1 comment.

The Renegade Kosher FAQ

So, as we all prepare for Rosh Hashanah, thoughts go thro my head. We have the apple slices and honey ready, and the wife and I have finally found a temple that feels like a home. What’s better is that Rabbi Lipschultz shares my passion for food. Always a bonus!

Now, as for education, the Culinary Institute of America is willing to take me… You all know this is my dream school. BUT, they want me to get a year or two under my belt in the culinary world. I’m trying to get a job at one of S. Diego’s kosher markets, restaurants, or bakeries as I get some schooling done around here. My thought is to get my BAKER credentials at a local school, and work as a baker, and use that baking knowledge to put myself thro school at the CIA in becoming a chef. I want to do this because baking is something I WANT to be better at. I will always aspire to be a chef, but baking would help on that path. And besides, I can be able to make better challah!

So what is this article’s theme, so close to Rosh Hashanah? I thought I’d answer all the queries I get asked all the time. In this way, maybe I won’t get asked them all the time? So, yeah! Let’s look at The Renegade Kosher FAQ!

Why do you call yourself ‘Renegade Kosher’? Isn’t that disrespectful/a smack in the face to Jewish traditions?

This is the most asked question. According to Answers.com, a renegade is one who ‘One who rejects a religion, cause, allegiance, or group for another; a deserter’, or ‘An outlaw; a rebel’. In this definition, I choose to use the latter definition as a rebel. I respect standard Kosher cooking, but I feel it’s hit a plateau. The same dishes are cooked over and over, and no one experiments with many cooking styles.

As such, I am going places others choose not to. In this, I’m exploring severely uncharted territory some might feel threatened by. I still keep to the laws, but I also look to the world’s culinary styles and dishes to explore new ways to feed your family. As some are threatened by this, I would be seen as a Renegade to them. Thus the name: Renegade Kosher.

Why do you offer so many vegetarian options/egg substitutes? Aren’t eggs pareve?

I get this a lot. Basically, I’m writing a weekly cooking article that I have to make sure EVERY branch can use. While some see eggs as pareve, others don’t mix them with meat and/or dairy products. Also by offering vegetarian/vegan options to normal dishes, it can change what would have been a meat dish to a dish that can be served with a dairy meal. Also, it gives vegetarian Jews an option for cooking. And, let’s face it, we need more kosher vegetarian recipes! It’s similar to why I post articles that are gluten-free and kosher. It’s something that needs to be done!

I love your recipes! Will you ever publish a cook book?

Yes, I’m working on it.

How can I give you money?

Try the button on the sidebar. It looks like this:

Do you have an Amazon Wish List?

Yes.

What is up with you and brisket? Why do you hate brisket so much?

Hate is such a STRONG word! I prefer that Brisket makes me cry at how it’s murdered on most kitchen tables. It’s a great cut of beef that most refuse to cook right. As such, it turns into dry, tasteless, tough torture or eating. And NO MEAT should suffer that fate.

Are you a guy or a girl? You’re a wife, right? Are you single? Will you marry me?

I’m a proud male, and happily married to a woman who loves me for both my looks, my cooking, and myself. Yes, for the record, I am a GUY. Sorry!

You changed how you write your recipes to be like reading an article? Why?

One of my goals is to someday have a cooking show. Writing the articles like this helps me get the feel for that. Also, it stops people from copy/pasting my recipes for their own, or at least makes it a bit more difficult.

What is up with your sense of humor?

I used to do standup for a while, and my weird sense of humor still sticks with me as I delve deeper and deeper into cooking. After all, Jews do make the best Jewish jokes, so why shouldn’t I share the best medicine, Laughter? And besides, it helps keep the articles going!

Do you have a Man Crush on Matisyahu? Are you a Matisyahu fanboy?

I appreciate his music, and I respect that he’s so dedicated to his faith. And I’d love to cook him a shabbos meal someday. But am I a Matisyahu fanboy? Sadly, yes, but I’m going to Matisyahu Annonymous meetings to get over it.

Why do you want to be a Kosher chef? Don’t chefs have to cook lobster/pork/trayfe?

Well, that’s half the idea. I want to show that Kosher can be gourmet without having to resort to trayfe. After all, rumor has it that one of the more popular gourmet dishes, Foie gras, was perfected for modern times by a Jew. It -CAN- be done! All we need to do is be willing to experiment, and the world is our gourmet buffet!

What kind of Jew are you?

Conservative with Orthodox leanings in temple, and a Reform outlook on life at times.

What if I have more questions?

Ask them and I’ll answer them!

I hope this helps, and as more queries begin to be asked more frequently, I’ll answer them! Shalom and Good Cooking!

September 18, 2006. FAQ, Personal. 5 comments.

Reggae, Israel, and Wine, oh my!

Tomorrow night I’ll be watching Matisyahu in concert happily! I’m going to have fun, and will be enjoying myself immensely with the wife. But you all want Recipes! Power! Money! Well, I can give you ONE of those… How about a nod to my mother with her recipe for 21-Day Honey Apple Wine?

First you want to start proofing 1/4 Teaspoon Granulated Brewing Yeast in 1/4 Cup Lukewarm Distilled Water. As it awakens, pour 8 Cups Apple Cider and dissolve 3 Cups Honey into the cider. Pour the juice mixture into a Sun Tea jar (A jar with a spigot on the bottom.), and add the yeast water along with 3 3/4 Cups Distilled Water and stir in 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Shredded Ginger, 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon, 1/2 Teaspoon Allspice, 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves, and 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg.

