The Power of Garlic

Some yearn for its robust aroma and savory, often creamy taste; others look to it as a cure for ailments. Garlic has long been shrouded in mystery. Whether it is used for medicinal purposes, to lure love interests or as an enhancement to any dish, it plays a significant role in dining, cooking and culture. Appropriately, the world’s largest Chinese restaurant chain, Panda Express, is offering a special garlic menu promotion this summer.

The earliest documentation of garlic’s use was in 3,000 B.C.; it was mentioned in the Bible and Chinese Sanskrit writings. The Egyptians fed it to workers building the Great Pyramid of Gaza; its robustness was thought to increase the efficiency and endurance of men. More recently, garlic production tripled during the 1990s, positioning China as the top garlic producer in the world.

Many cultures have used garlic for its health benefits as a cure for the common cold, high blood pressure, rheumatism, tuberculosis and cancer. It has also been thought to increase energy and endurance. In garlic-growing regions throughout the world, experts have linked life longevity to garlic consumption.

Chef Andy Kao of Panda Express believes in the healing properties of garlic. His father used to tell stories of the Chinese soldiers during World War II who drank river water after running out of fresh water and food. The soldiers chewed on garlic to kill the bacteria and give them strength after drinking from the river. Chef Kao continues the practice of eating garlic regularly to kill germs and strengthen his immune system.

In addition to its curing properties, the herb is beneficial to the body’s overall maintenance. It is rich in protein; vitamins A, B-1 and C; and essential minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium. It also contains 17 different amino acids.

Chinese culture has been particularly influenced by garlic. A compilation of poems by Confucius -- Shi-ching, the book of songs -- even mentions garlic and its importance to China’s development. The herb is believed to have originated in Asia and is probably one of the oldest cultivated plants.

In China, ancient medical books say garlic bulbs can scare off chills, reduce swelling and increase the efficiency of the spleen and stomach. The Chinese include it in many everyday dishes and because of the herb’s ability to improve the body’s circulation it is also thought to act as an aphrodisiac.

Selecting, preparing and storing the perfect clove

Garlic’s intoxicating fragrance and flavor is a prominent characteristic in Szechwan and northern-style Chinese cooking. Not only in China, but across the world, this kitchen staple adds a wonderful aroma and creates a delicious entrée. The first step to incorporating it into meals is selecting the perfect bulb. Chef Kao has been using garlic to enhance his cooking since his childhood in China, and makes the following recommendations:

* Perfect cloves are plump, firm and have a dry skin. Each bulb should have eight to 12 pieces.

* Garlic should not be refrigerated or stored in a moist environment. If properly stored, garlic can be kept for about six months. If the bulb sprouts it has not gone bad, but the sprouts should be removed before cooking.

* To enjoy garlic’s flavor to the fullest, don’t buy garlic that has been pre-minced, chopped or diced. These varieties have been bred for a long shelf life and can have a diluted taste.

Cooking with garlic

Garlic is classified as both an herb and a vegetable. It can be found in products ranging from ice cream to dry rubs; the versatility of this herb is seemingly endless. Chef Kao adds garlic to everything from hot meat sauces to cold vegetable dishes. He learned the culture and traditions behind Chinese cuisine while cooking for his family as a young boy. He suggests these tips for cooking with garlic:

1. Before cooking, remove the exterior skin of the clove. There are many ways to do this: strike the bulb with the broad side of a kitchen knife, use a rubber garlic rolling tube, soak the garlic in lukewarm water for 30 minutes or dip the cloves into boiling water for 30 seconds.

2. After skinning the garlic, select a cooking method that will result in the appropriate flavor. It can be sautéed to create a nutty, savory taste; poached to create a mild flavor; oven-roasted to bring out the nutty flavor with a caramelized quality; fried to create a crisp exterior; or grilled to create a soft, smoky flavor.

3. Garlic is very sensitive to heat and will burn easily, especially when sautéing. Expose the garlic to heat just until the oil sizzles and then remove it. When cooking garlic with onions, start the onions first. They will take longer to cook.

People all over the world recognize garlic as a source of health and good flavor. Whether at Panda Express or in your own kitchen, take some time to enjoy it this summer!

