Chinese cooking has developed many methods that
take advantage of the wide range of foods and ingredients available
throughout the nation. Different regions use different methods, and
often the same foods will be prepared quite differently.
techniques used in Chinese cooking are precooking techniques such as
parboiling and partial frying, and cooking techniques such as frying,
sauteing, braising, stewing, boiling, simmering, steaming,
"flavor-potting," and smoking. This section also describes cooking
temperatures, cooking with oil, marinades, sugar and other coatings,
sauces, gravies, stocks and flavoring sauces.
Some meats need to be partially
precooked just long enough to get rid of off-odors but not so
long their flavor or texture changes. Some vegetables also
need precooking to get rid of astringency or bitterness or to
heighten their fresh color. Parboiling and partial frying are
the two most common methods of precooking foods before they
are combined with other ingredients for the remaining steps in
There are four methods of parboiling. Each uses different
timings and temperatures and yields different results.
Parboiling vegetables like taro root, Chinese yams and
fresh bamboo shoots by cooking them in boiling water before
they are cooked with other ingredients, helps to remove their
astringent taste and makes peeling easier. These vegetables
should be parboiled in their skins, if possible, and peeled
and cut as required afterwards to avoid loss of nutrients.
Slow-boiling is used for foods like pork tripe that take a
longer time to cook than the other ingredients in a recipe.
These foods should be simmered in boiling water until tender
and then combined with the rest of food and seasonings called
for in the recipe.
Hot-plunging or blanching
Hot-plunging or blanching is used for some tender, fresh
vegetables to set their color and texture. Celery, spinach,
green beans and other vegetables are plunged into a large pot
of boiling water and removed as soon as the water returns to a
boil. They are then drained and run immediately under cold
water to stop the cooking process.
Quick-boiling is often used to rid meat of bits of bone and
the off-odor that comes from the blood. The meat is placed in
cold water and removed and drained as soon as it comes to a
boil. However, the method used for pork kidney, fish, and
chicken is closer to blanching: the meat is dropped into
boiling water and removed as soon as it is cooked.
Chinese cooking also uses two methods of partial frying
foods as an intermediate step in many recipes.
Sliding through the oil means placing an ingredient in warm
oil which has been heated to.
Heat is what causes all the changes that
take place in foods when they are cooked. Because different
temperatures and cooking times lead to different results,
temperature control is a key element in Chinese cuisine.
Chinese recipes call for three kinds of heat: high heat, used
in stir-frying, quick-frying, and deep-frying; medium heat,
used in sauteing, slippery-frying, and deep-frying coated
foods; and low heat, used in steaming, simmering, braising,
Chinese recipes also often specify three levels of flame
(or heat, on the electric ranges which are common in the West)
to regulate the levels of heat of water.
High flame or heat is used to produce a fast boil, in which
the water or liquid is kept bubbling rapidly. The fast boil is
used to reduce and thicken broths or stocks and in
hot-plunging and quick-boiling.
Medium flame or heat keep liquids at a moderate boil and is
used in some types of braising.
Low flame or heat is used to keep liquids at a slow boil or
simmer in stewing, simmering, and flavor-potting.
Cooking with Oil
Many of the recipes in this book call
for deep-frying foods in large amounts, from two to eight cups
(500 ml to two liters), of
vegetable oil. When foods are
deep-fried at the proper temperature, they absorb very little
oil, but, it can be difficult to judge whether oil is at the
Although many Chinese recipes call for
oil to be heated "to the smoking point" when deep-frying, it
should be pointed out that the cooking oils used in China are
often less highly refined than those used in the West. The
presence or absence of impurities changes the appearance of
oil as it heats.
We therefore suggest using thermometers to gauge how hot
Warm oil is about n this temperature range, no bubbles will
appear around a small piece of vegetable leaf like a piece of
scallion or spinach, or a slice of
ginger, that has been
tossed into the oil.
Moderately hot oil is about . In this temperature range,
small bubbles will sizzle around a piece of
scallion tossed into the oil.
Very hot oil is about , a one-inch cube of day-old bread
will turn brown in one minute when dropped into the oil.
Boiling oil is above . A heavy haze appears and the oil
Most Chinese recipes call for oil to be heated to the hot
or very hot stage. Lower temperatures are used in methods like
sliding through the oil, while extremely hot oil is used to
crisp and brown coated foods that have already been fried at a
recipes often call for meats and other ingredients to
be first marinated and then dipped into a batter-a
paste which may contain
or flour, egg white, salt, sugar, and monosodium
glutamate. When the food is later deep-fried, the
coating seals in juices, keeps the food from falling
apart, and reduces the loss of nutrients. These
coatings also cook into light, crisp crusts that
contrast with the tenderness of the food inside.
Cooking pastes and
coating are also used for foods that will be stir-fried,
quick-fried or slippery-fried because they impart a soft,
slippery quality to the dish.
The most common batter is made of
cornstarch and water. It
is usually made of two parts
cornstarch to one part water and
is used in deep-frying and slippery-frying. It cooks into a
crisp, yellowish-brown crust when deep-fried.
A batter of egg white and
cornstarch is used in stir-frying
and slippery-frying. The batter remains white after cooking,
but the food inside is tender.
An egg yolk and
cornstarch batter may also be used in
deep-frying and slippery-frying. It results in a golden-brown
The flour and egg yolk coating is actually a two-step
process. The food is first dipped in flour and then into
beaten egg yolk.
Another two-step process is egg and bread-crumb coating.
The food is first dipped in beaten egg yolks and then rolled
in bread crumbs. When deep-fried, the coating turns crisp and
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