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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Uploaded: Feb 19, 2015

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.

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).

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!

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Alex, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 19, 2015 at 7:16 pm


Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Feb 19, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Yes - thank you Alex. Fixed. I love my editors!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Feb 19, 2015 at 9:50 pm

Goldmine.com is an online source for high quality asian seasonings. They have a new white shoyu - so worth checking out!

Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Feb 20, 2015 at 6:58 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Great article! Great seasonings.

You touched on the rancidity issue. Rather than "Keep them in your cupboard at all times," I recommend to keep the OILS in your _refrigerator_ at all times. (Greatly slows down the oxidation known as rancidity -- the pervasive Arrhenius relationship, chemical reaction rates are strongly temp.-dependent: Web Link .)

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Feb 20, 2015 at 7:50 am

Thank you Max. Yes storage is important to discuss. Many people store their oils in that cupboard above the stove. DON'T DO THAT! Heat rises. Store in the fridge if you choose (some absolutely like walnut and hazelnut oils) but at least store oils away from the oven and stovetop.

Posted by HEY!!!, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:27 am

What's the story with Su Hong's on El Camino?????

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Feb 20, 2015 at 4:07 pm


Well I asked our resident know-all-food-happenings reporter Elena Kadvany your question and even SHE didn't know which means no one knows. However, she suggested contacting Menlo Park & Jim Coogan at JCCogan@menlopark.org. He's very helpful. If you find out - please get back to The Food Party! and fill us in.

Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of another community,
on Feb 21, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Note that (whether or not everyone's intuition has yet caught up to this) the same rancidity-rate factor that favors not keeping cooking oils in warm places (I cited it briefly above) also argues for _always_ refrigerating them. So if you advocate the one step, you implicitly are advocating the other, consciously or not.

Past generations didn't know about that (nor about longterm health issues associated with oxidized oils), and routinely kept them at room temperature.

The only side effect I've noticed from refrigerating is that some oils, such as some olive oils, can harden. It's easily dealt with by takeing them out of the refrigerator a little while before using, which soon becomes an automatic habit.

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Feb 22, 2015 at 3:42 pm

One option concerning cooking oil storage is to pour frequently used oils into small bottles and leave those at room temperature and store larger bottles in the fridge.

Rancidity is more of the issue if you buy containers that are far larger than your normal consumption rate.

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Feb 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm


Don't ask Laura about restaurants. Her blog/interests focus much more on cooking. You are far better off directing questions about restaurants to Elena or restaurant reviews written by Dale Bentsen.

Posted by LA, a resident of another community,
on Feb 22, 2015 at 9:32 pm

HEY!!! Feel free to ask me anything you want. I've been around.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:25 am

Anyone out there can read what the title of this blog is by the way?

Posted by The Translatinator, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Feb 23, 2015 at 11:29 am

I had no idea what 新年快乐 meant, but I didn't have to. The Interwebs have provided once more, with just a simple copy/paste. I won't spoil others sense of discovery by posting the translation, but same to you Ms. Stec.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Feb 23, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Translatinator, I know I should have made it more obscure. Or racy. Or something. Smarty pants....Love your pen name by the way :)

Posted by A Single Guy, a resident of Mountain View,
on Feb 25, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Based on the date of the posting, I had a pretty good idea what 新年快乐 meant.

Not so sure how the Embarcadero Media website search engine is going to handle indexing this blog posting though.



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