Double steaming, sometimes also dubbed double boiling, is a Chinese cooking technique to prepare delicate food such as bird nests, shark fins, etc. The food is covered with water and put in a covered ceramic jar and the jar is then steamed for several hours. This technique ensures there is no loss of liquid or moisture (its essences) from the food being cooked, hence it is often used with expensive ingredients like Chinese herbal medicines.
In Cantonese, double steaming is called dan (simplified Chinese: 炖; traditional Chinese: 燉; pinyin: dùn). Note that the Cantonese usage of this Chinese character deviates from its original meaning which is simmer or stew in Mandarin. This technique is also common in the neighboring province of Fujian.
Cantonese cuisine is famous for its slow cooked soup. One famous dish of this kind is called the Winter melon urn (冬瓜盅). It is prepared by emptying the inside of a winter melon to make an urn. The outside of the winter melon is often carved with artistic patterns. The inside is then filled with soup ingredients such as Chinese cured ham, and several Chinese herbs. The whole urn completed with its original melon lid is double steamed for at least four hours. The flavor of the soup is soaked into the "flesh" of the melon. The whole melon and its content is brought to the dinner table. The soup is served by scooping out the liquid and the inside wall of the melon. In this case, the edible melon takes the place of the double steaming jar. This application is possible because winter melon has a waxy, and thus waterproof, rind. Winter melon is believed to be nourishing and it is seldom cooked with ingredients that are believed to be too yin or too yang.
There is another dessert dish called double steamed frog ovaries in a coconut (椰青燉雪蛤膏), which is recommended for women. The Chinese medicinal ingredients (including hasma), spices, and rock sugar are placed inside a young coconut to soak in the original coconut juice. The filled coconut is then double steamed for several hours. The whole coconut is served whole at the table after dinner. The contents and the inside wall of the coconut are scooped out to be consumed.
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