Cooking Tips

Here are Sunkist's best cooking tips for two basic types of Asian preparation.

Stir-Frying Cooking Tips

  • Prepare ahead by cutting, measuring and marinating before you start the wok.
  • Cut ingredients into uniform, bite-size pieces to cook quickly and evenly.
  • When stir-frying, always heat any wok for one or two minutes before you add any ingredients, including oil.
  • Swirl the oil around to coat the entire cooking surface.
  • Work in order adding the aromatic seasonings first, then the protein, then the denser vegetables and finally the softer, leafier vegetables.
  • Keep it moving with long chop sticks or spatula to prevent burning.
  • Too much food will cool off the heat and prevent foods from browning or cooking evenly; avoid this by cooking meat first, removing it from the wok, cooking the vegetables and then returning the meat to the wok.
  • If your recipe calls for a cornstarch and water thickener, dissolve 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of cold water before adding it to the wok; then stir constantly until the liquid boils and thickens.

Steaming Cooking Tips

  • Place a steam rack in the wok one inch above the water and bring to a boil.
  • Line the steamer with clean damp cloth (a dish towel works well), parchment paper or fresh greens such as napa cabbage or lettuce to prevent foods from sticking.
  • Cover the steamer and put the lid on your wok.
  • Check water level periodically and add boiling water as needed.
  • Steam can burn; be careful to lift the lid away from you to let steam escape before adding water or removing food.

Asian Cooking Techniques

Master these basic cooking techniques for perfect results.

Cutting Techniques

Most Asian cooks use different cutting techniques for different dishes. Here are six basic cuts you can perfect with just a little practice.

  • Slicing - hold the knife vertical or horizontal to the cutting board and cut straight across the ingredient.
  • Julienne and Shredding - to get narrow strips, slice the ingredient into pieces of roughly 1/8-inch thickness, stack two or three of these pieces and cut them again into 1/8-inch sticks.
  • Dicing - make the julienne sticks above, line the sticks up perpendicular to the knife blade and cut straight down to get the size cubes called for in your recipe - usually 1/4- to 1/2-inch.
  • Mincing - slice or dice the ingredient into small pieces, then using the tip of the knife as a pivot, move only the lower blade in a chopping motion, from side to side across the ingredient until it is finely minced.
  • Roll-cutting - For carrots, zucchini and other cylindrical vegetables, hold the knife perpendicular to the board and slice down on a diagonal angle, then roll the vegetable a quarter turn and slice at the same angle; keep rolling and slicing a quarter turn at a time.
  • Crushing - a fast, easy way to smash ginger, garlic and lemongrass, place the knife flat on the ingredient with the blade facing away and press down hard on the blade with the palm of your hand.

Marinating

Used to add flavor not to tenderize, about 30 minutes is plenty of time. Citrus juice or any other acidic marinade can partially cook foods such as fish, shrimp and scallops through enzymatic action; marinate these foods no longer than 10 minutes.

Soaking

Dried ingredient such as black mushrooms, tangerine peel and shrimp are used in many Asian recipes and must be re-hydrated by soaking for about 30 minutes in warm liquid.

Toasting

Bring out the flavor and aroma in nuts, Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, coriander seeds and other dried spices by gently toasting them in a small dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown.