Chinese Cooking
A to Z

A

 Abalone 鮑魚 / 九孔

abalone

Abalone is a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking, particularly in Cantonese dishes.  Abalone is a mollusc of the genus Haliotis which means sea ear - a reference to the flat shell.  It is available fresh, dried, or canned. In its dried form it must be soaked for several days before using.

 

Agar-agar 大菜=洋菜 

Powder of Agar-agar
A product of seaweed, agar-agar is sold dried in paper-thin strands or sheets which are completely colourless and tasteless.  A very small quantity will set a large volume of liquid.  It is used to make sauces and desserts.  Gelatine may be used as a substitute - 1 ½ tbsps gelatin powder is equivalent to 8g agar-agar.

 

 Anise 八角

 anise

The seed pod from the anise bush is a hard, star-shaped spice with a similar flavour to liquorice. Use ground star anise in baking, or use the whole spice in a slow-cooking casserole. 

 

  Apple Pear 沙梨

 asianpear

Chinese pears are crunchy, juicy, and very fragrant.  Growers produce over twenty different varieties in an assortment of sizes and colours.   Chinese pears are often served raw but they can also be cooked, though they always retain a bit of crunch and never become as soft as cooked pears.

 

 Arrowhead  茨菰

 chinesearrowhead

The name arrowroot is more commonly associated with a thickener that is made from the plant.  A fresh arrowroot tuber looks like a small onion, only without the layers.  It should be peeled, and then it can be boiled or stir-fried. 

 

 Aubergine 茄子

eggplant-chinese

Chinese aubergines are quite similar to the familiar aubergine/eggplant, they have thinner skins, with a more delicate flavour, and fewer seeds that tend to make eggplants taste bitter.

 

B

Baby Corn 小玉米 

babycorn2

These small vegetables with their wonderful sweet flavour are usually used in stir-fried dishes.

 

Bamboo Shoots 竹筍

bambooshoots

Young edible shoots from some types of bamboo: be sure to boil them first to rid them of toxins. Canned shoots are safer, and more widely available.  Rinse them well before using.  

 

Bay Scallops  扇贝

bayscallops

A type of mollusc that lives in seashells, usually steamed with glass noodles and garlic in Cantonese Cuisines

Bean Sprouts 荳芽 

beansprouts2

Sprouts of the green mung bean. They're crisp and nutty, and the best sprouts for stir-frying, though they can also be served raw. To keep them fresh, rinse them and then immerse in cold water, then store them in the refrigerator.  They go off quickly, so try to use them within a day or two.

 

Bean Curd Cheese = Fermented Bean Curd 豆腐乳

fermentedsoybeancurd2 

Ivory in colour, it comes in two flavours, plain and chilli hot. Used to flavour vegetables or as a side dish with rice,  the white version is often served with rice or used to flavour soups and vegetable dishes, while the red often accompanies meats.

 

Bear Curd Skins 腐皮

freshbeancurdskin

This is the sweet, protein-rich skin that forms on warm soymilk as it cools.  Cooks like to add it to soups or use it as wrappers.  When it's deep-fat fried, dried bean curd skins come as sheets, rolls, knots, and many other forms.  It needs to be soaked in water before you can use it, unless you're planning to add it to a soup.  

 

Bean Curd Stick 腐竹

 driedbeanstick

This is also made from the skin that forms on the top of heated soy milk.  It's rich in protein, and is used in soups.

 

Bamboo Steamer

A steamer that is made of bamboo. The traditional container used to cook dim sum. It can ensure the food to be thoroughly heated inside while preventing it from being over heated.

 

Bird's Nest 燕窩

A stand-out amongst Chinese delicacies, it's sold dried and must be soaked before using; the result is a flavourless jelly which relies on the sauce or broth for flavour.

 

Bitter Melon = Ku Gua = Karela 苦瓜

 asiansquash-bittermelon

This gourd gives a bitter flavour to a dish.  It is believed to have medicinal properties, and is widely used throughout Asia.

 

Black Bean 豆豉

saltedblackbeans6 

Small black soya beans that are fermented with salt and spices.

 

Black Chicken 烏雞

 blackchicken

Many Asians believe that soup made from black chicken has medicinal properties that are especially helpful to women.

 

Black-eyed Bean = Cowpea 眉豆 

cblackeyedpeas

Originally from China, this kind of bean does not need soaking and cooks fairly quickly. Beware of overcooking them in case they become mushy.

Black Vinegar = Zhejiang Vinegar 黑醋 

The best Chinese black vinegars are produced in the province of Zhejiang. Black vinegar is more assertive than white rice vinegar, and it's often used in stir-fries, shark fin soup,  and as a dipping sauce.

