Basic cooking techniques and tips

You will notice that I work with some consistent techniques in my dishes. These are to be used for all stir fry dishes. Stir frying is fast, easy and the ingredients will keep their taste and nutrition. After the pre-prep, cooking the food is very fast: I can cook up to 8 separate dishes using only 1 wok, without the first dish getting cold. Keep in mind the following tips while cooking my dishes.

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Begin

  • I usually use sunflower oil, but you can also use (the more expensive) peanut- coconut- or fish oil for stir frying. The latter give the dish a little more taste and the oil can reach a higher temperature (sometimes needed for beef dishes). Don’t use olive oil, and never use butter for stir frying!
  • Begin with heating the oil and then add the spices, such as garlic, chili, ginger, Sichuan pepper or curry paste to fry. These spices all dissolve in oil and so the taste will be released when frying, an will give the dish its typical taste. Make sure when frying that the spices don’t burn!
  • Most vegetables I use can be used for stir frying raw, but sometimes half a cup of water is needed to steam them, like for instance with celery, or they need to be cooked shortly like green asparagus

Sauces

  • I always use soy sauce light, not the ‘dark’ variant, or sweetened soy sauce. The dark sauce will color the food brown and the taste is too strong. Indonesian Ketjap is sweetened and I don’t like to use this either. If I want a sweet taste in my food I would rather add sugar or honey
  • Curry paste is also useful as a taste enhancer with vegetables or rice
  • Oyster sauce is the perfect sauce to use with green vegetables and fish dishes, such as  green asparagus, Kung Pao dishes en Shanghai paksoi with shii take
  • When a sauce is too spicy, then add a little cream or milk (don’t use this with Wasabi) The spicy substances dissolve in fat, which is good for frying, but if it gets too much, then quickly eat something to neutralize the taste (such as yoghurt or milk)

Cooking tools

  • A wok works best with my recipes, but if you don’t have one then you can also use a baking pan with a high brim. Use a wooden spoon or spatial, or if you can, use chopsticks while cooking to stir the food.
  • Use a large and sharp knife. Most of the preparation in Asian cooking is in the cutting. With a sharp knife I can do this very quickly! After the cutting, the cooking part only takes minutes
  • The Chinese eat with chopsticks, and that’s why all the meat and vegetables are already cut ito small pieces before cooking. Bones with meat is a common thing (so you know what you are eating). Make your choice of buying the meat in the supermarket of from the butcher’s, with bones. I would say go crazy, an buy a whole chicken in the market and cook La Zi Ji!

Herbs and spices

  • Always use fresh ginger. The dried or pickled ginger has a totally different taste (sweet or sour) and is used more for other dishes (sushi) but not for stir frying
  • There are many kinds of chilli, from dried ground chili to fresh peppers and pasta. Dried is usually most spicy. Use what you like. Often if you remove the seeds, then the taste is less spicy. Dried peppers will be more spicy if cooked in oil, or in soup. Keep this in mind!
  • Take care when using Sichuan pepepers that there aren’t any thorns. The peppers grow on a thorny plant, so sometimes there are sharp thorns with the peppers: not nice to bite into!

Vegetables, mushrooms and rice

  • Shii take which I usually use, are dried mushrooms from Asia. They have a very potent taste and smell, which is much stronger than local mushrooms in Europe. If you have tasted them once you will never want to eat local mushrooms anymore. Dried mushrooms have a very strong taste, and that’s why I always use them. Fresh ones are usually more expensive to buy. Use dry ones and soak them one night in warm water, or alternatively boil them 15 minutes in small water until they get soft. Don’t throw away the water! This is very tasty! Use it for soup or sauces later on. Take care that there isn’t any sand on the bottom of the pan/bowl.
  • Many local vegetables are very useful to stir fry. Try to experiment with green asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Chicory or broccolli!
  • Cooking rice is as follows (if you don’t have a rice cooker): add the rice to a pan, then add water to just cover the rice, then add 2 cm more. Cook the rice slowly with a lid on the pan 10 minutes, then have a look and a taste stir it, then cook for 10 minutes more. Then the rice is ready! Never throw away the water, Chinese consider this a sin! The water contains most of the taste. Make sure that the rice nearly cooks dry. At the end, stir the rice regularly to avoid it sticking to the pan. Turn off the fire and let the rice steam by itself for a couple of minutes. Don’t ever add butter or olive oil. If you have used too much water, then let the rice cook further on a low fire. If too little water, then very slowly add some boiled water. Boiled rice will stay good for a couple of days out of the fridge (if you have too much, then use it for fried rice later)
  • If you’re making Sushi then make sure that the rice is completely cooled down before preparing.
    When cooking add some Turmeric or curry powder for an Indonesian style yellow rice. I always use Thai broken Jasmine rice. This is cheap and useful for most dishes. I buy it in a big bag of 10 kilos. Other kinds of rice are also usable.
  • Finally, first read through my whole recipe before you start cooking. This way you will know how much of everything you need and when you need it, so you don’t have any surprises when the cooking pot is hot!

Good luck with everything, and make sure to let me know how it is going!

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