Bring Chinese cooking to your kitchen after your travels

If you are traveling from China and want to replicate some of the tastes at home, Jen Lin Liu, author of Serve the People: A Stir-fried Journey through China, has some tips.

She presented them in a very speedy cooking lesson segment on The Today Show that I caught yesterday morning. Lin-Liu is a Chinese American living in China who moved there to learn more about Chinese cooking.

Here’s what Liu said. For spices, the staples are salt, pepper and sugar. Sugar is an important ingredient because it balances out the salt and pepper. Liu said it’s a yin and yang kind of thing.

Also there are two kinds of soy sauces that she uses: light and dark. The dark is actually a lighter flavor than the light, but both are used-from what I gathered, in the same dish.

Her main utensil is a meat cleaver which she uses for everything-even paring apples. As Liu demonstrated, the cleaver is handy for picking up food and dumping it into the wok for stir-frying. She also uses it to smash vegetables, a technique that releases some of the flavor. A spatula is used for turning whatever is cooking.

The corn starch that is used to thicken the sauce was put into the meat marinade.

One question that came up was the way Chinese food tastes different in the United States, than in China. One reason she gave was that the ingredients were fresher in China. People go to the fresh market every day and buy only what they will cook that day.

My husband’s greatest pleasure when we lived in Singapore was going to the market in the morning on Saturdays or Sundays. He would come back, arms full. Unlike me, he loves to cook.

One thing I enjoyed about this segment and Jen Lin Liu’s brand of cooking is that it looks easy to replicate. The cook book just came out just last month. I’m tempted to buy it. After all, I think we already have a clever tucked back in a kitchen drawer somewhere. I’ll recognize it when I see it.

Here’s a link to the video where Liu demonstrates her techniques.