One of my favorite ethnic foods is the cuisine of China. The Chinese steam many of their foods, and this post is all about using the amazing and easy to cook great with …
Because they use no oils or fats to cook with, Bamboo Steamers are a very healthy way to prepare foods. A process that is much gentler than boiling helps to preserve beneficial vitamins and minerals. Additionally, Bamboo steamers allow the foods to retain their color, texture, shape and flavor better than any other method of cooking.
Cooks in China have, for centuries, relied on bamboo steamers. Chinese cuisine calls for cooking methods which will prevent condensation from dripping on the food and absorb excess moisture. The steamers, constructed of a circular bamboo frame, feature a bottom that is slatted bamboo—this allows steam to move freely throughout the cooking chamber. And the lid, a bamboo dome, promotes good heat circulation.
Because Chinese cooks use the wok to cook in so often, bamboo steamers were (and still are) designed for a snug fit inside the various sized woks, held up against the circular sides of the wok and above the steaming water. And, because they can be stacked two and even three baskets high, it becomes possible to steam an entire meal at once: fish, vegetables and meat, all steaming in one wok. The key in doing this is to place foods that take longer to cook in the bottom basket, and have the upper baskets containing foods that take less time to cook.
Traditionally, the baskets are lined on the bottom with leafy veggies, like cabbage or lettuce. Maybe even banana leaves, depending on the food being cooked. But you can also use parchment paper, or even a plate—the main thing is to keep the cooking food separated a bit from the bamboo. This keeps the food from sticking, and also preserves the integrity of the bamboo. It also prevents the bamboo from absorbing the cooking food’s flavors, which is desirable. You don’t want your steaming tomatoes to come out tasting of fish, and visa versa.
Here are three easy steps to follow for effective use of a bamboo steamer in a wok: