Steaming is one of the first techniques that comes to mind when we talk of healthy alternatives. Unfortunately, steamed food has earned a bad reputation over the years for yielding lack-lustre and bland results. Let’s begin by busting this myth and rethinking the idea of steaming. Steamed food need not be boring; if well-seasoned and appropriately garnished, it can be extremely flavorful and nutritious.
Steaming is a simple and easy way to cook food. This method is very versatile and can be used to prepare a wide range of food. Typically foods are steamed by placing them above a pot of boiling water, in a vessel with slots or holes, which allows the steam to come through. Specially designed bamboo or steel steamers are easily available in most parts of the world; these are extremely convenient to use in a home kitchen.The hot rising steam cooks food gently but thoroughly, without dehydrating it. A big advantage while steaming is that food is rarely burnt or overcooked.
When food is boiled in water, cooking oil or liquid of any sort, much of the nutrients dissolve and are lost in the liquid bath. However, this doesn’t happen when steaming. Vitamins and anti-oxidants are maintained to a greater degree in steamed food. Besides, one can completely avoid butter, ghee and oil when steaming food. Perhaps the only fat needed, is the thin layer applied on the steamer to ensure food doesn’t stick to it. This too can be avoided if one uses butter paper, foil or even leaves of some sort to wrap the food. Typically,it is lighter foods like vegetables, fish, seafood and poultry that are steamed. Meats like beef, pork and lamb aren’t usually steamed, as they require higher temperatures to cook. However, when these meats are minced or shredded they too can be steamed.
The Chinese and other South East Asian cultures have used steamers for several centuries to prepare a wide repertoire of traditional dishes. In fact, the Chinese even make a steamed wheat bread called mantou, which is a staple in the colder northern regions where rice doesn’t grow easily.The Chinese also make steamed dumplings or dimsum which have become popular world over. Bite size parcels are stuffed with seasoned poultry, seafood, meat or vegetables and steamed in bamboo baskets. These delicately crafted snacks can be extremely healthy. Dimsum making has evolved into quite an elaborate art form in the present day!
Steamed fish is a staple in most South East Asian cultures, usually topped with a light dressing and freshly chopped herbs. Fish being the lightest kind of meat, is extremely easy to steam. Besides, most fish is loaded with essential oils which are extremely nutritious. So a steamed fillet of fish with a salad on the side makes for the perfect dinner.
Steamed foods can be varied and interesting – all the flavors and textures your palate craves minus the harmful fatty oil.You needn’t stop at the side of boring steamed vegetables now on!