I had a great conversation this week with Peter Weedfald who is the Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Sharp Electronics of America about Sharp’s incredible super-heated steam ovens. If you’re not cooking with super-heated steam, you’re just not livin’ life my friends. It’s an incredibly healthful way to cook and the food that comes out of the oven is moist and tasty. But more on super-heated steam technology and Sharp’s vision of the connected kitchen in the Summer issue of Technology Designer Magazine. Today I want to talk about cooking with steam as it has been practiced since antiquity, with an eye on China’s legendary Yan steamer.
The Yan Steamer
The yan is a type of steamer that was used mainly for grain. It consists of a zeng, or deep upper bowl with a pierced bottom, which was placed upon or attached to a lower, legged vessel known as a li.
In this example the two parts are cast into an inseparable unit
Water contained within the li would be boiled, steaming the food in the upper bowl. Yan first appeared during the late Shang dynasty (c. 1300–1046 BCE), around the 12th to 11th century BCE, and was a popular form of steamer throughout the Western Zhou (c. 1046–771 BCE) and early Spring and Autumn (770–476 BCE) periods. The yan pictured above is from the early Western Zhou period. The decoration on the upper section is fairly restrained, with only a narrow ornamental band of animal masks below the lip. The three lobes of the li end in cylindrical legs decorated with buffalo heads: the ridges down the center of each lobe serve as the noses of the animal masks.