During the period of the
Tang (618-907 A.D.) and the Song (960-1279 A.D.) dynasties, the Chinese began to develop
and identify a system for nutritional and medical value of plants: fungus (mushrooms),
herbs, vegetables, meats and use this information for prevention and cure of diseases, for
overall health became important.
Confucius was instep with the
being of food. For him food was to be enjoyed
so he obsessed about how to cultivate their palate and delight their senses. He went on to explore culinary etiquette, social
sharing of food, presentation and combining of tastes and textures He also stressed
the use of color and aroma in the presentation of a dish.
He set standards in serving
food to diners. Food he said should be bite sized when it reached the table so as to
delight the diner. Since then in Chinese culture no one has any knives on the table.
The art of dining was also
important to him like sharing food with friends and family which is now an important part
of Chinese culinary tradition.
Confucius said that enjoying
food makes a human beautiful and gentle and promotes peace and harmony of society.
Confucianism made Chinese food
more elegant and royal for the common man to enjoy.
( an old FDA)
Taoism is as old as 500 B.C.
It contributed to creating a Chinese cuisine hat integrates the life giving properties of
food. Taoism studied the effects (both
physical and psychological) of foods and prepared dishes.
It used food for the nourishment of the body, prevention of disease and the search
Tooism has studied plants,
roots, herbs, fungus and seeds to find medicinal value and health giving properties, how
to combine these foods and preserve these inate properties in food during cooking.
This led to Chinese cuisine
embracing lots of greens, vegetables, grains, herbs and cooking with little fate
still low-calorie and low-fat. Meats were to
be used as flavorings. To bring joy to the art of healthful eating Chinese cuisine has
many sauces, spices, flavorings and seasonings that add sparkle and taste.
Chinese cooking is considered an art and a science.
There are two distinct cuisines in China - Southern and Northern
Southern dishes emphasize freshness and tenderness.
Northern dishes, due to its colder climate, have more fat and garlic which is
offset with vinegar.
copyright Kavita Mehta,
Ginger, black beans,
rice wine and soy sauce make up the basics of Chinese cooking. Some of the spices used in
Chinese cooking are ginger, green onion, star anise, and white pepper and five spice
powder. Oyster sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, rice, noodles, chili sauce or chili oil are
also a must in a Chinese pantry.
Our store has the
following Essentials to Cook Chinese dishes.
Chinese vinegar is lighter and sweeter than Western vinegars. Has a mellow flavor and is
used in sauces and dressings. Use this whenever a recipe calls for vinegar. There are
several varieties of Chinese rice vinegar, including black, red, white, and sweetened.
White vinegar is often used for pickling, and for sweet and sour recipes; red vinegar for
noodle dishes and seafood; black vinegar for dipping sauces and braised dishes. rice vinegar
Dark Sesame Oil. This is a favorite in our store
- rich, aromatic and nutty. It is never used for deep-frying, but is rather added in
small amounts to salad dressings, marinades, dipping sauces, and stir-fry dishes.
Dried chili peppers. The intense heat of peppers
balances the sweet and sour aspects of Chinese cooking. They are used in stir frys, stews,
sauces, dressings and to infuse oils. chili peppers
Dried Chinese Mushrooms. This adds a quick,
pungent, meaty, smoky flavor to Chinese dishes. dried
Fermented or salted Black Beans. Also called
Douchi is another favorite in our store. They keep indefinitely. Give them a quick wash
and soak, drain and they are ready to use. Douchi is especially used to flavor fish or
stir-fried vegetables. fermented
Oyster Sauce. This is a favoite of
Cantonese cooking. A must in a Chinese pantry and used in sauces for seafood, meat, and
vegetable dishes. Combine with soysauce, ginger and some palm sugar. oyster sauce
Plum Sauce. Also Cantonese and used as a table
relish and a dip for duck and fried appetizers and with Chinese barbecued meats.
Fish Sauce - Mainly used in Southeast Asian dishes it is
also used in Cantonese dishes. Use sparingly for stir-fry dishes, marinades, dressings and
dipping sauces. fish
Rice Wine. Our best offering is Shaoxing Wine.
