All the ingredients listed below are available in most Chinese or Oriental
Supermarkets carry more Chinese ingredients than you may realize. They all sell soy sauce and boast a shelf of commonly used canned Chinese foods such as water chestnuts and sliced bamboo shoots. Many supermarkets carry fresh foods such as Chinese cabbage, ginger root, bean sprouts and Chinese parsley, or cilantro. .
Agar Agar : Dried seaweed; often used like gelatin. It is sold in strips or sticks and must be soaked in cold water to soften.
Almonds : Blanched-Almond halves with skins removed. They add texture, flavor and nutrition to many traditional dishes.
Bamboo Shoots : Ivory-colored shoots from young bamboo plants. They are sold canned whole, sliced or in chunks. Rinse them with cold water before using. To store, refrigerate them in cold water in a covered container; change the water daily.
Bean Curd : (Dofu or Tofu) -High-protein, low calorie and no-cholesterol food made from milk which is obtained from pureed soybeans. It has a smooth texture and bland flavor so it combines well with other foods and is often used in stir fried dishes and soups. To store 2 or 3 days, refrigerate in cold water in a covered container; change the water daily.
Bean Noodles : (Bean Threads or Cellophane Noodles) -Dry thin transparent noodles made from mung beans. They must be soaked in hot water before using.
Bean Sauce : Also called brown bean sauce or soy bean condiment. The Chinese name is mein see. This is prepared from the residue left after making soy sauce. It has a thick consistency and is available in cans or jars. Bean sauce is used to flavor pork and fowl, in addition to bland vegetables or bean cakes. The unused portion will keep for months when stored in a jar in the refrigerator.
Bean Sprouts : Grown from mung beans. The crunchy white sprout has a green cap and small tail. Sprouts should be eaten fresh or cooked less than 1 minute to preserve crispness. Refrigerate in cold water in a covered container. Use as soon as possible. Canned bean sprouts do not have the desired flavor and texture.
Black Beans : The Chinese name is dow see. These are tiny, soft, extremely salty black beans. Used to season meat and seafood, they're first washed, then mashed with fresh garlic and ginger. They can be stored at room temperature.
Bok Choy : A leafy vegetable with white stalks and dark-green leaves. It looks somewhat like Swiss chard but the taste isn't as strong. Bok choy can be stir fried alone or with meat and can be dropped into broth for soup.
Chili Oil : Oil flavored with hot red peppers. You can buy it or make your own, page 85. Chinese Cabbage (Napa Cabbage)- Tall, tightly packed fresh cabbage with wide white stalks and light green crinkled leaves.
Chinese Egg Noodles : Thin flat noodles made with flour and eggs. They are springier than other noodles because the dough is handled more, releasing gluten in the flour. They are available fresh or frozen.
Chinese Cabbage : A tall, tightly packed vegetable with wide, white stalks and yellow green wrinkled leaves. It is delicious when cooked and is one vegetable that tastes better when a bit overcooked. It can be used for soup or stir fry dishes. (Wong bok or yea choy.)
Chinese Sausage: (La Ch'ang) -Hard and spicy pork sausage which may be frozen. It is cured and needs no cooking.
Chinese Turnip (Daikon) -A fresh white vegetable shaped like a large sweet potato. It has a subtle flavor but gives off a strong odor while cooking. Frequently used in soups.
Chinese Parsley :(Cilantro, Fresh Coriander)A fresh bright green herb with a pungent flavor. It's often used as a garnish.
Dried Bean Curd :Bean curd that has been pressed for a long time and cooked with seasonings such as star anise.
Dried Black Mushrooms :Strong-flavored dried mushrooms. They must be soaked and the tough stems removed before using. Store them in a covered container in a dry cool place.
Dried Orange Peel :Tangerine peel cut into pieces about 2" x l" and dried. You can buy it or prepare it yourself. Dry tangerine peel in the hot sun for several days until it is brittle. Or use your food dryer. One piece is enough to add sweet flavor to a stewed meat dish. Store in a covered container in a cool dry place.
