Chinese Cooking For Dummies book cover

Chinese Cooking For Dummies

By: Martin Yan Published: 10-11-2000

Forget about takeout!

Have you ever had a craving for fried dumplings or hot and sour soup at midnight? Ever wonder how your local Chinese takeout makes their food taste so good—and look so easy to make? Still don’t know the difference between Sichuan, Cantonese, and Mandarin cooking? Discovering how to cook the Chinese way will leave you steaming, stir-frying, and food-styling like crazy!

The indescribably delicious cuisine of a fascinating country can finally be yours. And in Chinese Cooking For Dummies, your guide to the wonders and magic of the Chinese kitchen is none other than Martin Yan, host of the award-winning TV show Yan Can Cook. In no time at all, you’ll be up to speed on what cooking tools to use, how to stock your pantry and fridge, and the methods, centuries old, that have made dim sum, Egg Fu Young, Kung Pao Chicken, and fried rice universal favorites. You’ll also be able to:

  • Think like a Chinese chef—usin g the Three Tenets of Chinese Cooking
  • Choose and season a wok, select a chef’s knife, plus other basic tools of the trade
  • Find the essential ingredients—and ask for them in Chinese with a Chinese language (phonetic) version of black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, plum sauce, bamboo shoots, and more
  • Cook using a variety of methods—including stir frying, steaming, blanching, braising, and deep frying

And with over 100 recipes, arranged conveniently like a Chinese menu, Chinese Cooking For Dummies lets you select from any column in the comfort of your own kitchen...which is when the fun really begins. Imagine putting together your ideal meal from the book’s rich offering of recipes:

  • Delectable morsels—including Baked Pork Buns, Spring Rolls, Potstickers, Steamed Dumplings, and Shrimp Toast
  • Seafood dishes—including Sweet and Sour Shrimp, and Oysters in Black Bean Sauce
  • Poultry dishes—including Moo Goo Gai Pan, Kung Pao Chicken, and Honey Garlic Chicken
  • Pork, beef, and lamb dishes—including Sichuan Spareribs, Tangerine Beef, and Mongolian Lamb

Chinese Cooking For Dummies gives you all of the basics you’ll need, letting you experience the rich culinary landscape of China, one delicious dish at a time—and all, without leaving a tip!

Articles From Chinese Cooking For Dummies

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28 results
28 results
Drunken Chicken

Article / Updated 04-26-2016

This drunken chicken recipe doesn’t call for chickens who’ve had one too many martinis. It actually gets its name from the step of marinating moist, cooked chicken pieces overnight in Chinese rice wine mixed with sugar, ginger, and other flavorings. Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc. Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes Yield: 4 servings 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/4 pounds) 3/4 cup chicken broth 1 cup Chinese rice wine 3 tablespoons brandy 3 tablespoons soy sauce 6 pieces ginger 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar 1/8 teaspoon white pepper Discard any lumps of fat from the chicken. Place the chicken in a 1 1/2-quart heatproof bowl. Thinly slice the ginger and then lightly crush it. Add the chicken broth, rice wine, brandy, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and white pepper. Be sure to evenly coat the chicken with the mixture. Add water to the wok until it’s about about a quarter full. Arrange four chopsticks tic-tac-toe style slightly above the water level. Bring the water to a boil. Place the bowl that contains the chicken on the chopsticks and cover the wok. Steam the chicken over high heat until it’s no longer pink when cut, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the chicken from the steaming juices. Let the chicken cool slightly. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Strain the juices and skim the fat. Place the sliced chicken in a serving bowl. Pour enough juices into the bowl to cover the chicken. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve the chicken chilled with the gelatinized juices. The steaming liquid in which you marinate the cooked drunken chicken overnight may gelatinize by the time you remove it from the fridge. In fact, this gel is really one of the best parts of the dish — serve it with the chilled chicken. Tip: Because you serve drunken chicken cold and it improves with longer marination, you can prepare it well in advance. It’s a foolproof (80 proof, even) recipe.

