Selecting and Using Some Chinese Cooking Utensils
While it is not absolutely essential to purchase a lot
of exotic Chinese implements for one's kitchen, it is always recommended the purchase of a good Chinese
cleaver. Like the wok, the Chinese cleaver has been
known in China for centuries. There are several types
of Chinese cleavers on the market. Most of the ones
that are available at department stores or Chinese
shops are made of mild steel with either metal or
wooden handles. There are ones with 1 1/2" of blade
width, others up to 4" blade width. If one wishes to
spend the money, it is best to purchase a Chinese
cleaver with a 1 1/2" blade for slicing vegetables and
another 4" blade one for all purpose work. If one is
living on a strict budget and can only afford one
knife, it is best to purchase the Chinese cleaver with
the 4" blade. In both cases choose knives with blades
that can be readily honed to sharpness. There are some
Chinese cleavers on the market which have thick
blades. These are used for mincing meats or for heavy
duty chopping. It is well to buy one of these also, if
you already own the above mentioned two.
There are Chinese cleavers made of stainless steel.
Because they are more expensive and a bit more difficult to
hone to razor sharpness. They are not as plentiful as those of
mild steel, but they do tend to stay sharp longer, once honed.
Your Chinese cleaver should be washed and dried with a
paper towel. It should be kept as sharp as possible at
all times because Chinese cookery requires that most
foods be either sliced, diced, shredded, or minced. A
knife steel (which can be purchased from most
restaurant supply houses) or a fine whetstone is used
to keep knives sharp. In sharpening the Chinese
cleaver, one should alternate the blade surface as one
is honing it against the whetstone. A daily honing of
ten or twelve strokes is not too much for your Chinese
cleaver. Do, however, store your Chinese cleaver
carefully in a drawer so that the blade side is down.
Otherwise one could accidentally cut oneself when
opening the drawer, if the blade of the cleaver is
In order to use the Chinese cleavers or for that
matter, any other groups of sharp knives efficiently,
one must definitely have a good cutting board.
Breadboards may be used. The only problem with a
breadboard is that it is likely to crack if one uses
it for mincing meat upon it, Chinese style! If one can
afford one, it is best to get a thick, cross-grained
laminated hardwood meat board. They cost more but are
very durable and will not splinter.
The only other essential piece
of equipment that one needs for good Chinese cooking,
is a pot for cooking rice. Any pot with a tight
fitting cover can be used. If you are cooking a small
amount of rice, a small one or two quart pot will do.
Most Chinese people prefer to use a heavy gauge pot
for cooking rice. Some people cook rice successfully in stainless steel copper
bottom pots, as well as clear glassy pyrex pots. The
chief requirement for a good rice pot is that it has a
well fitting tight cover, so that the rice can be
properly steamed in it during its cooking process.
Automatic rice cookers are marvelous inventions for
anyone who eats rice very frequently. In addition to
cooking perfect rice every time, an automatic rice
cooker does not cause a crust of hard browned rice to
form at the bottom of the pot. Some people discard
this rice thereby creating wastage. There is not any wastage with an automatic rice cooker. However some
gourmets prefer the first mentioned method of cooking
rice, appreciating the delicate toasted flavour that
is imparted to the rice from the resulting crust.
Chopsticks are so inexpensive that it is well to buy
at least a dozen pairs. They are usually sold in
packages of ten pairs. Besides using them for eating
at the table, many Chinese cooks use them for
stir-frying or for mixing ingredients. They can be
used in lieu of a fork or slotted spoon. They are
especially useful for picking out ingredients, either
in cooking or in eating.
Currently there are some non-warp wood chopsticks
coming from The People's Republic of China on the
market. If one cooks a great deal with chopsticks, one
might want to purchase a pair of long wooden
chopsticks expressly for this purpose. Due to
prolonged use in stir-frying in the wok, the tips of
the chopsticks acquire a burnt appearance and,
therefore, become unattractive for table settings.
There are also plastic and ivory chopsticks, if one
desired fancier chopsticks for setting the table.
However, food does have a tendancy to slide off them
and, therefore, more people prefer wooden chopsticks.