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Nicholas Zhou
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Default Cooking Tips: Selecting Ingredients in Chinese Cooking

Nicholas Zhou
Real and Healthy Chinese Food Recipes
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Cooking Tips #1 - Selecting Ingredients

Chinese cooking uses a wide range of ingredients, including meat, meat
products, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, vegetables, bean products, wild
plants, game, and many seasonings. Most come in both fresh and dried forms,
but the most important features to look for are freshness and quality.

Meats should be judged by their place of origin, season of production, and
any other characteristic-for example, old or young, male or female-that may
be specified in a recipe. Appearance, color, weight, water content, and
smell are also important.

Different dishes call for different cuts of meat because cuts have different
textures once they have been cooked. Cuts of the same meat may be tough or
tender, coarse or fine. For example, the Chinese distinguish eighteen
different cuts of pork. These include filet, streaky pork, shoulder butt,
ham butt, hock, and shank.

The filet is considered the best cut and is generally stir-fried or
quick-fried (see the section below on "cooking techniques" for descriptions
of these and other procedures) to take advantage of its tenderness. Streaky
pork is best when marinated with spiced rice flour (see recipe Steamed Pork
with Spiced Rice Flour) and then steamed, or red-cooked (braised in soy
sauce). The shank and hock are best suited to lengthy simmering, with or
without soy sauce, while the ham and ham butt are often used as substitutes
for filet. The ribs and feet are best prepared 'by lengthy, low-temperature
methods like braising, baking or simmering, while spareribs are suitable for
sauteing, quick-frying, slippery-frying, and deep-frying. The methods used
for pork are also applicable to similar cuts of beef and lamb or mutton.

With reference to poultry, the tenderest and most versatile part of a
chicken or duck is the breast. Chickens or ducks less than a year old are
usually quick-fried or deep-fried, while older birds need long, slow cooking
like simmering or braising to tenderize them.

Fish is as nutritious as poultry. Crab, prawns and shrimps are rich in
phosphorus, calcium and vitamin A. You can tell a fresh fish by its tight,
undamaged scales, red gills, and clear protruding eyes. Fresh prawns and
shrimps should be greenish-white, with firm bodies that curve slightly. They
should not be flat or limp, and their heads and tails should be intact.
Fresh crabs should be alive and active. They should spit foams and have
green upper shells and white under-shells.


Nicholas Zhou
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