Episode 47: The Joys of Steaming, and then some

No thanks to my circumstances, I’m expected to watch what I eat. It’s actually a good thing that I can’t eat out often, which means I have to either buy cooked food or cook stuff myself. Even then I have to choose what to eat – less salt, less fat, little to no preservatives, and so on.
In my pursuit to stay healthy (or at least look like one), I started working on what I believe to be one of the simplest cooking methods of all: steaming.
Steaming is healthy for those looking to reduce their fat intake. Steaming cooks the food gently (which means it doesn’t get overcooked or burnt), and it retains nutrients. It’s easy to do, and it keeps food moist and fresh. I also notice that excess water and fat are drained from meat while steaming.
Steaming is cooking your food with steam, or that’s what I thought. It turns out to be a complex process: you have to keep the nutrients locked in, along with the flavor and juices. The steam you use matters. You have to choose your garnishes and flavorings well. Even where you cook it, whether over rice, broth, or water, makes a difference. The food itself – chicken, fish, or vegetables being the healthiest choices – plays a big factor too.
There are a lot of recipes for steamed food in books and the Internet, but some of them require cooking other stuff over a stove, which is fine, I guess. But I was aiming for a pure steaming recipe, which seemed to be hard to come by. Hence, I tried to make a mix-and-match of sorts on my own.
My first brush with steamed food was a variation of steamed chicken.  First, I made a marinade of 1 ½ cup of soy sauce, ground pepper, and ten pieces of calamansi. It’s actually the standard marinade I use on fried tilapia. I marinated a chicken breast on the mixture for about one hour, or so I intended, because it ended up sitting in the ref for six hours, which was just around dinner time.
I let the chicken dry and drip off the excess juice before cooking it over steamed rice. Steamed rice and chicken in one go!
The end result was strangely satisfying. The chicken was not as salty as I thought it would be. The meat was a bit dry and flaky but evenly cooked. It had a sweet-sour-salty aftertaste in it.
I used the same combination for steamed tilapia, which turned out better than the chicken.
On my second try with steamed chicken, I added chopped chili peppers and julienned ginger in the marinade. The chicken ended with a tangy taste with a hint of spiciness. Much better, I say. I did the same with tilapia, with similarly good results.
My third shot involved vegetables. I marinated a chicken breast, wrapped it in foil, added a bit of the marinade, and steamed it along with a few slices of broccoli, potatoes, and carrots. The chicken went well and even infused a bit of the vegetables’ taste. The vegetables, well… I guess I should have steamed them outside the foil.
My most recent mix involved ten slices of calamansi, an orange, julienned ginger, and chili peppers. I let a chicken breast sit on it in the ref for an hour (which ended up as six), and steamed it while wrapped in foil as usual. By the way, I eliminated the soy sauce from the marinade since I thought using soy sauce often is bad for me.
This by far is the best I’ve gone with steamed food. The chicken was juicy, soft and tender, with a hint of citrusy sweet-sour-spicy. I saved up some of the chicken’s juice and drenched my steamed rice with it. The whole meal screamed “steamed chicken goodness” all over.
Apart from cooking, whenever I have leftover takeout food, I steam it over rice to keep it warm and moist. I also steam eggs, tuna flakes, and even roasted food like lechon. Eccentric, isn’t it?
While I’m at it, I’d like to brew a few more variations of my marinade before switching to a new steaming style, like rubbing spices on the meat, steaming it in a broth (what kind of broth, I’m not even sure), or testing my marinades on pork and seafood. If I intend to stay healthy, I should start with what I eat. That’s why I took up steaming. I’m sure there are a lot more ways for me to learn in that aspect.

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