Food is the gateway that allows you to get to know a culture better. There is often a rich history behind how certain dishes came to be, and there are some flavor profiles that are unique to a specific culture, that the mere act of tasting them feels like a trip. However, culture isn’t only manifested in food, but also in the cooking process itself. You might not realize this, but some of your habits in the kitchen are a product of your cultural upbringing, so here are 6 different cooking practices that are so uniquely Chinoy.
1. The default pan of choice is a wok
When it comes to pans, there is usually a variety of options to choose from, with the most common ones being nonstick, cast iron, stainless steel, or those tiny round ones that are specifically designed for frying eggs. If you’re a Chinoy, then you might have tried using all of the above, but the one pan that never fails you is the good old fashioned wok. All your other pans are probably collecting dust in the cupboards because of how often you use the wok, but that’s understandable since food just doesn’t taste the same without that wok hay.
2. Using chopsticks to fry everything
Cleaning up after cooking is often a complicated process because there are so many dishes and utensils involved. Sometimes, you might need a spatula to cook one dish and tongs to cook another, but that’s not the case for Chinoys because they would often use chopsticks to cook everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re deep frying, stir-frying or pan frying, a pair of chopsticks would usually get the job done. Plus, there are sources that claim using chopsticks will enhance the flavor of the food, so it would surely be helpful for people whose cooking skills are average at best.
3. Using a Chinese cleaver (菜刀) to chop everything
A Chinese cleaver might be shaped like a butcher’s knife, but it’s actually lighter and can’t usually cut through bones. Still, Chinese cleavers are just as large and unwieldy as butcher’s knives, and they seem out of place in a typical kitchen. However, it’s actually a common item in Chinoy households, and it’s usually used to chop everything from a big slab of meat to a small clove of garlic. This is because owning Chinese cleavers used to be a symbol of wealth, but now it just looks cool when you use it to chop vegetables.
4. No measuring cups needed
When you’re following a recipe from a book or from the internet, they would always specify the amount of ingredients to use in terms of tablespoons or cups. That’s not the case when you’re following a Chinoy or any Asian family recipe. There are no measurements whatsoever, and buying measuring utensils would only be a waste of money. Just keep pouring the soy sauce into the pan until your ancestors tell you to stop.
5. Sesame oil supremacy
Western recipes always call for a specific type of oil for every dish. Canola oil is for deep frying, coconut oil is for sauteing, and extra virgin olive oil is for salad dressings, but none of that applies to you if you’re a Chinoy (or if you’re Asian in general). You might occasionally use vegetable oil when you need something more neutral flavored, but your loyalties lie with sesame oil, and you use it for everything from stir-frying to drizzling.
6. The holy trinity of sauces
There’s a separate article about Chinoy pantry essentials, but basically, if you have the holy trinity of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and vinegar, then you can whip up almost any Chinoy dish, whether it’s pancit bihon, soy chicken, chop suey, or adobo, you name it! This is very different from some Western recipes, which may sometimes require you to plant a herb garden in your backyard before you can make them.