Versatile Vessels

Scott Menchin

Chinese cookware is versatile and inexpensive—well worth the investment. But if you're missing what you need, substitutes can easily be improvised.

Sand Pot:

Squat-bellied, earthenware sand pots are glazed inside and have heavy, tight-fitting lids. Great for braising, stewing, or cooking rice. To prevent cracking, begin cooking over low heat, gradually increasing temperature. Wooden utensils won't scratch the glazed surface. Use coarse salt and hot water to clean. Substitute a heavy nonstick pot with a tight lid.

Wok:

Spun-steel woks heat quickly and evenly and season themselves as you use them. Never use soap to clean a wok; instead, scrub with coarse salt, rinse in hot water, and dry over high heat, then oil the inside. • Substitute a large nonstick skillet with a surface wide enough for stir-frying.

Steamer:

Multitiered bamboo steamers come in several sizes to fit over woks or sand pots. Tight- fitting bamboo lids keep food moist. • Substitute a strainer or colander suspended by the handles over 1-2 inches of water in a regular pot. Use aluminum foil to cover tightly.