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Oriental cooking is a hit with home cooks exploring other cuisines for its simplicity, blend of flavors and easy, quick recipes. Find the Orient in your kitchen.
You can produce truly authentic Oriental dishes at home, in no time at all. Numerous recipes can be prepared in advance and cooked in less than 10 minutes -perfect for today busy lifestyle- and for that reason Oriental cooking is a hit with Western home cooks exploring other cuisines. Countless dishes that take longer to cook can be set quickly, counting on marinating to convey the flavor. Not only are Oriental recipes are quick and easy to prepare; most of them are based on extremely fresh, and healthy, ingredients as well.
Either one you try, Chinese food, Japanese, Thai or Korean cooking, you will be sure conquered by the simplicity of their methods and their aromatic flavors.
Utensils for Oriental Cooking
You won’t need any special equipment too cook Oriental food at home. However the following items will simplify the preparation and cooking, making it more enjoyable:
This is an extremely flexible utensil that can be used for stir-frying, steaming, simmering or deep-frying. A wok is a round bottomed, high sided pan that enables heat to be quickly and evenly distributed around the base and sides, allowing food to cook quickly while retaining its moisture. The food continuously falls back at the bottom of the wok when you are stir-frying and the high sides let you plenty of room to cook your food.
When buying a wok select one that is large, heavy and deep sided and preferably made of carbon steel. Light stainless steel and aluminum tend to burn food. All woks, with the exception of non-stick versions, need to be 'seasoned' before use. Consider getting two, as it is convenient to have one to stir-fry your rice while cooking your meat with the second. There are also several sizes, and you might find useful to have a smaller one to prepare a side of vegetables or a dinner for one. Woks are not usually expensive and you will use them for other kinds of cooking.
An alternative to a wok would be a stir-fry pan or chef’s pan, hybrid of wok and fry pan. It is a little easier to use than the wok because it has a long handle on one side and a flat bottom.
Electric woks heat up very quickly and can be also used for a variety of cooking methods. They are also ideal for cooking food at the table, a tradition which the Koreans and Japanese are very fond of. For those two reasons, an electric wok would be a reasonable acquisition if you are going to cook oriental often.
Oriental cooks use large chopsticks to turn food in the wok, but a large pair of cooking forks or the usual tool you use will do.
To achieve perfect results when cooking in the wok the following tips are essential:
- Prepare all ingredients beforehand so they are ready to add to the wok.
- When preparing ingredients, cut the vegetables and meat in a similar way, either matchstick-like strips, diagonal slices, or diced; this way, the food will cook evenly and quickly and the finished dish will be more appealing to the eye.
- When cooking, keep turning the food to ensure all the ingredients are cooked evenly and to prevent sticking.
- Never overcook stir-fried dishes as the meat will become tough and chewy and the vegetables limp and soggy, the art is to be quick and serve immediately.
Electric rice cookers make the cooking of rice easy and free the stove; a convenient addition, but not really necessary, unless you plan to eat rice almost on a daily basis. They are not uncommon in oriental countries because of the vast amount of rice that is eaten. There are also microwave rice cookers.
There is a fair amount of slicing, scoring and chopping in Oriental cooking and good quality, very sharp knives are a must have.
This is essential to roll Japanese sushi. Whit a bamboo mat, the process is a breeze.
The Asian bamboo steamer comprises one or more slatted, stackable trays -for various layers of food- and a lid. Usually set inside a wok, but it can be used with other pan of adequate size.