Wok Cooking - Part II (Steaming)


A wok is a perfect tool for steaming foods. The whole idea is to cook food rapidly using hot most air. This cloud of steam evenly cooks the food without need to boil it in water or broth. It's perfect for cooking seafood since it preserves the delicacy of the fish. In the process one uses as much water as in necessary to steam the dish and, if the water boils away during the steaming, more water can be added to the wok.

Any food can be cooked by steaming, be it meat, sliced or in big chunks, or vegetables, either frozen or fresh. If the food is frozen, it should be brought to room temperature otherwise condensation will result and the food will become too moist and watery. Slow steaming takes about 40 minutes to an hour. Quick steaming of cut or sliced food can take 5 to 15 minutes.

Most woks come with a steamer attachment: a small round, serrated metal stand on which you can place the food. If you don't have one, then you can make a homemade version by piercing holes in a metal pie plate. The wok is filled with 2-3 cups of water. A small can is placed into the water and the pierced pie plate rests on the can. The food is laid on the pie plate and the wok is covered with the lid after the steam starts rising. You start steaming the food when the water reaches a fast boil. When steaming delicate foods such as fish, timing is very important. Too long a time steaming will toughen the food. It's best to remove steamed foods a minute before they are completely cooked. That way the heat of the steamer will complete the cooking process and the food will come to table hot and perfect.

The recipe given is for steamed chicken. The chicken can be steamed as is, in water, and a sauce poured over it before serving. My recipe calls for the chicken in a marinade (makes it more flavorful that way).

BASIC STEAMED CHICKEN

12 ounce chicken (with bone and skin), cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

Marinade:

2 tablespoons light or dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Rinse chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a bowl, mix marinade ingredients. Add chicken pieces and let marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.
3. Arrange the pieces on a plate in a single layer and steam at medium-high for 10 minutes. Serve with boiled rice.
Yield: 4 servings.

Note: A bigger (2 1/2 to 3 pound) chicken can be use. In this case, increase soy sauce to 3/4 cup, and marinate with other ingredients as given. Place chicken pieces on a plate and arrange in a heaping shape with skin side on top. Steam for 10 minutes, remove lid from wok and, using tongs or a fork, rearrange chicken pieces so that skin pieces are on bottom and other pieces on top, and steam for another 10 minutes.
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