Technique: Braise

In a traditional French braise, the item to be cooked is seared in a pan on the stove, liquid is added, and there usually follows a very long simmer, either on the stovetop or in the oven. In Chinese cooking, braises are usually much briefer, but the basic concept is the same:

  1. Start by stirfrying the item quickly on high heat to coat it with oil. The food may get a few brown spots from the hot wok, but the point is NOT to caramelize the entire outside of it.
  2. Add the liquid and seasonings, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, cover slightly, and cook just until desired doneness is reached.

This method can be used for almost any vegetable – the cuts vary as do the cooking times. (For a very detailed list of vegetables that can be cooked this way, check out Gloria Bley Miller’s Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook.)

If you are trying to eat more vegetables and cut the fat in your diet, this is a great way to do it, as the amount of oil needed is minimal. You can vary the liquid and seasonings used according to you taste: the most common liquid is water, broth, or stock; seasonings can include salt, sugar, soy sauce, pepper, herbs. If you want to include some ginger (helps with digestion!), “explode until fragrant” a few peeled slices in the oil before you add the food to be cooked.

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