Why do Chinese chefs cook so quickly?

Chinese Cooking: Mind and Essence

French cuisine is most valued in the western world. But gourmets who have tried the best of Chinese cuisine appreciate both equally. It's not surprising, they both have a lot in common. The Chinese and the French are skilled cooks. Both seek simplicity as the ultimate conclusion of wisdom: not the simplicity of abbreviations and coarse conveniences, but that simplicity that comes from the ultimate mastery of matter - the simplicity of art.

Both the French and the Chinese agree that second-rate ingredients (however embellished and manipulated they may be) can never result in first-class dishes; that you can only taste what you put in a dish. They know that fine cooking doesn't begin in the kitchen, but in the market; that cooking well means buying well at the same time, and that buying well means choosing ingredients carefully, not just in terms of price, but also in terms of freshness and quality. These ingredients selected in this way (whether they are commonplace or rare) must then be prepared in such a way that they can be looked at with pleasure, without the appearance of the smell and taste being sacrificed. Taste, as both the Chinese and the French know, add pleasure to the nutritional value of food. It is the ultimate in good cuisine, its quintessence. Nothing can replace him.

Cooking in Chinese is an aesthetic experience: To the Chinese, food intake means something total, designed to please all the senses equally. Certain food components are combined with one another because their delicate scents condense into an unforgettable aroma. Others are called ruby ​​or jade to please the ear and stay in the memory. (One soup with strips of ham and mustard cabbage in it turns into golden twigs with jade leaves, while another with alternating layers of chicken and ham strips turns into gold and silver broth.) The Chinese are also delighted with the color. They love the clear gold of a chicken broth, the white of the rice, the shiny green of the vegetables. You combine, mix and contrast colors with the painter's trained eye. They are so color-conscious that you know of hosts who added a tomato to a dish just to match a red dress, and of cooks who put white mushrooms in a soup instead of black mushrooms just to make them lighter and more delicate Got color.

The Chinese are unsurpassed in their ability to differentiate or mix the structure and texture of food. They love to mix crispy foods with soft foods: for example, combining fresh, juicy water nuts with creamy bean quark, or dousing tender, half-cooked vegetables with exquisitely creamy sauces. They also continually stimulate the senses with contrasting flavors. Many of their finest delicacies come across as completely neutral at first, almost colorless and odorless. But the purity of the taste, the interesting texture of the ingredients is always in subtle contrast to the stronger and more decisive additions with which they are rounded off.

There is no main course: with their passion for variety, the Chinese never limit their food to main courses. They prefer instead to switch from one dish to another, take a quick bite here, then pass it over there; to switch from one taste to another at short intervals, to have a little sweet and sour, pepper, bitter and salty food during the same meal. So instead of offering a main course with various subordinate side dishes, they serve a number of dishes that are different from one another but equally valuable. In this way they stimulate the appetite and avoid boredom and the feeling of being stuffed that so often comes when you overeat the same food.

Chinese cuisine demands maximum preparation with minimal cooking time: Although the overall preparation and cooking time are roughly the same in Chinese and Western cuisine, the Chinese need more time to prepare and less to cook. As a result of their quick-cooking techniques, many dishes take less than 15 minutes on the stove, some even less than roasted. With some practical practice and experience, it is quite possible to prepare and serve a complete and excellent Chinese meal in less than an hour.

It all starts with the ingredient, not the method of cooking: the Chinese housewife never begins by imagining a roast or stew. It starts with what it finds in the market. It can be a seasonal vegetable, a piece of meat or poultry, a fish that looks particularly appetizing. The next step is then to adapt the cooking method to what is purchased. If it is duck, it will cook its dry, fibrous texture by slowly simmering it so that it becomes tender and juicy. If it is fish, it will only steam it briefly in order to maintain its delicate delicacy. In any case, she tries to preserve the original taste, to enhance the savory side, to hide the less desirable properties. This very individual process makes each ingredient extremely tasty. Meat is never tough, it is unusually tender; Poultry is never dry, it is always juicy and tasty; Vegetables are never sticky and cooked too long, but crisp and firm; But full dishes are never too fat and never too heavy.

Ingredients are mostly mixed, rarely cooked alone: ​​The Chinese ray is more or less like good match pens: The individual ingredients are combined with one another in such a way that they always produce the best in the other or outweigh the disadvantages of the other. They are mixed in such a way that freshness is emphasized, good taste is strengthened and excessive heaviness is averted. The possible combinations of meat, poultry, shellfish, fish and vegetables are inexhaustible, the variety is endless. Mixing all of these ingredients together produces a quality of flavor and flavor unknown in any other type of cuisine. Even things as mundane as tomatoes and beef are completely transformed when cooked in the finely tuned Chinese way. The higher the level of cooking, the sweeter and more perfect this art of mixing and matching. Nevertheless, the independence of any ingredient is not lost within each dish; their taste and structure are always retained, the individual aroma is emphasized.

The cook, not the eater, spices the food: Chinese spices are particularly effective when added during cooking. Heat creates a chemical reaction between the wort: 'and the other ingredients that bind the flavoring very closely to every piece of meat, fish or vegetables. Seasoning applied in this way serves a number of desirable purposes: it enhances the effect of natural flavors and characteristics, suppresses undesirable properties (such as the overly fishy nature of fish, the strong inherent taste of the liver), and establishes a relationship between dissimilar foods. There is one exception to this rule: Meat that has just been cooked is not seasoned by the cook, but served with a number of different dips such as plum sauce, soy sauce or a spicy mustard sauce, which the eater can then serve as desired.

The cook, not the eater, cuts the food: for the Chinese, knives are barbaric instruments that just belong in the kitchen, not him on the table. That is why everything that needs to be cut and shredded is cut and shredded in the kitchen. All that the eater needs to eat a full meal is a pair of chopsticks and a soup spoon. Meat and vegetables are either cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked so tender that they do not need to be chopped at all. Even if the poultry or fish are served whole, the chopsticks are sufficient to peck the tender meat off the bones. Roasted meat and poultry, on the other hand, are always prepared in the kitchen in such a way that the individual pieces can be easily grasped with the chopsticks at the table and brought to the mouth.

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