As Ken Hom went along his cooking demonstration at the Emirates Literature Festival 2013, I picked up these 10 top tips he mentions that his cook books don’t necessarily spell out on how to cook Chinese like a pro! Don't forget to check out the video (captured in action at the Emirates Literature Festival 2013) after the post:
In Chinese cooking, don’t add oil into a cool or semi-warm wok. Let the wok really heat up, could even be till smoking point and that’s when the oil goes in. This is what gives the unique, grilled, smokey flavour to Chinese food. The hotter the wok, the better.
When a recipe says finely chopped for instance, finely chopped garlic, that does not mean you mince it. It has to be roughly chopped and the reason is because when you add it into the hot wok, it won’t burn fast.
Keep a ‘ear’ for sounds when cooking Chinese. For instance, when you add meat into the wok, listen out for the crackling sound to know you’re on the right track and temperature!
When sauteing meat, wait till the meat caramelizes. Don’t take it out before it gets a warm caramel colour which comes from marinading it in soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil (a standard marinade).
When you add meat back into the wok during the final stages to mix with the vegetables/rice etc. drain out the fat and oil. Don’t tip the entire bowl with the meat into the wok. As Ken Hom says ‘really good Chinese food is not greasy and fatty!’.
When you are stir-frying and you feel you need a little bit of more oil, don’t add oil! Instead, add a little rice wine or water. You can add stock too but you don’t need oil to loosen the ingredients you’re stir-frying.
When you add stock during your cooking process, add a pinch of sugar – this brings about a nice balance to the dish.
When you are making steamed dishes such as steamed fish, in a small pan heat some vegetable and sesame oil together and when it just begins to smoke, immediately remove from heat and pour over the fish. This small trick make a big difference in taste!
When sauteing greens such as spinach, add a pinch of sugar to the spinach when you see the leaves wilting. This is to balance off the iron flavour.
When making fried rice, use leftover white rice that’s been stored in the freezer. Place the frozen rice into the wok and keep pressing down with a big flat spatula for some time till the rice warms up and begins to get slightly crispy at the bottom.
Keep these tips in mind next time you’re in the kitchen getting ready to cook some Chinese!