Common Ingredients used in Chinese Recipes
Chinese dishes are actually famous all around the world. They are looked upon as more fattening and lacking in spices. Authentic Chinese dishes favor mostly vegetables, rice, and soybeans, while
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Indeed, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and regular soy sauce are all made from fermented soybeans. Light soy sauce is lighter in color though stronger in terms of saltiness. Dark soy sauce has been fermented for a longer duration. It is less salty, slightly sweet, and has a rich caramel color. Regular soy sauce is somewhat in between light and dark sauces.
Peanut oil is used for its added fragrance. It has a taste that complements most Chinese dishes and a high smoke point, making it perfect for stir-frying.
Low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats, peanut oil is very hearthealthy.
Corn and soy oil can also be used.
Sesame oil is used to add flavor rather than frying and is usually drizzled over dishes before serving.
Ginger, garlic, and scallions (spring onion)
These are used fresh in various forms — whole, crushed, grated, or chopped.
They are used for flavor and to remove “odours” as well as for their medicinal benefits.
A combination of fennel, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves
This is what is traditionally used in Chinese recipes. It can be either white or black. It does add a distinct flavor to Asian dishes.
A rich, thick, brown sauce made from oysters and soy sauce adds flavor to many dishes.
Commonly mixed in water and used for thickening sauces. A slurry of cornstarch and water is usually added to simmering ingredients to arrive at the right amount of sauce to coat the ingredients. It’s also used to make crispy coatings for fried meats, vegetables, and seafood.
Salt is highly valued in Chinese cooking. It brings all flavors to life. (Which is why some doctors forbid Chinese food for patients who need to watch their sodium intake.)
Rice Wine or Shaoxing
Made from fermented glutinous rice, it adds a nice flavor to dishes. Rice wine is used in marinating and braising. Its flavor is somewhat similar to dry sherry. It is added by pouring around the rim of the wok when stir-frying for quicker dispersion of alcohol and better flavor. It is also mixed with spices and soy sauce for making sauces or marinades. Substitutes are dry sherry and sake. If you use mirin, add ½ a tsp of sugar for every tbsp of mirin.
Chicken Stock Granules or chicken bouillon powder
It’s useful for adding a touch of flavor to cooked vegetables. It’s essentially dehydrated chicken stock, but with additional seasonings. The flavor is less intense than bouillon cubes.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Dried shiitake mushrooms add deep, savory flavor to Chinese dishes. Easily available at all Asian markets and some grocery stores, they can be stored in your pantry for months, if not years. Use whole mushrooms as the star ingredient in a dish or slice them into thin strips to add depth. Only soak them in a bowl of water overnight, or a pinch, boil them for about 20 minutes to soften.
Shallots are a bit like red onion, but sweeter and milder in flavor, with a slight garlic hint. They make a good substitute for onion. In Asia, crispy fried shallots are a popular condiment or garnish.
Cilantro adds fresh, bright flavor to a dish. Because of its strong fragrance, it is seldom used as an actual ingredient but commonly used as a garnish.
Chinese cuisine makes use of various techniques in cooking. Chinese chefs aim to preserve the freshness, color, nutrients, and texture of foods through the following methods:
Although done in a wok, frying is not a popular cooking method in authentic Chinese cuisine.
It is a quick, low-fat, and nutrient-preserving method of cooking. The ingredients are cooked in an ultra-hot wok with minimal oil and frequent stirring. The result is a hot, fresh dish of crisp and tasty ingredients. Large woks are preferred for better distribution of heat and more desirable texture and flavor. The key to stir-frying is to start with a very hot wok before adding oil.
Chinese ingenuity and innovation are well-represented by this time, space, and fuel-saving cooking method. The steamer is made up of bamboo baskets stacked on top of the other, in about three layers. Several kinds of food can certainly be cooked at a time over slow-boiling water. Popular steamed dishes are dim sums, such as buns or dumplings, pancakes, and fish.
The name is taken from the resulting rich, brown color of the dishes using this cooking method. Unlike stir-fry, which uses the least amount of cooking time possible, this method requires several hours of cooking. Meat is usually seared first and cooked with soy sauce, rice wine, and traditional spices until tender and tasty.
Large pieces of meat or whole chicken and duck are roasted in ovens. These are then chopped or sliced thinly and are usually served with a thick sauce or gravy.
Commonly used for vegetables, which are boiled quickly, drained, and then served with a thick sauce. Noodles and soups are also cooked using this method. Poaching fish is often cooked using this method. A tasty broth is used to impart flavor.
The resulting dishes are crisp and tasty.
Tools for Chinese Recipes
The basic tools are more or less the same as those found in any regular kitchen. Here are some useful tools that will give your cooking fun and authentic.
When it comes to choosing a wok, a good-quality wok is essential but more expensive one does not always mean better. Chefs prefer large woks for more efficient heat distribution and better results in terms of texture and flavor.
This is a handy item for Chinese cooking. It does away the need to continually watch the rice cooking and gives you time to make other preparations. Moreover, the rice cooker can be used for boiling and steaming.
The traditional steamer makes use of tiers of bamboo baskets, but modern designs can be metal. This is used for dim sum and fish dishes.
A large knife used for cutting, slicing, and chopping. The flat side doubles as a smasher or crusher for garlic, ginger, and peppercorns.
Chopsticks are indispensable to the Chinese cook. They can be used to pick up ingredients, loosen noodle strands, mix, flip, and even measure powdered ingredients. The chopsticks for cooking are made of bamboo or wood and are longer than regular ones.
These make cutting much easier and faster than using knives. They can be used for meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and herbs.
This tool is used for scooping and straining at the same time. It has a webshaped mesh and is ideal for freshly-boiled noodles and deep-fried rolls, chicken, or seafood.