Last week, Belle Cose offered Jackson residents an opportunity to learn about Chinese cooking, ingredients and kitchen tools from a master of the craft, Helen Chen. Helen is the daughter of Joyce Chen, a pioneer of Chinese cooking in America who is responsible for the menu number system almost always used for ordering in Asian restaurants today.
Chen grew up in the family restaurant and almost solely around Chinese cooking. After her mother passed away, she decided to carry on the tradition and began her own line of Asian cooking products and cookbooks. Her Asian cookware can be found under the name Helen’s Asian Kitchen and is sold at Belle Cose.
In the class, Chen taught us some of her life-learned tips and how to properly use ingredients and cookware. In addition to the dishes, I learned a lot of helpful tips and facts for properly cooking Chinese food:
- Canola oil is perfect for stir-frying. It is low-acid, low in saturated fat and flavorless.
- Sesame oil is only used as a flavoring tool, after the ingredients are cooked.
- A typical Chinese kitchen has no oven; almost everything is steamed and stir-fried, including desserts.
- Cooking rice at a higher elevation will take longer; if you use the right tools (check out her perfect rice steamer), you can never overcook rice.
- Choose ginger that is hard with tight skin.
- Never use mirin (it is sweet). Dry sherry can be used as a substitute for Chinese rice wine, which can be difficult to find.
- If you add cornstarch to chicken before you cook it, it will help the chicken retain moisture and not dry out.
- Never use a metal spoon to serve rice. Use a wooden paddle, which won’t cut the rice.
Below is one of the recipes Chen prepared. All her dishes were simple and quick to make, so the recipe would make a great weeknight meal to serve with rice and steamed broccoli.