Basic Chinese Pantry. Oils

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oils_cBy the article "Basic Chinese Pantry. Bean Curd" we began a series of articles about Chinese Pantry. Here is the next text on this topic. It's about such product as oils. Oils is the most commonly used cooking medium in Chinese cuisine and the favourite is groundnut (peanut) oil. Animal fats, usually lard and chicken fat, are also used in some areas. Chinese prefer to cook with groundnut oil as they find animal fats in general too heavy.

Oil can often be re-used after frying. When this is possible, simply allow the oil to cool after use and filter it through cheesecloth or a fine-meshed sieve into a jar. Cover it tightly and store m a cool dry place. If you keep it in the refrigerator it will become cloudy but it will clarify again when it returns to room temperature. From the point of view of flavour I find that it is best to re-use oil no more than once, and this is healthier since constantly re-used oils increase in saturated fat content. However, for real clarity of flavour I prefer not to re-use oil at all; I think that oil should be always fresh as this helps achieve consistently high-quality results in cooking.

Groundnut oil Also known as peanut oil, this is the preferred oil in Chinese cookery because it has a pleasant, mild, unobtrusive taste. Its ability to be heated to a high temperature without burning makes it perfect for stir-frying and deep-frying. The groundnut oils found in China are cold-pressed and have the fragrance of freshly roasted peanuts. Some Chinese supermarkets stock the Hong Kong brands, labelled in Chinese only; these are well worth searching for. But if you cannot find them, use groundnut oil from your local supermarket.

Corn oil Corn oil is a healthful, mostly polyunsaturated oil that is good for cooking, particularly deep-frying, as it can be heated to a high temperature without burning. However, I find it rather heavy with a noticeable smell and taste.

Other vegetable oils Some of the cheaper vegetable oils available include soya bean, safflower and sunflower. They are light in colour and taste and can also be used in cooking.

Sesame Oil This thick, rich, golden-brown or dark-coloured oil is made from roasted sesame seeds, and has a distinctive nutty flavour and aroma. It is widely used in Chinese cooking in limited amounts in marinades or as a final seasoning - it is added at the end of cooking to enrich a dish subtly without overcoming its basic flavour. It is not normally used as a cooking oil with other oils except in northern China. It is sold in bottles by many supermarkets and Chinese grocers'.



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