Chinese Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet
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
Spatulas and ladles
A claypot casserole
An electric rice cooker
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||Spices and Seasonings|
|Prepared black bean sauce||Chinese five-spice powder|
|Chile oil||Chinese hot mustard|
|Chile paste or sauce||Whole and crushed dried red chiles|
|Hoisin sauce||Sichuan peppercorns|
|Oyster-flavored sauce||Star anise|
|Plum sauce||White pepper, ground|
|Rice vinegar||Canned and Dried Ingredients|
|Rice wine (or dry sherry)||Bamboo shoots|
|Sesame oil||Broth (canned or homemade)|
|Vegetable oil (peanut oil preferred)||Dried black mushrooms|
|Cellophane or bean thread noodles||Sesame seeds|
|Dried egg noodles (store in freezer if fresh)||Straw mushrooms|
|Dried rice noodles||Water chestnuts|
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||The Results||What You Need||How Long?||Tips|
|Stir-frying||Crisp, brightly colored foods with lots of nutrition and
flavor, but little fat
|A wok or large frying pan||Lightning-quick — there’s not time.||Have all your ingredients and sauces prepared ahead of time;
cook ingredients in stages.
|Steaming||Healthful, almost fat-free foods whose fresh, natural flavors
|An electric steamer; a wok or pan with a steamer rack||Not too long — as long as it takes to fully cook the
|Be careful when removing the steamer lid so you don’t get
a painful steam burn.
|Blanching||Softened — not fully cooked — foods that are now
ready for complete cooking via another method
|A wok or pot big enough to hold plenty of boiling water||Brief — just a few minutes or long enough to soften||Make sure to stop the cooking after removing the food the food
by rinsing it with or plunging it into cold water.
|Simmering||Gently cooked, tender, juicy, and flavorful food||A wok or pot that can hold enough water to cover the food||A while — from a few minutes to more than an hour||Gentle is the key word: After you bring the water to a boil,
reduce the heat and gently cook the food until it’s
|Braising||Flavorful, tender, morsels from the toughest cuts of meats||Same equipment as simmering||A long time; normally a couple hours will do the trick||Browning the meat first adds flavor and color; just be patient
and don’t put too much meat in the pan at once.
|Deep-frying||Food that’s crisp and golden on the outside, tender and
fully cooked on the inside
|An electric fryer; a large pan or wok with a flat bottom or a
|Not too long, because the quicker the food fries, the better
the texture becomes
|Don’t let the oil temperature drop! Be careful working
near the hot oil, too.
|Roasting||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)
|An oven||Depends on the food’s thickness, but generally a longer,
less fuel-efficient method
|Make sure that air circulates around the food, and baste it
with the marinade or pan juices to add flavor and keep it
|Smoking||Foods with a distinctively smoky, aromatic flavor||A wok, which easily turns into a smoker||A longer, slower cooking method||Choose from many flavoring agents, such as tea and rice, to
flavor your smoke.