 

Braising 燴 

Often applied to tougher cuts of meat and certain vegetables. The food is usually browned and then put into stock which has been seasoned with spices, and cooked slowly.

 

Burdock = Gobo Root = Beggar's Button 牛蒡

 roots-burdock

This lends an interesting, earthy flavor to soups, stews, or stir-fried dishes.  Select small, firm roots.

 

C

Cardamom 小豆蔻

cardamom 

These are fragrant small seed pods, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds inside.

 

Cashew Nuts 腰果

 cashews

A popular snack with rich flavour, they are generally used whole in Chinese cooking.

 

Celery 芹菜

stalk-chinesecelery 

Chinese celery has a more intense flavor than other kinds of celery.  It can be sautéed and used to flavour soups, stews, and sauces and is most often used in stir-fries and soups.

 

Cha Siu 叉烧

A direct translation from the Cantonese phrase, this is a well known method for cooking meat. The Chinese word '叉烧(Cha Shao in Mandarin)' means 'roasting food after piercing it onto a large fork'. Meat is usually pierced by a large special fork and various sauces i.e. Cha Siu sauce or honey are brushed onto it. Then it is hung into an open oven and roasted. The roasted meat has a crispy, flavoursome cover with its juice inside.

 

Chee Hau Sauce = Chu Hou Paste 柱候醬 

This braising sauce is made from soybeans, garlic and ginger.

 

Chilli Peppers 辣椒 

A spicy seasoning with diverse flavours, chillies are the seed pods of the capsicum plant.  They can be obtained fresh,  dried or ground.

 

Chilli Sauce 辣椒醬

 

Various different kinds of chilli sauce are available, and they can be used with buns, noodles and many others dishes.

 

Chinese Broccoli = Chinese Kale = Gai Lan 芥蘭

chinesebroccoli5

Chinese broccoli has small stems and green heads (which are actually flowers),  and lots of leaves.  But Chinese broccoli is leafier and less bitter than rapini.  It's a great vegetable to stir-fry, but you can also steam or boil it in the same way as broccoli.

 

Chinese Leaves 大白菜 

nappacabbage

These can also be used as a milder and more delicate alternative to green cabbage in salads and other recipes.

 

Chinese Sausages = Lap Cheong 臘腸

chinesesausage

These are normally wind-dried or smoked, sweetened, and seasoned with rice wine and soy sauce. They can be fatty or skimmed,  and are made using fresh pork or pig livers, duck livers, or even turkey livers. Chinese sausages are often cooked by steaming them on top of rice. Thinly sliced, they can also be stir-fried with vegetables.  Pork sausages are sometimes rolled and steamed in dim sum.

 

Chinese Stock 中式高湯   

This is the base for soups, and is also used instead of water in general cooking whenever liquid is required.  Put 450g each chopped chicken pieces and pork spareribs in a large pot with 3.8 litres of water, 3 scallions, and 3-4 large pieces unpeeled fresh ginger root.  Bring to a boil and skim off the scum.  Simmer gently for 2-3 hours until the liquid has reduced by about one-third.  Strain the liquid into a clean pan, add 2-3 tbs rice wine and 1 tsp salt, and bring back to the boil.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.  The stock is now ready for use.  It can be cooled and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.

Chinese Wolfberries = Goji Berries 杞子  

Wolfberries

These dried berries have an orangey red colour and are slightly sweet in flavour.

 

Chives 韭菜 

chinesechives

Chinese chives are darker green in colour, more fibrous in texture and stronger in flavour than those available in British supermarkets. 

   

Chinese Okra = Silk Melon = Taiwanese Okra 絲瓜 

chineseokraasiansquash-loofah

This is a long thin cylindrical squash either with a smooth surface, or with deep narrow ridges and  tapered at the end.

  

Choi Sum 菜心

choysum

Distinguished by its yellow flowers and long stems.

 

Chopping Board 砧板

chop block 

The typical Chinese chopping board is made of soft wood,  but, because it is soft, it is difficult to look after and provides a fertile surface for bacteria.

 

Chopsticks 筷子

chopsticks 

Chopsticks are used in place of a spoon and fork, and can also be used for stirring, beating, whipping and mixing.

 

Citrus Peel 陳皮 

chen pi

Dried citrus peel is made from tangerines or oranges, and is used to flavour braised and smoked dishes.

 

Corn Flour 生粉 

This indispensable ingredient is primarily used to bind and thicken sauces and to make batter.

D

Dates = Chinese Jujube (dried) 紅棗

chinesereddates

When fresh, these fruits are crisp like apples and have a mild, sweet flavour. They are usually bought in a dried form.

