Chinese history dates back to 500 years. China has a very rich culture. Their traditions, myths, food, tales, art and silks are popular throughout the world. Most of the cultures of the world has somewhat evaluated with time. But Chinese culture is still the same and honored and appreciated throughout the world. Chinese food is no exception. Chinese food is so popular that its aroma has now reached almost every single town in the world. Chinese cooking seems like really tricky to most of us, but on the contrary it’s just simple sauté, boiling and stirs fry with different important ingredients. Most of the taste in Chinese food comes from their specific ingredients, and we being novice always make the mistake of replacing them with common substitutes. If you’re a fan of Chinese cuisine and like to cook Chinese food at home at least twice a month, even if it’s just hot and sour soup, there a few important ingredients used in Chinese cooking that you should always keep in store.
The most popular cooking oil in Chinese cuisine is peanut oil. Others are ground nut oil and corn oil. Maze oil, soya bean oil and safflower oil also goes alright with Chinese cooking. Sesame seed oil is used for seasoning and flavouring but not frying. But butter, margarine, ghee and olive oil are never used in Chinese cooking, unless the recipe asks otherwise.
When a Chinese recipe asks for vinegar, we grab at common synthetic white vinegar. It’s actually rice vinegar. Rice vinegar comes in two categories; white rice vinegar and black rice vinegar. Rice vinegar is more nutritious and has a distinctive flavour with a slightly sweet edge.
Sauces play their own important role in seasoning while cooking Chinese food. Soya sauce is called for in most of the Chinese recipes. It is made of soya bean and wheat and then matured. It has a saltish flavour and blackish brown colour. Soya sauce comes in two varieties; dark soya sauce and light soya sauce. Dark soya sauce is thicker and stronger and usually used in cooking strong flavoured meets like beef. Light soya sauce is light and thin and is sued in general cooking and seasoning.
Five spice is a grounded blend of some strong fragrant spices. Like Star Anise, Sichuan Peppercorns, Fennel (anise seed), Cloves and Cinnamon. A dash of grounded 5-spice adds an amazing hot, fragrant and spicy flavour.
Dried mushrooms are called for in every other Chinese recipe. Don’t replace them with caned mushrooms. Or you will end up with bland taste.
Oyster sauce is made from a concentration of oysters, soy sauce and seasonings. Whilst made from oysters it is not fishy in flavour. It is used in cooking meat or vegetables, marinades and seasoning rice or noodles.
GARLIC AND FRESH ROOT GINGER
Garlic and fresh root ginger are called for in every other Chinese recipe to season the oil before cooking. Some of the recipes ask for a large quantity of them. The can be used crushed, chopped and whole or as ever asked for in recipe. But it’s important to use them fresh for rich flavour and fragrance.
CHILLI PASTE AND CHILLI OIL
Chilli paste and chilli oil plays an important part in Chinese cooking. They can be used in cooking, marinades and stir fry’s or serve on the table. Chilli paste is made with chillies, salt, garlic, ginger and oil. And chilli oil is made by heating dried red chillies in groundnut oil to produce hot, spicy oil.
Fresh green coriander is the most basic and widely used herb in Chinese cooking. The Stems are preferred. It is chopped up and added as the last ingredient, the heat infuses the fragrance and flavour of chopped coriander.
Whole red chillies are very spicy and fragrant and very important in Chinese cooking. They are either used freshly crushed or grounded, toasted or fried for infused spicy flavour.
A paste of corn flour and water helps to thicken soups and curries in Chinese cooking. It is also used for coating purpose.
Spring onions are used extensively in Chinese cooking because of its crisp, sharp fresh taste and its bright green and white colour. They have a slightly hot flavour that is milder than the common onion but stronger than chives.
SESAME SEEDS (WHOLE OR PASTE)
Sesame seeds are widely used for seasoning in Chinese cooking. They can be used either whole in fried or toasted form or in a form of paste. Sesame seed paste is made by grinding toasted sesame seeds.