How to Prepare Ingredients
All fruits and vegetables that we buy from the stores or farmer’s market have some pesticides and chemical residues on them, even for organic ones. Therefore, if we do not wash them properly, we are putting toxin in our body without knowing it.
Rule number one in preparing all fruits and vegetables is to give them a quick rinse at the tap first except if you are eating banana. Banana is perhaps the only fruit that has no insect bite so farmers do not need to spray them with pesticides. Other than that, even fruits of very thick skin such as water melon, cantaloupe (the worst) and all sorts of melon like vegetables such as squash are known to be laden with chemical residues.
After the first rinse, for fruits and vegetables that you are not going to discard the skin before eating or cooking, they need to be put into a dedicated vegetable basin to soak for 20 to 30 minutes with plenty of water so that the chemical residues can be dissolved in the water and discarded. Soaking fruits and vegetables in the kitchen sink is not recommended because kitchen sink is full of bacteria even if you do clean it regularly. Also, it is easiest to cause cross contamination between raw ingredients.
For fruits and vegetables with smooth skin, you should use a vegetable brush to gently scrub all the surfaces half way through and change to clean water. For leafy green, it is best to put in a few spoons of white vinegar because vinegar is the best agent to dissolve any chemicals sticking to the leaves. Change to clean water half way through as well. Remember never use salt to soak vegetables because salt will do the reverse, causing chemicals to stick on harder to the leaves. After the soaking, rinse the fruits and vegetables once more in a colander and let them drip dry before cutting.
For root vegetables that you are going to discard the skin, peel first, then rinse and then drip dry before cutting them into the shape and form as required by the recipes. After cutting, it is best to rinse them once more in a colander before cooking to make sure they are fresh and clean.
For fruits and vegetables that you are going to eat raw, it is important to cut them with dedicated knife and cutting board to prevent contamination.
Every year, thousands of people are sickened by meat contaminated with E. coli or salmonella bacteria that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, the elderly and those with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to illness which can be fatal in rare cases. Therefore, cleaning meat properly is the first step to prevent any unintended consequence.
To clean chicken, whether it is a whole chicken or chicken parts, it is crucial to use salt to rub the chicken inside out after the first rinse. Then it is highly recommended to soak chicken in clean water with one to two spoons of salt and the juice from half to one lemon together with the skin. Let it soak for at least 10 to 15 minutes. The salt, the lemon juice and the lemon oil from the skin are the best disinfection agents for meat especially chicken. After soaking, then rinse the meat under running water and let them drip dry in a colander. You will find that the meat will have a clean natural glow on top after this cleaning process.
Pork can also be cleaned the same way. As for beef and other red meat such as lamb, you will not soak the meat because it will lose a lot of its flavor. You will rinse them under the tap and let them drip dry before cooking.
For any meat used for making soup or congee, you will need to cut all the skin and fat off first. The meat and bone will need to be cut into big pieces and rinsed clean. Then the meat will need to go through a quick blanching process of about 5 to 10 minutes in boiling water to get rid of fat, blood and scum that flow to the top when cooking meat. Then the meat should be rinsed with cold tap water so that they are completely clean. This is an essential step in producing quality soups or congees with the best taste from the meat.
Shellfish can be dangerous because a lot of people have experienced some level of food allergy or poisoning from shellfish. All shellfish have to be alive to be fresh. As soon as you buy them, they have to be prepared and cooked straight away. You can cook them and preserve them for the next day, but don't leave them raw in your fridge overnight.
To clean shellfish such as mussels or clams, you need to put them in a tub of slow running tap water and put in a spoon of salt to start it off. This will help the shellfish to throw up dirt from their intestine so that you will not be eating those later. When ready to cook, you need to use a scrub to clean the outside shell and rinse them thoroughly before use.
For crabs and lobsters, you should start by scrubbing the outside shell first. The underside of crabs and lobsters harbor a lot of bacteria so it is necessary to clean them thoroughly with a firm brush. If you are opening up crabs or lobsters to cut into smaller pieces fro the cooking, make sure you rinse them thoroughly in a colander under the tap after cutting.
For other slippery seafood such as squids or shrimps or oysters (with shell removed), you need to use some salt to wash them once and then rinse. Then use a spoon of starch (corn starch or potato starch) to wash once again and rinse. This process will clean off the slimy stuff from the meat and make the texture crisp and firm (especially good for shrimp).
To clean a whole fish, put it under running tap water and make sure all the black stomach lining is removed and any blood at the back bone is cleaned out so that the fish will not taste fishy even after cooking. Then it is best to use paper towel to dry the fish inside out before cooking.
If you're not familiar with using herbs in home cooking, you should follow the instruction and quantity as per our recipes.
Fresh herbs are less potent than dried herbs so usually when fresh herbs are used, it will be about three times as much as the dried ones. Most dried herbs are added to the cooking at the beginning and fresh ones are usually added at the end.
For making herbal soup, most herbs should be put in the cooking right at the start. Herbs of hardy root or nut should be soaked for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Herbs of dried leaves and flowers should be rinsed briefly to get rid of sand and dust before use. Only herbs that have been ground into powder should not be washed. When a recipe calls for herbs of different kinds, use this guideline to clean them separately before use.
For making herbal tea, it is best to rinse the herbs in a fine metal colander under the tap and then put the herbs with the right amount of water in a pot and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This will allow the herbs to be fully rehydrated when cooking starts and the nutrients from the herbs can be easily extracted during the cooking. This will significantly increase the effectiveness of the recipes.