There are various methods to cook Chinese food to bring out the best flavours in the meal. Below are the 3 main methods that you can learn and master to become a better Chinese cook.
Stir-frying is the classic Chinese cooking method used. Cooking over high heat in a small amount of oil, toss and turn the food when it quickly cooks. In stir-frying, the food should always be in motion. Spread it around the pan or up the sides of the wok, then toss it together again in the centre and repeat. This method allows meats to stay juicy and flavourful, vegetables to come out tender-crisp.
There are variations, of course, but the basic pattern for many Chinese dishes is to pre-heat the pan or wok (a drop of water will sizzle when it’s hot enough), add the oil and heat it, stir- fry the meat, remove it, stir-fry the vegetables, return the meat to the pan, add sauce and seasonings, thicken the sauce and serve. Since stir -frying is a last-minute operation, don’t plan one more than two stir -fry dishes in one meal.
The Chinese steam food in woven bamboo trays that stack one on top of the other. The beauty of this system is that several foods cook at one time, saving fuel. All sorts of foods are steamed: meats, fish, buns stuffed with meat or a sweet bean paste-bread! For best results, the water should be boiling when the food goes into the steamer and the flame should be high enough to keep it boiling. Have a kettle of boiling water nearby so if water in the steamer evaporates you can add more without reducing the heat. Try to keep moisture that condenses inside the lid from dripping on the food when you remove the lid. See that the water level stays an inch or so below the food, or you will boil it.
Some of the most delectable Chinese hors d’oeuvres are deep-fried. Certain main dishes call for meats to be deep-fried for a crunchy coating, and then stir-fried to combine them with vegetables and flavourings. The oil must be at the right temperature 360 to 375 degrees to cook the food properly. The most fool-proof method is to use a thermostatically – controlled electric deep fat fryer. If you deep-fry in your wok or pot, use a frying thermometer, or test the oil before adding food by dropping in a small piece of meat or vegetable. If it sizzles and skates around the surface of the oil, the temperature is right. If it sinks, the oil is not hot enough. If it browns too quickly, and the oil smokes, the temperature is too high. Oil can be reduced if you strain it and add fresh oil each time. Keep a separate batch for frying fish and seafood.