 

Deep-Frying 炸

 

A tricky technique which requires the heat to be regulated so that the surface of the food is sealed and yet does not brown so fast that the food inside remains uncooked.

Dicing 切丁  A simple technique of cutting the food into small cubes.

Dim Sum 點心 

Typically refers to a style of Chinese food prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions, traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates.

Dou jiao = Chinese Green Bean 豆角 

beans-yardlong

These beans may be cut into smaller pieces, and added to a stir-fry dish.

 

Dried Almond = Hang Yen 杏仁 

chinesealmonds

These aren't almonds at all, but apricot kernels.  They taste like bitter almonds, and have a rich, heavenly almond-extract fragrance.  They're mildly toxic if eaten raw, and so should always be roasted or blanched before using.

 

Dried Scallops 干貝 = 乾瑤柱 

Inherently sweet, used to add a savoury-sweet flavour to a dish,  or used as the main ingredient in a dish.

E

Edamame 毛豆

A traditional type of food in China. Usually steamed in salt water and eaten as snacks, or stir-fried with other food.

 

Egg White 蛋白 / 蛋清 

Often used as a key ingredient for coating food to seal in the flavour and juices.

 

 

Egg stir-fried with other ingredients 炒鸡蛋

A traditional method for making eggs. The content of eggs are mixed with a tiny amount of water, then fried on a pan with little oil beneath. Other ingredients, i.e. oysters or tomato, can also be added into the egg mix.

 

E'Chang = Goose's small intestine 鹅肠

The intestine of birds has been a popular course for the Chinese people for a very long time. E'Chang, which means the goose's small intestine, is usually stir-fried and mixed with vegetables and vinegar after it is cooled to be eaten as an appetizer, or stir-fried and cooked with noodles as a side dish of the noodles.

F

Fermented Soy Bean 淡豆豉 

Mildly salty and tasty, this is used to complement the flavours of other ingredients in a dish.

 

Fermented Bean curd 腐乳

A special type of bean curd that was fermented from soy beans or tofu. They are usually soft and wet, but still in the shape of Tofu. Usually used for 

 

Flowering Chives = Flowering Garlic Chives 韭菜花

floweringchives 

These come from the same plant as Chinese chives.  They're usually marketed and cooked before the flower buds open.

 

Fish Balls 魚蛋

fishballs

A common food in southern China and among overseas Chinese communities.  Fish balls are made of fish and starch, which gives a chewy texture.  

 

 

 

Fish Maw 魚肚 

fishmaw 

This is the swim bladder of large fish and eels.  It has a slippery and viscous texture.

 

Fish Sauce 魚露  

fishsauce

A condiment derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment; it is essential in many curries and sauces. It can also be used as an ingredient in dipping condiments for fish, shrimp, pork, and chicken.  Fish sauce is a staple ingredient for numerous cultures in Southeast Asia and the coastal regions of East Asia, and features heavily in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.   In parts of southern China it is used in soups and casseroles.

 

Five Spice Powder 五香粉 

chinese5spice

This brown powder is a mixture of star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, cloves, and cinnamon.

 

Fungi/Mushrooms 菌類 

This comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and adds a  unique flavour and aroma to a dish.

G

Gai Choy = Chinese Mustard Cabbage 芥菜 

gaichoy

Asian cooks like to pickle this, or use it in soups or stir-fries.  If you find gai choy too pungent to stir-fry, blanch it first in salted water.

 

Garlic 蒜 

garlic5

An essential part of Chinese cookery for thousands of years, garlic can be used in numerous ways: whole, chopped, diced, crushed or pickled.

 

Garlic Sprouts 蒜苗 

garlicbuds

These are grown from garlic chive seeds and taste like garlic.  

 

Ginger 薑 

gingerroot3

Fresh root ginger is an indispensable ingredient in Chinese cookery; its pungent, spicy and fresh taste adds a subtle flavour.

  • Turmeric 黄姜

         

          In Chinese this means 'Yellow ginger' due to its colour. It is usually used in traditional Chinese pharmacy as a tonic, or boiled in water with black sugar and drank as an assistant to help women to overcome pain during menstruation, as traditional Chinese pharmacy describes turmeric as having 'powerful internal heat'.

  • Sand ginger 沙姜

          

          This type of ginger has a unique taste that is mild yet still has a ginger like flavour, so it is usually used as a spice in various types of cooking. i.e. stewing sand ginger with chicken

 

Glass Noodles 粉絲 

glassnoodle

Made from mung beans,  this kind of noodle must be soaked before cooking. They have a slippery texture and must be heavily seasoned.

