The Steaming Solution
Next to stir-frying, steaming is an important and widely used cooking technique in the Asian kitchen.
Most kitchens in Asia do not have ovens, therefore baking or roasting are not commonly used cooking techniques. Instead, dumplings, breads, cakes, and other desserts are steamed. There are also wonderful soups and meat dishes and of course, superb fish and seafood specialties that are cooked to perfection in the gentle, moist heat of a steamer. Steaming is also a perfect way to refresh stale bread and reheat leftovers that would dry out or overcook on the stove or in the microwave.
Steaming has gained in popularity in the Western kitchen for its convenience, simplicity, health benefits and efficiency. The traditional steamer is made of bamboo and can range from a tiny 4-inch diameter for dim sum to large commercial sized steamers that can steam several platters of whole fish at once.
At Helen's Asian Kitchen we have beautiful handmade bamboo steamers for home use in three sizes: 4, 10 and 12-inch diameters. These steamers are strong, durable and are constructed completely out of natural bamboo - no metal staples, wires or plastic.
The beauty of bamboo steamers extends to their practicality. The bamboo steamer lid is double woven so that steam is trapped inside the steamer to cook quickly and efficiently with little loss of heat. The woven lid also absorbs any condensation so that when the steamer is opened there won't be a waterfall down onto the food. This is especially important when steaming breads, dumplings and cakes. The steamer is also attractive enough to be taken right to the table.
Besides the bamboo steamers themselves, I have developed accessories that make the steaming process much more safe, easy, fun and ultimately successful.
The STEAMING RING
Boiling water in a seasoned wok or a nonstick wok is actually detrimental to the pan. The water will strip the seasoning from a carbon wok and may weaken any type of nonstick finish because nonstick coatings are developed for cooking with oil, not boiling water. In addition, woks can't hold enough water for the steaming process so the cook is always replenishing with more boiling water. And the outer edge of the bamboo steamer often scorches or burns as it is pressed against the hot sides of a wok.
The Steaming Ring (which looks like a flat, aluminum donut) sits on top of an uncovered large saucepan or stock pot. The bamboo steamer is then placed on the ring and voila, you're steaming without any of the problems or pitfalls that come from using a bamboo steamer in a wok. The Steaming Rings are available in 2 sizes to use with either the 10" or 12" bamboo steamer. I love this accessory and use it all the time.
PARCHMENT STEAMER LINERS
Instead of using cabbage leaves or cutting out rounds of waxed paper, these 9 ½" perforated parchment liners fit right into the bamboo steamer. Breads and dumplings won't stick, vegetables won't stain the steamer. After cooking, simply throw the used liner away. What could be easier!
PLATE RETREIVER TONGS
This is one of my most favorite and most important steaming accessory. Most people have never seen it before, but for Asians, it's a necessity. Plate Retriever Tongs are an ingenious tool that lift hot plates and bowls from steamers without burning fingers. Why would a plate be in a steamer, you ask? Asians always use heatproof plates when steaming anything that's marinated or has juice - such as meats and seafood. Don't let those wonderfully tasty and nutritious juices fall into the steaming water only to be thrown away!
And finally, the piéce de resistance . . . THE PERFECT RICE COOKER
I've been demonstrating this remarkable cooker at the Chicago and Las Vegas Gourmet Shows because I want everyone to see how easy it is to use and the perfect results that anyone can get. It's true. If you can boil water - you can make perfect rice!
My rice cooker actually cooks rice with steam. This means there won't be any hot spots that can scorch, burn or ruin the rice. The rice will never boil over, dry out, overcook or stick to the cooker. Besides rice (all kinds of rice from jasmine to sushi to sweet sticky rice) the cooker is also excellent for other grains such as barley, quinoa, millet, amaranth and couscous. You can also steam soups, custards and desserts such as rice pudding in the Perfect Rice Cooker. And its unique stainless steel handle allows you to easily lift the cooker and transport it directly to the table where is becomes your serving piece.
And when not in use cooking, storing, serving or reheating food - - - it also makes a practical ice bucket - now, how many rice cookers can also double as an ice bucket?
I'm understandably very proud of this invention. But with anything that's really new and different, it needs explanation. So, we are providing a shelf-talker which you can download from the Helen's Asian Kitchen website and laminate or place in a plexiglass frame alongside the product. It will help explain this incredible cooking tool.
With warm weather ahead of us, steaming is a perfect way to keep the kitchen cool and serve delicious, healthy low-fat meals. So, enjoy the summer and all it's delicious and healthy bounty!