Forget sherry or any other wine in your cooking use this mellow, delicate wine which will
enhance any dish of any country in the world. In China rice wine is used to flavor
marinades, dipping sauces, broths, and stir-fry dishes. rice
Soy Sauce. A stable of Chinese cooking andused to
flavor many dishes in China. We also carry thick sweet soy sauce
which is sweetened with palm sugar and spiced with garlic and star anise. thick soy sauce
Bean Sauce - A thick, salty fermented soybean paste and
is added to sauces and marinades in may Chinese dishes. bean sauce
Chili Sauce - A paste of hot chili peppers
seasoned with garlic, used in dipping sauces, marinades, soups, and stir-fry dishes.chili sauce
Chili Oil - A potent mixture of soybean oil,
laced with dried chili flakes, sesame oil, garlic oil, and ginger oil. chili oil
Mushroom Soy Sauce - A richer flavor to ordinary
soy sauce and perfect for vegetarian Chinese cooking. mushroom
Shrimp Sauce - A thick, salty, pungent sauce made
from fermented shrimp. shrimp
Sweet and Sour Sauce - Use instead of Western
tomato ketchup is more spicy, delicate and flavorful. sweet and
Black Fungus or Cloud
Ears or Wood Ears- Also called vegetarian meat. It add meaty delicate
texture to dishes and they easily take on the seasonings of soups, and stir-fry dishes.
Since they are delicate, they should be added in the last few minutes of cooking. Soak in
warm water and they will expand significantly, and should be trimmed and chopped before
adding to a recipe. black
Chinese Black Mushrooms - Comparable to Japanese
shitake mushrooms, Chinese black mushrooms are usually sold dried and may range anywhere
from light tan to dark brown in color. Before using in a recipe, they should be soaked in
warm water, and chopped for use in soups and stir-fry dishes.
Dried Lily Buds - Sometimes called golden needles, dried
lily buds are the young blossoms of the day lily, Hemerocallis. When added to soups, hot
pots, stews or stir-fry dishes, they impart a distinctively earthy flavor. Since they are
dried, they must be soaked to soften before using in a recipe, and may be added whole or
Thread Noodles - We love these transclucent noodles. Also called
cellophane or glass noodles these are made with mung bean starch. Soak bean thread noodles
in warm water and they will become soft. Use in salads and wrapped rolls, or deep fry them
to make a snack or garnish or a srispy bed for tapas like snacks. bean
Rice Noodles - Made with rice flour, rice noodles are sometimes called rice
sticks and may be used in a variety of ways in Chinese cooking. When fresh, they are soft
and flexible, when dried they are brittle and fragile. They can be soaked in warm water
before adding to stir-fried noodle dishes or deep fried without soaking to form a nest or
crispy bed for a creative recipe presentation. rice noodles
Rice Paper Wrappers - makes
fresh spring rolls these are thin sheets made from rice flour. They quickly soften in
waterbs, shrimp or minced fillings. rice
Peppercorns, Prickly Ash - These deep
orange berries have an intense flavor and aroma. Toast and crush before adding to recipes.
They may be added whole to soups and stews. szechuan
Szechuan Preserved Vegetables - A salty-spicy medley of greens such as napa cabbage, mustard,
kohlrabi, and turnip, preserved with salt, Szechuan peppercorns and chili powder. Used as
a flavoring in many Chinese dishes. szechuan
Dried Tangerine Peel - Sometimes used as a flavoring in braised and stir-fried dishes,
as well as some soups. Dried tangerine peels must be softened in warm water before adding
to a recipe. It is often combined with star anise and Szechuan peppercorns to give the
balance of bitter, sweet, hot and aromatic flavours that is a feature of Szechuan food.
Five-Spice Powder - An aromatic and intense blend of ground cinnamon, star anise,
fennel, cloves, ginger, licorice, Szechuan peppercorns, and dried tangerine peel, used to
flavor many Chinese dishes, from marinades to barbeque sauces, meats, and even cookies. five spice powder
Shrimp Paste - used to flavor food. shrimp paste
We have many varieties of Asian rice in our store. Long-grained rice is dry and fluffy
when cooked, and is most often used in fried rice dishes. Short-grained glutinous rice,
when cooked, becomes tender, pearly, translucent, and sticky, which is best for shaping
short grained rice
Rice Flour - rice flour is used in noodles,
wrappers, chewy boiled dumplings, crunchy deep-fried skins, steamed buns and light cakes. rice flour
Tapioca - A starchy ingredient made from the
cassava root, in Chinese cooking, tapioca is used for thickening and in the making of
dough for dumplings. tapioca starch
Wheat Starch - Wheat flour with all gluten
removed to produce a fine textured powder for dim sum dumpling dough. When steamed, the
dough becomes shiny and translucent. wheat
Cornstarch - Cornstarch is used in Chinese cuisine to
thicken sauces and give them their light, velvety texture. Mix with a small amount of
water to form a thin paste and added in the last moments of cooking. corn starch
Ginger - is an important flavor in Chinese
cooking, It is peppery, pungent, soothing, and has many healthful properties and is used
in soups, stir-fry, sauces, marinades, pickles, and minced meats. ginger
copyright Kavita Mehta, Minneapolis