Jan 2010, amend a few dead links and some text changes, expand Sichaun bean sauce, add sweet bean sauce, Taiwanese bbq sauce and Jimmy's sate sauce.
12th Jun 2009, Note: Other than this post there is another post on S E Asian ingredients. See this link
Amendment 17Feb2009, as you may have noticed a lot of the pictures linked are not mine. Thank you to anyone whose picture/s I have linked to on this post. If you have any problem with it, let me know I will remove it/them.
Amendment 01 Feb 2009, I was told many have read this post and find it useful. Thank you for reading. Have just realised some of the links were wrong and some no longer work. See amendments in red * to denote new/replaced link. I also added some new additional note in red.
Every now and again I get asked what is the basic list of chinese ingredients?
If you want Chinese ingredients don't get them from the local supermarkets, go to your nearest oriental supermarket or buy online like this online shop I linked most of the products, you will get more varieties and better quality products. I never buy Sharwood or Blue dragon, some of their sauces are so watered down and never have the authentic flavour.
I will now introduce you to a variety of typical Chinese ingredients. I will list other oriental or Malay ingredients in later posts.
Most Chinese cooking depends on the flavour added which is unique to Chinese only. Other than that there is a wide range of cupboard ingredients and vegetables.
1. Chinese Sauces
Light soy 生抽 - Golden Label Superior Light Soy Sauce or I like Lee Kum Kee premium light soy .Occasional I also have a bottle of LKK double deluxe soy (the Rolls Royce of soy sauce) for dipping sauce not for cooking.
Dark soy 老抽 – Pearl river superior dark, Amoy dark or LKK dark
Mushroom soy 草菇老抽 – LKK or Pearl River, similar to dark but nicer rounded flavour
Oyster sauce 蠔油 – Very popular for Cantones style cooking. I like LKK premium oyster (not cheap but nice), other than that I also use Amoy or LKK Panda sauce.
Vegetarian oyster sauce 素食蠔油 – LKK called vegetarian stir fry sauce, great for all sort of stir fries, main flavour from mushroom.
Chilli oil 辣椒油 - cantonese chilli oil sometime contains dried shrimps or shallots. Chilli oil will spice up any food you like. If you want to make your own, I have a recipe here*
Chilli bean sauce 辣豆瓣醬 (douban jiang) – the most well known authentic Sichuan Chilli bean sauce is from Pixian town 郫县 in Sichuan. Look for Pixian douban 郫县豆瓣酱, on the label. I have only found Pixian douban about a year ago in London, now it seems it is quite easily available. I have been using this since I found them. Most Chilli bean sauce are made with fermented broad bean and chilli. I also like this (made in Taiwan and made with soybean and chilli) and this* which is also a chilli bean sauce eventhough the name is Hot Soy Bean paste (blame it on the translation :)). I find LKK chilli bean sauce too salty and full of chilli seeds and skin. Douban jiang is great for all sorts of Mapo tofu and other Sichuan dishes.
Yellow bean sauce 磨豉醬 and 黃醬 - LKK or Amoy. I got this at home (it’s called hoi sin sauce but it’s not it’s yellow bean) very nice.
Sweet bean sauce or sweet flour sauce 甜麵醬. This is similar to ground yellow bean paste with but sweet and salty taste. Normally made with wheat flour. I normally use Mong Lee shang brand
Taiwanese bbq sauce 沙茶醬 (sa cha jiang), a mildly/hot spicy bbq sauce made to imitate S E Asian satay sauce, good for meat marinade for stir frying or grilling. A very popular sauce in Taiwan but can be quite expensive. Bull head is the most famous brand.
Jimmy's sate sauce 沙嗲醬 another Chinese satay sauce similar product to Taiwanese sa cha jiang but made in Hong Kong. Use for meat stir fry.
Fermented black beans 豆豉 or black bean sauce 豆豉醬 – Best buy the dried beans cost penny and one without dried ginger mixed with the beans, but if you want a sauce in a jar try LKK or Amoy. Sauce in a jar usually has garlic and is very salty.
Hoi Sin Sauce海鮮醬 – LKK is great for meat marinate, not really a stir fry sauce. It is quite salty. Can also use for duck pancake but sparingly.
Plum sauce 冰花梅醬 – LKK or Amoy . This is the duck recipe I used for plum sauce duck.
Duck pancake sauce 北京鴨醬 – LKK , much nicer than hoi sin.
XO sauce XO醬- there is no XO cognac in it, a Cantonese extra premium sauce with all sorts of dried seafood like shrimp and scallops, spices and chilli. Not cheap but very yummy, great for stir fry seafood. Best buy LKK.
Sesame oil 香麻油 – always buy 100% pure, Yeo’s is good
Ching kiang black vinegar* 鎮江香醋 - great flavour for Sichuan cooking, Chinese S&S sauce, dipping sauce for dumplings, stir some into shark fin soup or sweet corn soup is also very nice.
Char Siu sauce 叉燒醬 – LKK is great. I love it for char siu, great for any pork and chicken marinate too.
LKK Chicken marinate 鹵水料汁 – master sauce for poaching chicken or other meat ready to go nothing to be added.
Sweetened black vinegar 八珍甜醋- a Cantonese specialist ingredient made with black rice vinegar with herbs and sugar made specially for making trotter and ginger vinegar especially for new birth mothers. I love it great for winter warm you cockles to no end.
2. Other Chinese flavouring ingredients
Cooking Rice wine – Shao Hsing Hua Diao Wine 紹興花雕酒. Have a look at this photo. Do buy the one on the right if you can find it, it’s the real McCoy, the one on the left is made in Taiwan a poor replica. I found the good one from Wing Yip and you can guess I did stock pile.
Chinese sour plums 酸梅子– use for plum sauce or other cooking to give a sour taste.
Chinese dried tangerine/orange peel 陳皮 – essential ingredient for beef balls dim sum, also very good for braising beef like Ngau Lam Mein. There is also a flavoured peel for snack not suitable for cooking.
Chinese cinnamon 玉桂 – cassia bark good mainly for braising. If not available can use normal cinnamon.
Sichuan peppercorns 花椒 – most Sichuan cooking and good for braising meat. Essential ingredient for master sauce spices, Chinese S&P style cooking.
Five spice powder 五香粉 – essential Chinese spice for braising. Not really for stir fry spice though I have seen so many people using is for stir fry with vegetables including that Ching women on TV. Really good for Chinese doughnuts.
Star anise 八角 - chinese called this spice 'eight corners' great flavour for master sauce and braising any meat.
Liquorice root 甘草 – not commonly used but essential ingredient for master sauce.
Chinese mixed spice 鹵水料 – All ready to use master sauce spices.
Sichuan dried chilli – great for kung po chicken and other Sichuan hot dishes.
Knorr chicken granules 雞粉 in a tin – commonly used in Chinese cooking replacing msg.
Chinese cardamon or cao guo 草果 - very similar to indian black cardamon, mainly use for braising meat, not a common spice I would use. Can you bought from here or other oriental stores
3. Chinese fresh vegetables and herbs
Choi sum 菜心 - long stem green vegetable. great for stir fry or just steamed and drizzle with good oyster sauce and some sesame oil or garlic oil.
White Bak choi 小白菜- dark green leaf with pure white stem
Green bak choi 上海小白菜 (shanghainess bak choi) - much sweeter than white pak choi
Chinese mustard 芥菜(kai choi) - some looks like a large pak choi some bigger ones looks like a iceburg, with a sharp peppery taste. Good for stir fry and soup. Very good for pickling.
Kai lan 芥蘭 - chinese kale or brocolli without flower or with flower
spinach 菠菜 - chinese spinach always sold as whole with the stalk.
Chinese cabbage or nappa cabbage 黃芽白- great for stir fry or soup. Korean indispensable vegetable for kimchi
Kangkong or water spinach 空心菜 chinese called it hollow vegetable or tung sum choi, great for stir fry with white fermented beancurd or shrimp paste
Bitter gourd (fu kuaw) 苦瓜 - Bitter melon not as bitter as Indian kerala, great sliced and stuffed with meat or prawn, also very braised with black bean and spare ribs.
Winter melon 冬瓜 - Bland tasting melon, mainly of soup savoury or sweet.
Angled gourd 絲瓜 - great for stir fry. Also popular with Indian and Thai
Chinese chives 韭菜 - eaten as a vegetable, great for making omelette or filling for all kinds of Chinese dumplings. Big flies mad for them if they are around shut the window and doors.
chives flowers 韭菜花 - sweet flower stem of Chinese chives, normally use as stir fry with pork
Chinese or oriental aubergine 茄子 - the shape is different from normal aubergine*. They are normally longish either with dark purple, light purple or green skin. Eaten and cook the same way as normal aubergine.
bamboo shoot with skin on or one which has been cleaned* 竹筍 or 竹笋 - fresh, tin or plastic packed. Great for stir fry
water chestnut 馬蹄 - fresh* or tinned*. Fresh is 100 times nicer and taste slightly sweet than its tasteless counterpart in tin.
Bean sprouts 豆芽 - in most western stir fries which IMO should not be there. I like it stir fry on its own with Chinese salted fish. Good for noodle soup.
Soya bean sprouts 黃豆芽- bigger and tougher than bean sprouts, Cantonese usually chopped them and stir fry with pork.
pea shoots 豆苗- snow pea sprouted shoots great for stir fry on its own with garlic.
Fresh shitake mushroom 冬菇
oyster mushroom 蠔菇 - quite bland and slippery once cooked, wilted down to nothing
Spring onion - added to most chinese dishes
ginger - good for all stir fries and braised dishes. For very young ginger it is very tender and not so fiery, suitable for making pickled ginger to go with century egg or for sushi.
garlic - need I say more
chinese celery 芹菜 - more leafy than english celery and is use to flavour soups and stir fries
4. Chinese dried vegetables or dried ingredients
Shitake mushrooms 冬菇 – normal or the more expensive flower mushrooms which the top brown cap is cracked and looks like a flower.
Wood ears or tree ear 木耳– dried black fungus, one side is black the other side is like suede either light brown or silvery grey in colour. Very crunchy and swells a lot once soaked, a little goes a long way. Good for Hot and Sour soup and Vietnamese fried spring rolls.
Cloud ears 雲耳 – similar to wood ear but much smaller. The skin on both sides are very smooth and same colour when soaked, i.e. dark mahogany brown. Good for steaming with chicken.
Lily buds 金針 – dried lily buds, golden in colour good for Monk’s vegetables stir fry or steamed chicken. Do remove the hard stalk, normally twist into a knot before cooking to avoid it from falling apart.
White fungus or snow ear* 雪耳/ 銀耳 - soft white fungus usually for soup savoury or sweet. This is when soaked like a natural sponge.
Fatt choi 髮菜 - a black hair like fungus popular ingredient for Chinese new year because it sounds like 'prosperous' in Chinese. Great stew with mushroom or in Monk's vegetable.
Ginkgo nuts 白果 – very nice creamy tasting nut (this is when peeled), not to be eaten raw. Must remove the centre green stalk because it is very bitter. Come with shell and without shell and also in tin.
Dried lotus seeds 白蓮子 not a widely used ingredients for essential for making sweet lotus seed paste. Also used of making soup and essential for eight treasure duck.
Jujube or red dates 紅棗 – typical Chinese dates mainly for soup or cooking with Monk’s vegetable or braising/steaming with chicken.
Other Chinese dates – honey (matcho) dates蜜棗 and black dates* 黑棗, mainly for soup.
dried soya beans - for soya milk, tofu etc...
mung beans 綠豆*- or green beans for bean sprouts or cook as a sweet soup
red or aduki beans 紅豆 - for sweet soup or red bean cakes or red bean lollies another great use is making red bean paste
5. Tofu products
Fresh tofu – soft and firm, I like freshly made myself recipe or bought from Chinese supermarket. Never use tetrapak before.
Fried tofu - brown outside and quite greasy. Good for braising.
