Chinese cuisine has become a popular staple in many parts of the world. With its bold flavors and unique ingredients, it’s no wonder many people want to learn how to cook Chinese food like a pro. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cook, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you take your Chinese cooking skills to the next level. From stir-frying to steaming, this article will guide you through the basics of Chinese cooking and provide you with all the essential information you need to master this delicious cuisine.
Why Learn to Cook Chinese Food at Home?
Chinese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It’s tasty, healthy, and can be made with a wide range of ingredients. Despite the widespread popularity of Chinese food, many people still choose to order take-out or dine out at a restaurant. However, there are several reasons why learning to cook Chinese food at home is a better option.
Most Chinese food dishes found in restaurants or fast-food chains are full of sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. By cooking Chinese food at home, you can control the ingredients and the amount of salt, sugar, and oil you use. This makes it a healthier and less processed option.
Ordering take-out or dining at a Chinese restaurant can be quite expensive, especially if you do it regularly. Cooking Chinese food at home is a cheaper alternative. You can buy ingredients in bulk and make large portions, which you can then freeze for later use. This will save money in the long run, as you will be able to get several meals out of one shopping trip.
Cooking Chinese food at home can be a cultural experience. Chinese cuisine is rich in history and has a unique cooking style that you can learn and enjoy. You can explore different flavors and spices, and even learn about Chinese culture and traditions while cooking.
Cooking Chinese food at home gives you the flexibility to customize your dishes to your liking. You can tailor the dishes to your dietary needs or preferences, such as making it vegan or gluten-free.
Cooking Chinese food at home can also be a bonding experience with your family or friends. You can involve them in the preparation and cooking process, making it a fun and social activity. You can also experiment with different recipes and flavors together.
What Are the Basic Ingredients Used in Chinese Cooking?
If you want to learn to cook Chinese food like a pro, then before you start preparing any dishes, you need to be familiar with some basic ingredients used in Chinese cooking. Ingredients used in Chinese cooking can be divided into two categories, biang (“base”) and xiang (“accent”). Biang ingredients are the foundation of Chinese dishes and provide the essential flavors while xiang ingredients are aromatic ingredients used to enhance the base flavor. Here we will guide you through some of the most essential ingredients in Chinese cuisine.
BiÃ¡ng (Base) Ingredients:
- Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is made from soybeans and is a staple ingredient in Chinese cooking. It’s used for seasoning, marinades, dipping sauces, and can even be used as a condiment.
- Vinegars: Rice vinegar, Chinkiang vinegar, and black vinegar are commonly used in Chinese cuisine. These vinegars are used to add acidity and enhance the flavor of dishes.
- Sesame Oil: Made from toasted sesame seeds, Sesame oil is used mainly to add aroma and flavour to dishes, but it is also used to enhance the texture of certain dishes, such as stir-fries.
- Ginger: Ginger is a root vegetable used extensively in Chinese cooking. It’s used to add flavor, aroma, and heat to dishes. It’s also used in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Garlic: Garlic is a staple ingredient in Chinese cooking and is used to add flavor and aroma to many dishes. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
- Gouqizi (Goji Berries): Goji berries are a dried berry used in Chinese cooking for its sweet and sour flavor, as well as its high nutritional value.
- Douchi (Fermented Black Soybeans): Fermented black soybeans are often used in Chinese cooking for its salty and slightly bitter flavor. It’s used mainly to enhance the flavor of meat and vegetable dishes.
- Hoisin Sauce: Hoisin sauce is a sweet and savory sauce made from soybeans and spices. It’s used mainly in stir-fries and as a dipping sauce.
Xiang (Accent) Ingredients:
- Scallions: Scallions are used in Chinese cooking as an aromatic ingredient to add flavor and aroma to dishes. They are often used as a garnish or added to stir-fry dishes for extra flavor.
- Cilantro: Cilantro is a herb used in Chinese cooking to add a fresh, citrusy flavor to dishes. It’s often used as a garnish or added to soup and noodle dishes.
- Star Anise: Star anise is used in Chinese cooking to add a licorice flavor to dishes. It’s often used in braised meat dishes and soup.
- Cassia Bark (Chinese Cinnamon): Cassia bark is used in Chinese cooking to add a sweet and spicy flavor to dishes. It’s often used in spice rubs and added to braised meat dishes.
