keithjennison October 28, 2008

Almost everyone includes Chinese food as a regular dining experience. Chinese dishes produce flavors, texture and a variety of combinations that you don’t find in typical Western cooking. However, few of us feel qualified to tackle Chinese cooking in our homes. If you love Chinese food and would like to try your hand, here are a few pointers to help you get started on learning this fascinating and delicious cuisine.

Expand your culinary expertise with Chinese cooking
One main difference between Western and Chinese cooking is that Chinese dishes require that most of your ingredients be ready for the pan before you begin cooking. There can be a considerable number of ingredients to slice, dice, season or otherwise prepare. This may seem, at first glance, to be an inordinate amount of work. Don’t let this factor put you off. Once your ingredients are ready, the actual cooking time proceeds rapidly. In many cases, much of this work may be done ahead of time, which turns out to be a plus when preparing several dishes for a single meal.

Chinese recipes also emphasize fresh raw ingredients, which is part of the attractiveness, both in flavor and appearance, of the finished dish. Snow peas retain their bright green color, while a red bell pepper remains crisp and colorful, due to short cooking times. If your recipe calls for bean sprouts, do choose fresh sprouts over canned. The crunchy texture of a fresh sprout is far superior to the canned version.

Exotic mushroom varieties, hot peppers and fragrant seasonings are also signature ingredients in Chinese cuisine. You’d be surprised how a simple bowl of steamed rice is made special with just a sprinkling of Chinese five-spice, a combination of anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and ginger, combined in specific proportions. If you try this single dish, you’ll certainly be inspired to learn a bit more about Chinese cooking.

A variety of prepared, fermented sauces are also key Chinese cooking ingredients. Hoison and fish sauce are just two common examples. Check out the Chinese ingredient aisle at the grocery for more exotic possibilities. More on Chinese Cooking.