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Chinese Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-27-2016

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.

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How to Shell Shrimp

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Removing shells from shrimp is pretty easy, whether they’re cooked or raw. To shell shrimp, you need just your hands. If you want, put on a pair of vinyl gloves to prevent shrimp-scented hands. If you have a fresh lemon, though, you can use some of the juice to wash away the “fragrance.”

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Chinese Herbs and Spices

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Chinese have a long tradition of using herbs and spices to boost a dish’s flavor (and provide nutritional benefits). You can now find many Chinese herbs and spices at supermarkets and specialty food stores. For Chinese culinary creations, you can’t go wrong with these Chinese herbs and spices: Chinese five-spice powder: The Chinese have long believed that the number five has special curative and healing powers, which is why this light cocoa-colored powder originally contained five specific spices. Nowadays, five-spice powder contains quite a few more spices including cinnamon, star anise, fennel, clove, ginger, licorice, Sichuan peppercorn, and dried tangerine peel. Chinese hot mustard: A condiment with a pungent, horseradish-like fieriness. Chinese hot mustards are available already prepared or in powdered form. Ginger: This pale golden, knobby, hand-shaped rhizome (it’s not actually a root) has the perfect combination of enchanting aroma, spicy bite, and natural sweetness. Choose ginger that is hard, heavy, and free of wrinkles and mold. Sichuan peppercorns: Black peppercorns are no substitute for these dried, reddish brown berries with a unique woodsy fragrance and pleasantly numbing tang. In fact, the two aren’t even related. Get the most flavor out of your Sichuan peppercorns by toasting them in a dry frying pan over low heat until they become fragrant, and then add them to your recipe. You can work with either whole peppercorns or ones that are crushed to a powder. Star anise: These approximately 1-inch, star-shaped pods have points, each containing a shiny, mahogany-colored seed. Star anise has a licorice flavor.

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Chinese Potstickers

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Potstickers are Chinese dumplings that are steamed and then fried. The combination of steaming and pan-frying the potstickers gives the dumpling wrappers an irresistible balance between smooth and noodlelike on top, and crispy and caramelized on the bottom. Potstickers, despite the name, shouldn’t actually stick to your wok, though. Preparation time: 1 hour Cooking time: About 30 minutes Yield: 30 potstickers 8 dried black mushrooms 1 napa cabbage 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 pound ground pork, chicken, or beef 4 green onions Fresh ginger 2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 30 potsticker wrappers 3 tablespoons cooking oil 1 cup chicken broth Soak the mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 20 minutes. Be sure to completely cover the mushrooms with the water. Drain the mushrooms, discard the stems, and mince the caps. Shred the napa cabbage. In a large bowl, toss 4 cups of the cabbage with the salt; squeeze to remove the excess liquid. Chop the green onions and mince the ginger. Combine the mushrooms, napa cabbage, ground pork, green onions, oyster-flavored sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, white pepper, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the minced ginger in a bowl; mix well. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of a potsticker wrapper. Keep the remaining wrappers covered to prevent drying. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold the wrapper in half, crimping one side, to form a semicircle. Pinch the edges together to seal. Set the potsticker, seam side up, in a baking pan. Cover the potstickers with a wet towel to prevent drying. Place a wide frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil. Add 10 potstickers, seam side up. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup chicken broth. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the potstickers from the pan. Repeat with the remaining potstickers, cooking oil, and chicken broth. Tip: Most potsticker wrappers come in 1-pound packages. The number of actual wrappers in a 1-pound package varies, depending on the wrapper thickness. Because potsticker wrappers should be thick to survive pan-frying without tearing, scope out those packages that appear to have fewer, thicker wrappers.

