Are you ready to try your hand at Asian cooking? Here are just a few tips for beginners. In no time at all, you’ll be on your way to creating delicious Asian cuisine.
1. Always Use Fresh Vegetables
Asian cuisine uses a lot of vegetables, so whether you’re cooking some kamameshi from Japan or a plate of xiaolongbao from China, make sure that your veggies are fresh. You’ll be able to taste the difference if you cut corners with canned ingredients. Your dish might not even cook correctly if your spices won’t stick to your rubbery, watery vegetables.
2. Pay Attention to Specifics
If a recipe calls for coconut milk, don’t substitute it with regular milk. You’ll mess with the delicate balance of flavors and textures that go into traditional Asian dishes. Even if you don’t like the taste of coconut by itself, you’ll appreciate the smooth creaminess that it adds to your curry.
3. Cook Ingredients Separately
Thick, chunky vegetables need to be cooked longer than leafy greens, so you’re just asking for trouble if you steep them in the same pot. Do yourself a favor and prepare your ingredients separately before adding them to your final dish. You don’t want your broccoli to be tough while your bok choy is raw.
4. Buy the Right Equipment
This is especially important if you’re going to a cooking class or participating in team-building exercises. While you might be able to fry up some youtiao in a regular pan, it will be much easier with a wok. They’re designed for the specific ingredients and temperatures that you’ll be using. You’ll also feel a lot more authentic if you’re using genuine Asian tools to prepare your Asian meals!
5. Gather the Staples
Miso is indispensable to Japanese cooking. Limes are often used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. South Koreans love their chili sauces and chili peppers. If you’re a fan of a particular country’s cuisine, you’ll want to stock your cabinets with their staple ingredients. Not only will this allow you to cook all of their traditional dishes, but you’ll also be able to experiment.
6. Learn More About Bases
Many Asian dishes have a rice or noodle base, but it’s important to realize that these culinary treasures have many different varieties. For example, rice goes beyond just “white rice” and “brown rice.” There’s also long-grain rice for light, fluffy casseroles or short-grain rice for sticky dishes like sushi. A recipe might also call for rice wine or rice vinegar, so you’ll need to be familiar with those, too.
7. Prepare Your Ingredients in Advance
This is one of the secrets of professional catering companies. Instead of rinsing their meats and veggies and tossing them into the skillet right afterward, they’ll wash them in advance. This gives the ingredients plenty of time to drain before it’s time for things like stir-fry. The result will be crisp, delicious vegetables without any sogginess.
8. Drain Your Tofu
Speaking of draining, you’ll always want to do this with tofu. Since it doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own, it will absorb whatever spices, oils, and juices that you cook it with, and you’ll want it to be dry before it’s coated in something new. Your final product might be soggy and poorly-flavored if you don’t drain your tofu ahead of time.
9. Add Starches at the End
Many Asian dishes will call for cornstarch, but you don’t want to use it too early. It can burn your pan and overpower the flavor of your other ingredients. Instead, make your cornstarch one of the last ingredients that you add to your list; it will still act as a binder for your ingredients, but it won’t affect any of the flavors, colors or textures that you already have working for you.
10. Marinate the Meat
It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking with chicken, pork, beef or something exotic like duck or buffalo. Asian dishes are all about the marinades. Some recipes might call for everyday staples like soy sauce or sesame oil; others might ask for rarer ingredients like tamari or fresh ginger root. Just make sure that you’re marinating your meat to the right specifications if you want that truly Asian taste.
11. Think Outside the Box
One of the wonderful things about Asian cuisine is that it’s so completely different from other kinds. While you might never imagine putting mayonnaise on a pancake, that’s exactly how you create the scrumptious okonomiyaki from Japan. While fried eggs on rice might seem strange, they’re the showstopper of Korean bibimbap. You’ll need to open your mind to fresh and exciting possibilities when you start dabbling in Asian cuisine.
12. Attend Asian Cooking Classes
Those tips and tricks are great if you are just starting with Asian cooking, nevertheless, if you want to become a professional Asian cook, consider going to Asian cooking classes such as the ones Cozymeal offers. They have Asian cooking classes in NYC, Chicago, and a few other states, so you may be able to find something there.
These are just a few tips, tricks, and techniques for the ultimate Asian cuisine. Whether you’re opening a fusion restaurant or simply experimenting in your own kitchen, use these ideas to create delicious, authentic Asian meals.