  • Chow fun is the Cantonese pronunciation of 'Stir-Fried Noodles'

 

Gluten 麵筋  

Also called "mock meat", gluten is a high-gluten flour-and-water dough that has been soaked and kneaded in water to wash out the starch.  The remaining gluten is porous like a sponge, which makes it ideal for carrying strong flavours and providing bulk in vegetarian dishes.  Available in cans in Asian markets, it needs to be drained and cut into pieces before use.  It is widely used by Chinese vegetarians, as are dried beancurd skins and other soybean products.  These products can be flavoured and fashioned to replace meat in a given dish.

 

Glutinous Rice = Sticky Rice 糯米

shortsweetwhiterice  

This is a very sticky, short-grain rice that is widely used across East Asia to make sushi and various desserts.

 

Green Duck Eggs 青鴨蛋 

Duck Eggs preserved in potassium carbonate.  Commonly served in slices with pickled ginger.

 

H

Hair Moss 髮菜 

driedblackmoss

Belongs to the algae family, and is often used in banquets, particularly at Chinese New Year.

 

Ham 火腿 

Chinese ham has a rich salty flavour and is used primarily as a garnish or seasoning to flavour soups, sauces, stir-fry dishes, noodles and rice.

 

 

 

Hoi Sin Sauce 海鮮醬 

Made from soy beans, sugar, flour, vinegar, salt, garlic, chilli and sesame seed oil. It can be used as a glaze, a dip, or as the primary flavour in stir-fries.

 

 

Hot Pot 火鍋 

The Hot Pot combines cooking and eating into one process; while the hot pot simmers on the dining table, the diners put their food into it themselves and wait for it to be cooked.

J

Jasmine Rice = Thai Basmati rice 香米

jasminerice 

Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice produced in Thailand that is sometimes used as a cheaper substitute for basmati rice.  It has a subtle floral aroma. 

 

Jiu= Wine 酒

Wine served as an important character both in Chinese culture and in Chinese cooking. There are different types of wine that are of different use.

  • Baijiu 白酒/烧酒

The most famous type of wine that originates in various parts of China. These type of wine are also called 'Shaojiu' as it is fermented and distilled in traditional method, they are of high concentration and can be used to get rid of the natural smell of meat and seafood so that the taste of the sauces are better absorbed by the food itself.  The typical examples of this type of wine are Maotai, Er'Guotou and Wuliang Ye.

  • Huangjiu 黄酒/老酒

Originated in Shaoxing in Zhejiang, it is a relatively mild type of wine with medium concentration fermented from mainly rice with a mixture of other ingredients. The wine is not distilled and set fermented for a long time, so it appears as a deep brown colour, which is where its names come from. It is an important ingredient in Cantonese cooking and has a significant pharmaceutical value in traditional Chinese pharmacy as well.

  • Liaojiu 料酒

The type of Huangjiu specially used for cooking. It is of less concentration than Huangjiu but looks exactly the same, and mainly used to get rid of smells and extract the odour of the food themselves.

  • Mijiu 米酒

The type of Huangjiu that sits for a shorter time and is distilled.  It is usually drank directly with rice in it or boiled with Tangyuan at the Lantern Festival.

Jellyfish 海蜇 

This is never eaten fresh but eaten only after it has been processed.

K

Kung-Pao Chicken

One of the most famous dish among all Chinese dishes, Kung-Pao chicken became well known in late Qing Dynasty and is an excellent amalgam of all the Chinese cooking techniques: marinating, stir-frying and sauce making. It was invented by Ding Baozhen, who came from Shandong and became the governor of Sichuan in late Mid-Qing Dynasty. It is said that he discovered the dish when he was visiting Ji'nan personally, where he smelled a pleasant scent in the evening before having dinner. He went to look for the source of the smell and found a chef cooking stir-fried chicken. He was very impressed by the dish and employed the chef to become his personal cook. Then he improved the dish by adding more spice into it, and it became the royal dish for the Qing emperors in Beijing.

 

Kou Rou= Braised Pork 扣肉

One of the methods to cook pork. Pork is braised and put in a bowl of sauce with spice, then when it is served it is turned upside down directly onto a plate to allow the flavour to be absorbed more thoroughly. It is usually braised with taro and pickled brown mustard.

L

Leek 韭葱(大葱)

A Chinese Leek is large and cylindrical, and resembles a large spring onion with a white garlic-like husk.

 

Lily Buds 百合

lilybuds 

Provide texture as well as an earthy taste, primarily used in hot and sour soups.

 

Long'an = Dragon's Eyes 龍眼 

fruit-longans

Long'ans are very similar to lychees and rambutans. You can buy them fresh in summer, and also dried or canned.

 

Lotus Root 蓮藕 

lotusroot3

A sliced lotus root displays a beautiful pattern.  The fresh version is available sporadically; otherwise the canned version is almost as good.  Rinse and drain before using.  Look for it in Asian markets.  

