Chinese food often cooks quickly—but it can take a long time to prepare, involving much slicing and chopping before the ingredients hit the heat.
Knives have their place in the Chinese kitchen, but the cleaver is the tool of choice. Two techniques used for vegetables—to expose more of their surface for fuller flavor and quicker cooking—may be unfamiliar to the Western cook:
DIAGONAL SLICING: Using a cleaver or a sharp, good quality knife, simply cut the vegetable on a sharp bias.
ROLL-CUTTING: With a cleaver or a sharp, good quality knife, slice the vegetable diagonally, then roll it 90 degrees along the cutting surface, slice again, and repeat.
If you start to tire of this, remember that Confucius, in the 5th century B.C., said that a person offering a sacrifice to the gods "must not eat what has been crookedly cut." Whether you're making a sacrifice or just making dinner, it's still good advice.