Culinary Dictionary of Ingredients and Cooking Terms - W
Water Chestnuts (Photo) - The knobby vegetable with the papery brown skin
is a staple in Chinese cooking. However, the water chestnut is not a nut at all, but an
aquatic vegetable that grows in marshes. This is why the ones that you purchase in the
store may have a bit of muddy coating. The name "water chestnut" comes
from the fact that it resembles a chestnut in shape and coloring. Indigenous to
Southeast Asia, the water chestnut is valued both for its sweetness and its ability to
maintain a crisp texture when cooked. It is believed to sweeten the breath.
At the store, look for firm water chestnuts devoid of any soft spots. Unpeeled, water chestnuts will keep for up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Prior to cooking, you'll need to cut off the top and peel the skin. If peeled ahead of time, store them in cold water in the refrigerator, with the water changed daily. Fresh water chestnuts are worth hunting for, as they have a sweeter flavor and are quite crisp. However, canned water chestnuts work fine as a substitute. Drain and rinse the canned water chestnuts before using. You may also want to rinse them briefly in boiling water to get rid of any canned or "tinny" taste. They can be eaten raw or added to stir-fries. As with fresh, store the unused water chestnuts in the refrigerator in cold water. Change the water daily, and they should last for up to a week.
Winter Melon or Dong Gua (Photo) - Winter melon, or Benincasa Hispida to use its scientific name, resembles a large watermelon with its dark green skin. The flesh inside is white, looking much like it has been lightly covered with snow, and the seeds are white as well. Grown during the summer, it lasts a long time and thus can be eaten during the winter.
Winter melon has a very mild sweet taste. It is used in soups and stir-fries, where it absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with. A famous Chinese dish is winter melon soup, where slices of the melon are simmered in a broth with Chinese dried mushrooms, ham, and seasonings. At banquets the soup is cooked inside a whole carved out melon, which then serves as both steamer and serving bowl. Winter melon is also used in sweets, such as Wife Cake and the Indian treat Petha.
You may be able to buy a whole winter melon, but normally you would purchase
cut pieces. Placed in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator,
the melon slices will last for a couple of days.
Recipe: Winter Melon Soup
Wok (Photo) - The most important piece of
Chinese cooking equipment, a wok can be used for stir-frying, deep-frying,
steaming, and roasting. While a frying pan can be used in place of a wok for
stir-frying (cast iron is particularly good), a wok has numerous advantages in
shape, design, and material. While there are several types of wok on the market,
from stainless steel to aluminum, carbon steel is best.
How to Season a Carbon Steel Wok
How to Clean a Carbon Steel Wok
Article: To Wok or Not to Wok
Wood Ears - Often confused with cloud ears, wood ears are actually
a distant relative of the cloud ear fungus. Larger and somewhat tougher, they lack the
delicate taste of cloud ears. Storage and preparation of wood ears is virtually identical
to cloud ears, except that they can be soaked in cold instead of warm water. They
are used in soups and stir-fries.
*Back to the Asian Culinary Dictionary
An ever-growing index of Asian ingredients and cooking terms, from Abalone to Wood Ears.