Culinary Spotlight: Asian Food & Steamers

Representing countries with varied culinary perspectives, Asian-inspired and Asian-fusion restaurants are popular across America. CHD Expert reports that there are more than 65,500 Asian restaurants in the United States, as of June 2018. They also indicate that Chinese is by far the most prevalent Asian menu type in the US, making up approximately 37% of the Asian restaurant landscape.

Asian street food found at restaurants, but also food trucks and pop-up shops, is often cooked using steamers or flattop griddles. For example, Chinese dishes that can be steamed range from menu items like dim sum, buns/bao and dumplings to ingredients such as rice, seafood, vegetables and eggs. But for speed, some quick-serve establishments turn to the microwave to conserve space or expedite serving time.

Dan Chlebowski, Culinary Specialist, Fredco Reps, is seeing an encouraging trend of restaurants eliminating the use of microwaves and using ventless steaming equipment to achieve needed speed in a small footprint without sacrificing food quality.

Benefits of countertop steaming

In addition to improved cooking speed and compact size to fit small footprints, countertop steamers have timers and other controls that allow chefs to create specific recipes. This control provides consistency and the ability to handle other tasks while the steaming process is taking place.

Countertop steamers also use water only when cooking; traditional dim sum steaming tables use significant amounts of purified water and gas to run all day long. The steamer’s generator converts plain tap water to steam to quickly penetrate and heat product on demand.

Additionally, steamed food maintains its original texture, color, flavor and nutrients — resulting in a fresh and appetizing final product.

Selecting a steamer

When selecting a steamer, operators need to keep a few considerations in mind, according to Lance Thompson, product manager – steaming at Antunes:

  • The volume of food items expected to be cooked: a higher volume requires faster and/or more equipment.
  • The speed: faster speed can be obtained using pressurized steamers that provide steam at higher velocity and temperature.
  • Whether the food items will be frozen or fresh: frozen is easier to store and handle but takes more time to cook.

Antunes’ steaming products, such as the Rapid Steamer, are well-suited for a number of Asian menu applications. The Rapid Steamer can retherm frozen dim sum or dumplings or reheat pasta. In this video, the team at FredCo Reps demonstrates how the Rapid Steamer heats noodles and mixed veggies in just one minute. With an accessory, the Deluxe Food Warmer (DFW) can also steam fresh dim sum without drying out or burning the outer layers of the dumpling.

Countertop steamers offer tangible benefits to operators and chefs while preserving the authentic flavors of traditional Chinese cuisine or highlighting the unique flavor profiles of Asian-fusion dishes.

For more steamer-related content, read this article to learn the truth about some common misconceptions: 7 Steaming Myths — Debunked!