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Classic Chinese Sauces and Condiments

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Chinese cooking encompasses thousands of sauces and condiments, and thanks to your supermarket’s Asian food aisle, many classic Chinese sauces and condiments are readily available. Some of these flavors are strong, some are subtle. Either way, it’s fun to experiment with these intriguing ingredients. Black bean sauce: Made of salted black beans and rice wine; has a savory, slightly salty flavor that sometimes gets a little kick from garlic and hot chiles. If you find only "black bean garlic sauce" at your store, you can use it — just reduce (to your taste) the amount of other garlic in the recipe. Char siu sauce: A combination of fermented soy beans, vinegar, tomato paste, chile, garlic, sugar, and Chinese spices; used on Chinese barbecued spareribs and roast pork. Chile pastes and sauces: Come in a range of flavors, degrees of heat, and consistencies, but most are made from a blend of fresh and dried chiles and vinegar. Chile oil: This reddish orange oil comes from infusing whole, dried red chiles or crushed red pepper flakes in oil. Hoisin sauce: This dark, rich, pastelike sauce has a spicy-sweet flavor and reddish brown color. It’s normally made from fermented soybeans, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and Chinese spices. Oyster-flavored sauce: The name of this sauce is a little deceptive: It really doesn’t have a flavor much like oysters. Instead, the thick, brown, all-purpose sauce made from oyster extracts, sugar, seasonings, and cornstarch has sweet and smoky notes. Plum sauce: Made from a combination of salted plums, apricots, yams, rice vinegar, chiles, sugar, and other spices. It can run the gamut from sweet-tart to salty, and from smooth to chunky and jamlike. Rice wine: An amber-colored liquid from the fermentation of glutinous rice and millet. Sesame oil: A dark amber, aromatic oil pressed from toasted sesame seeds used on a finished dish. Sesame paste: A thick, peanut buttery paste, made from toasted white sesame seeds. Soy sauce: The best-quality soy sauces, made from traditionally fermented soybeans and wheat, have a dark color and a slightly sweet, mildly salty flavor that isn’t overpowering. Dark soy sauce: The addition of molasses and a bit of cornstarch gives a sweeter, more full-bodied flavor and a syrupy consistency to dark soy sauce. Rice vinegar: Mild, not pungent, and relatively sweet. “Seasoned” rice vinegars are spiked with sugar, which adds an even stronger sweetness. Black vinegar: Made from the fermentation of a mixture of rice, wheat, and millet, black vinegar has a bold, sweet-tart, and smoky flavor and a deep, dark color. Red vinegar: Has a mild, light, and smooth flavor.

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Egg Flower Soup

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Sometimes called egg drop soup, this version of egg flower soup is surprisingly quick and easy to make. Egg flower soup is a great dish when your cupboards are almost bare and you just can’t summon the energy to fix anything more complicated. The name “egg flower soup” often confounds Western diners: For one thing, the soup contains no flowers. The name actually came from the beaten egg white’s apparent “blossoming” while it’s slowly drizzled into the hot broth. Preparation time: 12 minutes Cooking time: About 15 minutes Yield: 4 to 6 servings 6 cups chicken broth 1 tablespoon wine 2 medium carrots 1 cup snow peas 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1 sheet of 8-x-7-inch nori 1 egg 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon white pepper In a medium soup pot, bring the chicken broth and wine to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Julienne the carrots. Snap off the snow peas’ stem ends and remove the fibrous strings. Add 1/4 cup carrots and the snow peas to the pot; cook for 30 to 40 seconds. Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of water. Add the cornstarch solution to the pot and cook, stirring, until the soup comes to a boil. Cut the nori into 1/8-inch strips. Stir in the nori. Turn off the heat. Crack the egg into a bowl and lightly beat it with a fork or whisk. Slowly pour the egg into the pot, stirring with a chopstick in a circular motion until long threads form. Stir in the sesame oil, salt, and white pepper. To give the egg flower soup recipe a little bit more green, add baby bok choy, spinach, or any other leafy green that you like. And for meat lovers, you can add a half cup of leftover barbecued pork, cooked shrimp, or ham lunch meat.

