Chinese Cooking Mistakes Fixed By MasterChef’s Sandy Tang

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Mistake 1: not marinating meat for long enough

It’s always best to marinate meat overnight. It’s the best way to tenderise meat as the sodium in soy or other sauces enables the protein to break down and absorb flavours from the marinade. Lee Kum Kee’s Sweet Hoisin Sauce is one of my top choices when it comes to marinades.

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Mistake 2: cooking at a temperature lower then the suggested one

When cooking meat at a temperature that’s too low, moisture can escape from it, which causes a dry texture.

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Mistake 3: using the incorrect cooking utensils

You should allows use the right tool for the job. For example, a good wok is the key to making great stir-fry dishes. The concave shape allows heat to distribute evenly and avoid any blind spots, which are what cause food to stick and burn. So invest in a good wok and look after it.

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Mistake 4: using the wrong size cooking utensils

Again, when it comes to things like woks, make sure you leave plenty of surface space in the wok for the meat to lay flat and cook evenly. If you’re restricted by what you have in the kitchen aka you only have a small frying pan, cook the meat in two batches so that they’re not partially overcooked or undercooked.

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Mistake 5: not cooking spices and aromatic ingredients first

Ginger, garlic, chillies and various types of peppercorns are the key ingredients, which form the backbone of many Chinese dishes. Heating them with fats at the beginning enables the ingredients to release addictive aromas and impart deep flavours into the dish that’s being cooked.

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Mistake 6: cooking meat and vegetables together

You should always add meat to your wok and allow it to cook until it’s browned all over before adding vegetables. Reason being, the excess water from vegetables will simmer the meat rather than frying it, and if that happens, you won’t get the caramelised finish that lock in the meat juices.

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Mistake 7: using salt to marinate beef

This is a big no-no when dealing with red meat. Salt cannot penetrate well into the protein structure, so all salting red meat does is draw out moisture and dehydrate it; making it tough when cooked. The best practice is using sauces that have salt dissolved in to them to add the savoury taste. For example Lee Kum Kee’s Premium Oyster Sauce or Light and Dark soy sauces can be used as a marinade.

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Mistake 8: not simmering rice

For those who like cooking rice on a stove like myself, you might find it difficult to get it right every time, so here are few tips. You have to wash and drain the rice, then add two times the water (1:2 rice to water ratio) in the pan with a lid on. Bring it to boil then reduce the heat so that it just simmers over a low heat. It will take around 15-20 minutes. Keep checking and if the rice is still hard, give it another two minutes. Don’t attempt to the bring the heat up. Just be patient and keep it simmering.

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Mistake 9: overcooking noodles or dumplings

Chinese noodles or dumplings can be easily overcooked in comparison to pasta, because the dough usually doesn’t consist of eggs. The trick is to add cold water once your noodles or dumplings start boiling. This quickly bring the temperature down, so that the surface is not overcooked while still enabling the residual heat to conduct to the core. Repeat this when it starts boiling again. Usually, they are ready after the third time that it boils again.

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Mistake 10: forgetting that cooking wine can be substituted with beer

Feel free to substitute Shaoxing wine with beer if that’s what you have in the fridge. They are equally great for braising dishes.

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Sandy was a finalist in the 2019 series of MasterChef. You can find plenty of inspiring recipes on her Instagram.

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