Friday, May 31, 2013

Q & A #1

Hello everyone, this week on Tamgood, I will be answering your questions.  In my cooking classes I am often asked questions by my students about different things about cooking.  I thought I would have some Q&A entries here with any cooking questions you might have.  Here are some questions I have received so far. 


Q:  Are you better to chill tortilla/pizza/dumplings /etc dough, or use it right away at room temp?

A: It all depends on what kind of dough, for example pizza and touton dough you can use right away as chilling will stiffen up the dough.  You can chill pizza or touton dough, but it doesn’t make that much of a difference.  Butter based dough, like sugar cookie dough or short bread is best chilled because it solidifies the butter, making the dough more malleable and easy to work with, holding its shape during the baking process.

Q:  How about eggs?  Some recipes say to use eggs at room temperature, what is the difference between refrigerated and room temperature eggs?

A:  Some recipes, especially baking recipes call for “room temperature eggs”.  This is most often accompanied with “butter, softened”.   We know that softened butter blends better into a batter or dough than cold, hard butter, and room temperature eggs are also more easily blended in than cold eggs.  Cold eggs also may bring down the temperature of the butter, hardening bits of it and making the dough or batter uneven.

Q:  When I try to make rice noodle dishes, the noodles break up in tiny bits.  Why is this and how do I keep this from happening?

A:  This is happening because the noodles are overcooked.  Rice noodles are made from rice flour and are very easily broken down in water.  To remedy this, when you boil the noodles, only put them in long enough to break apart from the bulk and soften a bit.  Then you rinse off the excess starch by running the noodles under cold water in a strainer and leave to dry out a bit.  The longer you dry the noodles out, the less they will break.

Q:  What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda and can you substitute one for the other?

A:  Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents designed to help a baking product rise.  Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, while baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar and starch.  The cream of tartar is an acidifying agent which neutralizes the basic sodium bicarbonate, while the starch is a drying agent that forms a web to create suspension and lift in the baked good during the baking process.  You can substitute baking powder for baking soda in a recipe, but you can NOT substitute baking soda for baking powder due to ph, texture and taste.

 Q:  I want to make my own vinaigrette for my summer salads, what is the ratio of oil to vinegar?

A:  The ratio is 3:1:1 for oil to sugar to vinegar.  One of my favorite simple vinaigrettes is honey balsamic vinaigrette which is 3 parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar and honey.

Q: When I make merengue for pies, it turns into a watery mess, how do I avoid this?

A: When making merengue pies (for example lemon merengue pie) you need to make sure the pie filling is hot.  If the filling is cool when you put on the merengue, then the steam from the filling just reaches the surface between the merengue and filling.  When the pie cools, this steam condenses, leaving the sweet watery mess.  If the filling is hot, the steam will more easily pass through the baking merengue.


If you have any cooking questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me through this page or at .  I should respond to you within a few days and will use your question and answer in s future blog entry.  Cheers!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Before we got married, my wife and I used to celebrate our dating anniversary.  We started dating in May of 1999, and this weekend marks our 14th year together.  After we got married, we stopped noticing our dating anniversary and just focused on our actual wedding anniversary.  This year, however, I am going to surprise my wife by celebrating our dating anniversary and so for my blog entry this week, I will show you how to make chocolate dipped strawberries.  This dessert is very simple, quick and easy and looks luxurious!

Chocolate dipped strawberries

100g white chocolate (bars, wafers or chocolate chips)

100g milk or dark chocolate (bars, wafers or chocolate chips)

1lb fresh strawberries

(I found some 2lb strawberry packs on sale, so I doubled up for the recipe)


Wash strawberries and pat dry

Make a double boiler by filling a pot 1/3rd the way with water.  Put a smaller dry pot or metal bowl inside that pot.  Heat on med heat. *note* do NOT heat chocolate in pot directly over stove heat, it will cause the oils in the chocolate to separate unevenly and it will get gritty and difficult to work with.

Break up chocolate and place in double boiler, stir until melted

Take strawberries by the leafy stem and dip into the melted chocolate about ¾ of the way

Place dipped strawberries on wax paper to cool

When the chocolate on the strawberries are cool and hardened, serve


Time to pour the champagne, put on a Marvin Gaye CD and enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013


For Mother’s Day last week, I bought my wife a fruit basket as a gift from our 10 month old son.  I bought the basket custom made at my local grocery store and so the basket had an array of different treats.  It had little chocolates, raisins, kiwis, apples, oranges, bananas, pears and a big juicy pineapple.  It got me thinking about pineapples and how they can be considered a super food given their benefits.

For example, if someone with a sweet tooth is trying to lose weight, pineapple can satisfy the sweet craving without packing in a lot of calories.  100g of fresh pineapple is only 50 calories.
I kinda felt like Fruit Ninja when setting up for this pic

Pineapple is packed with antioxidant Vitamin C, which boosts immunity.  Vitamin C can reduce the severity of colds and shorten the duration.  Vitamin C acts as a natural anti-histamine.  Vitamin C is also necessary for collagen synthesis in the body, which maintains integrity of skin, organs and bones. 

Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which helps break down proteins.  Bromelain has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties. 

Pineapple also contains small amounts of beta-carotene and Vitamin A, known antioxidants.

In addition, this fruit is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like copper,manganese and potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is a helpful cofactor for red blood cell synthesis. Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger.

