You don't have to take classes from a professional teacher to learn the art of Chinese cooking if all you want to do is to entertain your friends or cook for your family. Almost without exception, Chinese women learn this skill by watching and working together with their mothers or grandmothers. After they become wives or mothers themselves, the most diligent will try to improve their techniques by consulting cook books and exchanging experiences with their neighbors. In this way they eventually become as skilled as the best chefs in established restaurants. It should be noted, of course, that most of the well-known chefs in famous restaurants are men, because many men in Chinese homes are just as good at the art of cooking as their wives.
This book in the Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes series has been compiled by master chefs. They use simple explanations to introduce the ingredients, the ways of cutting, and the cooking procedures for each recipe. Readers, who follow the directions, will become skilled before long in the art of Chinese cooking. The entire set consists of nine volumes, covering freshwater and seafood dishes, meat dishes, vegetable dishes, courses made from soy beans, soups, cold dishes, pastries, dishes of eggs and poultry, and recipes for family feasts. This volume presents forty meat dish recipes.
Meat dishes in Chinese cooking generally refer to those dishes using pork, lamb or mutton and beef as the main ingredient. Pork, because of the different qualities of the meat, being fat, lean, tough and tender and coming from different parts of the pig, provides a wide range of choices. Other ingredients that are used in cooking with pork compliment the particular choice of meat. Pork can be stewed in large chunks, or it can be cut into slices, shreds, or cubes to be used in dishes with other ingredients. Mutton is not generally cut into shreds because of its wide spread of sinew, different length of fiber and greater amount of fat. Ideally, it is stewed in large chunks or quickly stir-fried in slices. It provides a good choice for a hot pot, along with other ingredients. Beef has more lean meat than fat and is usually tougher than pork or mutton. It is thus most suitable for stewing in large pieces or for cutting into shreds and slices. Of course it is good material for making steaks. When cutting beef, make sure you cut against the grain of the meat.
To stir-fry, quick-fry and braise beef or pork shreds, egg white or cornstarch usually has to be used to mix with the cut meat so that the juices in the meat will not be entirely lost during the process of cooking over a high fire. This also preserves the tenderness of the meat.
Spices and seasonings are usually added in the process of cooking, rather than having the meat cooked first and then adding the seasonings at the time of serving. This is one of the major characteristics of Chinese cooking. It is therefore very important to preserve the original juice of the meat and let the flavor of the seasonings be totally absorbed. To cook large pieces of meat, add water first and heat it so that much of the fat, protein, vitamins and other nutrients will dissolve into the water to make a delicious soup or gravy. Three hours of cooking is ideal in order to allow all the flavors to be absorbed into the dish. For example, one dish uses pork, both the meat and skin parts, cut into small squares and boiled along with the seasonings. The meat tastes soft, juicy and simply delicious...