Why can't I cook Chinese food at home so that it tastes like restaurant food?
The short answer is that you can. The long answer is that you must first equip your kitchen with several essential Chinese cooking tools and secondly you must use authentic Chinese ingredients. In today's food world accomplishing these two goals is relatively easy.
The Chinese Kitchen - The first purchase must be the absolutely essential WOK. The wok is an all-purpose Chinese cooking pan. It has a round bottom and curved sides and should be made of iron. The basic stir-fry is the usual task associated with the wok, however, the wok may also be used as a deep fryer, steamer, saucepan or skillet. The wok must be seasoned, as all cast iron cooking implements are. Never buy a stainless steel or electric wok; these materials defeat the entire purpose of the cast iron wok. Steel will allow the food to stick at the high temperatures necessary for most Chinese dishes and an electric wok will not reach the proper temperature needed or cool off quickly enough. For two or more people a sixteen inch (measured across) wok is recommended.
The second essential tool is the wok chaun. This is a long handled spatula with a curved edge. The tool is shaped to conform to the rounded sides of the wok. Here you may use stainless steel as opposed to iron. A wok chaun will do just fine in the dishwasher.
The total price for this equipment should range between $20 and 30 dollars. Buy separate pieces, they are usually cheaper and better quality. Most local oriental stores carry cooking equipment.
Chinese ingredients are now available in most supermarkets. However, some of the sauces and spices are only available at the local oriental groceries. The Hudson Valley now has numerous oriental groceries so that getting proper ingredients is much easier than in the past. Avoid substitutes whenever possible, as most substitutes are really quite inferior. Most of the sauces will last for a very long time.