I really love Chinese food, and I’m a decent cook, but I seem utterly incapable of recreating Chinese food at home. What’s the secret?
I have a wok. I get it really hot and use just a little peanut oil. I cut the ingredients into bite-sized pieces. I think I’m doing the actual cooking correctly. The meat is usually done and tender. The vegetables are crisp but not raw.
But the result always comes out wrong. It’s often tasty, but it doesn’t taste anything like the Chinese food you get in a restaurant. I’m screwing up the seasonings somehow. The sauce is often thin and watery. (Or, if I add cornstarch, too lumpy.) I’ve tried a variety of different sauce recipes, using a variety of different combinations of soy sauce, ginger, rice vinegar, black bean paste, brown sugar, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, etc. But the consistency and flavor is always wrong.
I keep thinking that if, just once, I could produce a dish that tasted like it came from a Chinese restaurant then I could build on that and experiment. But I can’t even reach that first step.
So what’s the secret? How does one go about making decent Twice-Cooked Pork or General Jo’s Chicken, or Garlic Beef at home?