Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Trouble With Being Dull

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I need a new kitchen knife. Scratch that. I need a new set of kitchen knives. The one knife that I use for chopping, mincing, scoring, and whatever else that needs to be done (yes, you read it right…one chef’s knife…sigh) is dull. Super dull. To the point that when my parents visited two weeks ago and my mom was cooking in the kitchen, she complained about how dull my knife was, and then proceeded to demonstrate its dullness by brushing her thumb across the blade (and please don’t ever try that at home!).

I’m sure you’ve all dealt with dull knives in your lifetime. I often get annoyed and frustrated when working with an unyielding blade that manages to bruise your fruits, leave your ripe tomatoes as a soggy mess rather than beautiful slices, or leave a once beautiful piece of meat hacked into unrecognizable “cubes.” Needless to say, I had half a chicken that I had to cut into small pieces, and with a dull knife, that was certainly a feat in itself. I certainly had my work cut out for me as I slowly and painstakingly hacked away at the chicken, trying to get through the bones with a knife that could hardly make a scratch on human skin.

I was cutting up chicken for good reason though: Three Cups Chicken (三杯鸡). Yeah, I know, weird name, but the story behind it explains for the “three cups” aspect of the dish. The name derives from the three main ingredients in the dish: soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and sesame oil. Apparently, traditional recipes require one cup of each (hence the “three cups”), in addition to sugar, ginger and garlic.

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This recipe I found at Noob Cook doesn’t exactly follow the whole 1:1:1 ratio. It’s a much simpler recipe that’s easy to follow, and uses common ingredients that should be readily available in an Asian pantry like mine. While such simmered dishes are often made in earthenware pots in traditional Chinese cooking, it works just as well in a wok (like I’ve done) or in a deep frying pan. This recipe is so easy and can assembled in less than 45 minutes (includes prep, cooking and cleaning!). It reminded me my mom’s own cooking, which is a nice change for once, since most of my Chinese dishes can hardly ever compare to hers. Be sure to serve this with lots of steamed white rice!


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