Photographer: ManYee DeSandies Caption: Supermarket in Beijing
Soya Bean Products
Used extensively for flavouring or as a condiment or dip. Light soy sauce has a more
delicate flavour and delicately flavoured dished. When the colour is not specified in a
recipe, this is the one to use Dark soy sauce imparts a rich colour to food and is used
for red- cooking for dark stews and meats.
Yellow bean paste or sauce
Available in jars or cans in Chinese food stores. Often used instead of soy sauce when a
thicker sauce is required.
Black bean paste or sauce
Similar to yellow bean paste, only darker.
Salted black beans
These are very salty indeed and need to be soaked for 5-10 minutes before use. They are
then usually mashed into the cooking oil or sauce over high heat.
(also called barbecue sauce) A thick soy-based sauce with a sweet, hot flavour.
Also known as tofu. An almost tasteless substance made from pureed yellow soya beans,
which are very high in protein. It looks like junket, and is sold in cakes about 7.5 cm (3
Dried bean curd
Also sold in cake form. It can be cut into strips or slices and stewed, braised or fried.
Bean curd cheese
(fermented bean curd) Made by fermenting bean curd cubes in rice wine or salt. Available
in two forms - white, or the Southern China red, which is more strongly flavoured. Both
are very salty and strong-tasting.
Dried Vegetables and Fungi
Chinese dried mushrooms
Widely used for their flavour and aroma. Soak them in warm water for 20 minutes before
(also known as cloud ears) Dried grey-black fungi which should be soaked in warm water for
20 minutes before use. They have a crunchy texture and a mild flavour.
are completely different to other Chinese mushrooms in flavour and texture. They are only
Soak overnight in cold water then simmer in fresh water for 20 minutes.
Available dried or canned in syrup. If dried, they should be soaked for 24 hours before
Often used to wrap food before cooking, in the same way the West uses foil. The food is
then usually steamed, the leaves imparting a special flavour to the food. The parcels are
usually served whole and unwrapped at the table, the leaves being discarded afterwards.
Tiger lily buds
(golden needles) They have a musky, slightly acrid flavour. Soak for 30 minutes in hot
water before use.
Dried tangerine peel
Gives a strong orangey flavour to meat and stews. Soak for 20 minutes in warm water before
use. You can dry your own.
Sold in wads. When deep-fried in oil it becomes crisp and has a toasted fragrance.
Fine black dried seaweed. A traditional ingredient of some vegetarian Buddhist dishes. It
should be soaked for at least 20 minutes before use.
Available canned ready peeled. They have a mild, sweet taste and a very crunchy texture.
(not to be confused with beansprouts) Available canned in large chunks. Often used in
stirfrying to give texture to dishes.
Dried Fish and Seafood
Tastes quite different from fresh squid and is regarded highly as a delicacy. Used to give
extra flavour to dishes. Soak before use in a solution of bicarbonate of soda, to soften
it. Dried shrimps
Widely used to flavour savoury dishes. Soak in warm water for 30 minutes before use.
Comes from the shark. Dried, it looks like a small yellow sponge, and has to be soaked for
2 hours before use.
This is salted mustard greens. It is greenish in colour and has a milidly sour flavour.
Salted cabbage, brownish green in colour, is savoury and mildly salty. Sold in earthenware
is hot and salty, with a peppery flavour. Often used to intensify the spiciness of a dish.
Sauces, Pastes and Oils
A hot-tasting sauce made from red chilli. Similar in flavour to Tabasco. Greatly used in
A thickish brown sauce made from soy sauce and oysters. Used mostly in the south.
Paste made from seame seeds - very similar to peanut butter. Extermely rich and aromatic.
Rice and Noodles
made from wheat flour and eggs, can be round, like spaghetti, or flat ribbons. They can be
bought fresh or dried in Chinese supermarkets. Italian pasta can be used as a substitute.
Fresh noodles need a very short cooking time -- 3-4 minutes.
(also called rice stick noodles) are white and thread-like. They can be found both round
and flat, and are sold in packets in Chinese supermarkets.
(also called cellophane noodles) or vermicelli, are white and translucent and resemble
candyfloss. They should be soaked for 5 minutes before use. Glutinous rice
Round-grained rice used for stuffings and puddings such as Eight Treasure Rice. Pudding
rice can be used instead.
Widely used for its nutty, aromatic flavour. Sold in jars. It will keep almost
The oil is made by frying small red chillies slowly in oil. The oil is reddish in colour
and very hot.
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