Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I choose a wok?
     
  2. What is the difference between light and dark soy sauce?
     
  3. How do I cook a Chinese meal and entertain at the same time?
     
  4. Is it true that a Chinese meal takes forever to prepare?
     
  5. Can I use a wok on an electric stove?
     
  6. Most of the Chinese dishes in restaurants seem to be fairly oil. Is Chinese cooking fattening?
     
  7. Why am I hungry shortly after I finish a big Chinese meal?
     
  8. What type of oil is used in Chinese cooking?
     
  9. Are chop suey, chow mein, egg rolls, and fortune cookies really authentically Chinese?
     
  10. Are you really as good as you look on TV?

 

  1. How do I choose a wok?
    The most common wok is a spun (rolled) steel one; this is the type used by most Chinese. The steel wok is practical and available in most cookware stores. The price of steel woks ranges from $6-$14; for a small family, the 12" wok should do just fine. For a larger family, try the 14" size. The steel wok has to be treated or seasoned; take good care of it and it will be yours for life.

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  2. What is the difference between light and dark soy sauce?
    Light soy sauce is also known as thin soy sauce; it is lighter in color and saltier in taste than dark soy sauce. Light soy sauce is commonly used for marinating or seasoning dishes; it is also used as a dip. Aside from being darker in color and less salty than light soy sauce, dark soy sauce is also referred to as black soy sauce and is used in sautéing and stewing to give an extra touch of sweetness and color. Not every dish calls for soy sauce; on some occasions, salt is used instead.

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  3. How do I cook a Chinese meal and entertain at the same time?
    Plan your menu and organize your time. Have a few stir-fried dishes as possible; instead, include some dishes that can be made ahead of time and be reheated just before serving. Plan ahead and get things ready in advance. If you need a helping hand, don't be afraid to yell for help. This way, you can cook up a storm and be able to enjoy your "creations" with your guests.

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  4. Is it true that a Chinese meal takes forever to prepare?
    Yes and No! If you organize yourself, know what you are doing, and learn a few basic techniques, you can whip up a nutritious and delicious meal in 45 minutes. If you are totally lost, take one step at a time and learn a few basics such as slicing, shredding, and stir-frying. It is essential to master the basic preparation and cooking skills to avoid being stuck in the kitchen for 20 years and producing the most memorable charcoal-burnt dishes.

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  5. Can I use a wok on an electric stove?
    Definitely, you can. The electric stove offers the same amount of heat as the gas stove. The only difference is that gas stoves give you an instant heat, thus better control of heat and cooling time. The electric stove takes a couple of extra minutes to bring the wok to desired temperature, and it also takes a couple of extra minutes to cool down. Therefore, if you have an electric stove, pre-heat your skillet or wok before you start cooking any Chinese dish because most Chinese dishes require fairly accurate cooking times and temperatures. With a little bit of patience and effort you should be able to cook up just as good a dish on an electric stove as on a gas stove. A wok ring (stand) may be required if you have a very sharply curved wok. In the past 50 years, all of the places where I have lived have had only an electric stove, so I know that electric wokking can be done. (In fact, all the recipes in this book were tested on the electric stove in my humble kitchen.)

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  6. Most of the Chinese dishes in restaurants seem to be fairly oil. Is Chinese cooking fattening?
    Absolutely not! In the first place, a good Chinese fish should not be oily. Perhaps the reason why some restaurant dishes are so oily is that their stoves give of a tremendous amount of heat while the dish is being cooked; extra oil is used to prevent food from sticking and burning. A great portion of the ingredients in Chinese dishes are vegetables, which are low in calories. In addition, the traditional Chinese menu does not call for too many deep-fried dishes.

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  7. Why am I hungry shortly after I finish a big Chinese meal?
    Mainly because most of the ingredients are of a vegetable nature and much less meat is used than in the Western diet. Therefore it is much easier for your digestive system to quickly digest the food. To compensate for this, the Chinese use rice as a staple. Rice is the Chinese version of bread and potatoes. It also acts as a "plate cleanser" between courses. So order more rice and you won't go away hungry!

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  8. What type of oil is used in Chinese cooking?
    Peanut oil has been used by the Chinese for hundreds of years because of its high oil content and because it can be extracted easily by a primitive process. In recent years, other vegetable oils have become increasingly popular in Chinese kitchens. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, cottonseed and sunflower oil, are being used.

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  9. Are chop suey, chow mein, egg rolls, and fortune cookies really authentically Chinese?
    No, they are not. The preparation methods of chow mein, chop suey, and egg rolls in North American restaurants are far beyond the dreams of any native Chinese cook. Unfortunately, chop suey and chow mein are often mistaken as synonymous with Chinese food, the crispy fried noodles in chow mein and the batter in egg rolls were created in America by the early immigrants from China. Chow mein, traditionally, is simply stir-fried noodles. Fortune cookies are unheard of in traditional menus. An interesting fact is that fortune cookies are not served to Chinese clientele eating in Chinese restaurants.

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  10. Are you really as good as you look on TV?
    Absolutely not! It is just an act - you know how TV cameras can play tricks! I was trained as a dishwasher and later promoted to humble cook. I don't really know how to cook - I only learn the dishes as I go along, taping the show!

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