A lot of folks are intimidated by cooking at home in general, let alone cooking Asian food like chinese food claremont new hampshire! But it’s not as complicated as you might think. There’s a lot less complicated ingredients and techniques than you would find in Western cooking – but even if you don’t have time to chop vegetables or learn the intricacies of Japanese stir fry, here are some quick tips to get you started on the right foot.

#1 Read the Recipe Carefully: 

Chinese food recipes often use somewhat vague language, like “serve with soy sauce” or “heat until done.” A good rule of thumb is that if an instruction doesn’t seem self-evident, always look for a more specific version of that instruction before proceeding. 

#2 Use a Wok Broiler or Cast Iron Skillet:

Both of these methods produce wok hei, or wok breath. The broiler method is the easiest, although it doesn’t create a large amount of smoke. A cast iron skillet can be used by heating until very hot then adding oil and food. As with a wok, you get best results by using a heavy pan that retains heat well.

#3 Start with Flavorful Ingredients:

Start with quality ingredients and your CHINESE FOOD will always taste better! Chinese food is very heavily flavored with garlic, ginger, vinegar etc…and so foods without strong tastes will never reach their full potential when cooked at home. Start with a quality brand of soy sauce (e.g. Kikkoman) and flavor-packed ingredients like garlic oil, ginger oil, fresh ginger, fish sauce etc…

#4 Understand the Cooking Methods:

There are several cooking methods which are very commonly used in CHINESE FOOD recipes. Stir frying (炒) is used most often and can be done on a stovetop or in a wok. In Chinese cooking, stir frying usually means to cook food over high heat in just enough oil to prevent sticking until the food is 80% cooked through  then adding a flavourful liquid (e.g. wine or chicken stock) and covering for another minute or two until completely cooked through. In the Western culinary world, stir frying means to stir fry meat, vegetables and other ingredients in a wok or skillet over high heat with very little oil.

#5 Use a Powerful Sharp Knife:

Your knife should be sharp, i.e. not softened or dulled by cutting through something gritty or with a rougher surface. If the blade gets dull while using it to cut through hard-to-cut food like mushrooms, be sure to hone it on a hard surface before proceeding.

#6 Learn Basic Knife Skills:

A simple CHINESE FOOD recipe will only require 2 cuts (minced and sliced). The most important thing is that you have the correct technique and use your knife properly. A useful Youtube instructional video to learn this is below.

#7 Heat Oil before Adding Food:

The best Chinese chefs don’t skimp on heat to their cooking oil because it has a big impact on taste! It’s common for cooks to flash fry or stir fry at very high temperatures in order to sear in flavor and seal in juices before adding other ingredients. This will also give you a nice brown color and crisp texture to your food without spending forever trying to make sure nothing sticks.

#8 Don’t Overcrowd Your Pan:

Too much food in the pan is the most common mistake for both Western and Chinese cooks. Not only does this mean you are less likely to cook each piece evenly, but it will take longer for your pan to heat up and it will be harder to control the temperature. The best rule of thumb is to start with just a few pieces of food in a hot pan (if using a wok, stir fry will achieve this)

#9 Use the Right Amount of Oil:

The right amount of oil is just enough to coat the bottom of your pan without being too much. You can tell when it’s too much when your food starts sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can see if the oil is the right amount by looking at the difference between a light film on your pan and a brown paste. If it’s just a thin film  you might need more oil.

#10 Test Your Oil:

Use a small amount of oil (1-2 tbsp) and then add your food to test how much is needed to stick without making sure everything sticks. If you want to use less, put your pieces in at different times in order to avoid them sticking together while they heat up.

#11 Use Medium or Dark Heat:

Most CHINESE FOOD recipes are best when cooked with medium heat. This is true for both stir frying and deep frying. If you cook on high, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked through. Also, use a neutral tasting oil for deep frying instead of peanut or canola oil.

#12 Season From the Start:

If you add salt and other seasonings to your food after it’s cooked (particularly for stir-frying), it will draw moisture out of your food, which lets you get a better flavor. A good rule of thumb is to season from the start (i.e. when adding garlic, ginger etc).

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