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Home > Cooking Tips > Cooking Techniques in Chinese Cuisine

Cooking Techniques in Chinese Cuisine

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Cooking Techniques in Chinese Cuisine

Chinese cooking has developed many methods that take advantage of the wide range of foods and ingredients available throughout the nation. Different regions use different methods, and often the same foods will be prepared quite differently.

The basic techniques used in Chinese cooking are precooking techniques such as parboiling and partial frying, and cooking techniques such as frying, sauteing, braising, stewing, boiling, simmering, steaming, "flavor-potting," and smoking. This section also describes cooking temperatures, cooking with oil, marinades, sugar and other coatings, sauces, gravies, stocks and flavoring sauces.

Precooking Methods
Cooking Temperatures
Cooking with Oil




Precooking Methods


Some meats need to be partially precooked just long enough to get rid of off-odors but not so long their flavor or texture changes. Some vegetables also need precooking to get rid of astringency or bitterness or to heighten their fresh color. Parboiling and partial frying are the two most common methods of precooking foods before they are combined with other ingredients for the remaining steps in a recipe.




There are four methods of parboiling. Each uses different timings and temperatures and yields different results.



Parboiling vegetables like taro root, Chinese yams and fresh bamboo shoots by cooking them in boiling water before they are cooked with other ingredients, helps to remove their astringent taste and makes peeling easier. These vegetables should be parboiled in their skins, if possible, and peeled and cut as required afterwards to avoid loss of nutrients.



Slow-boiling is used for foods like pork tripe that take a longer time to cook than the other ingredients in a recipe. These foods should be simmered in boiling water until tender and then combined with the rest of food and seasonings called for in the recipe.


Hot-plunging or blanching

Hot-plunging or blanching is used for some tender, fresh vegetables to set their color and texture. Celery, spinach, green beans and other vegetables are plunged into a large pot of boiling water and removed as soon as the water returns to a boil. They are then drained and run immediately under cold water to stop the cooking process.



Quick-boiling is often used to rid meat of bits of bone and the off-odor that comes from the blood. The meat is placed in cold water and removed and drained as soon as it comes to a boil. However, the method used for pork kidney, fish, and chicken is closer to blanching: the meat is dropped into boiling water and removed as soon as it is cooked.

Chinese cooking also uses two methods of partial frying foods as an intermediate step in many recipes.

Sliding through the oil means placing an ingredient in warm oil which has been heated to.



Cooking Temperatures

Heat is what causes all the changes that take place in foods when they are cooked. Because different temperatures and cooking times lead to different results, temperature control is a key element in Chinese cuisine.

Chinese recipes call for three kinds of heat: high heat, used in stir-frying, quick-frying, and deep-frying; medium heat, used in sauteing, slippery-frying, and deep-frying coated foods; and low heat, used in steaming, simmering, braising, and stewing.

Chinese recipes also often specify three levels of flame (or heat, on the electric ranges which are common in the West) to regulate the levels of heat of water.

High flame or heat is used to produce a fast boil, in which the water or liquid is kept bubbling rapidly. The fast boil is used to reduce and thicken broths or stocks and in hot-plunging and quick-boiling.

Medium flame or heat keep liquids at a moderate boil and is used in some types of braising.
Low flame or heat is used to keep liquids at a slow boil or simmer in stewing, simmering, and flavor-potting.



Cooking with Oil

Many of the recipes in this book call for deep-frying foods in large amounts, from two to eight cups (500 ml to two liters), of vegetable oil. When foods are deep-fried at the proper temperature, they absorb very little oil, but, it can be difficult to judge whether oil is at the right temperature.

Although many Chinese recipes call for oil to be heated "to the smoking point" when deep-frying, it should be pointed out that the cooking oils used in China are often less highly refined than those used in the West. The presence or absence of impurities changes the appearance of oil as it heats.

We therefore suggest using thermometers to gauge how hot oil is.

Warm oil is about n this temperature range, no bubbles will appear around a small piece of vegetable leaf like a piece of green scallion or spinach, or a slice of ginger, that has been tossed into the oil.

Moderately hot oil is about . In this temperature range, small bubbles will sizzle around a piece of ginger, or scallion tossed into the oil.

Very hot oil is about , a one-inch cube of day-old bread will turn brown in one minute when dropped into the oil.

Boiling oil is above . A heavy haze appears and the oil bubbles vigorously.

Most Chinese recipes call for oil to be heated to the hot or very hot stage. Lower temperatures are used in methods like sliding through the oil, while extremely hot oil is used to crisp and brown coated foods that have already been fried at a lower temperature.




Chinese recipes often call for meats and other ingredients to be first marinated and then dipped into a batter-a paste which may contain cornstarch or flour, egg white, salt, sugar, and monosodium glutamate. When the food is later deep-fried, the coating seals in juices, keeps the food from falling apart, and reduces the loss of nutrients. These coatings also cook into light, crisp crusts that contrast with the tenderness of the food inside.

Cooking pastes and coating are also used for foods that will be stir-fried, quick-fried or slippery-fried because they impart a soft, slippery quality to the dish.

The most common batter is made of cornstarch and water. It is usually made of two parts cornstarch to one part water and is used in deep-frying and slippery-frying. It cooks into a crisp, yellowish-brown crust when deep-fried.

A batter of egg white and cornstarch is used in stir-frying and slippery-frying. The batter remains white after cooking, but the food inside is tender.

An egg yolk and cornstarch batter may also be used in deep-frying and slippery-frying. It results in a golden-brown coating.

The flour and egg yolk coating is actually a two-step process. The food is first dipped in flour and then into beaten egg yolk.

Another two-step process is egg and bread-crumb coating. The food is first dipped in beaten egg yolks and then rolled in bread crumbs. When deep-fried, the coating turns crisp and golden-brown.


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