As one with ethnic cooking prowess (okay, more like amateur), I am always looking to try out new recipes and tools in my kitchen, especially those that register high on the exotic scale. My tagine that I bought a couple of years ago (and sadly haven’t used in a while) is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. It also induces extreme wanderlust in making me want to visit Morocco (well, see a “bit” more than I had on my first trip there almost a decade ago).
I first saw bamboo steamers years ago when shopping at Sur la Table, a rather upscale kitchen store which I love. I’ve always been intrigued by them, but more curious how exactly they work. I never got one until earlier this month. I was planning on ordering some things from Sur la Table’s online store and after finding a recipe I wanted to try out from a Vietnamese cookbook that called for the use of one, I decided now was the time to finally get said bamboo steamer. However, I ended up going to Pittsburgh’s Strip District the very next day (for some rather exotic ingredients) and bought one at an Oriental grocery store there. The steamer I got was actually larger and cheaper than the small size option offered by Sur la Table. So the best advice I have in terms of procuring a bamboo steamer is to first try shopping for one at an Oriental market if any are in your area.
In terms of why you should use a bamboo steamer, the benefits are endless-healthy cooking AND eating (no oils of any kind are involved); if you reside in a hot weather climate you don’t need to use your oven but rather just a burner; cleanup is extra simple (no charred pots etc); and lastly, you have a vast array of options in terms of foods you can cook in it (meats, vegetables, dumplings).
So if I’ve succeeded in piquing your interest about bamboo steamers but you’re still confused as to how exactly they work, follow these five easy steps:
1) Choose what you’re going to cook in the bamboo steamer. Poultry, vegetables, dumplings, meat-the steamer is your cooking oyster.
(For my inaugural use I opted to cook chicken in it. While the idea of “steaming” chicken from raw level to one where it is safe to consume it may seem odd, trust me, it worked terrific. After a couple of hours simmering, the chicken had been cooked to perfection and was fork tender.)
2) It’s highly recommended to line all levels of the steamer with some type of leafy green to avoid your food sticking. Banana leaves are also recommended as they will give an extra unique taste to your food while cooking.
3) Place the food you’ll be cooking into the steamer (make sure to use all levels so that everything is evenly spread out).
4) Add a couple inches of water to a wok and place over a burner. Once the water has started to simmer place the steamer in the wok and keep the burner on low heat. (If you don’t have a wok, any large pot that fits the steamer will do the trick.)
5) Check on the wok periodically and add water more water if need be. Otherwise, sit back and in just a couple of hours you will have a perfectly steamed meal ready to eat.