Popular Post abcdefg Posted February 7, 2017 at 02:39 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted February 7, 2017 at 02:39 AM Let's say you arrived in China earlier this year either for work or for study and don't have a lot of time, money or language skills at your disposal. And, though it was fun at first, eating out all the time has become problematic. Yes, it can be cheap, but it isn't the healthiest of options and it isn't always as convenient as just whipping up something simple at home. Several of us old timers will try our best to give you a few hints and tips as to how to make some of your meals at home without much in the way of tools or materials. These won't be gourmet feasts, but they will keep body and soul together without costing an arm and a leg and without cutting too deeply into your busy schedule. This thread is intended to provide a forum for discussion, comments, questions and answers. We hope it can serve as a useful starting place for your China cooking and eating adventures. You will find that once you try cooking for yourself over here, it will also make it easier to order when you do go out since you will have some familiarity with Chinese ingredients, seasonings, and preparation methods. You will know what those words mean when you see them on a menu. A personal digression, to be up front and get it out of the way. I first came to China in 2006 and fell in love with the people, the food, the way of life. I was still working full time back in the US at the time, but took progressively longer and longer vacations. Am an ER doctor, and was senior enough to have the luxury of being able to schedule generous unpaid time off as long as I did it well in advance. Spent most of my China time learning the language and immersing myself in China's rich history and culture. Have traveled to every province with the exception of Tibet and Xinjiang. Lived in Zhuhai, far south, and Harbin, far north. Spent time in Dalian and Beijing as well. Tried Shanghai. Eventually retired and settled in Kunming, where I now spend most of each year. Go back to Texas for a couple months annually. At every stop along the way I have either stayed in a dorm or rented a small apartment, with a short lease of 6 months or less at a time. Never wanted to invest in purchasing top-notch tools or appliances since I knew I would have to soon leave them behind. So I have, by now, equipped six or eight small kitchens, and have done it frugally. Have had a chance to correct beginner mistakes and do things better the next time. Learned tons from my Chinese friends and shamelessly copied their methods. Dorm cooking is similar to bachelor cooking in a bare-bones efficiency apartment. It assumes not much room, not much money, not much time. Let's start today with the basic durable items that will make it possible to prepare at least some of your own chow. You will need something to cook in, such as a flat-bottomed wok. The one shown is a real good one; but a no-name "starter wok" will cost under 100 Yuan and is adequate when beginning. Wok is 炒锅。Mine, illustrated here, is ASD brand 爱仕达。That's a good label; 苏泊尔 Supor is another reliable one. Some woks are round on the bottom, and only work well when cooking on gas. My old one was that kind, pictured below. Flat bottom wok is 平地炒锅 though that can also mean a western-style skillet with strait walls. Please see this earlier article for more about selecting a wok plus how to season it and care for it. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/51217-wok-and-chopsticks/#comment-392506 Woks almost always come with a lid. It shouldn't cost extra. Lid = 盖子。Here are my two lids, the one with a glass center and a convenient "stand up" attachment. The old plain one is lying down beside it. Here, below, is a wok I saw in the store yesterday for peanuts (19 Yuan and 80 Mao.) You want one that can be used on an electric hot plate 电炉, such as the one pictured above. Electric hot plates can be purchased for between 100 and 200 Yuan. Expensive ones have a larger heating area and put out more intense heat. Sometimes they are also programmable, a feature you won't need. An alternative to a wok plus hot plate is an all-in-one electric skillet 电炒锅。These can be bought for as little as 100 Yuan. I would suggest spending around 200 Yuan instead because they cook more evenly. The very cheapest ones have hot spots and cold spots that makes it difficult to cook food without parts of it burning. Best to buy a major brand. Two which are dependable are 美的 and 九阳。Supermarkets like Walmart 沃尔玛 and Carrefour 家乐福 carry them. Appliance stores such as 苏宁电器 are also a good bet. Prices will be the same across the board, unless you hit a special sale or promotion 活动。 I don't have one of these, so cannot tell you for sure first hand, but I've heard that they don't cook as fast as a wok on a hotplate. Arguably, none of these electric skillets do as good a job of 炒菜 frying, but they are satisfactory for less demanding tasks, such as boiling broth for hot pot 火锅 or for 涮菜, useful tasks in a minimalist kitchen. A knife and cutting board 菜板 are essential. This cutting board can be of bamboo or plastic. Either option only costs 10 or 15 Yuan. The square Chinese "cleaver-like" 菜刀 is great for most tasks and one can be had for a song, well under 50 Yuan. A paring knife, known here as a fruit knife 水果刀 can also be useful. The ones on the left, above, are mine. But here are snapshots from a recent shopping trip to the corner store showing a knife and cutting board for 10 Yuan each. Not a very large investment. You need something with which to stir the food and eventually scoop it out. A special stir-fry spatula or 锅铲 may even be included with your wok at no extra charge as a bonus or "sweetner" to clinch the deal. This is the single most important hand tool. A ladle 汤勺 and a coarse strainer 滤网 are also handy. Furthermore, you would be smart to buy some chopsticks 筷子。Knife 刀, fork 叉子 and spoon 勺子are optional but suggested. A supermarket is where to shop for these. Useful "extras" include something with which to handle a hot dish or hot pan. You could, of course, just use a rag instead. Something on which to set a hot pan to keep it from burning the table also is handy, but once again, you could improvise with a magazine or one of last-year's textbooks. The third item in this category of "nice to have" doodads is a steamer stand so that you could place a dish of food in your wok and let it steam over simmering water (with the lid on, of course.) Dishes from which to eat are always discounted in one or another supermarket, and typically cost between 5 and 10 Yuan each. The essentials are a rice bowl 饭碗 and a soup bowl 汤碗。A flat European-style soup dish is also useful, in that it can be used for steaming as well as for eating at the table. You can also find paper plates and paper bowls to use some of the time. I will stop here for discussion before moving to the next section, which will be about essential perishable/disposable items that need to be in your cabinet, such as oil and salt. Please pitch in with your own experiences and ideas. Feel free to offer additions and corrections. Matters of this kind have no absolute right and wrong; lots depends on one's personal preferences and perspective. Thanks! 10 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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