 

Lychee 荔枝

tropicalfruit-lichi 

This fruit has been cultivated in China for more than two thousand years.  The fruit is about the size of a walnut, with a bumpy red shell encasing a white translucent pulp that is similar to a grape in texture. The flavour is sweet, exotic, and very juicy. The shell and seed are inedible.

 

M

Maltose Sugar 麥芽糖 

maltose

This sugar comes in a syrup form that adds richness to stews and sauces

 

Mangetout 甜豆 = 嫩豌豆 

Mangetout

A green pea pod with a tender, crunchy texture and fresh, sweet flavour.  

 

 

 

Mincing 剁 

A fine chopping technique used to cut foods down to a finer state.

 

Moon Cake 月餅 

mooncakes

A festive food eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. The cake are shaped like the full moon and can have a variety of sweet and savoury fillings.

 

N

Noodles 麵條

Noodles can made from a variety of different doughs and usually shaped into long thin ribbons, strips, and strings. 

 

Niu He= Beef Chow Fun 牛河粉

A common Cantonese style to cook beef. Beef is stir-fried with hor fun(wide Chinese noodles) and bean sprouts, then if the entire dish is thickened it is called 'Wet Fried Beef Chow Fun', otherwise it is called 'Dry Fried Beef Chow Fun'. Dry Fried Beef Chow Fun is one of the most common dish in Cantonese restaurants and a good test for the chef's cooking skill as well.

O

Oil 油

The most commonly used cooking medium in China.  The most popular for cooking are vegetable and groundnut oil.

Oyster 生蚝

One of the most popular seafood in China. Usually cooked by barbecuing on top of carbon or eaten raw. It can also be used as basic ingredients for other sauces and food.

 

Oyster Sauce 蠔油

 oystersauce

This sauce, invented in 1888 by Lee Kum Sheung, can draw out the flavour of delicate foods like meat as well as enrich the taste of vegetables.  It can be used as a marinade or stir-fry sauce, in both Chinese and Western cooking!

 

P

Pak Choy 白菜 

babybokchoy

The most common kind of Pak Choy has a long, smooth, white stem and large, crinkly,green leaves.  It's usually stir-fried together with other ingredients, but it can also be steamed or sautéed and served as a side dish.  Pak choy sum is Canton pak choy and has small yellow flowers (sum is the Cantonese word for flower), while Shanghai pak choy is a uniform light green, doesn't have flowers, and isn't as sweet.

 

Peanuts 花生

peanuts5 

Raw peanuts are widely used in Chinese cooking to add flavour and a crunchy texture.

 

Peking Duck Wrappers = Crispy Duck Wrappers 荷葉餅 

wrappers-mooshoo

These are thin, chewy pancakes used to wrap duck skin/meat and vegetables.

 

Pine Nut 松子

 cpinola

Chinese varieties have a much stronger pine flavour than the milder Mediterranean and Italian varieties.  In Chinese cooking toasted pine nuts are usually used in fish and egg dishes to add extra flavour.

 

Plum Sauce 酸梅醬

plumsauce  

This sauce has a unique flavour, like sweet and sour sauce but with a fruity kick. 

 

Poaching 汆 / 白灼  

A method of cooking by simmering food gently until it is partially or completely cooked.

R

Radish (Daikon Radish)= Mooli 白蘿蔔

radish

Chinese radishes are large and white with a smooth skin;  the flesh is always tender, crisp and juicy and a mild sweet taste.  Choose specimens that are firm and shiny.  They don't store well, so try to use them right away.

 

Red Bean Paste 豆沙 

Made from pureed red beans and crystallized sugar.

 

 

Red Vinegar 紅醋 

vinegar-chinesered

This is sometimes used in seafood or sweet and sour dishes, or as a dipping sauce.

 

Rice 米 

The staple food of China that can be served in a variety of ways: boiled, fried, and as a porridge,  to name a few.

 

Rice Cooker 電飯鍋 

ricecooker

Electric rice cookers cook rice perfectly and can keep the rice warm throughout a meal. 

 

Rice Wine 米酒 

ricewine

The timing and proportion of adding rice wine in a dish is important;  rice wines of different ages have different effects on food.

 

Rock Candy = Yellow Sugar 冰糖  

chineserockcandy

A type of confectionery mineral composed of relatively large sugar crystals.  It is a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking, especially in long-cooked dishes such as braises and stews,  to which it gives body and shine.  Made from a combination of unrefined cane sugar and honey, it sometimes comes in strings or sticks but most often it is sold in large hard misshapen chunks.  The colour is a translucent pale golden yellow and the flavour is subtly sweet - far less sweet than granulated sugar and more similar to maltose.  In China, it is also used to sweeten Chrysanthemum tea and regional desserts.

 

S

Satay Sauce 沙爹醬 

Made from crushed peanut and flavoured with soy sauce, chilli, shallot, sugar, vinegar and garlic. It is mostly used as a dip rather than a cooking sauce.

 

Scoring 劃 / jie  

A technique used to cut across the surface of foods to help them cook faster and more evenly.

 

Sea Slug = Sea Cucumber = beche-de-mer 海參

sea slug 

It is regarded as a delicacy in most cultures in East and Southeast Asia. Well-cooked sea slugs have a slippery texture. Winter melon, dried scallop, Shiitake mushroom, Chinese cabbage, etc. are common ingredients to cook with sea slug dishes.

 

Sesame Oil 蔴油 

Made from sesame, sesame oil is purely composed of the fragrance of sesame. Adding several drops of sesame oil to a dish that is ready to serve will enhance the flavours.

Sesame Paste 芝蔴醬

sesame paste 

This is a paste made from ordinary white sesame seeds.

 

Sesame Seeds 芝蔴

sesameseeds6black-sesame-seed 

The dried seeds of the sesame plant.

 

Soy Sauce 醬油

 

An essential ingredient in Chinese cooking . It is made from a mixture of soya beans, flour and water. Light soy sauce is saltier and lighter in colour, while dark soy sauce has been aged longer and has a darker colour. Dark soy sauce is thicker and more suitable for stews.

 

Shallots 紅蔥頭

shallot

These are mild flavoured members of the onion family.

 

Sharks Fin 魚翅  

An exotic delicacy in China. Extremely expensive and a symbol of extravagance.

 

Shiitake Mushroom 香菇  

donggu

Though shiitake mushrooms are cultivated, they have the earthiness and flavour of wild mushrooms. They're large and meaty, and they work well in stir-fries, soups, and side dishes, or as a meat substitute. Dried shiitakes are excellent, and often preferable to fresh due to their more intense flavour. They must be soaked in water for about thirty minutes to reconstitute them, after which you can use this leftover water like a stock to enhance your sauce or other dishes.

 

Shrimp Paste 蝦醬

This ingredient adds an exotic flavour and fragrance to dishes.

 

Sichuan Preserved Vegetables 四川榨菜 

sichuan preserved_vegetables

This is the root of the mustard green, pickled in salt and hot chillies.

 

Sichuan Peppercorn 花椒

sichuan pepper_corn 

Renowned for their mouth numbing quality, these aren't true peppercorns, but rather dried flower buds. You're most likely to encounter them as part of a mixture, like Chinese five-spice powder or Japanese shichimi togarashi. Toast Sichuan peppercorns briefly in a hot pan before using.

 

Silver Ears = White Fungus 銀耳/雪耳

white fungus

Dried wood fungus, used to provide texture.

 

Shallow Frying 煎  

Involves more oil than stir-frying but less than deep-frying. The food is fried on one side then flipped and fried on the other side.

 

Snow Pea = Chinese Pea Pod = Edible Podded Pea 荷蘭豆/豌豆 

snow pea

Tender green peapods containing flat, barely formed peas. You eat these whole. They are often stir-fried very briefly (no more than a minute), but they're also good raw. They're easy to prepare, just wash, and trim the ends.

 

Snow Pea Shoots 豆苗  

snow pea_shoots

The young shoots of the snow pea, usually stir-fried.

 

Soybean Sprouts 黃豆芽 / 大豆芽菜

soybean sprouts 

These sturdy, crunchy sprouts are good in salads or stir-fries. They become bitter when the tails get too long, so eat them soon after they sprout.

 

Spinach 菠菜

spinach  

Fresh Chinese spinach leaves are an excellent and nutritious addition to a stir-fry.

 

Spring Onion 蔥 

spring onion

These are onions that have small bulbs and long green stalks. They are great for seasoning oil, but can fulfil a wide variety of roles in the kitchen.

 

Spring Roll Skins 春卷皮

spirng roll_skins 

Paper thin pastry wrappers which are filled with bean sprouts and other vegetables in order to make spring rolls.

 

Straw Mushrooms = paddy straw mushrooms 草菇  

straw mushrooms

These are a common ingredient in Chinese stir-fries. They are hard to find fresh, but canned straw mushrooms work well and are sold in many supermarkets. Better, but harder to find, are dried straw mushrooms, which have a more intense flavour than canned.

 

Stir-Frying 炒 

A technique whereby food can be cooked in minutes in very little oil so that it retains its natural flavours and textures.

 

Su Choy 紹菜

siu choy  

This is just like Chinese leaves (napa cabbage), only elongated.

