Different Chinese Preparation and Cooking Techniques

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Chinese-Cooking-Techniques_cChinese chefs have their own preparation techniques: marinading, thickening, velveting etc., and cooking techniques: blanching, poaching, stir-frying, deep-frying, shallow-frying, slow-simmering, steeping, braising, red-braising, steaming, roasting, barbecuing, twice-cooking, re-heating foods and etc. To cook Chinese dishes you also need to know these techniques and picularities.

 

Preparation techniques

Marinading

This is a process in which raw meat or poultry is steeped for a time in a liquid such as soy sauce, rice wine or sherry and cornflour to improve its flavour and to tenderize it. Sometimes other spices or seasonings such as sugar, chillis, five spice powder or Sichuan peppercorns are added. The marinading time is usually at least 20 minutes in order to infuse the meat or poultry properly with the flavours of the marinade. Once marination is complete the food is usually lifted out of the marinade with a slotted spoon before it is cooked.

Thickening

Cornflour blended with an equal quantity of water is frequently used in Chinese cookery to thicken sauces and glaze dishes. Always make sure the mixture is smooth and well blended before adding it.

Velveting

Velveting is used to prevent delicate foods like chicken breasts from overcooking. The food is coated with a mixture of unbeaten egg white, cornflour and sometimes salt. It is then put into the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes to ensure that the coating adheres to the food. This protects the flavour and texture of the rood when it is put into oil or hot water.


Cooking techniques

Blanching

This involves putting food into hot water or into moderately hot oil for a few minutes to cook it briefly but not entirely. It is a sort of softening-up process to prepare the food for final cooking. Chicken is often blanched in oil or water after being velveted. Meat is sometimes blanched to rid it of scum in order to ensure a clean taste and appearance. Blanching in water is common with harder vegetables such as broccoli or carrots. The vegetable is plunged into boiling water for several minutes. It is then drained and plunged into cold water to arrest the cooking process. In such cases blanching usually precedes stir-frying to finish the cooking.

Poaching

This is a method of simmering food until it is partially cooked. It is then put into soup or combined with a sauce and the cooking process continued.

Stir-frying

This is the most famous of all Chinese cooking techniques and it is possibly the most tricky since success with it depends upon having all the required ingredients prepared, measured out and immediately at hand, and on having a good source of fierce heat. Its advantage is that, properly executed, stir-fried foods can be cooked in minutes in very little oil so they retain their natural flavours and textures. It is very important that stir-fried foods are not overcooked or greasy. Once you have mastered this technique you will find that it becomes almost second nature. Using a wok is definitely an advantage when stir-frying as its shape not only conducts the heat well but its high sides enable you to toss and stir ingredients rapidly, keeping them constantly moving while cooking. Having prepared all the ingredients for stir-frying the steps are:

  • Heat the wok or frying-pan until it is very hot before adding the oil. This prevents food sticking and will ensure an even heat. Add the oil and, using a metal spatula or long-handled spoon, distribute it evenly over the surface. It should be very hot indeed - almost smoking - before you add the next ingredient unless you are going on to flavour the oil (see next point).
  • If you are flavouring the oil with garlic, spring onions, ginger, dried red chilli or salt, do not wait for the oil to get so hot that it is almost smoking. If you do, these ingredients will burn and become bitter. Toss them quickly in the oil for a few seconds. In some recipes these flavourings will then be removed and discarded before cooking proceeds.
  • Now add the ingredients as described in the recipe and proceed to stir-fry by tossing them over the surface of the wok or pan with the metal spatula or long-handled spoon. If you are stir-frying meat let each side rest for just a few seconds before continuing to stir. Keep moving the food from the centre of the wok to the sides. Stir-frying is a noisy business and is usually accompanied by quite a lot of splattering because of the high temperature at which the food must be cooked.
  • Some stir-fried dishes are thickened with a mixture of cornflour and cold water. To avoid getting a lumpy sauce be sure to remove the wok or pan from the heat before you add the cornflour mixture, which must be thoroughly blended before it is added. The sauce can then be returned to the heat and thickened.

Deep-frying

This is one of the most important techniques in Chinese cooking. The trick is to regulate the heat so that the surface of the food is sealed but does not brown so fast that the food is uncooked inside. Although deep-fried food must not be greasy the process does require a lot of oil. The Chinese use a wok for deep-frying which requires rather less oil than a deep-fat fryer, but I think you should avoid using the wok unless you are very sure of it. If you do, be certain that it is fully secure on its stand before adding the oil and on no account leave the wok unsupervised. Most people will find a deep-fat fryer easier and safer to use. Be careful not to fill this more than half-full with oil.