Recipes Featuring Garlic

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-4

Courtesy of Panda Express

Main Ingredients

8 ounces shrimp

3 cups vegetable oil

1 teaspoons sesame oil

 

Marinade

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon egg white

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon oil

Garlic Sauce Mixture

1/8 cup Lee Kum Kee soy sauce

1/8 cup sugar

1/8 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1/8 cup seafood stock or water

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

 

Group 1

6 ounces sugar peas

3 ounces sliced water chestnuts

2 ounces diced red bell pepper (1 inch x 1 inch)

1 ounce wood ear mushrooms

 

Group 2

1 teaspoon chili paste

1 teaspoon minced ginger

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

 

Cooking Instructions

1. Clean, peel and de-vein the shrimp. Use a thick paper towel to try off any excess water.

2. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl, mix well and marinate the shrimp for 2 hours in a refrigerator.

3. Combine the garlic sauce mixture ingredients and set aside for future use.

4. Heat wok over high flame or heat for at least 20 seconds. Add 3 cups of oil and heat to 270 degrees.

5. Add the marinated shrimp to the wok and cook for about 30 seconds. Pour the shrimp and the oil out and drain the shrimp well.

6. Keep the remaining residual oil in the wok, then add Group 2 ingredients and cook for 10 seconds. Add the garlic sauce mixture and cook until it thickens.

7. Add Group 1 ingredients and cook for 15 seconds over high heat. (If you are unable to maintain the cooking temperature, additional cooking time may be necessary.)

8. Add the shrimp back into the wok and stir all ingredients thoroughly.

9. Sprinkle sesame oil on top. Ready to serve!

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Spicy Beef with Tofu in Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-4

Courtesy of Panda Express

Main Ingredients

8 ounces marinated sliced beef (tri-tip; 3 inches long x 1 inch wide x 1/4 inch thick)

1 ounce sliced green leek (2 inches long x 1 inch wide)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mix (50 percent water and 50 percent cornstarch)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 box soft tofu (2 inches long x 2 inches wide x 1/2-inch thick)

 

Marinade

1/2 egg

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon vegetable Oil

Pinch of salt

 

Group A

1/2 teaspoon crushed chili

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh garlic

1 tablespoon washed black beans

1 1/2 ounces sliced red jalapeno

 

Group B

1 teaspoon cooking wine

3 tablespoons Lee Kum Kee soy sauce

1 cup water

 

Cooking Instructions

1. Combine the marinade ingredients. Marinate the cut beef in the mixture for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

2. Heat a wok for 10 seconds over a high flame.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the wok and heat to approximately 250 degrees.

4. Add the marinated beef. Stir quickly, separate the meat, and then cook for approximately 30 seconds. Remove the beef.

5. Place Group A into the heated wok. Stir for 5 seconds.

6. Add the tofu and Group B, stir until the sauce boils. Be sure not to break up the tofu. Place a cover on top and cook for 2-3 minutes over a low flame.

7. After 2 minutes, pour in the cooked beef and sliced green leeks, stir several times to mix the ingredients.

8. When the sauce boils again, slowly add the cornstarch mix into the wok. Mix well.

9. Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Continue stirring until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

10. Ready to serve!

 

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Sliced Chicken Breast with Chinese Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-4

Courtesy of Panda Express

Main Ingredients

6 ounces marinated sliced chicken breast

1/2 ounce sliced green onions (2 inches long)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mix (50 percent water, 50 percent cornstarch)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

12 ounces Chinese eggplant tri cut (3 inches long x 1 inch wide x 1 inch thick)

 

Marinade

1 egg white

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Pinch of salt

 

Group A

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh garlic

2 ounces diced red bell pepper

 

Group B

1 teaspoons cooking wine

2 tablespoons Lee Kum Kee soy sauce

1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce

3/4 cup water

 

Preparation

1. Combine the marinade ingredients, and marinate the sliced chicken breast for at least 2 hours in a refrigerator.

2. After washing, lay the eggplant on the cutting board and cut off the stem. Use your right hand to hold the knife. Use your left hand to hold and roll the eggplant as you make triangular cuts.

 

Cooking Instructions

1. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a non-stick wok and heat for 20 seconds.

2. Add the marinated sliced chicken breast. Stir quickly, separate the meat, and then cook for approximately 30 seconds. Remove the chicken and drain well.

3. Place Group A into the heated wok and stir for 5 seconds.

4. Add Group B and the eggplant, stir until the sauce boils. Turn the flame to low and place a cover over the wok. Cook for 2-3 minutes and make sure the sauce does not dry out.

5. After 2 minutes, remove the cover to check if the eggplant is well cooked. Add the cornstarch mix slowly.

6. Add the cooked chicken breast back into the wok. Stir and fold. Mix well with the sauce again.

7. Add the green onions and sesame oil. Continue stirring and folding (flipping) until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

8. Ready to serve!

Article Source:  Ara Content

Article Posted:  September 11, 2007

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