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Types of Chinese Noodles

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Chinese love their noodles and have for centuries. The shapes of Chinese noodles may not vary as much as do those of Italian pasta, but the different ingredients used to make Chinese noodles do set one variety apart from the next: Egg noodles: Of all the Chinese noodles, egg noodles bear the strongest resemblance to Western pasta. But Chinese noodle makers use regular wheat flour instead of semolina. Like Italian pasta, Chinese egg noodles come in both fresh and dried forms and in a wide range of widths, lengths, and flavors. Shanghai noodles are a thick style of round egg noodle that, as their name suggests, originated in Shanghai. Because they’re larger and more filling than the thinner types, they deserve a hearty, more richly flavored sauce — just the kind that Shanghai cooks are known for making. Fresh rice noodles: When fresh, these noodles are soft and pliable, and have a milky white color. They’re made from long-grain rice flour and water and come in whole folded sheets that you cut to your desired thickness, or in ready-cut strips ranging in width from a couple inches to thin, linguine-like strands. Both types have a light coating of oil to keep the notoriously sticky noodles from sticking together. To remove this coating, you need only rinse them gently with hot water. Dried rice noodles: If you’re keen to make your own rice noodle dishes, you can find dried ones in an increasing number of supermarkets. Made from the same rice flour as the fresh kind, these translucent, brittle sticks and ribbons are firmer than fresh, but are still excellent alternatives for those of us who just can’t live without rice noodles. Cellophane or bean thread noodles: These semi-transparent noodles made from mung bean flour look like coils of fishing line. Their mild flavor and slightly elastic consistency perfectly complement soups and casseroles with thick sauces and rich seasonings that cling to the noodles’ surfaces.

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Almond Cookies

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

By using vegetable shortening instead of the traditional lard in these almond cookies, this recipe creates almond cookies that are a little bit crispier — and with a lot less cholesterol. Credit: Michael Lamotte/Cole Group/PhotoDisc Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour for the dough to rest Cooking time: About 15 minutes per batch Yield: About 32 cookies 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup solid vegetable shortening 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 egg 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon almond extract 1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds 32 almond halves Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl. In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar, and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy. Crack the egg and pour it into a small bowl, then beat it lightly with a whisk or fork. Add the egg, and the vanilla and almond extracts; beat until blended. Add the flour mixture; beat until fully incorporated. Add the chopped almonds and stir to mix well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. You need to refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, and you can keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls. Place the balls 2 to 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Press an almond half into the center of each ball. Bake until golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 7 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Even desserts deserve garnishing. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds or even some finely chopped walnuts onto your almond cookies while they’re still warm — they’re the perfect accessory for these tempting treats.

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Beef Chow Fun

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The salty-sweet sauce in beef chow fun provides the perfect foil for the chewy, richly textured rice noodles. To jump-start the beef chow fun’s flavor even more, stir a little crushed red pepper into the dish near the end of the cooking time. Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Yield: 4 servings 1/2 pound dried wide rice noodles* 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine 1 teaspoon cornstarch 6 ounces flank steak 1/2 cup chicken broth 3 tablespoons cooking oil 2 medium onions 3 green onions Soak the noodles in warm water until softened, about 30 minutes; drain. Combine 1 tablespoon of the dark soy sauce, the rice wine, and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Thinly slice the beef across the grain. Add the beef to the bowl and stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine the chicken broth and the remaining 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce in a bowl. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, swirling to coat the sides. Add the noodles and stir for 1 minute. Add half the broth and soy sauce. Cook, stirring, until the noodles are evenly coated. Remove the noodles and set aside. Place the wok over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat the sides. Slice the onion. Add 1 1/2 cups onion to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Cut the green onions into 1-inch pieces. Add the flank steak and the green onions to the wok; stir-fry until the beef is no longer pink, about 1 to 2 minutes. Return the noodles to the wok and toss gently. Add the remaining sauce to coat evenly and cook for about 2 minutes. If you can find fresh rice noodles rather than the usual dry variety, the fresh noodles don’t need prior soaking to rehydrate them. A quick rinse with hot water separates them, removes their oily coating, and sufficiently softens them for cooking.

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