Although pineapple does not contain Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) I find personally that eating pineapple is a mood booster for me during the winter.  I am not sure why this is, whether its physical (the antioxidants and vitamins in the pineapple), psychological (eating tropical fruit reminds me of the tropics, and my trip to Hawaii) or a combination of both.  Either way, Pineapple is great!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope you are having a great day celebrating your Moms, Grandmas, and all the special ladies in your lives! 

In Chinese culture, both mothers and fathers often have to work and so the primary care taker is the grandmother who is often retired and has time to look after her grandchildren.  I was born here in Canada, however my family was a typical Chinese immigrant family.  My Mom and Dad had to work long hours in our family restaurant, so Grandma and my Aunties looked after me.
Grandma Tam with me and my little cousin

I have fond memories of making supper with Grandma, homestyle Chinese comfort food, such as jook (a savory rice porridge), steamed buns, tong yuen, braised beef belly, etc.  Today I will be honoring Grandma’s memory for Mother’s Day by making some of her favorite dishes; Tomato egg stir fry and steamed baby bokchoy in oyster sauce.

Tomato Egg Stirfry

4 eggs

1 tbsp oil

3 tomatoes

½ cup water

1 tbsp chicken broth powder

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tbsp sugar

½ cup ketchup

1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 3 tbsp water




1)      Break eggs into bowl and scramble.  Add oil to wok or large skillet and heat on medium until starting to smoke.  Add eggs and cook, stirring with the spatula until the eggs are slightly broken up.  Remove cooked eggs and put aside.


2)      Cut up the tomatoes into wedges and add to wok.  Cook on medium heat until the tomatoes have broken down slightly.  Once the tomatoes are broken down slightly, add ½ cup of water, chicken broth powder, garlic powder, sugar and ketchup.  You can add more or less to taste ie) if you would prefer it to be sweeter, add sugar, more salty, add more chicken broth.


3)      Once the tomato flavoring is to your liking, add the eggs.  After about a minute, add the corn starch in water to thicken the sauce.


4)      Put into serving dish and enjoy.




Steamed baby bokchoy with oyster sauce


2 or 3 bunches of Baby bokchoy

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil





1)      Separate baby bokchoy leaves and stems and rinse

2)      Place steamer on pot of water about ½ way full on med/high heat

3)      Once the pot is poiling and steaming, place baby bokchoy into steamer and steam for 5-7 minutes or until tender

4)      Place on plate and drizzle oyster sauce and sesame oil over the baby bokchoy.  Enjoy.



Grandma always loved to cook, but what she loved most about these dishes is its simplicity and benefits of these dishes.  “It’s good for you! Eat more!” she would always say while putting more vegetables into my bowl.  We always had rice with our meals, but Grandma only wanted us to have a little rice, because she knew too much white rice wasn’t good for you, being a starchy carb with less nutritional value than our main dishes.  As we always said around the table before suppertime, "Sik Fan"!
To everyone out there, Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican-American holiday celebrating the battle of Puebla, where, on May 5th, 1862 the French Army under Napoleon III stormed Mexico City near Puebla, and were defeated by the Mexican Army.  This was significant, as the Mexican Army was half the size of the French Army and ill equipped.  Also, since the battle of Puebla, there has not been an invasion of a European military force in the Americas.

Although the original events of Cinco de Mayo happened in Mexico, and the holiday is observed in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is actually more of an American holiday, where Mexican culture is celebrated by playing Mexican music, drinking Mexican beverages and eating Mexican food.


To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, here are a few recipes for some Mexican-American dishes:

Mexican Rice
1 cup uncooked rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tsp minced garlic

2 cups cold water

½ onion

1 tablespoon chicken broth powder

2/3 cup tomato sauce

1 teaspoon cumin

1 chili pepper, halfed

Put the oil into a medium saucepan and heat to a medium temperature.  Add the rice and brown it in the oil while stirring.  It might take 5 minutes or so for the rice to start browning.  When the rice is almost browned, add the minced garlic.

Add the water, then the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Cover, with a small air escape, and turn the heat down to medium low.

Cook the rice for 20 to 30 minutes but check after 20 to see if it is ready.

You do not need to stir the rice or lift the lid while it cooks. It is ready when the rice is fluffy, all the water is gone, and the grains are split open (because of the browning).

The rice should be fluffy and not too wet.  If it is not dry enough, cook for a few minutes more.

Chicken Quesadillas


2 tbsp             Canola oil
1 lb                  Skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 tsp                Chili powder

½ tsp               Cumin powder

A dash of salt & pepper


1 tsp                Canola oil
1 small             Onion, diced
½                     Green bell pepper, seeded and diced
½                     Red bell pepper, seeded and diced

½                     Yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced

A dash of salt & pepper

8                      Corn tortillas
2 cups              Cheddar cheese, grated  


Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season raw chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, chili and cumin. Add the chicken to the skillet and saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until cooked. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil to the skillet put back over medium high heat. Toss in the onions and peppers and cook until onions start to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside.

Using the same skillet, start by placing a corn tortilla in the skillet. Assemble the quesadillas by laying grated cheese on the bottom tortilla, and then arranging the chicken and cooked onions & peppers. Add a little more grated cheese and top with a second tortilla.

When the tortilla is golden on the first side, carefully flip the quesadilla to the other side, Continue cooking until the second side is golden. Repeat with the remaining corn tortillas and filling.

Transfer quesadilla onto a cutting board and cut into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.