Stir Frying: This is perhaps the most popular of all Chinese cooking methods, and is certainly the primary technique used in most American Chinese restaurants. Called Chao in Chinese, it is a quick cooking method usually done when the main ingredients have already gone through some manner of pre-cooking. Since meats and vegetables tend to cook at different speeds, it is customary to precook the slower ingredients so that the cook can throw them in the Wok when the time is just right to preserve the flavor of ALL the ingredients, as opposed to ruining the texture and flavor from over-cooking or under-cooking. The general method for Chao (stir-frying) is to use a minimal amount of oil that is heated to a very high temperature in the Wok, and then the ingredients are tossed in at the proper times while being tossed and turned constantly. It is very important that the ingredients be in constant motion in the wok to preserve the flavor and nutrients while keeping the food from sticking to the Wok. A trick-of-the-trade for softer meats such as seafood is to rub the dry wok with fresh ginger before applying oil to help prevent sticking to the pan. Woks are the primary cooking tool of Chinese Cuisine, and they come in many varieties and sizes. Cast-Iron Woks are traditionally considered the best, and we offer them with our partners to our readers. Lodge Pro-Logic 14-Inch Cast-Iron Wok with Loop Handles
Steaming: Very common in both the Orient and the West, traditional Chinese cuisine is steamed (Zheng) using bamboo steamers which stack inside the wok one on top of the other. To steam your food, follow these simple instructions:
1. Use some manner of steamer, such as the above mentioned Bamboo steamers.
2. Boil the water in the pot or large, deep Wok and place the steamers above the boiling water.
3. Place your food on the steamers and put a tight lid on the pot/wok. Cooking time will vary.
Steaming is generally used for cooking softer foods like seafood, but given the right amount of time it can cook most ingredients. Bamboo steamers are the traditional choice in Chinese cooking. If you don’t have any then I recommend these: Norpro Deluxe 3-Piece Bamboo Steamer Set
Hong-Shao (Red Stew): This is a uniquely Chinese method of stewing. Hong-Shao gets its name from the red-brown color the stew takes on once the primary ingredients of soy-sauce and sugar are included. Water is generally used as the base of the stew, but stock can be used just as well depending on the flavor you are aiming for. Most Hong-Shai stewed foods have a salty and sweet taste, and the cooking process gives the food a smooth texture. The range of ingredients you can include in this stew are very broad and include anything you would normally cook in a traditional stew. As a general rule of thumb (though everyone has their own exact measures) for every 1 cup of stock/water, use 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 cup soy sauce. I would remind you that when cooking Chinese Food Recipes that personal taste and intuition plays a large role, so exact ingredient measurements are more guidelines than exact rules.
Deep Frying: This technique is well known in the West and is used in a great deal of Chinese Food Recipes. Vegetable Oil is often used, though lard or peanut oil (a Chinese favorite) can be used instead. This method involves submersing the ingredients into hot oil usually with batter covering the food. Here are some quick guidelines for Deep Frying:
1. For quick frying of pastries, crackers, etc…the oil should be at about 400°F to insure that the outer layer is fried quick enough to preserve the integrity of the ingredients.
2. For the majority of seafoods heat the oil to 325°F. This lower temperature will keep the softer texture of the seafood from breaking into pieces in the oil.
3. Poultry, meats and vegetables are tougher and are deep-fried at 375°F. The general rule of thumb in deep-frying is that the ingredients are ready once they are brown and floating in the oil.