Fried puffy tofu (dou fu pok) 豆泡– golden in colour, very puffy, chewy and will absorb a lot of the cooking sauces.
Dried tofu (beancurd) sticks 腐竹 (fu chook) – eggy yellow dried sticks for braising or making sweet soup. Great deep fried before braising to give it a nice nutty taste.
Dried tofu sheet 腐皮( fu pei) – wrap for making fried roll (fu pei kuean) or lay under the dim sum beef balls or wrap round meat and puffy fish maw (sin jook kuean)
Fermented white beancurd 腐乳 – buy buy one with sesame oil and chilli, eaten as condiment on it own with rice or congee. Can also use as stir fry with vegetables like water spinach (kangkong) or normal spinach.
Fermented red beancurd 南乳 – normally as a braising ingredient for meat. Also great for Chinese doughnuts.
6. Chinese pickled vegetables and other preserved food
Tianjin preserved vegetables 天津冬菜 dung choi – brown bits of salty garlicy tasty vegetable for congee, noodle soup, fish ball soup and steamed minced pork cake.
zha chai , Sichun preserved vegetable *榨菜, very salty and spicy with chilli powder, need soaking before slicing or shredding. Some also come shredded and ready to eat. Good for stir fry with pork.
Preserved mustard (hum choi 咸菜 or hum shen choi 咸酸菜, basically means salty vegetable of salty and sour vegetables. – greenish yellow cabbage like vegetables in plastic pack , jar or in small tins
Snow vegetable 雪菜 – shea chai - brownish or greenish shredded vegetable for stir fry with pork or for noodle soup.
pickled radish*菜脯(choi bo) - salted or slightly sweet. Great chopped for omelette, chai tow kuey Malaysian style stir fried radish cake.
Moi choi 梅菜 - brownish salted and slightly sweet pickled vegetable, great to stew with pork
Tai tow choi 大頭菜 - salt pickled kalrabi for stewing with meat.
Salted eggs 鹹蛋- I love salted egg yolks not so keen on the white, salted egg yolk is found in mooncakes and rice dumpling wrap in bamboo leaves or jung 棕
Century egg 皮蛋- preserved egg looks greyish black with an ammonia flavour. Great eaten with pickled ginger. Also good for with steamed omelette and rice congee.
Chinese sausage(lap cheong) - very nice dried pork sausage 臘腸 or liver sausage 潤腸
Chinese bacon (lap yuk) 臘肉 - dried belly pork, great steamed with rice or cook as stew with fresh belly pork
Preserved duck 臘鴨, two different types one preserved in salt and the other sweeter cure with soy sauce like lap cheong
dried shrimps 蝦米- various quality not too expensive and used in various cooking to give a nice flavour.
Rice vermicelli* 米粉 – fine rice noodles, for stir fries, noodle soups and Singapore Rice Vermecelli.
Rice noodles 河粉(hoo fun), fresh or dried – Chinese or thai, Pad Thai, Chow Kuey Teow, etc…
Egg noodles 蛋面– fine or thick, dried or fresh, for noodle soup, chow mein or lo mein (noodle stir- in sauce)
Jian xi lai fun 瀨粉 – thick rice noodles, need soaking and long cooking like spaghetti but made with rice. Great for laksa and noodle soup.
Konnyaku noodles 芋絲– packed in water, very crunchy good for steam boat. Japanese also have their own konnyaku noodles. These noodles have the lowest calories and highest fibre and many people use as diet food.
Glass noodles or bean thread noodles 龍口粉絲– great for soup or Vietnamese/Thai style salad. I always buy Longkow brand. Better to get the multi mini pack, splitting and cutting dried noodles is a pain.
Green mung bean thick noodle or sheet 粉皮 – for Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken, can be in whole round sheet or sliced like rice noodles.
Fuchou noodles or normally called mee sua 麵線 very fine and salty wheat flour noodles, great for chicken and rice wine noodles.
Yee Mein 伊麵 – a yellowish puffy noodles deep fried and looks like as a dried noodle cake. Great for stir fried noodles with lots of gravy.
