Steaming is a traditional Chinese cooking method that is ideal for today's trend towards healthy eating as very little or no oil is used. All sorts of foods can be steamed: meats, dumplings, vegetables and buns and the fresher the ingredients, the better they are for steaming.
Steaming 蒸 is a traditional Chinese cooking method that is ideal for today's trend towards healthy eating as very little or no oil is used. Steaming as a Chinese cooking skill also results in a more nutritious food than boiling because fewer nutrients are destroyed or leached away into the water. It's simple and yet able to enhance an ingredient's natural flavor. Steaming is a test of the quality of the raw ingredient and therefore a favorite method of cooking very fresh fish by the Chinese. All sorts of foods can be steamed: meats, dumplings, vegetables and buns and the fresher the ingredients, the better they are for steaming. The Chinese sometimes steam their food plain such as ham or beaten eggs with only salt and water.
The Chinese steam food in woven bamboo trays that stack one atop the other. The beauty of this system is that several foods cook at one time, saving fuel. All sorts of foods are steamed:meats, fish, dumplings, buns stuffed with meat or a sweet bean paste-bread! For best results, the water should be boiling when the food goes into the steamer and the flame should be high enough to keep it boiling.
After a high heat has brought the water to a boil, and the ingredients inserted, the heat is lowered as the steaming process begins (to avoid vibrations and a burned pot) - If the food has been placed initially on a serving platter, there will be no need to transfer it to another platter for serving at the table. Once cooked, food should not be left in the steamer unless the heat has been turned off before cooking is complete, after which the cooking process continues for a few minutes. Thus overcooking is avoided.
The Chinese steaming preserves flavors and food nutrients through the use of steam temperature rather than higher temperatures that destroy or leach these values in discarded boiling water. Several tiers can be used in the steamer to cook different foods simultaneously. Cooking time usually varies between 15 to 30 minutes for meat patties but can range from 20 minutes to 5 hours (which may require more water), depending upon the type of food to be steamed. However, meats cooked in this fashion must be of top quality. Chinese steamed foods are to be consumed right away - these foods are delicate and cooked to perfection. Reheating leftover steamed meats, steamed fish and seafoods often become soggy and limp and lose flavor upon reheating.
Another steaming variation by the Chinese is called 'double boiling'. To double-boil, the bowl or casserole of ingredients is half immersed in water inside a large pot which is covered by a lid and the food is cooked partly by the boiling water and partly by the steam it produces. Food steamed this way comes out very soft, tender and nutritious.
Dim Sum Bamboo Steamer Many forms of dim sum, dumplings and pastries are steamed dry. The Chinese use bamboo steamers that stack one on top of each other, up to as high as five layers. The bottom of each basket is a grid which allows the steam from the wok to rise all the way to the top of the stack. Dishes requiring the most steaming are placed on the bottom, with ones requiring less on the top level. Cantonese are well known for their steamed dishes. The bamboo steamers are not suitable if you wish to retain the precious sweet juices that ooze out of the food to be steamed because they will drip away through the grids unless of course if the steamers are big enough for you to put a whole plate in.
There are aluminum or stainless steel stacked steamers available in the market. To some Chinese, this is an indispensable piece of equipment and priced very reasonably too. The bottom section is a pot that holds water for steaming and on top of it is stacked with one or two pots with perforated bottom to allow steam to pass through from the boiling water below. It also comes with a lid too. Stacked steamers are large enough so that a whole fish in a plate can fit in with enough room left on its sides to allow the steam to rise through.
You can also improvise a simple make-shift steamer: place a small bowl upside down or a metal can in a pot filled with water with a lid and balance the dish holding the food on it and you're on your way to making a healthful meal.
Compared with food cooked by other methods, steamed dishes are more subtle in taste. Not only steaming retains the taste of the ingredients, but also its vitamins and nutrients. Steamed food is particularly favored by the middle-ages.