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chinese food recipes
rich flavors
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chinese cuisine
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wok
types of food
spatula
Chinese Cooking Techniques: Stir-fry And Hong-shao
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Chinese food has become one of the most popular foreign cuisines in America due to its rich flavors and unique styles. Yet what is it that separates Chinese cuisine from other types of food? Every manner of cuisine is essentially determined by ingredients and cooking technique. Many of the ingredients used in Chinese cooking are also used in other types of regional cuisine, so this leads us to the fact that technique is the primary thing that seperates this type of food from others, and it is the technique used by Chinese chefs that makes the food so unique and distinct.

Perhaps the most popular and best-used technique in cooking chinese food recipes is Chao, more commonly called "stir-fry" in the West. Though at first appearance stir-fry may seem similar to the more common western method of pan frying, but there are several important distinctions. Chinese stir-fry techniques utilize a "wok", which is essentially a deep and rounded pan that can double as a pot. Traditionally the wok is cast iron, and instead of a flat spatula the chef uses a rounded and deep spatula.

While the tools used are certainly different between pan-frying and stir-frying, perhaps the most important distiction is the heat that the ingredients are cooked at the oil that is used. It is common with pan-frying to cook rather slowly, and cook the entire dish from raw in the oil until it is completely finished. Due to the preference of Chinese chefs to pre-cook most of their ingredients, the time that each ingredient spends in the Wok is almost always very minimal, a few minutes at most, and sauces and toppings are added at intervals during the stir-fry process to preserve all of the natural flavors of the ingredients, an aspect of chinese cooking that is essential.

The oil in the Wok is kept extremely hot, and traditionally the Wok is cooked over a strong flame to ensure the high temperatures needed for traditional stir fry. Unfortunately this means that the typical stove-top can not heat the Wok up to the temperatures that it is traditioanlly cooked at, and so it would benefit any aspiring Chinese chefs to go out and purchase a gas-burner that produces a good flame.

Another common method of cooking Chinese food, though not as common in the West, is Hong-Shao, which means "red stew". This is a very traditional and common method of precooking ingredients before they are tossed in the Wok for the final stir-fry process. In Hong-Shao, a stew is made using soy sauce and sugar, giving the stew the "sweet and sour" taste that is so popular in Chinese cuisine, while also creating a dark red color from whence this cooking technique derives its name. Either water or chicken broth are used as the base of the stew, and a usual rule-of-thumb is to add 1/4 cup soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of sugar for each cup of broth or water. Virutally any ingredient can be cooked in this manner, including the full range of ingredients you would normally make a stew with.


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