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Celebrating the flavors of Chinese food

Chinese food is loved the world over. I have never ceased to like Chinese cuisine with its contrasting tastes that play upon ones taste buds. There is an interesting belief in the orient that the very essence of Chinese food is based upon oriental philosophy and Confucian principles. The philosophic principles of the yin and the yang which chooses to bring about balance and harmony in the universe influences the contrasting flavors of this cuisine. The most elaborate example is the humble chopstick. Confucius advocated the concept of every meal being a family affair, where the family gets together over dinner was a harmonious event creating positive vibes for every household. Thus there was no room for any object that symbolized sharpness as such items could also be used for killing and had no room on the dinner table due to the negativity of the item. So items like knives or prongs were replaced by chopsticks.
There Are Eight Major Branches Of Chinese Cuisine. 
1.      Fujian
2.      Anhui
3.      Beijing
4.      Shandong
5.      Jiangsu
6.      Zhejiang
7.      Szechuan
8.      Hunan
Szechuan is invariably the most popular due to its pungent and spicy flavors and is a big hit in India. I for one am a big fan of Szechuan cuisine and being the former manager of a well known restaurant in the city of Kolkata, I was always finding innovative ways of incorporating innovative recipes in Szechuan cuisine. Working in a restaurant has its funny moments which I most definitely will share with you all in due course. However given below is an interesting recipe that can be rustled up very fast and makes for an ideal appetizer for any dinner party.
Szechuan tossed wontons.
I’m sure everyone knows how to make wontons. Well make about 10 of them. For the wonton skin you have to knead a regular dough using flour and water till it gets just right for rolling. When you roll out a large enough skin from the dough you will have to cut out smaller squares to be used as the wontons. Remember while rolling dough place abit of dry flour on the rolling table or on the skin itself so that it does not stick and wrap around the pin.
For your wonton filling you could use chopped veggies, chicken, pork or even seafood. However chicken suits me best but you could always improvise and choose a filling that you love most.

Here are some nice combinations.
·         Black mushroom and cheese
·         Chicken, button mushroom and chopped carrot
·         Pork and onions
·         Mixed veggies and broccoli

Once you have your filing ready and finely chopped, place a good bit in the wonton skins and wrap in shapes according to your liking. Remember the best way to get the ends of the skin to hold together is by using egg. The most common way to make a wonton is to place the filling in the skin roll it abit leaving just the end sticking out which would make it look like a triangle. The just overlap the ends together and fix them with egg that should hold them well. {I apologize for the lack of photographs}.once this is done you fry your wontons in oil and set aside, or you could even steam them whichever you prefer

For the main Szechuan sauce.

The best way to cook a Szechuan dish is to use shredded veggies. Not all veggies would suit a Szechuan dish what would go best would be shredded carrots, spring onions, a bit of shredded ginger which give it a great flavor, shredded onions and shredded green capsicum or green pepper as it is also called.
Red chili paste. This is an important ingredient giving the dish its spicy and pungent flavor. (You could combine it with a bit of tomato ketchup to tone it down if the chili paste is too hot. A bit of chopped garlic and you’re ready to toss the stuff into the wok.

Place a bit of oil in the wok; use your discretion according to the amount of wontons you choose to cook. Remember Chinese food is all about pan frying and how much or how well you move the ingredients around in the wok. Too much oil would spoil the taste as would too less. might end up burning it.

Anyways once you have your oil spread evenly around the wok, place the shredded veggies along with the red chili paste, (1 ½ table spoon of paste should do the trick along with some added tomato ketchup), stir well till you notice that the stuff is cooked then throw in the wontons and toss around in the sauce. If you want the dish abit wet you could add a bit of chicken stock with a mix of 2 tsp corn flour and water needed for thickening.

 Add salt according to your taste, a dash of dark soya sauce, a very small dash of white soya sauce. Remember that when you’re using the salty soya sauce which is usually referred to as white soya or light soya, then always go easy on the salt as white soya is salty in itself. A dash of sugar and a pinch of msg if you so wish, stir fry everything well till you observe that the dish is cooked which shouldn’t take more than 5 to 7 minutes of stirring and tossing. And then voila, you’re done.

·         I don’t usually condone the use of msg due to its known ill effects however a dash of it is ok and a big tip where Chinese food is concerned. Using black mushrooms are a great substitute for the flavor of msg.
·         Always remember that the more you stir fry your ingredients in the wok the more evenly cooked will they be. So use a wok which is easy to handle so that you could toss it around a bit.

Till next time, happy eating.