Monday, September 27, 2010

Yin and Yang, Sweet and Sour

Chinese philosophy pays a great deal of attention to opposites. Light and dark, sad and happy, black and white. These concepts are called Yin and Yang. But these concepts are more than opposing. They are complimentary. There can be no light without dark, no dark without light. No heaven without earth, and no earth without heaven. This philosophy permeates all of Chinese culture, including their cuisine.

The philosophy of Yin and Yang is represented in the familiar sweet and sour dishes in Chinese cuisine. The two flavors are opposite in the reactions and sensations they give the taste buds, but yet they also compliment each other, are both present in one dish to be savored separately and in combination with one another.
A basic no-frills sweet and sour sauce can be made with the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
Place sugar and vinegar in a saucepan. Stir together and put on stove. Heat mixture on high heat, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Add cornstarch to cold water, stir to combine. Put cornstarch mixture into vinegar/sugar mixture. Continue to stir until mixture boils again. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate. This sweet and sour sauce works best to cook with, not for the usual type that is more familiar and used for dipping.

The following sweet and sour recipe can be used to make a more familiar kind of sauce for dipping:
  • 2/3 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp of tomato ketchup
  • 4 tsp of cornstarch mixed with 8 tsp of water
  • 2 tsp of soy sauce
Put rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup and soy sauce in a saucepan and heat to boiling. Thoroughly mix cornstarch with water, add to boiling contents of saucepan and stir until thick.

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