Fine cuisine has been an integral part of China’s brilliant ancient culture since the beginning, but has only recently been recognized outside of China as one of the world’s three great “original” cuisines.

Steaming is a very commonly used cooking method in China and almost all ingredients including meats, chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs, dumplings, rice and even cakes are they can steam successfully. The purpose of steaming is to preserve the pure, natural flavor and color of food. Here are some tips to keep in mind when following the recipes.

1) You must have a cookware large enough to comfortably hold a stand, the dish that holds the food, and enough water to produce a large volume of steam when the cookware is covered.

2) When the food is steamed in a bowl or plate, the container is placed in a larger pan, insert the stand and pan or plate first. Place the food inside only when the water boils until it is two-thirds of the way up the outside of the container.

3) For shellfish, when steaming shellfish, keep the heat to the maximum. For meat, the heat should be turned back to medium. For custard or anything with eggs, use low heat. Seafood meat is more delicate than meat, meat with a fresh flavor that will only be preserved if you cook it as quickly as possible. Meat with its thicker texture, it can take on a thicker flavor if steamed over too high a heat. The eggs just need enough heat to keep the water producing steam. Otherwise, wrinkles will form on the surface of the custard.

4) A few minutes after putting the food in, uncover the utensil for a second to see how the food is doing.

Cooking. It’s done when it’s neither underdone nor overdone. It is difficult to set the time as so many minutes per clock, as the quality and tenderness of any raw food can vary widely. Through experience, you will learn what food should look or feel like at its best. Steaming doesn’t take long, however, at a Chinese restaurant the waiter may return with your freshly steamed fish before you have your Martini.

5) Plan to serve the food at the time it is cooked, piping hot, as steamed dishes do not taste better when cooled to lukewarm. Also remember that due to the intense heat it has absorbed, the food will continue to cook after you remove it from the steamer.

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