Britain's best-loved authority of Chinese cookery, Ken Hom, wants us all to explore the rich and varied cuisine of China at home. Here are his top tips for beginners who want to cook Chinese food.
If you are new to Chinese cooking, there are a few golden rules that will help you get to grips with the basics:
1) Do not feel you have to prepare a meal that consists entirely of dishes from one particular region. Instead, select dishes that will provide a variety of colours, textures and tastes.
2) At first try just one or two Chinese dishes at a time, perhaps incorporating them into a European meal. Chinese snacks, for example, make wonderful starters for any meal, and there are many Chinese dishes that can be successfully combined with Western style meats and salads.
3) When you prepare your first entirely Chinese meal, select just two or three dishes and serve them simply, with some plain steamed rice.
4) Never select dishes that are all stir-fried, or you will have a traumatic time in the kitchen trying to get everything ready at the same time and will arrive at the table hot and flustered. Choose instead to do one braised dish, a cold dish, or something that can be prepared ahead of time when warmed through, and limit your stir-frying to just one dish. You will find the time spent cooking far more enjoyable if you stick to such a plan.
5) Many of the recipes in this book come not only from my family restaurant but from my extensive travels and eating experiences during the last forty years in every far corner of China as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Chinatowns worldwide. It is a great pleasure to share them with you, but do feel free, as I have, to change and experiment. After all, this is one of the great attributes of Chinese cookery: you can make any recipe your own.
There is an old Chinese proverb which says: ‘To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven.’ Once you have embarked on the exciting road to discovering the mysteries and pleasures of Chinese cooking you will soon discover just how sublime Chinese food can be. The time and the conditions are both propitious for the universal enjoyment of Chinese cookery. It can be done, and should be, as a part of our daily lives, both in the East and in the West.
Try these simple Ken Hom dishes – the perfect introduction to Chinese cooking: