BY KABELO MASOABI
Chinese food is becoming a delicacy to most Africans and Basotho are no exceptions. The desire to explore foods from other regions of the world and foreign cuisines has served as a factor for the growing popularity of Oriental dishes.

The growing number of Chinese people and Oriental restaurants on the continent has also played a key role in increasing awareness and drawing attention to Chinese food.
According to findings, in Africa, Kenya leads in online food purchases and this is attributed to its high mobile internet penetration with urban, young, and technology smart people constituting its largest segment of consumers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made online food delivery a necessity. Now, have you ever noticed how some dishes you order at the local Chinese restaurants come out of the kitchen somewhat quickly?

This is not because the food is pre-made. It is due to the fact that many Chinese recipes are quick and easy to make, needing a short amount of time on the stovetop, according to professional Cook ’Mamoroesi Semela of Morija on the outskirts of Maseru.
“When cooking at home, the same principle applies. The more basic dishes can be made with ingredients that are available at your local supermarket. The best part is that these recipes are versatile so if you don’t have an ingredient, you can just swap it out,” she explains.
The experienced cook has for the past three years, worked at various Chinese restaurants in Maseru.

She now owns her own kitchen in Teyateyaneng, Berea and she says one of the first dishes anyone interested in Chinese cooking should learn to prepare is fried rice.

She says it is the foundation for many recipes and will give a learner experience with the work entailed.
“Fried rice is extremely simple and when starting with cooked rice it takes just a few minutes to prepare. This recipe requires green onions, eggs, salt and pepper along with soy sauce or oyster sauce. You can add meat and other vegetables if you like and turn this side dish into a quick meal.
“As you explore Chinese recipes, you will notice that oyster sauce is a common ingredient. It brings the flavor of umami (earthy and rich) to a dish while adding a bit of sweet and salty. You can find it at almost any market that specialises in Asian foods and a bottle will last a long time,” she also says.

“Oyster sauce chicken is a fantastic introduction to this essential ingredient. It’s a quick recipe that cooks chicken thighs and basic vegetables in a frying pan which are simmered in a sauce of oyster and soy sauces, wine, and broth; everything is then served over rice. It takes just around 30 minutes and a single pan, so it’s perfect for a busy night.”
Whether you are new to Chinese cooking or just looking for a recipe that does not require too much time in the kitchen, Semela says you will find these recipes a breeze.
Again, she goes on to show that chicken appears in a number of Chinese dishes, but steak also has its place on a Chinese menu and can easily be substituted for chicken in many recipes.

“For a dedicated steak recipe that is super easy, look no further than pepper steak,” she adds.
“For this recipe,” she continues, “You will simmer the meat for about 30 minutes in a soy broth before adding bell peppers and tomatoes. Add a little cornstarch, some garlic, and baby corn, and let this cook down to a gravy-like consistency. It’s fantastic and impressive, but no one will realise what little effort you put into it.”
Her advice is that; if you stock your kitchen with a few basic ingredients found in many Chinese recipes, you will save money by avoiding moving out. The key to a speedy meal she notes is to prepare all your ingredients before turning on the work.
“What makes a recipe easy? Some, like stir-fries, take only minutes to make. Others, such as soups and stews, take longer but still consist of only a few simple steps. This leaves you with lots of free time while the food is simmering,” says Semela, who also offers food tutorials to people aspiring to start their own food businesses.