Introduction

Before you begin – Shallots and Green onions

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Shallots, spring onions, scallions and now, ‘green onions’.  The word ‘shallot’ in a recipe always presents a dilemma. If the recipe book is written by an Australian, you can be fairly sure that what is meant by a shallot is a long green onion, rather like an overgrown chive. However, in an attempt to resolve an already confused situation, some Australian recipe books have begun referring to these as ‘green onions’.

A true shallot looks very much like a large clove of garlic. Also known here as a French shallot, its skin has a pinkish tinge, whereas garlic has white skin. There are also brown shallots, with brown skin. If you are reading a French recipe book and you have a choice, buy the French shallots. They are available here, but only at the better fruit and vegetable outlets. If you can’t buy French shallots, use small brown pickling onions as a substitute. Some Australian writers, such as Stephanie Alexander, have bitten the bullet and are calling a shallot a shallot.

In America, a shallot is a true French shallot. What we know as ‘shallots’ are called ‘scallions’. I do not know how this confusion arose, but I do wish somebody would fix it. That, of course, would mean re-educating every little fruit and vegie seller in Australia. Perhaps if the big supermarkets began a campaign, something might happen, but if there is no money in it for them, I can’t see it happening.

In this recipe book I have tried to be consistent and use the term ‘green onion’.

Before you begin – soy sauce

Soy Sauce. Not so very long ago you could simply buy a bottle of ‘soya sauce’. There were, in fact two other sauces available, produced by Conimex and called ‘bentang ketjap manis’ and ‘bentang ketjap asin’. You did not have to be a genius to work out that ‘manis’ meant ‘sweet’ and ‘asin’ meant ‘salty’. I am not sure that it occurred to any of us that bentang ketjap was simply Indonesian soy sauce and that sweet and salty were two preferred Indonesian varieties. The point I am making is that each country in Asia has its own version of soy sauce made from soy beans. They are not interchangeable. Using bentang ketjap manis in Japanese cooking instead of Japanese shoyu is absolutely unthinkable. Chinese soy sauce is not a convenient catch all for all other Asian countries’ versions of soy sauce, although I found Korean soy very similar to Chinese soy in some cases, and more like Japanese shoyu in others. Not surprising, I suppose when you consider where Korea is situated.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that every Asian country has different kinds of soy sauce. China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam all have dark and light soy sauces. Those of Thailand and Vietnam are fairly interchangeable, as are those of China and Korea. I am not sure about Malaysia. Geok uses Chinese soy sauce, but then her parents were Chinese. I suspect that many Malays use a soy sauce similar to that used by the Indonesians, in which case the two main kinds are sweet and salty, rather than light and dark.

As a general rule, use light soy sauce with seafood, poultry and white meats, dark soy sauce when cooking red meat.

Soy sauce

Soy Sauce. Not so very long ago you could simply buy a bottle of ‘soya sauce’. There were, in fact two other sauces available, produced by Conimex and called ‘bentang ketjap manis’ and ‘bentang ketjap asin’. You did not have to be a genius to work out that ‘manis’ meant ‘sweet’ and ‘asin’ meant ‘salty’. I am not sure that it occurred to any of us that bentang ketjap was simply Indonesian soy sauce and that sweet and salty were two preferred Indonesian varieties.

The point I am making is that each country in Asia has its own version of soy sauce made from soy beans. They are not interchangeable. Using bentang ketjap manis in Japanese cooking instead of Japanese shoyu is absolutely unthinkable. Chinese soy sauce is not a convenient catch all for all other Asian countries’ versions of soy sauce, although I found Korean soy very similar to Chinese soy in some cases, and more like Japanese shoyu in others. Not surprising, I suppose when you consider where Korea is situated.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that every Asian country has different kinds of soy sauce. China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam all have dark and light soy sauces. Those of Thailand and Vietnam are fairly interchangeable, as are those of China and Korea. I am not sure about Malaysia. Geok uses Chinese soy sauce, but then her parents were Chinese. I suspect that many Malays use a soy sauce similar to that used by the Indonesians, in which case the two main kinds are sweet and salty, rather than light and dark.

 As a general rule, use light soy sauce with seafood, poultry and white meats, dark soy sauce when cooking red meat.