How to Master Chinese Cooking at Home

The Clever Cookstr is joined by Katie Chin, author of multiple cookbooks, most recently Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes From My Mother’s Kitchen. Here are her tips and tricks on wok cooking, stir-frying, and making perfect rice.

Kara Rota
6-minute read
Episode #113

The following is excerpted from Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes From My Mother’s Kitchen with permission from Tuttle Publishing.

Basic Cooking Techniques and Tips

Many people’s attitude toward Chinese cooking is the same as their relationship status on Facebook: “It’s complicated.” A lot of people are intimidated by Chinese cooking because it seems so involved. The truth is, if you have the right tools on hand and learn the basic time-honored Chinese cooking techniques (which are used over and over again in this book), it isn’t complicated at all. In fact, you can make most of these recipes with the pots and pans you have in your kitchen right now. I actually just taught a Chinese cooking class for six twelve-year-old boys, and they couldn’t believe how easy it was to make Chinese food (I heard a lot of “Oh, so that’s how you do it…cool!”). They practically jumped for joy when they got to make their own dumplings. One mother was astounded when her son ate a dumpling filled with tofu and veggies; she called later that day to report that he had made the recipe again for his whole family! No matter whether you’re steaming, deep-frying or stir-frying, you’ll be able to master everything from Orange Chicken to Steamed Cantonese Whole Fish in no time if you use this section as your guide.

Seasoning a Wok

I’ve been asked if seasoning a wok involves spices! In actuality, seasoning a wok is a process that makes it rust-resistant while creating a natural nonstick finish at the same time. It also improves the flavor of stir-fried dishes. Only iron, cast-iron, steel and carbon-steel woks require seasoning, because these are porous materials prone to rust. You don’t need to season a nonstick wok.

The process of seasoning creates layers and layers of burnt oil coatings on the surface of the metals, which covers the pores and protects them from rusting or corroding upon exposure to water or acids.

Here’s How to Season Your Wok

1 If your wok is new, it will have a thin factory coating that must be removed before the first use. To do this, wash the wok inside and out with a stainless-steel scrubber, dish soap, and hot water. Rinse and dry it over low heat.

2 To begin the seasoning process, place the wok over high heat. Tilt and turn the wok as it heats until it becomes a yellowish-blueish color. Remove from heat.

3 Using a paper towel, wipe the inside of the wok with a small amount of vegetable oil.

4 Turn heat to medium-low. Place wok on burner for 10 minutes.

5 Wipe with a fresh paper towel. There will be black residue on the paper towel. Repeat steps 3 and 4 about three times, adding small amounts of oil, until there is no longer black residue on the paper towel when wiped.

6 Ta-da! You have seasoned your wok and are now ready to stir-fry.

Cleaning Your Seasoned Wok

Now that you’ve created a beautiful nonstick coating on your wok, you’ll want to protect it. Don’t use abrasive materials like steel wool when cleaning, and never use soap on your wok. Just run it under hot water and use a soft cleaning brush or sponge to remove food particles. You may need to soak it in hot water for few minutes to remove stubborn bits.

The best way to dry a wok after it’s been cleaned is to place it on low heat until all the water evaporates. If you put your wok away before it’s completely dry, it will develop rust spots. 

Mastering Chinese Stir-Frying

Chinese stir-frying is all about the preparation. Once you have all your stir-fry ingredients cleaned, cut and ready to go, the rest should be easy-peasy and super-duper fast. I mean really, really fast. The key to great stir-frying is heating your wok or skillet up very hot so the proteins are nicely seared and the veggies are tender but crisp. You want to keep things moving. The term stir-frying is a bit of a misnomer because the action is more about tossing and flipping than it is about stirring.


About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.