 

Sweet and Sour Sauce 甜酸醬

 

Sweet Bean Sauce = Sweet Bean Paste 甜麵醬  

This brown sauce is made from sweetened fermented soybeans. Taiwanese cooks use it as a marinade or a condiment for meats.

 

T

Taro 芋頭 

taro

A root vegetable with dark brown skin often cooked with duck or fatty pork.  It has an interesting, nutty flavor, and it's quite good in stews or soups, or deep-fat fried or roasted.  In its raw state it can be toxic and harsh on the skin, so wear gloves or oil your hands when handling it, and always cook it before serving it.

 

Thickening 勾芡 

Corn flour blended in with an equal quantity of water is often used to thicken sauces or glaze dishes.

 

Thousand-year Egg=Century Egg 皮蛋 

thousandduckeggs

Also known as preseved egg, this is a Chinese delicacy used in many traditional dishes. Fresh duck, chicken or quail eggs become Century Eggs after weeks, sometimes months of preservation in a mixture of clay, ash, lime, salt and rice.

 

Tofu = Bean Curd 豆腐 

Tofu is high in protein, low in fat, and very versatile.  You can eat it raw or cooked, but it is bland by itself and tastes best if allowed to absorb other flavors.  There are several varieties of raw tofu, each with a different moisture content.  

  • Regular tofu has some of the moisture drained away, and it's best for scrambling or using like cheese in casseroles.

          

  • Silken and soft tofu are relatively moist, and best suited for making shakes, dips, and dressings.

            chinesesofttofusilkentofu

              soft tofu       silken tofu

  • Firm, extra-firm, and pressed tofus are even drier, so they absorb other flavour better and hold their shape in stir-fries and on the grill.

           tofufirm  extrafirmtofu nigaritofu   

                firm tofu         extra firm tofu      pressed tofu

  • Tofu is also available smoked, pickled, flavoured, baked, and deep-fat fried.

           aburage

            deep-fried tofu

  • Egg tofu is also popular in China. Originated in Japan, egg tofu is made from steamed egg. It is now usually used as a side dish in Chinese hot pot.

           

 

Tong Ho = chop suey greens =garland chrysanthemum = shungiku 茼蒿 

tongho

This Asian pot herb is used to flavour salads, soups, sukiyaki and other dishes.  The leaves are usually blanched briefly to soften them and deepen their colour, but young leaves can be served raw.  Add them to cooked dishes at the last minute, as they become bitter if overcooked.

 

Tripe 肚

tripe 

Usually refers to the tripe of pigs or Cows, and are usually stir-fried, steamed, or boiled with other ingredients to make soup.

 

Twice Cooking 回鍋 

A two-step process involving two different cooking techniques, such as simmering and stir-frying.  It is used to change the texture of a food, to infuse it with flavour, and to render foods into a more manageable state.

U

Ung Choy = Morning Glory = Water Spinach = Tangkong 蕹菜/空心菜 

waterspinach

This cooking green is very common in the Philippines.  Some varieties have purple stems.

 

Umami= Fresh 鲜味

The fresh odour released when cooking food.

V

Velveting 芙蓉 

A technique that is sometimes used to prevent delicate foods from overcooking.  The food is coated with unbeaten egg white, corn flour, and sometimes salt.

 

 

 

Vinegar 醋 

Chinese Vinegars are usually made from rice,  and range in flavour from being spicy and slightly tart to the sweet and pungent.

W

Walnut 核桃 / 胡桃 

nuts-walnuts 

Over 2000 years ago walnuts were brought to China from central Asia, and given the name hutao (胡桃), meaning "foreign peach" because of their similarity in shape to the fruit.  The Chinese regard walnuts more as a medicine than as a food because their oil is said to strengthen the muscles and increase the blackness of the hair.  Chinese people also believe that walnuts are good for the brain because they resemble the shape of the brain.  Walnuts are used in desserts and soups,  as well as being eaten as snacks. 

 

Water Caltrop = Ling Kok 菱角 

hornedwaterchest2 

A water plant which has been cultivated in China and India for at least 3,000 years for its starchy seeds.  In China, it was an important food in worship and was used as prayer offerings in the Zhou Dynasty; medicinally it was used to help fever and drunkenness.  In Chinese cooking it is usually braised with meat.

 

Water Chestnuts 馬蹄 / 荸薺

waterchestnuts5 

A sweet root vegetable about the size of a walnut, these are eaten as a snack in China.   Water chestnuts are delightfully sweet and crisp if you buy them fresh.   Though canned water chestnuts are more easily available, they're not nearly as good.  You need to peel off the brown jackets of fresh water chestnuts and simmer them for five minutes before stir-frying.  If you must use canned water chestnuts, blanch them first in boiling water for thirty seconds.

