A Newbie’s Guide to Chinese Cooking

Chinese cooking is not that much different than American cooking.  The recipes are different and there are a few different techniques.  You have to be able to stir fry for many recipes and you need to be able to cook rice for nearly all Chinese cooking.  Here’s how to do it.

How to Make Stir Fry

You can get by with a good frying pan.  If you’re serious, get a wok.

You can buy a wok here. 

  1. Use the right size of wok.The size of wok you use depends on how much you’re cooking. Just make sure you consider the size of your recipe before selecting a wok.
  2. Use the right tool to stir. A Chinese ladle or a wok spatula is best, but if you don’t have either of those, a heat-resistant spatula is second best. If you are using a nonstick pan, use a silicone spatula to protect the surface.
  3. It’s all about the heat. It’s high-heat cooking. If you want your stir fry to taste amazing, pay close attention to the heat. Heat the wok until it’s smoking a little, then add oil, garlic, oyster sauce, salt, and the meat.
  4. Don’t wash the wok between steps.After cooking your meat, take it out and place it in a holding dish. Cook the veggies with some water in the same wok, no need wash.
  5. Be careful when you wash your wok.Never use soap when washing your wok hot. Just rinse it off, wipe it down and you’re done.

How to Cook Rice Properly

  1. Wash your rice before you cook it.Rinse the rice using a strainer until the water comes out clear, not milky.
  2. If you are cooking your rice on a stovetop, measure it using your index finger.(I always used a measuring cup with two cups water to one cup rice but I like Casey’s quick trick here.) Level the rice in the pot so there is a relatively flat surface. Touch the surface of the rice with your index finger (do not sink it into the rice) and pour in enough water to come up to the crease on your finger opposite the first knuckle. Cover your pot with a lid and cook until boiling.
  3. Bring the rice to a boil, then turn the burner on low heat.You can tell when the rice is almost done when the sides no longer look like they are covered in glue. Take the rice off the burner, remove the lid and let it sit for a few minutes. It will continue to cook it the hot pan.

Common Issues with Cooking Rice and How to Fix them:

The rice is burnt to the bottom. The flame or burner was left on high for too long. The slower the rice cooks, the better. Knowing how long to cook the rice is not about the time, it is about how it looks. The rice should be fluffy and soft, not lumpy or watery.

The rice is too crunchy. This means you didn’t add enough water or give the rice enough time to cook. Remember, measure the water to your first knuckle; it always works.

How to Make Orange Chicken.  

This is the orange chicken that you are familiar with in most Chinese restaurants.  It’s crispy and coated with a sweet orange sauce.

This is one of the most popular Chinese dishes in the US.  Though there are variations, we’ll make it just like it is served in popular restaurants.  Chicken breasts are cubed, battered, and deep fried.  They are then tossed in an orange sauce to make the chicken moist and orange flavored.

What you’ll need

You’ll have most items, tools and ingredients, in your kitchen or find them readily in your grocery store.  There are a few unusual items or items that you may not be familiar with.  We offer most on our web site.

Orange Sauce: You’ll need a good orange sauce to coat the chicken.  You’ll see our favorite below but you’ll find others at the grocery store. 

Tempura Batter Mix:  Tempura batter is used with seafood and vegetables.  It gives food a thick or a thin smooth coating depending on the application.  You’ll use this with your orange chicken.

A Thermometer:  It is important to cook the chicken at the right temperature.  If it is too hot, the chicken burns.  If not hot enough, it is greasy.  We use a simple candy thermometer that clips to the side of the pan. 

A WokStir Fry Pan, or Deep Nonstick Skillet:  Woks and stir fry pans are shaped for stir frying and disperse heat up the sides of the pans and heat the food quickly and evenly.  We love our stir fry pan. 

For the chicken:


3-4 cups of chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 cups tempura batter mix

vegetable oil for frying


  1. Make an egg wash by whisking the two eggs with two tablespoons of water.   Pour into a large dish.
  2. Add the tempura batter mix to another flat-bottomed dish.  Separate any clumps.
  3. Dip each chicken cube in the egg mixture and then in the dry tempura mix.  Repeat the process, dipping the coated chicken again in egg and then the tempura mix.  This double-dipping process is important to create extra-crispy chicken.
  4. Pour three to four inches of vegetable oil in a deep, heavy pan.  Heat the oil until it reaches 350° using a deep frying thermometer.   Fry the chicken pieces until they are crispy and golden brown.  Remove with a stainless steel strainer. Place the fried chicken onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.  Set aside.

