Tips from the Chef

The All-American Chinese Cookbook would like to answer some of your frequently asked questions. Visit our new link “Chef’s Tips” that includes helpful tips by Chef Lucy to answer all of your Chinese cooking questions. Have a question we didn’t address? Just contact Lucy and we will be certain to post our response on this page.

What are some of the most basic ingredients I need in my kitchen for Chinese cooking?

It is a smart idea to keep some basic ingredients handy in your kitchen whenever you have the craving for Chinese. We’ve created a simple grocery list for you below. The good new is, many of these items can be stored for long periods of time!

1. Canola or Vegetable Oil
2. Cooking Spray (Canola oil or Pam)
3. Soy Sauce (Kikkoman Brand)
4. Chinese Rice Cooking Wine or Sherry Cooking Wine
5. Pure Sesame Oil (Chinese or Japanese Brands)
6. Cornstarch
7. White Vinegar
8. Whole Dried Red Hot Chili Peppers and Crushed Red Chili Peppers
9. Red Hot Chili Oil
10. Hoisin Sauce*
11. Oyster Sauce*
12. White and Black Pepper
13. White and Brown Sugar
14. Small Cans of Water Chestnuts (5 oz.)
15. Small Cans of Sliced bamboo Shoots (5 oz.)
16. Cans of Mandarin Oranges (6 oz. and 15 oz.)
17. Cans of Pineapple Chunks (8 oz.)
18. Cans of Chicken Broth (14 oz. or 15 oz.)
19. Dried Shiitake Black Mushrooms
20. Fresh Ginger Root
21. Fresh Green Onions (Scallions)
22. Fresh Garlic
23. Yellow Onions

*Sold in the Asian section of most supermarkets. After opening they can be stored for several months in the refrigerator.

What types of meat can I buy in advance and freeze?

We generally cook with a lot of skinless and boneless chicken breasts, lean pork, lean ground pork, lean ground turkey, flank steaks, sirloin steaks, and (medium or large size) shrimp.

What type of rice do you recommend?

We preferred to use round-grain rice for all of our rice dishes. We also use thin spaghetti for all the noodle dishes and medium firm or firm tofu blocks.

What are some of your favorite tips?

Chinese cooking takes a lot of preparation. If you can prepare in advance, the cooking time then becomes minimal. One of my best tips is to prepare your fresh ginger root, fresh green onions and fresh garlic in advance.

Ginger: It is much easier to use a small teaspoon instead of a knife to scrap the skin off the ginger root. After peeling the skin, use a food processor to finely chop. Use a measuring teaspoon to scoop the grated ginger and place onto a cookie sheet, leaving an inch of space in between. Freeze, place ginger into a plastic bag and store in the freezer. When a recipe requires ginger, just take one or two teaspoons of the frozen ginger balls, thaw and use for cooking. They will keep frozen for many months.
Onions: Buy a few bundles of green onions (scallions), wash, trim, and chop finely (including the green top). Put into a plastic bag and freeze. When you require one scallion for a recipe, it will equal 2 tablespoons of chopped green onions. This trick is very handy as fresh green onions do not keep for long.
Garlic: If you buy a jar of peeled fresh garlic, it will keep in the refrigerator for a long time. But if you want to keep them even longer, you can also place them into a plastic bag and freeze. When you need one or two cloves of garlic, just take out and chop or squeeze for cooking.
More Time Saving Tips: Freeze finely grated orange peels and freshly squeezed lemon juice in ice cube trays. For really quick stir-fry meals, slice the chicken, beef or pork, marinade it ahead of time, then freeze in plastic freezer bags. Thaw the marinated meat when you are ready to cook and stir-fry with fresh vegetables and ingredients.

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2 Responses to “Tips from the Chef”

  1. Amira Says:

    Dear Mrs. Lucy,

    I adore chinese food, but unfortunately some ingredients are very difficult to obtain for me, as I am living in Egypt. One of my biggest issues I’ve been facing here is that I seem to be totally unable to located corn starch. Is there anything else which would come close to it to be used as a suitable substitute?

    I hope to read your response soon.

    Best regards from Hurghada, Egypt,


  2. Lucy Says:

    You can use egg white to tenderize the meats and be sure to mix them well together and let it set for extra 15 minutes. I also know someone who uses sweet potato flour instead of corn starch. Hope this will help you. Thank you,

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