In China it’s really easy not to cook. Especially if you’re a middle-aged white guy whose greatest culinary achievement is the peanut butter omelet. I can exit my front door, walk in any direction, and most likely run smack dab into a restaurant.
For less than 25 kuai I can have the full meal deal and a floor show to boot. Well, not exactly a floor show like, say, Wayne Newton. Who? But it’s always entertaining to watch the people.
Funny thing is, you never know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. It wasn’t until I returned to the good old U.S. of A. for an extended hiatus that I realized what an idiot I am. (I heard that!) I should have been paying more attention. When I return to China, I promise to cook more and dine out less. Yeah, right.
In my hometown of Walla Walla they just opened a Panda Express. While it’s definitely a step in the right direction, it’s still not the same. But you knew that already, huh? Too much meat and not enough veggies. Really.
For a former cattle rancher, that seems like a weird thing to say. We Americans are victims of our own success. We want what we want when we want it. That means meat. Big slabs of it. Only right now things aren’t so easy in America. It’s OK – adversity builds character. And maybe even a slimmer waste line. I mean waistline.
So, with that introduction, let’s grab our woks and start cooking. If you don’t have a wok, use what you’ve got. That’s what I’ve been doing. My woks are still in China.
Oops! We’re not ready to cook yet. Put your wok down and grab your Chinese knife. What?? Oh, this is getting ridiculous. Use what you’ve got. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Actually, today we aren’t cooking at all. Today we’re just checking to make sure you’re ready to take the jump to warp speed with some basic principles of cooking the Chinese way. Here they are.
Fresh is best. In China, they still go to market every day. To be fair, it’s a little easier for two reasons: (A) There’s a farmers market in just about every neighborhood. And (B) there are usually more adults around to share the load. Their nuclear family is three generations, not two.
Be prepared. The basic tools are a Chinese knife or cleaver, one or two cutting blocks or boards, and an assortment of dishes to hold the prepared ingredients. If you want to see some REAL gong fu, just watch Nai-nai wield that cleaver!