And not forgetting instant noodles in packets or cups – hundreds of different types and flavours
Rice flour 粘米粉 (oriental) – very finely milled rice flour (not to be confused with supermarket rice flour), great for steamed cake like lo bak goh (chinese radish cake), woo tou goh (taro cake), dumpling etc..
Glutinous flour 糯米粉 – for deep fried croquette jin doi, glutinous rice balls soup, Chinese New Year cake etc..
Wheat starch (tung mein fun)澄面粉 – essential ingredient for prawn dumpling (har gau). This is the brand I always get.
Tapioca starch 菱粉 or 薯粉– used as a thickener or as part of the pastry with any of the above flour.
Potato starch 生粉 or 薯粉– similar use as tapioca starch.
Pak Choi flour 白菜麵粉 or Hong Kong flour – bleached low gluten flour specially for buns and bao.
Cornflour/ cornstarch 粟粉 – essential ingredient for thickening all sorts of dishes
Bicarb 鬆肉粉 – use as meat tenderiser.
9. Tin products
cream style corn – though typically from US and Canada, it is part of Chinese typical sweet corn soup. This is the one I alway buy.
Sichuan preserved vegetable
Fried dace with blackbeans 豆豉鯪魚 - quite nice chewy fried salted fish with bean beans. serve warm with rice.
Tinned longan fruit 糖水龍眼
Tinned lychee fruit 糖水荔枝
If you are in veggie food, there are a range of flavoured gluten based veggie food in tins. Popular brand is Mong Lee Shang. e.g.veggie duck
10. Chilled or frozen products
Square Wonton pastry 雲吞皮 – chilled or frozen
Round dumpling pastry 餃子皮 – pastry you find in the Chinese supermarket, I don’t recommend this for pan frying like pot stickers or steaming, only good for boiling.
Spring roll pastry/ egg rolls 春捲皮 – various size all frozen.
Duck pancakes 鴨皮 - thin pancakes to serve with crispy duck, can make your own. Here is the recipe
Fresh egg noodles – great for wonton noodles soup
Fresh rice noodles – ho fun
Fish balls, squid balls etc – chilled or frozen, great for noodle soup, steam boat and stir fry
Fried fish stick – great for stir fry
Frozen prawns – peeled or unpeeled all different sizes
Frozen scallops – big bag for under £20
Frozen dim sum
11. Chinese delicacies
shark fin 魚翅 - the gelatinous golden thread of shark fin. The fin is boiled and the golden thread removed. This is usually made into soup similar to sweet corn soup look and texture. Many people are not concious of the depletion of sharks many Chinese including myself no longer eat this.
Bird nest 燕窩 - collected from caves from certain species of swifts. The nest is soak and any fine feathers meticulously removed. Texture is gelationous when boiled/steamed for long time but a bit plasticy if not cooked for long.
Fish Maw 花膠 or 鱼鳔 - the gelatinous air sac of big fish, normally sold dried. This is either soaked then make a gelationous soup or deep fried from dried to a puffy golden stuff which is crunchy and will soak up any sauce, good for soup too.
Pork skin 豬皮 - dried and deep fried pork skin - poor man's fish maw
Tendons 蹄筋 - beef or pork sold dried like a hard rod, need careful soaking and boiling till gelatinously soft. Added to stew like ngau lam mein or on it own with good stock.
Abalone* 鮑魚 - fresh, dried or in tin. Very sweet flavour chewy muscles, need long cooking if dried.
dried oysters 乾蠔 - brown in colour and very rich in taste, great to stew with mushroom or add to congee.
Sea cucumber 海參 - another gelatinous delicacy, normally sold dried. Needs long soaking and will expand 2 -3 times its original size. Normally cooked during festive meals with abolone or flower mushrooms.
dried scallops 瑤柱 - light brown in colour, very yummy in various chinese cooking
flower shitake 花菇 - premium quality shitake with a crackled cap.
Jelly fish 海蜇 - dried and salted jelly fish, normally soaked and mixed with sesame oil and sesame seeds and eaten as cold salad, as dim sum or starter.