Every cook knows that you can fry, blanche, roast and steam. But in a Chinese kitchen they take on a level of precision and procedure that must be understood. Ms. Lo, in The Chinese Kitchen, advises that you first take the time to understand each cooking method before attempting a meal. So without further ado here they are.
"Stir-frying is all about movement and rhythm."
The object is to cook food to the point it retains it’s moisture, nutrition, color and flavor. All food should be cut to size and ready to be placed into the wok. Begin by heating the wok for up to one minute then add oil and coat the inside. 1. When cooking vegetables add salt to the oil. Place vegetables in the wok and toss. Toss 1 to 2 minutes for soft vegetables like bok choy and scallion. A minute longer for cabbage, carrots and broccoli. They should not be wet and gently patted down. 2. Meats are cut into uniform bite-sized pieces. They should be placed into the oiled wok in a thin single layer, cooked to a specific time, then turned over and mixed briefly. Should be cooked this way to 70% doneness and will finish cooking with other ingredients. 3. Seafood varies by the type. Shrimp is cooked like meat. Crab and lobster in the shell might need to be covered and steamed to cook through. Clams, mussels and oysters are usually blanched to make them open before stir-frying.
Most food to be deep fried is first seasoned, marinated and dipped in batter. The taste of the oil should compliment and not over power the food. Begin by heating the wok quicy then add 4 to 6 cups peanut oil and heat to 325° to 375°. Heat oil higher than required because adding food will at first lower the temperature before it rises again. Use a frying thermometer. Slide food in from the outer edges. Use a mesh strainer to stir and turn the food.
Used to retain color and flavor. Basically heat the wok, put in 3 cups o peanut oil and heat to 300°F. Vegetables should be added for no longer than 30 to 45 seconds then removed. Meat can be blanched for 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to drain after removal from the wok and cook further as needed.
Water blanching removes water from vegetables. Pour 3 to 4 cups of water into a wok, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and bring to a boil. Ace the vegetables in water and when their color becomes bright remove them. The baking soda helps them retain their color. This should take no more than 30 seconds. Remove, strain and run under cd water to halt cooking process.
This is used to add taste and reduce the amount of oil used. Heat stock in wok to boiling. Place food in the wok for 10 to 30 seconds. Ten seconds for thinly sliced meats and 30 seconds for hard vegetables like cauliflower.
This method needs no oil, salt or anything else. Begin by heating the wok over high heat for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the nuts and lower the heat to low. Spread the nuts in a si gle layer and use a spatula to move them around to prevent burning. This will take about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the wok and allow to cool. Sesame seeds should be roasted 2 minutes only.
Steaming preserves flavor and nutritional value with the use of very little oil. Steaming can be done in the wok by placing the steamers directly in the wok above water. Steaming can also be done using a cake rack that is placed in the wok.
The cooking methods above seem simple enough on the surface but can really bring out the life in foods. In general the point is to cook the food just enough but not overcook. It is always about preserving as much color, flavor and character as possible.