Steaming

Steaming

By
Jeremy Pang
Contains
14 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 184949 5745
Photographer
Martin Poole

In Chinese culture and medicine there is a unique adjective used to describe people’s internal systems, food and even environments called YEET HAY. This is a very specific and in-depth concept, with the closest possible literal translation into English being ‘hot air’. It is an almost spiritual belief that our bodies are either hot or cold and that we react to different foods and cooking methods in unique ways due to our chemical balance.

Though different, you might be able to think of it much like the Ayurvedic ideas around your body type or dosha – and how they affect everything you do, from your emotions to your diet. This description does not just apply to people alone. Some cooking techniques such as deep-frying are also considered to be YEET HAY, although this can also change depending on the chemical balance of the person eating it. Steaming, seen from within this cultural context, is considered to be the healthiest form of cooking within Chinese cuisine, because of its delicate balance of heat and moisture.

As with most cooking techniques, steaming is just another way of initially sealing the flavours of what you are cooking first, then cooking them through once the heat begins to penetrate the ingredients. Due to the less intense heat of even the strongest home gas or induction hobs, steam created in a home environment (i.e. from a wok or saucepan placed on a domestic hob) is likely to act as more of an engulfing heat, rather than the high-pressured steam that is created from the serious wok burners or steamers in a Chinese restaurant kitchen.

Steaming at home: A step-by-step guide

When setting up a steam environment at home the best thing to use is a large, flat-bottomed wok with either a steamer stand and lid or a suitable steam basket, which sits directly on top of the wok to collect the steam. There are a number of traditional ways in which you can set up a steamer at home and these are described below.

TIP: The biggest difference between a bamboo steam basket and a stainless-steel steamer with a glass or metal lid is that the bamboo lid collects any condensation, therefore preventing any water droplets forming on the inside of the lid and dropping back down onto the food. This is very useful when steaming things like dumplings, helping to keep the pastry intact.

Setup 1: Wok, steamer stand and lid

Fill your wok a third of the way up with hot water.

Place a steamer stand in the wok.

Place your plate of food on top, ensuring there is space between the plate and the edge of the wok so that the steam can engulf the food.

Bring the water to a vigorous boil.

Place a suitable lid over the top.

Setup 2: Wok and steam basket

Fill your wok a third of the way up with hot water.

Place either a 25cm or 30cm bamboo steam basket over the top, with your food in a bowl or plate inside the basket, allowing space for the lid to enclose the steam.

Cover with the steam basket lid.

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