Chinese Cooking Techniques

The Chinese have developed many resourceful
methods of cooking, but the most common
is stir frying, deep frying, steaming, braising
and poaching.
There are different Chinese cooking vessels
for each of these techniques, but all may be
cooked with success in a wok.

Stir Frying...
Is what the wok was designed for.
This is a method of rapid and intense
heating which preserves the color,
texture and vitamins in the food,
while enhancing the flavor.

Deep Frying...
This technique is similar to western deep frying,
except it is usually done in a wok.
Oil is heated to a temperature indicated in the recipe, if not, the temperature
should be about 350 degrees.
The prepared ingredients are lowered into the hot oil a few at a time in order
to prevent sticking and then removed when the proper time has elapsed.
A difference between the Chinese method and our own, is that the food
may sometimes be deep fried once, twice or even three times, and
then stir fried with additional ingredients.

Many wok sets come with steamer racks. These work well if
the dish you are steaming needs only one tier.
If your dinner calls for more than one steamed dish,
you might consider buying a Chinese steamer.
These come in many sizes, but a two or three tiered bamboo or
metal steamer is the most practical.
Since foods need to be steamed on a heat proof serving plate,
be sure that your plates will fit easily inside the steamer.
Steam produces extremely high heat, and so caution should always be taken.
The advance of metal steamer over that of a bamboo,
is the metal steamer may be placed directly on the stove,
where as the bamboo must be placed in the wok first.
This prevents you from making a steamed dish and
a stir fried dish at the same time.

In Chinese cooking braising is done in a sandy pot,
which is a clay pot that can be used in the oven or
on the stove top. If don't have a sandy pot it isn't
a problem, you can substitue a casserole dish.

This can be done in a wok or a sandy pot. The Chinese method is as follows:
1)..the poaching liquid is brought to a boil then reduced to a simmer.
2)..the ingredients to be cooked is immersed in the liquid. The heat underneath
is kept at the level needed to maintain the barest simmer.
The wok is covered until the ingredient is cooked.
3)..the heat is turned off and the ingredient is allowed to continue cooking in the
retained heat of the poaching liquid.
4)..Depending on the recipe, the ingredient is either removed
(maybe even plunged in ice water), or allowed to
steep in the cooking liquid for as long as several days.

Cleaver Techniques

In the preparation of your Chinese meal, much of your time will be spent slicing,
shredding and mincing.
A small light weight cleaver is best for these tasks. I myself prefer a blade
that measures about 2-1/2 x 6-1/2 inches and is made of carbon steel with
a wooden handle for a good, sure grip.

No matter what ingredient you're working with, the cleaver grip is essential.
Hold the cleaver in a relaxed way with the thumb and forefinger on opposite
sides of the blade. Curl the remaining fingers around the handle and
exert just enough pressure to steady the blade as you push it across
your cutting board. Too tight a grip will eventually cause muscle fatique and
cut down on your speed. Much of the cutting is done from the
wrist. Don't press your elbow into the sides of your body, if you do you will
find yourself using your whole body rather than just your wrist and elbow.
A cleaver is used much the same way as a cue stick in pool.

Slicing and shredding involve the use of the whole blade,
to slice, lift the blade high enough to rest on top of the ingredient.
Gradually push the blade forward and down(never straight down) until
the slice is done.
Bring the cleaver to the top again and repeat.
When cutting shreds, the tip of the cleaver rests on the cutting board.
The shredding is done on the forward stoke only.
The back end of the blade lifts on the way back and high enough to
clear the slices, the tip of the blade remains on the cutting board.
Then blade is pushed forward again.
When mincing, the shreds are placed perpendicular to the cleaver.
Mincing is also done with a forward stroke.
Using the back third of the blade for greater speed,

If you are new at using a cleaver (or any knife), do not try for speed at first.
Try to achive an easy, relaxed follow-through on your stroke,
at a relaxed pace, and with a relaxed grip on the cleaver handle.
Keep your blade very sharp and it will serve you well for many years.