Now, Get a LARGE balloon and stretch it atop the jug’s lid, and set in a closet that is cool and dark. 21 says later, the balloon should be inflated some, and you can pull it off and cap the jug. This wine can now be chilled, and has a nice sweet taste. I enjoy this with fish or chicken, and it’s nice when you don’t feel like making mead. It also is a nice refreshing drink for during Sukkot! So, there you go! A poor man’s Mead! I’m going to go to bed to get ready for the concert tomorrow night, so Shalom and Good Cooking!

September 11, 2006. fanboying, recipes, wine. 3 comments.

Rice is Nice…

So, looking around the Kosher industry, it saddens me that its so difficult to find kosher rice noodles. This is a shame as rice noodles, in effect, are INHERENTLY kosher without supervision as long as they don’t have any additives. But, let’s suppose you wanted to make rice noodles? Surely no Rabbi could fault you for this, could they? After all, we’re just expanding our culinary world, no? And, happily, MOST of what’s needed is already IN your kitchen! This recipe actually comes from “Thai Home-Cooking from Kamolmal’s Kitchen”, and I use it as it is the SIMPLEST way to make the noodles. And when making ANY kind of pasta, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is the best motto around.

To make your own rice noodles, start by soaking 1 1/4 cups uncooked long-grain rice in 1 1/4 cups water overnight in a bowl covered in plastic wrap. After its overnight soak, pour the water AND rice into a blender before blending in pulses for the first minute. Then switch to Medium and blend for 5 minutes, and follow with 3-4 minutes on high until as smooth as you can get it. I know you want to use that food processor, but food processors just don’t blend well enough, and chunks of rice won’t get folded properly into the water.

Next we need an 8″ by 8″ metal baking pan and a LARGE steamer. Personally I use bamboo steamers and my wok, but whatever you prefer is best. Use Virgin Olive Oil to grease the steaming container, and steam it for 3 minutes to get it nice and hot. From here, we want to open the steamer, pour about 1/2 a cup of the batter into the bamboo or metal container, and recover. Steam it for about 5 minutes, then re-open and add more water as needed. We MUST keep water steaming at all costs from this point on, or your noodles will be ruined.

When the first 5 minutes is up, use a basting brush to cover the first layer of noodles with a thin yet complete cover of oil. You want to cover EVERY square inch, so the layers don’t mix. Once covered, pour another 1/2 cup or so into the bamboo or metal container, cover, and steam for ANOTHER 5 minutes. Finally, paint on more oil and add the remaining batter before steaming for a final 5 minutes.

Take the steamed noodle sheets and feed them thro a noodle slicer, or just use a hand-held roller version of the slicer. Afterwards, use the noodles as you wish immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap to keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. You CAN freeze them for up to 6 months, but this makes them grainy, so is not recommended.

So, what can you do with Kosher rice noodles made in your own kitchen? Well, you can use them in lieu of spaghetti noodles for when gluten-free dieters come over to call, or you can use them as a bed for your favorite stir fry. Or you can stir them into your favorite curry (Heavens knows I plug curries enough on this blog to have gotten SOME of you to like them!). All in all, it just boils down to the fact that rice noodles are an excellent addition to any dinner table, and they can be used in any number of recipes. Just remember that 4 ounces of your fresh rice noodles equals 1 ounce of dried rice noodles in recipes. But, my FAVORITE use of fresh rice noodles is in Pad Thai…

Start with 1 Cup Extra-Firm Tofu, cubed into 1/8″ to 1/16″ cubes. Next we want to dice up 1 cup green chives and set a few pinches aside for later. Now rinse 1 cup Bean Sprouts and set aside a few pinches once again for garnish. Finally we want to mince 2 Garlic Cloves and 1 shallot together.

Okay, now we can finally cook! Heat up a large wok over Medium to High heat and add 2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil into the wok. Toss 2 Tablespoons Peanuts, Chopped into the wok and start to cook them until lightly toasted, and remove from the wok. Next you add the garlic, tofu, and shallot into the wok and stir with cooking chopsticks or a spatula until golden brown. Taking 1 pd. Fresh rice noodles, stir them into the wok before adding 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar, 4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce, 2 Tablespoons Extra-Fine Sugar, and 1 Teaspoon Ground Chili Pepper (Optional) to the mix. At this point, push the mix to one side and add 1 Egg, Scrambled or 1 Egg Substitute into the wok in the cleared space. Stir until almost fully cooked, then fold the egg or egg substitute into the noodles.

Stir in the chives and bean sprouts and cook for another minute or two until removing from heat. Plate the pads Thai and garnish with the toasted peanuts as well as the set aside bean sprouts and chives. Serve with lemon wedges, chili sauce, and Hoisin Sauce. For those looking for Kosher Hoisin Sauce, Joyce Chen makes an excellent Kosher Parve sauce. Pad Thai is an EXCELLENT healthy meal, and fills up almost any family. True, this was a lot of work, but the taste and experience is WORTH every penny. Join me next week for more travels down the roads most Kosher cooks tend not to follow. Until next time, Shalom and Good Cooking!

September 1, 2006. Gluten-Free, main courses, recipes, side dishes. 4 comments.