The Chinese flavors from the Orient amaze so many North Americans. They have brought their concepts and cooking techniques to our tables and opened up many fine restaurants for our enjoyment. The spices and aromas just seep from their dishes, leaving us mesmerized and dizzy. Our taste buds dance at the tips of our tongues waiting to experience the multitude of flavors. The Chinese have a knack with cooking techniques and experts with the Wok that has been around for centuries. Their are so many types of Wok's on the market. I find the steel still the most reliable, retaining the heat and flavor of the foods and spice.
I have always enjoyed the flavors from the Orient. There are so many colorful and fresh ingredients in the preparation of Chinese food.
Part One: Some history behind Chinese Cooking
The Chinese are agricultural people and their diets certainly reflect that fact. Vegetables and rice are predominant source of food along with soybeans, which are a main source of protein. Meats and fish are not as important as they are in other cultures. Being Chinese meant being very creative in their cooking, with over 80,000 different dishes in the Chinese cuisine. Being artistic as well as creative was an added bonus for food to be presented artistically as well as the sense of taste. They strive for delectable appearance, fragrance, colorful and attractive dishes. Contrasting textures and flavors should maintain a balance between strong and subtle, spicy and bland. China being a very large country, the various regions differ widely in climate, terrain and natural resources. These differences can determine what kinds of foods are available in a particular region and can influence the cooking style from that region.
Most of the Chinese foods familiar to North Americans come from the southern region surrounding Canton. Dishes characteristic of the Cantonese style are light, mildly seasoned and less greasy than those of the other regions. Soy sauce, fresh ginger root, sherry and chicken stock are the most often used seasonings. MSG is also used often in American styled dishes, but many restaurants are also substituting MSG with oyster sauce. Many Cantonese dishes are prepared using the quick cooking technique of stir-frying and the wok has become a staple in most households. A popular t.v. series appeared if my memory serves me right called "Wok with Yan" I was glued to the t.v. set to watch this interesting man explode with his talent in the kitchens of America.
Part Two: Cooking Techiques
Technique for Chinese cooking and preparing tasty and attractive dishes can be a very rewarding experience. There are just a few rules to keep in mind for successfully cooking most recipes. All ingredients should be prepared before any cooking is begun. Believe me I learnt the hard way, by not adhering to this rule of thumb. Also exact timing is crucial because many of the foods are cooked over intense heat in a matter of minutes. The Chinese are experts in cooking techniques, including deep-frying, braising, stewing, steaming, roasting, barbecuing and preserving and not to be out done, expert stir fryers. To stir fry correctly one must have an understanding of its basic principles. In ancient times when cooking fuel was scarce a rapid cooking method was invented, today we call it stir-frying. It is still the most frequently used cooking method used by the Chinese in their cooking techniques. It's simply a brisk cooking of small pieces of ingredients in hot oil over intense heat for a short time usually just a few minutes. During the cooking period the food must be kept in constant motion by stirring or tossing vigorously. Once cooking is completed, the food had to be removed immediately from the heat.
All of your ingredients must be thought out in advance, selected, measured, weighed, washed, cleaned, chopped and sliced. Because the stir frying of these ingredients is carried out so quickly there is usually no time to complete any preparation steps once the cooking is under way. Poultry, meat, fish and vegetables should be cut into pieces of uniform bite size pieces for even cooking or else one ingredient may be overcooked, while others remain undercooked.