For the sauce:

1 cup Iron Chef Orange Sauce or equal

1 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water, divided


  1. Thin the dipping sauce by mixing the orange sauce and water in a wok or deep skillet. 
  2. Make a paste of the cornstarch by stirring it in a small bowl with1/2 tablespoon of the water until smooth.  Then add the rest of the water and continue stirring using a whisk.  Cook the sauce mixture until it is bubbly and thickens.
  3. To assemble and serve your orange chicken, add the fried chicken to the sauce in the pan and stir until the chicken is coated and heated through.  Serve immediately. 

How to Make Lemon Chicken. 

This is wonderful lemon chicken!  It’s not hard but the secret is the double-dipping before cooking.  The lemon sauce is fantastic and authentic.


3-4 chicken breasts
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
2 cups panko
vegetable oil for frying

Lemon Sauce

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

  1. Make an egg wash by slightly beating two eggs with one tablespoon of water. In a separateflat-bottomed dish, place the two cups of panko.
  2. With a meat mallet, pound each chicken breast to 1/4 inch thick. Dip each chicken breast inegg then panko, and again in egg then panko. This double-dipping process is crucial to create an extra-crispy crust for each chicken piece that will not rub off.
  3. Fry each chicken piece in 350° vegetable oil until crust is crispy and golden brown. Place the fried chicken pieces onto a plate with a paper towel allowing the excess oil to drain and set aside.
  4. In a wok, on medium heat, heat 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup chicken broth, 1 teaspoon lemon
    zest, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, one garlic clove, and one or two drops yellow food coloring (if desired). In a separate small bowl, combine one tablespoon cornstarch with one tablespoon water to make the slurry. Add the slurry to the sauce and continue to heat and stir until sauce is thickened.
  5. Place the fried chicken on a plate and cut into strips. Pour the sauce over the top and serve warm. 

How to Make Fried Rice.

Fried rice is quick and easy to make; it only takes minutes to convert steamed rice to fried rice.  The sesame oil adds a nutty-like flavor, much more flavorful than vegetable oil. 


1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cloves minced garlic

1 cup frozen peas and diced carrots

3 large eggs

1/2 cup of 1/2-inch cubed cooked ham

4 cups cooked rice

2 tablespoons soy sauce or more to taste


  1. Heat the sesame oil and vegetable oil in a wok or stir fry pan over medium heat. 
  2. Peel your garlic with a garlic peeler and grate using a fine grater or garlic press. Add the garlic and cook until tender. 
  3. Add the frozen mixed vegetables and cook until they are warm. 
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk three eggs.  Add the eggs to vegetable mixture in the wok or stir fry pan.  Stir to scramble the eggs into small chunks.  Add the ham.
  5. Cook your rice on the stove top or use a microwave rice cooker. Add the rice and soy sauce; stir until mixed evenly.  Serve hot.

About Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is essential in much Asian cooking.  It is fragrant and flavorful and usually only a little is used in a dish. 

Like olive oil, it comes if many different varieties.  We carry several on our site.  Experiment to find the one that appeals most to you.

Because only a little is used, a bottle will last a long time.  If you don’t use it often, store open bottles in the refrigerator.

About Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is another essential in Asian cooking and a very common flavor.  It is loaded with sodium and if you are concerned about salt intake, it should be used judiciously.   

Soy sauce can be used in place of salt in many recipes.  While soy sauce varies from one to producer to another, the sodium in a teaspoon of soy sauce generally equals that in 1/4 teaspoon salt.

In fried rice, you may use more soy sauce if you start with unsalted rice. 

How to Make Egg Rolls. 

Buy egg roll wrappers at the store and pick up some Mandarin Orange Sauce or other Asian sauce.  Then this is an easy three-step recipe.  


2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium head of cabbage, finely shredded
5 or 6 green onions, chopped
3 or 4 carrots, grated
3 or 4 stalks of celery chopped
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 can bamboo shoots, chopped
1 cup mushrooms chopped
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
egg roll wrappers
vegetable oil for frying
Mandarin Orange Sauce, Thai Peanut Sauce, or another Asian sauce for dipping


1. Heat a little oil in the pan and season the oil with the ginger and salt.  Stir fry the cabbage, green onions, carrots, and celery until it is wilted and crisp-tender. Add the water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Stir in the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
2. Place a mound of filling on the center of egg roll wrappers. Fold the left corner across the filling then roll the filing. Turn the top and bottom corners up and down respectively. Roll to wrap the egg roll into a tight cylinder.
3. Cook the egg rolls in hot oil until the outsides are brown.

Baker’s note: These can be cooked in hot oil in a sauce pan on the stove top. Make sure that the oil is about two-inches deep and 350 to 375 degrees. If the first egg roll does not cook rapidly enough, turn the heat up. (Slowly cooked egg rolls will be greasy.) To bake place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until browned.