Some points to bear in mind when deep-frying are:

  • Wait for the oil to get hot enough before adding the food to be fried. The oil should give off a haze and almost produce little wisps of smoke when it is the right temperature, but you can test it by dropping in a small piece of food. If it bubbles all over then the oil is sufficiently hot. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent the oil from actually smoking or overheating.
  • Be sure to dry food to be deep-fried thoroughly first with kitchen paper as this will prevent splattering. If the food is in a marinade, remove it with a slotted spoon and let it drain before putting it into the oil. If you are using batter make sure all the excess batter drips off before adding the food to the hot oil.
  • Oil used for deep-frying can be re-used. Cool it and then strain it into a jar through several layers of cheesecloth or through a fine mesh to remove any particles of food which might otherwise burn if re-heated and give the oil a bitter taste. Label the jar according to what food you have cooked in the oil and only re-use it for the same thing. Oil can be used up to three times before it begins to lose its effectiveness.

Shallow-frying

This technique is similar to sauteeing. It involves more oil than stir-frying but less than for deep-frying. Food is fried first on one side and then on the other. Sometimes the excess oil is then drained off and a sauce added to complete the dish. A frying-pan is ideal for shallow-frying.

Slow-simmering and steeping

These processes are very similar. In slow-simmering food is immersed in liquid which is brought almost to the boil and then the temperature is reduced so that it simmers, cooking the food to the desired degree. This is the technique used for making stock. In steeping, food is similarly immersed in liquid (usually stock) and simmered for a time. The heat is then turned off and the remaining heat of the liquid finishes off the cooking process.

Braising and red-braising

This technique is most often applied to tougher cuts of meat and certain vegetables. The food is usually browned and then put into stock which has been flavoured with seasonings and spices. The stock is brought to the boil, the heat reduced and the food simmered gently until it is cooked. Red-braising is simply the technique by which food is braised in a dark liquid such as soy sauce. This gives food a reddish brown colour, hence the name. This type of braising sauce can be saved and frozen for re-use. It can be re-used many times and becomes richer in flavour.

Steaming

Steaming has been used by the Chinese for thousands of years. Along with,stir-frying and deep-frying it is the most widely used technique. Steamed foods are cooked by a gentle moist heat which must circulate freely in order to cook the food. It is an excellent method for bringing out subtle flavours and so is particularly wonderful for fish. Bamboo steamers are used by the Chinese but you could use any one of several utensils:

  • Using a bamboo steamer in a wok For this you need a large bamboo steamer about lOinches (25.5cm) wide. Put about 2inches (5cm) of water in a wok. Bring it to a simmer. Put the bamboo steamer containing the food into the wok where it should rest safely perched on the sloping sides. Cover the steamer with its matching lid and steam the food until it is cooked. Replenish the water as required.
  • Using a wok as a steamer Put about 2 inches (5 cm) of water into a wok. Then put a metal or wooden rack into the wok. Bring the water to a simmer and put the food to be steamed onto a plate. Lower the plate onto the rack and cover the wok tightly with a wok lid. Check the water level from time to time and replenish it with hot water when necessary.
  • Using a large roasting pan or pot as a steamer Put a metal or wooden rack into the pan or pot and pour in about 2 inches (5 cm) of water. Bring it to a simmer and put the food to be steamed onto a plate. Lower the plate onto the rack and cover the pan or pot with a lid or with aluminium foil. Replenish the water as necessary.
  • Using a European steamer If you have a metal steamer which is wide enough to take a plate of food then this will give you very satisfactory results. Keep an eye on the level of the water in the base.

If you do not have a metal or wooden rack you could use a small empty tin can to support the plate of food. Remember that the food needs to remain above the water level and must not get wet. The water level should always be at least 1 inch (2.5cm) below the edge of the food plate. (Be sure to use a heatproof plate.)

Roasting

In China roasting is only done in commercial establishments since most homes do not have ovens. The Chinese roast food in large metal, drum-shaped ovens which stand about 5 feet (1.5m) high and are fuelled by charcoal. The food is hung on hooks inside the oven over intense heat. The idea is to expose all the surface of the food to the heat to give it a crisp outer surface and a moist interior. You can approximate the Chinese method by putting food on to a rack in a roasting pan so that the hot air of the oven can circulate round it.

Barbecuing

This is a variation on roasting and it is not very common. Marinaded meat is placed over a charcoal fire and the meat constantly basted to keep it moist. Today modern grills and outdoor barbecues produce much the same result.

Twice-cooking

As the name implies this is a two-step process involving two quite different techniques, such as simmering and stir-frying. It is used to change the texture of food, to infuse it with flavour and to render foods which are difficult to cook into a more manageable state. It is especially useful for removing fat from meat before final cooking.

Re-heating foods

Steaming is one of the best methods of re-heating food since it warms it without cooking it further and without drying it out. To re-heat soups and braised dishes, bring the liquid slowly to a simmer but do not boil. Remove it from the heat as soon as it is hot to prevent overcooking.

Comments 

 
0 #1 greg 2011-06-30 20:38 thanks, help me heaps in my food technology assignment. Quote
 

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