 

Wind-Dried Pork 臘肉 

Belly pork that has been dried.  Usually steamed before eating.

 

 

 

Winter Melon 冬瓜 

wintermelon

A marrow or a gourd, not a fruit.

 

Wok 鑊  

One of the most useful and versatile piece of equipment, the wok may be used for stir frying, blanching, deep-frying and steaming foods. Different types of wok serves different purposes.

  • Round bottomed woks are usually used on fire stove. They can be used to cook different types of food due to the depth brought about by their unique shape, i.e. soup and stir-fry foods.

           wok1wok2

  • Flat bottomed woks can be used both on fire stove and on electric stove. They heat up quickly and is normally used specifically for the purpose of frying and stir-frying.

       

 

Wood Ears = Black Fungus 木耳

mushroom-woodear

Chinese markets carry this tree mushroom in both fresh and dried forms.  It has a mild but subtle flavour, an interesting texture and is believed to have medicinal benefits.  The dried black fungus must be soaked before use.     

 

Wonton Skins 雲吞皮  

These are made from egg and flour and can be bought fresh or frozen. They can be stuffed with minced meat and fried, steamed or used in soups to make won tons.

X

Xue Chang = Blood sausage 血香肠 

These are sausages made from the blood of pigs' or goats. Blood is collected in the slaughterhouse and injected into sausage coats with spices in it. After that it is usually stir-fried or steamed. Sometimes people would fry it directly as a snack as well.

 

 

 

 

Xiaolong Bao 小笼包

Xiaolong Bao, meaning 'Baozi cooked in small bamboo steamer', is developed in Qing Dynasty and the traditional process of making Xiaolong Bao is really complicated. The amount of flour used to make each layer of skin must be the same and 10 skins must be made out of 500g flour.The meat should be from the pig's leg and cooled chicken broth, sesame and other fresh food should be added in to the filling as well. Each Xiaolongbao should be of the same weight and when it is served the juice inside each Xiaolong Bao should be exactly the amount of a sauce dish. The inventor of Xiaolong Bao, Huang Mingxian, was from Nanxiang Borough of Shanghai, so this type of Xiaolong Bao was called Shanghai Xiaolong or Nanxiang Xiaolong. The other type of Xiaolongbao is called Wuxi Xiaolong, developed in Wuxi, and is famous for its extra filling with crab oil inside.

Y

Yam = Yamaimo = Shanyao Root 山藥/淮山

yamaimo  

Radix Dioscoreae oppositae, falls within the Chinese herbal medicine category of Tonify Qi materia medica. Usually used to boil soup together with meat and fruits to help extract the odor of the stock.

 

Yau Choy 油菜

cookinggreens-yauchoy  

This is more tender and delicately flavoured than other Asian cabbages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow Chinese Chives = Yellow Garlic Chives 韭黃 

These are Chinese chives that have been shielded from the sun in order to prevent the production of chlorophyll.  Use them just like ordinary Chinese chives.

 

Yellow Bean Sauce 麺豉醬/大醬

chives-yellow 

Made from fermented yellow soya beans crushed with flour and sugar.

 

Yin Choy = Chinese Spinach  莧菜

amaranth 

This is similar to spinach, only it is prettier, tastier, and more nutritious.

 

Z

Zhu Hong (Blood Pudding made from pig's blood) 猪红

pigblood

Similar to Xue Chang, Zhu Hong is also solely made from pig's blood that are collected in the slaughterhouses in the past. Then the blood is poured poured directly in a mould and wait to settle. Finally, the whole coagulated blood is fried or steamed as a snack,  or added to hot pot.

 

ZuoZong Ji= General Tso's Chicken 左宗鸡

General Tso's Chicken was invented by Peng Changgui when he was preparing a banquet to treat General Arthur William Radford who was visiting Taiwan. He was required to make a special dish that can astonish everyone in the banquet. Peng marinated the chicken with soy sauce and stir-fried it with chilli after adding a significant amount of salt and oil. The dish was a success and General Radford asked Peng Changgui about the name of the dish. Peng saw that everyone on the banquet were generals, and General Tso is also a famous general back in the 1860s who came from the same place as Peng. So Peng named the dish 'General Tso's Chicken' and it then became widespread around the world.

 

Zong'zi= rice dumplings 粽子

Zong'zi is a unique type of food that is eaten in the period around the Dragon Boat Festival. Salty Egg Yolks, meat and other ingredients are inserted into a bundle of glutenous rice and wrapped up in bamboo leaves. Then it is steamed in bamboo steamers to be welly cooked. It is a symbolic food in memorial of the great poet and patriot Qu Yuan who lived around 2000 years ago.

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