The bamboo steamer originates from the east and is commonly used most often in Asia. They have really gotten quite popular in the U.S. now as well. Cooking in a bamboo steamer can be fun as well as healthy. Steaming foods happens to be one of the healthiest ways to cook. When food is cooked in a bamboo steamer it allows them to retain all of the vitamin content. The bamboo itself also absorbs excess moisture and condensation so it will not drip back down into the food.
You can cook both frozen and fresh foods in a bamboo steamer. They are designed so that the steamer sits above the water in a wok or large pot. The food is placed inside the steamer and the water is heated to boiling. Some of these steamers have more than one tray so you can steam different foods at the same time and still keep them separate. They come in all kinds of sizes. The traditional ones are designed with a circular frame and a slotted bottom. They will also have a domed lid. They are very easy to use, which is another thing that makes them so popular. To use, all you have to do is wait until the water is boiling in the wok or pot and then set the steamer with the lid on over the hot water. After the food has steamed according to the recipe cooking time it will be done and will retain all of the vital nutrients.
The larger ones are used with extra large pots. They can be used to reheat food quickly or you can cook an entire meal in one. The bamboo used in these steamers is done with an open weave pattern so that the steam can easily pass through to the food inside. Most cooks will line their steamer with a variety of materials, such as lettuce leaves, parchment paper, corn husks or banana leaves. The reason they do this is to prevent the food from sticking while it is being steamed and to prevent odor from the foods being absorbed by the bamboo. These linings also work especially well for rice because rice tends to really stick to the bottom and sides of the steamer.
If you are shopping for a bamboo steamer you will be able to find them in most Asian shops and specialty kitchen stores. They are also available online and in catalogs. They are usually sold with the lid and two baskets. When cooking with a steamer you should take care to use an oven glove so as to not be burned by the steam when lifting the lid.
Some of the foods you can cook in these steamers include such things as meat, fish, chicken or duck, meatballs and all kinds of vegetables and rice. You can also cook foods like dim sum and dumplings. Bamboo steamers are very easy to clean. All you have to do is to wipe it clean with a soft damp cloth after use and store away for the next time. You can wash with light soapy water if you need to. However, do not let your steamer soak in water. Instead, lightly rinse and then make sure you let it completely dry before storing it away. Your food will be healthier. You will be able to make food faster also. For example, you can steam a fish in as little as 6 minutes for a fillet of sole. A thick salmon fillet can be done in as little as 9 minutes. Some foods cook even faster in a steamer than in the microwave and will be much healthier for you too.
You will be able to find all kinds of recipes that use the bamboo steamer. There are books you can buy with recipes or you can look for them online. You can also find a good steamer being offered by one of the many vendors online as well. Look for discounts and do some comparison shopping for the best buys.