You may love Chinese food and you love cooking at home – but have you got the right essentials? There’s a lot more to Chinese food preparation than a wok, and lots more gadgets than you might think to help perfect your technique and look right whilst doing so.
Of course, for many of us, Chinese food equals takeaway or eating out – and there’s nothing wrong with that; some dishes are quite involved and good prep’ takes practice. But there’s also a great joy in cooking Chinese food yourself at home – and practice really does make perfect.
So first off – yes, you absolutely do need a wok! Don’t scrimp on this either; get the best one you can afford, made of stainless steel or cast iron. The wok is the basis for most Chinese food preparation and you’ll use it hundreds of times over – so getting the best you can make sense. Woks are incredibly versatile; they’re used to boil, steam, deep-fry and, of course, to stir-fry food. Whether it’s steamed soy-ginger Chinese seafood or something simple like chow mein, the flame-heated wok adds flavour and is the absolute basic essential starting point for preparing Chinese food chez vous.
It’s also worth picking up a bamboo wok brush to clean your wok safely and effectively with. This will also impress your friends as it makes you look like you really know what you’re doing! Chopsticks should also be a given, and if you go for bamboo ones it gives your meal greater authenticity and that feeling of quality.
We’re not quite in real gadget territory yet – but we can get on our way with a pair of ancient Chinese scissors. Their centuries old design is cool and again adds a genuine note to proceedings.
A Chinese clay pot is also a good basic essential tool. In China, clay pots are used to make stews and casseroles, along with rice dishes and congee. They seem to create their own unique flavour and are really easy to make a whole meal with.
Similarly, a traditional Chinese cleaver is a pre-requisite We’ve all seen the martial art movies where a thick-set Chinese chef emerges from the kitchen angrily brandishing one of these, right? Well, that’s what we’re talking about; the all-purpose cutting and maybe self-defence tool!
Oh, and don’t even think about going Chinese in home prep if you don’t have a plug-in rice cooker. Once you’ve tried one of these, there’s really no going back. They can be used for just rice or whole steamed meals with rice, vegetables and seafood etc.; the easiest authentic Chinese meals you’ll ever make. They’re also great for congee.
Similarly, you’re going to need stacking steamers. These are a tradition in Chinese cuisine preparation and can either be plug-in or stove-top. Even more authentic are bamboo baskets. These are great for steaming dumplings, Chinese buns and so on and come various sizes. They also look great, particularly for dim sum. All steamers cook cleanly, too; so no grease for the more health-conscious of you.
Lastly; you’re going to need a traditional Chinese chopping board. All Chinese kitchens have the thick-cut, heavy, rounded wooden block for chopping, slicing and tenderising. Get one of these, too, and now you’re all set.