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Q&A -- Chinese Cooking: Southern home-style dishes

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When I use a steamer most of the time what I'm steaming is on a rimmed plate or in a soup tureen, so I don't worry so much about cleaning them after that. Steam is very hot and is used to sterilize things all the time. I just make sure the bamboo drys thoroughly, that's pretty important in damp or warm climates. If I've steamed bao or dumplings I usually line the steamer with cabbage. In that case I use my long handled bristled brush to clean them with some dishwashing detergent, but make sure the detergent isn't scented too strongly because you don't want those smells stuck in your steamer, and rinse like crazy. If all you have is super smelly stuff, I'd do what PCL recommends and just use boiling water.

You don't need to get a cover for your wok if the size of the steamer you buy covers enough of the wok to your satisfaction!

We've started cooking outside on a 70,000 btu burner with a big (22 or 24 inch) wok and it's a lot of fun.



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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for an excellent course and posts everybody.

A few more tips about rice cooker usage, though Trillium covered almost everything. I'm a veteran rice cooker user.

First, if you get one, be aware that it is very important to dry the outer bottom and sides of the 'rice pot' before putting it into the cooker. Not doing so will shorten the useful life of your rice cooker dramatically.

Second, even if you live near a Chinatown where everything is generally a bargain, Chinatown is NOT the place to get a great price on a rice cooker. Asian people will use their rice cooker every single day and will see the value in spending money on a high quality workhorse. Yet the same rice cooker may sell for much less at a mass market department store with a kitchen section, simply because most of their customers are non-Asian. The only advantage to going to a Chinatown is greater selection. This may be worth it if you want a small or mid-size rice cooker with some of the features below.

Third, some features worth getting are 1) non-stick lining in the rice pot, 2) measuring lines stamped into the pot, 3) 'keep warm' function, typically not available on the smallest rice cookers, 4) hinged outer lid that 'clamps and clicks'.

Fourth, the 'keep warm' function means that you can prepare more rice than you want for a single meal and it can stay warm in the cooker for a few days. This means you needn't worry so much about buying a cooker that seems bigger than what you need for a two-or-three-person household/meal. It also means that on winter days, there is already something cooked, warm, and ready to eat when you come home. [Note though, bigger rice cookers, 10 cups or more, will not do a good job on only one or two cups of rice, so that you almost have to make more than you need in this situation.]

Fifth, the cooker can be used for other grains besides rice. Whole wheat, cracked wheat, etc. all work well, though they take longer to cook. They all turn out okay, regardless of quantity, because the cooker turns itself off whenever all the water has been absorbed by the grains; the temperature of the bottom of the pot shoots past 212 when this happens, and that's what turns the rice cooker off. The only time this might not work is when the grain has oozed so much gluten or starch that a starch layer accumulates at the bottom before some water above it has been absorbed. The starch layer would go past 212 and 'fool' the cooker into thinking all the water had been absorbed.

Sixth, measuring lines stamped into the cooker are particularly useful, and here's why. Typically a cooker comes with a plastic measuring cup that holds about 3/4 cup. This is supposed to represent a single serving of raw rice. The numbered lines stamped into the cooker represent the amount of water to add after you've added the raw rice. So, for three people, add 3 'rice-cups' of rice, then fill with water to line number 3. There's your ratio. If you like your rice softer or firmer, you can tweak the amount of water. Either way, the rice cooker will turn off when all the water has been absorbed, because of the principle mentioned above.

I don't mean to persuade anyone to buy a rice cooker, but I will say that it turns out perfect results every time and is such a convenient 'set it and forget it' tool that I think it's worth the money invested. I would rather invest my energy in making sure the more complicated dishes turn out right, confident that the rice will take care of itself.

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