Part Three: The Multiple Uses of a Wok
In most cases, a gas range is easier to cook with as you can control the heat much better than say an electric range top. Gas has the ability for instant heat control, more efficient for stir-frying. The type of oil used in stir-frying is also crucial. Usually a vegetable oil that can be heated to high temperatures without smoking is essential. I tend to use Peanut Oil as much as possible, corn oil, cottonseed oil and soybean oil all work as well. You want to stay away from low burning point oils such as olive, sesame oil, butter or lard. Success in stir-frying depends upon knowing what you are doing and why. So a good thorough understanding of what you are doing and why is important.Understanding the composition and textures of the ingredients you are using is essential, as well as the knowing how long each will take to cook, especially in relationship to the others. The proper utensils are essential in Chinese cooking but one piece of equipment is very important if you plan on making stir fry dishes. The Wok was invented many centuries ago and became an all purpose cooking pan used in virtually every Chinese household for almost every kind of cooking. It was made from thin, tempered iron, and had a rounded bottom for fast, even conduction of heat. Moving into modern society has brought some changes to the Wok. They are now manufactured in aluminum, stainless steel and carbon steel. They have flat bottom ones for use on electric ranges as well as on smooth-top cooking surfaces. Deciding upon what kind of wok to purchase these days can be challenging as their are such a variety including Teflon coated woks. It almost becomes a matter of personal preference. Before a new iron or carbon steel wok is used, it should be washed and seasoned. Simply wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water.(the first time only) and use a scouring pad if necessary, to remove any protective coating. Rub 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil completely over the interior of the wok, this will keep the wok from rusting. Then place it over low heat until it is hot throughout, remove wok from the heat and let it cool.
Remember that after each use to soak your wok in hot water and clean with a brush or sponge. There are many types of ingredients that may be familiar. Just as their may be many you are not familiar with. such as Hoi sin sauce, oyster sauce or five-spice powder. Many supermarkets now are carrying and stocking good inventories of Chinese ingredients. In addition to canned, bottled and packaged products, many even carry fresh items, such as Chinese cabbage, bean sprouts, bok choy, won ton and egg-roll wrappers, bean curd and Chinese style egg noodles. Try the best you can to buy the freshest ingredients you can find, the Chinese are so conscientious about cooking with the freshest foods possible . Plan your menu around the foods you find in the market-rather than planning the marketing around the menu. My partner an I can get home from work, haul out the wok and bags of prepared veggies, cut up a boneless ,skinless chicken breast, mix the sauce, and be eating in almost the time it took us to to think about it. ha. We feel the wok helps us prepare vegetables that are some what tender-crisp(not soggy) and our meal is tasty and healthful. If you work till suppertime and must go out for the evening, stir-frying is a great substitute for "canned" or fast-food meals. Stir frying dishes is a great form of entertainment for your guests who get to hear the sizzle and enjoy the great aromas. Hope you enjoyed this little introduction and history of Chinese cooking made easy. Below are a few of my favorite ingredients I use to cook with, as well as one of my many favorite recipes I've found along the way.
Cooking With Yan
Part Four: One of my favorite Chinese Dishes
BEAN SPROUTS- BLACK BEANS-CHINESE CABBAGE-FIVE SPICE POWDER-HOISIN
SAUCE-SATAY SAUCE-SNOW PEAS-SOY SAUCE-OYSTER SAUCE-TOFU-FISH OIL SESAME
OIL-RICE STICK NOODLES-CORIANDER-BOK CHOY-BAMBOO SHOOTS- CHILI
SAUCE-EGG NOODLES-GINGER ROOT-DRIED MUSHROOM-PEANUT OIL-PLUM SAUCESZECHUAN
Chicken and cashews with broccoli
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500g chicken thigh fillets chopped coarsely
1 clove garlic crushed
1 small leek(200g), sliced thinly
1 med carrot(120g) sliced thinly
250g broccoli, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon cornflour
1/2 cup (125 ml) chicken stock
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 cup (75g) unsalted roasted cashews.
1. Heat half of the oil in wok or large frying pan. Stir-fry chicken, in batches, until browned;
remove from wok.
2.Heat remaining oil in wok; stir-fry garlic, leek, carrot and broccoli until leek is soft.
3.Return chicken to wok with blended cornflour and stock, sauce and nuts; stir until
mixture boils and thickens slightly.
Recipe courtesy of: http://healthy-fast-food-choices...
Another great stir-fry
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