Chinese Cooking For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
If you're in the mood for Chinese food, don't go out — try cooking it yourself! Cooking Chinese food at home can be quick, easy, and fun. To get started, you need to know the basic ingredients, tools, and techniques to make your Chinese cooking the best it can be.

Basic Tools for Chinese Cooking

In Chinese cooking (or any other cuisine), you can usually use the kitchen tools you already have. But some Chinese recipes do call for specialized tools, such as a claypot casserole. Other items, like a rice cooker or wok just make cooking easier. If you don’t already have some of the utensils in this list, head to the cooking supply store — which is always a fun trip!

  • A wok that you’ve seasoned
  • A sharp chef’s knife
  • A cutting board that you keep clean
  • A small spice grinder
  • A steamer
  • A strainer
  • Spatulas and ladles
  • A claypot casserole
  • An electric rice cooker
  • Chopsticks

Basic Ingredients for Chinese Cooking

Stock your pantry with basic ingredients for Chinese cooking so that you can whip up an authentic Chinese meal on a moment’s notice. Just add whatever fresh meat, fish, and produce you feel like — and before you know it, you’ll have a balanced, quick, and easy-to-make dish on your table.

Sauces and Condiments

  • Prepared black bean sauce
  • Chile oil
  • Chile paste or sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Oyster-flavored sauce
  • Plum sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Vegetable oil (peanut oil preferred)

Spices and Seasonings

  • Chinese five-spice powder
  • Chinese hot mustard
  • Whole and crushed dried red chiles
  • Sichuan peppercorns
  • Star anise
  • White pepper, ground

Canned and Dried Ingredients

  • Bamboo shoots
  • Broth (canned or homemade)
  • Cornstarch
  • Dried black mushrooms
  • Long-grain rice
  • Sesame seeds
  • Straw mushrooms
  • Water chestnuts


  • Cellophane or bean thread noodles
  • Dried egg noodles (store in freezer if fresh)
  • Dried rice noodles

Chinese Cooking Techniques

Chinese cooking involves all kinds of techniques from stir-frying to steaming to simmering. This table lists a variety of Chinese cooking techniques and what you use them for, and a few tips as well.

Technique Stir-frying
The Results Crisp, brightly colored foods with lots of nutrition and flavor, but little fat
What You Need A wok or large frying pan
How Long? Lightning-quick — there’s not time.
Tips Have all your ingredients and sauces prepared ahead of time; cook ingredients in stages.
Technique Steaming
The Results Healthful, almost fat-free foods whose fresh, natural flavors stand out
What You Need An electric steamer; a wok or pan with a steamer rack
How Long? Not too long — as long as it takes to fully cook the food
Tips Be careful when removing the steamer lid so you don’t get a painful steam burn.
Technique Blanching
The Results Softened — not fully cooked — foods that are now ready for complete cooking via another method
What You Need A wok or pot big enough to hold plenty of boiling water
How Long? Brief — just a few minutes or long enough to soften
Tips Make sure to stop the cooking after removing the food the food by rinsing it with or plunging it into cold water.
Technique Simmering
The Results Gently cooked, tender, juicy, and flavorful food
What You Need A wok or pot that can hold enough water to cover the food
How Long? A while — from a few minutes to more than an hour
Tips Gentle is the key word: After you bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and gently cook the food until it’s done.
Technique Braising
The Results Flavorful, tender, morsels from the toughest cuts of meats
What You Need A wok or pot that can hold enough water to cover the food
How Long? A long time; normally a couple hours will do the trick
Tips Browning the meat first adds flavor and color; just be patient and don’t put too much meat in the pan at once.
Technique Deep-frying
The Results Food that’s crisp and golden on the outside, tender and fully cooked on the inside
What You Need Not too long, because the quicker the food fries, the better the texture becomes
How Long? A long time; normally a couple hours will do the trick
Tips Don’t let the oil temperature drop! Be careful working near the hot oil, too.
Technique Roasting
The Results Foods with a crisp, caramelized exterior and juicy, tender flesh (but they get that texture from dry, circulating heat rather than from hot oil, as in deep-frying)
What You Need An oven
How Long? Depends on the food’s thickness, but generally a longer, less fuel-efficient method
Tips Make sure that air circulates around the food, and baste it with the marinade or pan juices to add flavor and keep it moist.
Technique Smoking
The Results Foods with a distinctively smoky, aromatic flavor
What You Need A wok, which easily turns into a smoker
How Long? A longer, slower cooking method
Tips Choose from many flavoring agents, such as tea and rice, to flavor your smoke.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Martin Yan hosts the award-winning TV show Yan Can Cook, broadcast on 240 U.S. stations and in 70 countries internationally. His bestselling cookbooks include Martin Yan's Feast and Martin Yan's Invitation to Chinese Cooking.

This article can be found in the category: