Chinese cooking is renowned throughout the world. Chinese food has a distinctive culinary style all its own. The emphasis is on fresh, seasonal ingredients, prepared with a minimum of fuss and beautifully balanced as far as color, texture and presentation.
There are several cooking methods. All seek to preserve flavor and nutrients. Each of the technique is briefly described below.
This is the classic Chinese cooking method. The cooking utensils are a wok and spatula. It is typically done on a gas stove, although an electric stove can be used.
Stir-fry typically uses a combination of meat or seafood, vegetables and tofu, etc. All ingredients are thinly sliced or cubed. The meat or seafood is marinated, using soy sauce, salt and other seasonings. All ingredients should be ready prior to heating up the wok. After the wok is hot, a small amount of oil is added. The meat or seafood is quickly stirred and turned until semi-cooked. They are then removed; more oil is added if necessary. The other ingredients are added and quickly stir-fried. The meat or seafood is added back midway through cooking, the seasonings are adjusted if necessary, and the dish is stirred until done. It should be served immediately.
Stir-frying is quick and easy, tasty and flavorful.
A deep saucepan with a wire basket or a deep fryer is used to cook a variety of meats and vegetables.
The Chinese steam food in bamboo containers that can be stacked one on top of the other, allowing several kinds of foods to be cooked at once, thus saving time and fuel. The most famous examples of steaming are dim sum, dumplings and buns, and steamed fish. The water should be kept at a slow boil until the food is done.
This technique is uniquely Chinese. The food is cooked very slowly over low fire. Meats are usually browned first, then large quantities of soy sauce, sugar, wine or sherry, ginger, five spices, chili powder, cilantro and other seasonings are added, together with water or broth. A tougher cut of meat can be used in red cooking, as it may take up to several hours before the meat is done to the desired tenderness. The finished product can be served hot or cold. The sauce is rich and dark brown; hence the descriptive name “red stewing”.
Ingredients are washed and cut first, then plunge into boiling water until just tender. Vegetables can be cooked this way and served with a sauce. One good example is Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. This method of cooking preserves color, texture, shape and nutrition
Famous Chinese roast duck, chicken, or pig is cooked this way. Many delicatessens have large commercial ovens to accommodate large quantities of these popular items. The meats are then chopped, arranged artfully on a platter, and served with a sauce made from the meat drippings.
This method is especially good for cooking delicate fish in a clear broth until just done.