- Sichuan Peppercorn: Sichuan peppercorn is a spice used in Chinese cooking for its numbing and spicy flavor. It’s often used in Sichuan-style dishes.
- Dried Tangerine Peel: Dried tangerine peel is used in Chinese cooking for its citrusy flavor and aroma. It’s often used in braised meat dishes and soup.
What Are the Top Cooking Techniques Used in Chinese Cuisine?
Chinese cuisine offers a unique dining experience that combines spices, sauces, vegetables, meat, and seafood. Cooking Chinese food can be mastered by understanding the common cooking techniques that are used in this cuisine. Here, we explore the top cooking techniques used in Chinese cuisine and provide tips for mastering them.
Stir-frying is a cooking procedure that involves fast-moving tossing of ingredients in a hot pan or wok. This technique requires uniform cutting of vegetables and meat to enable fast and even cooking. The wok-shaped pan ensures even distribution of heat, which is essential for the success of the dish. Stir-frying requires high heat and can be intimidating for those who are not familiar with it. The secret to stir-frying is to preheat the wok, add oil, add ingredients in a specific order, and cook each ingredient quickly before moving to the next. You will need to experiment with different heat levels to find the ideal temperature.
Steaming is another popular cooking technique used in Chinese cuisine. It is a healthy cooking option that allows the ingredients to retain their nutrients, texture, and flavor. Steaming requires a steamer basket made of bamboo or metal and boiling water. The basket is placed over the boiling water, and the ingredients are placed in the basket. You can add spices, herbs, or seasonings to the water to impart flavor to the food. Steaming is ideal for seafood, vegetables, dim sum, and buns.
Braising is a gentle cooking process that involves cooking food slowly in a liquid. This technique is used for tougher cuts of meat and allows the ingredients to absorb flavors from the braising liquid. The cooking liquid can be a broth, wine, or soy sauce, and can be flavored with herbs, spices, or vegetables. Braising requires a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. The ingredients are seared first to seal in the juices and flavor, then added to the braising liquid. The pot is then covered, and the ingredients are cooked on low heat for an extended period, resulting in tender, flavorful meat.
How to Choose the Right Tools for Chinese Cooking
Before you start cooking Chinese food at home, it’s essential to have the right tools in your kitchen. Here are the basic kitchen equipment you’ll need to create authentic Chinese dishes, and some specialized tools that can take your cooking to the next level.
Basic Kitchen Equipment for Chinese Cooking
At a minimum, you’ll need a few basic kitchen tools to get started with Chinese cooking:
- Cutting Board: A sturdy cutting board is essential for preparing vegetables and meats. Look for one that’s large enough to accommodate your ingredients.
- Knife: A sharp knife is crucial for slicing ingredients thinly and precisely. Invest in a good-quality chef’s knife that feels comfortable in your hand.
- Wok: The wok is a signature piece of equipment in Chinese cuisine, and it’s versatile enough to be used for stir-frying, deep-frying, and more. Look for a wok made of carbon steel, which heats evenly and develops a non-stick patina over time.
- Steamer: Chinese cooking often involves steaming, and a bamboo steamer is a traditional tool that adds flavor and aroma to your dishes. You can also use a stainless steel steaming insert that fits inside your wok.
Specialized Tools for Chinese Cooking
If you’re serious about Chinese cooking, you might also want to invest in some specialized tools that can help you achieve professional-level results:
|A cleaver is a versatile knife that can be used for chopping bones, crushing garlic, and even scooping up ingredients for transfer to the wok.
|A spider strainer is a wire-mesh scoop that allows you to quickly remove food from hot oil or boiling water.
|A bamboo brush is used to apply seasonings and sauces to meats and vegetables before cooking. It’s hygienic and ensures even distribution of flavor.
|Chinese cuisine often includes rice dishes, and a rice cooker takes the guesswork out of cooking perfect rice. Look for one with a non-stick interior and a capacity that suits your needs.
With the right tools, you can create authentic Chinese dishes in your own kitchen and take your cooking to the next level. Invest in a few basic tools, and consider adding some specialized equipment to your collection over time.
What Are Some Classic Chinese Dishes to Try?
