In a world where so much of our food is processed, fried, or boiled beyond recognition, a bamboo steamer can seem almost…foreign. Well, in fact it is!
Bamboo steamers originated in China; mushiki is the original Chinese steamer which were made from bamboo and used in Asian cooking. They can be stacked on top of each other, as tiered layers, so that the steam can cook many servings at the same time.
Steaming helps food to retain much-needed vitamins and minerals which, in turn, nourish the body.
The bamboo steamer lets you get back to the basics: healthy food, made in all-natural materials that literally feeds your body and mind.
‘Healthy’ does not need to mean ‘slow and tedious’! In fact, you are more likely to create quick, easy, and low fat meals in a bamboo steamer.
Generally, it is not advised to place food directly on top of the bamboo; it is always a good idea to line your steamer, especially if steaming fish or chicken (yes, you can steam all of that in your bamboo steamer). Wax or baking paper works fine as a lining for a bamboo steamer but a top bamboo steamer, such as this one which is currently available on Amazon, will come with pre-cut, BPA-free liners.
Make sure you have the neccessary items before steaming:
Use this step especially if your steamer is new. Fill the sink with hot water and add some dish soap. Wash the pieces of the steamer in the hot soapy water.
Rinse them well and soak for 1 hour. Fill the large pot with clean hot water. Soak all the pieces in the hot water and let them sit for about 2 hours. Take them out of the hot water and dry well.
Stack all the baskets, put the lid on, and let it steam for another 30 minutes. Now your bamboo steamer is clean, sanitized and ready to cook in it.
Let’s get steaming!
Now that you know how to steam, you’re ready for our favorite 3 recipes. You’ll be surprised at how simple they really are!
You can cook almost anything in a well-made bamboo wooden steamer, even decadent chocolate pudding!
Here are a few more of our favorites that showcase the bamboo steamer’s versatility:
We love this learning how to make Dreamy Steamed Dumplings in a dumpling streamer with this blog post from Craftsy (which offers an inexpensive online course in how to make your Favorite Asian Dumplings From Scratch).
Use your favorite recipe to assemble dumplings and fillings of your choice. Some popular dumpling fillings include:
Once your dumplings have been prepared, use your bamboo wooden steamer (as outlined in the steps above) to cook the dumplings immediately, or refrigerate and steam later.
Depending on the filling, dumplings will need to steam for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. To make crispy dumplings, once they are steamed, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan (high heat) and place dumplings in the pan briefly (just until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside).
When dumplings are cooked, remove from the steamer (always be careful when removing the steamer or lid because the steam is very hot and will burn) and serve with your favorite dipping sauce (such as this spicy sesame-soy sauce).
Fish, including black cod, salmon, mahi-mahi or halibut, can be lightly steamed beautifully in a Chinese steamer without any added oil at all. In fact, the process can be incredibly quick; significantly faster than in the oven, and as it uses moist heat you will not overcook or dry out the food.
Cook whole fish or fillets in the steamer (many people prefer the whole fish and believe that the flavor is enhanced by cooking with the bones in). For those who prefer the ease of filleted portions, simply ask your fish monger to clean and gut the whole fish.
Steam your fish plain, add sea salt, black pepper, a little wine, or herbs such as dill or prepare a marinade (we love this Juicy Black Cod Drizzled with Lime Sauce).
To cook fish in a steamer, begin by placing a wok (or wide pan) on the stove burner; add two inches of water to the pan (experiment by replacing the water with another liquid such as wine, soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce).
Place the bamboo steamer in the pan (ensure the bamboo steamer does not actually touch the top of the water). Line the bamboo baskets, place your fish on the liner, and set on the highest tier of your steamer.
Turn the burner on medium and let the water in the wok almost come to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
A one-inch thick fish fillet will cook for anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes whereas a whole fish could take as long as 20 to 30 minutes.
An authentic bamboo steamer is so versatile that it can even steam succulent chicken breasts without the need to add oil or butter.
To ensure the chicken isn’t too plain, infuse additional flavours by slicing into the chicken breasts with a sharp knife and then add seasoning right inside the meat (fresh herbs such as sage, basil, thyme, or parsley and garlic pair well with chicken) or check out this recipe for Bamboo-Steamed Chicken and Veggies.
Rub the herb mixture over each chicken breast, place on a liner on the bottom tier, and then add to the steamer. Turn the dumpling steamer into a one pot wonder by adding seasoned vegetables (they will cook faster if thinly sliced).
This whole meal will take about 10-15 minutes of steaming; but it is especially important that chicken is properly cooked so slice the thickest part to check. The chicken is safe to eat when there is no pink inside and the juices run clear (or use a thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken to check a temperature of at least 160°F).
With all that yummy cooking you might be fooled into thinking that cleaning your bamboo steamer will be a big job, but cleanup time is actually a breeze (especially since you have used only ONE pot).
Use a soft nylon brush and hot water to gently scrub away any residue left behind on your bamboo steamer baskets (use a little dish soap if necessary).
Rinse your steamer and let it air dry before putting away.
Just a quick word of note – never put your bamboo steamer in the dishwasher – always hand wash to avoid damage.
We hope this article helped to clarify some questions that you have always wanted answered about purchasing and using a Chinese bamboo steamer. We are sure that you will agree: a bamboo steamer is an excellent way to introduce natural and healthy cooking into your home.
Nate is an aspiring chef, and father of two. He is always on the lookout to try new healthy recipes and kitchen gadgets. He has a passion for cooking delicious miso black cod and enjoys a nice sip of pinot on occasion.