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

It’s important to read each recipe carefully so you’ll see whether a certain vegetable should be blanched before it gets added to the wok or pan. For blanching, certain vegetables, like broccoli or snow peas, are dropped in boiling water for a minute or two and then placed into an ice-water bath. Blanching preserves the vibrant color of vegetables, cuts down on cooking time and ensures a tender-crisp result. Some vegetables take longer than others, so be sure to read the entire recipe carefully before you begin.

To save time, I often purchase my stir-fry veggies from the salad bar at the local grocery store. Not only is everything is clean and pre-cut, but it also cuts down on waste, especially when you’re cooking for one or two, because you only buy what you need.

I like to arrange all of my ingredients on a sheet pan in the order they’ll be added to the wok or skillet. This is really helpful, especially when you’re making multiple courses. If you’re really organized, like my nephew Logan, you can number the ingredients in the order they should be placed in your wok or skillet if you want—toddler flash cards come in handy for this. Also, have all your tools ready to go, arranged in the order you’ll be using them.

It’s also important to allow the wok or skillet to heat up before adding the oil; you then swirl the pan to coat the surface. The wok or pan is ready when a drop of water sizzles and evaporates right away. Ensure that your skillet has high enough walls so the ingredients don’t fly out as you’re turning them.

I also like to use a firm spatula, not a flimsy one. A sturdy spatula helps you take control of your stir-frying and allows you to get underneath the ingredients so you can lift them and flip them as they cook. After all, stir-frying is not about stirring; rather, you continuously toss and flip the ingredients so they are all evenly cooked.

Cooking a Perfect Pot of Rice

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: white rice needs to be washed before you steam it. This has been a life-altering discovery for some of my friends. When you wash your rice, you eliminate the excess starch that gets released into the water and reabsorbed during cooking, resulting in mushy rice. Once you get rid of that excess starch you will enjoy the lightest, fluffiest rice ever. (You can thank me later.) In many Chinese families, it’s the job of the youngest child to wash the rice. Being the youngest in my family, I’m a bona-fide rice-washing expert!

How to Wash Your Rice

Fill a pot with 1 cup (185 g) raw long-grain white rice and cool water. Swirl the water around with your hands and wash the rice by rubbing it gently between your fingers, then drain. Repeat this process until the water runs clear, usually about 5 or 6 times. After the last rinse, carefully drain all the water from the pot.

Measure Water the Mount Fuji Way

I learned to measure the water for preparing rice with a method used in many Asian households, sometimes called the Mount Fuji technique. With the tip of your index finger just touching the surface of the rice, add water until it reaches your first knuckle. You may feel most comfortable using a measuring cup or going by the lines on the side of your rice-cooker bowl, but know that millions of Asian families swear by this technique. Only use the Mount Fuji technique for preparing white rice—not brown, black or red rice.

How to Cook Your Rice

Add water to the washed rice using the Mount Fuji technique, or add 1 cup (250 ml) water. Bring the rice and water to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook at a gentle simmer until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes with the lid on before serving. One cup (185 g) of raw rice will yield 3 cups (450 g) of cooked rice.

If you’re using a rice cooker, wash the rice in the rice-cooker bowl. Use the 1 cup (185 g) raw rice to 1 cup (250 ml) water ratio and cook according to the instruction manual.


Listen to the full interview with Katie Chin in the top right hand player, or on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify (simply search the mobile app!).  Don't forget to sign up for the forthcoming Clever Cookstr newsletter, full of tips and tricks from the kitchens of the world's best chefs.


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.