Chinese cuisine is known for its variety, bold flavors, and use of fresh ingredients. If you’re new to Chinese food, it can be overwhelming to try and decide what to order at a restaurant or what to cook at home. Here are some classic Chinese dishes that are not only delicious but also easy to make:
1. Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu is a spicy and flavorful dish that originated in the Sichuan province of China. It features soft tofu in a spicy sauce made with chili bean paste, ground pork, and Sichuan peppercorns. The dish is typically served with steamed rice and garnished with green onions.
2. Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken is a popular dish in China as well as in Chinese restaurants around the world. It features diced chicken stir-fried with chili peppers, peanuts, and vegetables such as bell peppers and zucchini. The sauce is made with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar, and can be adjusted to suit your taste.
3. Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and Sour Soup is a traditional Chinese soup that is often served as a starter at Chinese restaurants. It features a thick, savory broth made with chicken stock, vinegar, and spices such as ginger and white pepper. The soup can also include ingredients such as tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.
4. Chow Mein
Chow Mein is a dish made with stir-fried noodles and vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, and celery. It can also include meat such as chicken or shrimp, and is often served as a side dish or main course at Chinese restaurants.
5. Fried Rice
Fried Rice is a classic Chinese dish that is perfect for using up leftover rice. It features rice stir-fried with vegetables such as peas and carrots, and can also include egg, meat, or shrimp. The dish is seasoned with soy sauce and can be spicy or mild, depending on your preference.
How to Adjust Recipes to Your Taste
Chinese cuisine boasts an array of bold, exciting flavors and bright colors. But what if a recipe calls for ingredients that you don’t have or simply don’t like? Fear not! With a little creativity and know-how, you can adjust recipes to your taste and create your own unique dishes.
1. Swap Out Ingredients
Many recipes call for specific ingredients, but that doesn’t mean you can’t switch things up. For example, if a recipe calls for tofu but you don’t like it, try substituting it with chicken, shrimp, or even vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant. Similarly, if a recipe calls for a spicy ingredient like chili oil or Sriracha, but you can’t handle the heat, try using a milder sauce like hoisin or oyster sauce.
2. Adjust Seasonings
Seasonings like salt, sugar, and soy sauce are essential in Chinese cooking, but they can be adjusted to your liking. If you’re watching your sodium intake, try reducing the amount of soy sauce in a recipe or using a low-sodium option. Similarly, if a recipe calls for a lot of sugar and you prefer less sweetness, try cutting the amount in half or substituting with a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.
3. Experiment with Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs are another way to add flavor to your Chinese-inspired dishes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations to suit your taste. For example, try adding ginger, garlic, or scallions to dishes for an extra kick of flavor. Or, try adding Chinese five-spice powder, star anise, or Szechuan peppercorns for a unique twist.
4. Adjust Cooking Methods
The way you cook your ingredients can also affect the flavor and texture of your dishes. If a recipe calls for deep-frying, but you prefer a healthier option, try baking or stir-frying instead. You can also adjust cooking times to ensure your ingredients are cooked to your liking.
5. Keep Notes
If you’re experimenting with recipes and adjusting ingredients, it can be helpful to keep notes on what worked and what didn’t. This will help you remember what adjustments you made and how they affected the final dish. You can also use these notes to create your own unique recipes in the future.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Finally, it’s important to remember that cooking is a learning process. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or try new things. If a recipe doesn’t turn out the way you expected, think about what you can do differently next time. With time and practice, you’ll become a pro at adjusting recipes to your taste and creating your own unique Chinese-inspired dishes.
Happy Cooking and Thanks for Reading!
We hope you found this article helpful in your journey to cooking delicious Chinese cuisine. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with your newfound skills. Keep practicing and experimenting with different flavors to create your own unique dishes. Don’t forget to visit us again for more recipes and cooking advice!
Learn to Cook Chinese Food like a Pro
Get started on your journey to becoming a Chinese cuisine expert by following these tips and tricks for cooking like a pro.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb boneless chicken thighs (sliced)
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat.
- Add sliced chicken and cook until browned.
- Add sliced mushrooms, chopped broccoli, and sliced red bell pepper. Stir-fry until vegetables are tender.
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce and honey. Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables and stir to coat.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.