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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #543  (Vol. 11, No. 34)  This edition is for the week of August 16--22, 2010.

"The Switch"  by Mike Smith
Will's 2009 South Florida Adventure: Part One  by William Moriaty
Series Retrospective: Legends of the Superheroes  by ED Tucker
Woking  by Jason Fetters
Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith


If you're like me and you grew up in the 80's, you may remember how popular the wok was. I recall receiving an electric wok for Christmas back in 1984. After reading through the instruction book and trying to make sense of the recipes, that unfortunately didn't include pictures of some of the ingredients to buy, I stumbled on a PBS show that helped out and made sense.

That show was Yan Can Cook featuring Chef Martin Yan who broke down recipes into simple easy to follow instructions, touched with his delicious humor. Just watching Yan on any given Saturday, made me want to fry up an electric wok and get cooking. The electric wok became such a popular cooking tool for many yuppies who were into yoga, jogging, and Jazzercise. There are health advantages to all Asian cooking that can be broken down into the following:
1.) low amounts of oil used
2.) 70% vegetables
3.) 30% meat

With a lower amount of protein to a higher ratio of vegetables, combined with a daily commute involving walking and biking, it is easy to see why it is rare to see overweight people in any given Asian country.

Sadly, if you fast forward to 2010, there are fewer Asian cooking shows. Martin Yan is still around, except I don't see him on TV that much at all. Just a quick glance at the Food Network's list of Celebrity Chefs shows no Asians or Asian cooking shows. The only show that has an Asian connection is Iron Chef, which features Japan's Masaharu Morimoto.

What started out as an 80's fad, has slowly run out over time. Sushi and cheap Chinese take out continue to be around. Ironically the cheap Chinese is terrible because of the increase of oil used and the large amount of fat on the meats. What probably put a damper on the wok and Asian cooking shows is all the cheap Asian buffets that have sprung up since the 80's. You can walk into most Chinese restaurants and pay anywhere from $5 to $20 and have all-you-can-eat. Lots of the items on the buffet are high in calories like the fried wontons, egg rolls, fried pork, cakes, and soft served ice cream. This is in contrast to the Asian cooking shows that have fried foods but created a balance with a salad or soup to even out the calorie intake. In an era of cheap fast foods and everyone in a hurry, cooking at home is falling away.

Since the Food Network is not promoting any quality Asian cooking shows, I was flipping through the channels Saturday night and saw a special on Fit TV about Hong Kong cuisine. The show was called Just Cook This! with Sam the Cooking Guy where Sam shows you how to make fried rice for breakfast using a wok. Hong Kong fast food was discussed and no one was overweight or stumbling out of the restaurant as a result. The fast food was healthy and looked much better than the typical Chinese American cuisine offered in the U.S. In fact, Sam and a couple of his Chinese friends made the rounds to several restaurants and even at the thrifty restaurants that carter to the working class, the food looked so much better.

People in Hong Kong eat more meals throughout the day and stay thin. Most of the places Sam and company stopped at where cheap places to grab a quick bite. A perfect place to stop before going back to shopping and sightseeing. These places were combined with fast food places where you have a large menu in front of you and you write down the number of what you want and give your paper to the chef. The chef prepares everything fresh right there in front of you. Nothing sitting for hours under heating lamps at U.S. Chinese buffets.

Also you could visit a doctor for only $5 and get a $7 prescription to get you back on track. For the doctor visit, you just take out your tongue, answer a few basic questions such as "how is your bowel movement?" and then the doctor writes down a list of ingredients. You take the list and hand it over to the guys working in the pharmacy who assemble a mixture of herbs and dried flowers that all are gift wrapped in paper. Then, you just have to take the paper home and use a small amount of each to make a tea or broth out of and that should fix you right up. That is exactly the type of Medical plan that I want to find in Tampa, Florida.

After watching Just Cook This! I thought about the lack of real Chinese cooking in Tampa. I can only think of one place that has it and it is called Yummie House near Waters and Armenia in a little unassuming strip mall. There you can get Mongolian Beef with huge spicy Szechuan peppers cooked to perfection. The rice is served in a separate bowl, just the one it should be. There are so many dishes to choose from that after trying a few randomly, you may never want to return to Westernized Chinese and all those buffets that all have the same generic taste.

Hopefully the electric wok and quality Asian cooking shows will make a comeback because healthy living that has existed for centuries in Asian shouldn't be reduced to a by-gone 80's fad.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.