How to use a Chinese Bamboo Steamer


A bamboo steamer is one of the most useful pieces of kit you can have in your kitchen, even if you don’t cook Chinese food. Steam fish, chicken, meatballs or pancakes inside just as you would in a metal steamer. They cost far less to buy and are more beautiful and tactile to use.

Bamboo steamers can be found in most Asian shops. They usually come with two baskets and a lid and are very light. You pop the baskets on top of a saucepan of boiling water and you are ready to add food to the steamer.

– Always use a tea towel or oven glove to carefully lift the baskets off the saucepan as the steam is very hot.

– Bamboo steamers are used to steam meat, fish, chicken or duck, meatballs or small morsels of food such as dim sum and to heat pancakes and dumplings. Made of bamboo which is easy to wipe clean, they are light and easy to store.

– Steaming food is not only healthier, it is also very fast. It takes just 6 minutes or a little more to steam a fillet of sea trout for 1 person and about 9 minutes to steam a thick piece of salmon. All you have to do is to sprinkle either with a little chopped green onion, pour on a drizzle of soy sauce, lay a few ginger slices on top, add a grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt before cooking and in under ten minutes you have a light healthy lunch or dinner.

– A bamboo steamer has an advantage over a metal steamer in that if you store it up high it won’t hurt you when it inevitably tumbles down as you go to retrieve it! As steamers are not an item that you use all the time this is a genuine help.

– Insert a small plate inside the steamer basket to hold the food or line it loosely with tin foil. It is important for hygiene reasons not to lay raw fish or meat or chicken on the bamboo basket as it is will be impossible to clean properly.

-Make sure the water doesn’t boil down in the saucepan under the steamer.

– When you have finished steaming your food, let the steamer cool and wipe it clean with a damp cloth. You can also wash it in light soapy water and rinse but don’t immerse or soak it in water. Leave to dry fully before storing them in a dry cupboard.

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