Dried Red Chilies :Very hot, orange-red peppers that have been dried. They are popular in Szechwan cooking. The seeds are especially spicy. Store dried peppers in a covered container at room temperature.
Dried Seaweed (Laver) : Thin square sheets of dark seaweed. It is very nutritious and high in iodine.
Dried Shrimp :Small shrimp that have been shelled, salted and sun-dried. They add a pungent or sharp flavor to vegetable dishes. Soak them before using. Store dried shrimp in a tightly covered container in a cool dry place.
Dry Sherry :Used in marinades to season and tenderize meat and fish. Dry sherry is not as salty as cooking sherry. It is preferred for Chinese cooking because soy sauce and other ingredients are salty.
Duck Sauce :Spicy sweet sauce used as a condiment with duck and meats. The recipe is on page 71. Sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce may be substituted.
Egg Roll Skins : Paper-thin pastry wrappers made with high-gluten flour and water. Look for them in refrigerator or frozen food sections in some supermarkets, gourmet shops and Oriental food stores.
Five-Spice Powder : A blend of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and Szechwan peppercorns. Allspice is sometimes substituted, but the flavor is different. Store it in a covered container in a dry cool place.
Ginger Root :A gnarled root which adds distinctive spicy flavor to many Chinese dishes. It is sold fresh in some supermarkets. To use, remove the tan skin with a paring knife and cut the white portion into slices 1/8 inch thick and 1 inch in diameter-roughly the size of a quarter. Powdered ginger can be substituted but is not as flavorful. Substitute 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger for 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or for 2 slices fresh ginger. Unpeeled fresh ginger root will keep very well in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator or it can be wrapped and frozen. Break off pieces as you need them.
Hoisin Sauce : Thick reddish-brown sauce made from soybeans and spices. It is spicy and mildly sweet. Once the can is opened, refrigerate the contents in a covered container.
Hot Bean Sauce :Thick reddish sauce made from beans, hot peppers and spices. It is salty, spicy and hot. Once the can is opened, refrigerate the sauce in a covered container.
Hot Mustard Powder :Very spicy powder made from ground mustard seeds. Store in a covered container in a cool dry place.
Lichees- Walnut-size fruit with reddish skin and sweet white pulp. Available fresh or canned.
Mushrooms, Dried Chinese: These come in several grades with the best grade called fa goo. They are thick and light in color on the underside, while the surfaces of the caps have many cracks. The edges are curled. When purchased by weight, you can be sure every fa goo is almost uniform in size. Fa goo should be saved for special dishes in which mushrooms are cooked whole. For other uses, buy less expensive grades, since size uniformity is inconsequential when the recipe calls for slicing or dicing. They must be soaked until soft; the stems are discarded and the caps cut according to directions.
Oyster Sauce :Rich brown sauce made from oysters. Often used as an alternative to soy sauce. Once the bottle is opened, refrigerate the sauce in a covered container.
Pickled Cucumbers :Canned pickles made from cucumbers. They are salty but sweet. Often served for breakfast and used in soup.
Plum Sauce :sweet spicy sauce used for dipping. It is available in cans or bottles.
Red Bean Paste (Sweet Bean Paste) : Thick paste made from red beans. It is used as a filling for sweet pastries. Once the can is opened, refrigerate the contents in a covered container. One 18-1/3-ounce can equals 2 cups. One 4 ounce can equals 1/4 cup.
Red Dates (Jujube Nuts) : Small dried dates used to sweeten soups, meats and pastries. They must be soaked or boiled in hot water before using.
The Chinese use long-grain or short-grain white rice to make the steamed rice which is served with all their meals. To make a perfect pot of steamed rice, use a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. The saucepan should be large enough to let the rice expand during cooking but not so large that the rice becomes a crust on the bottom of the pan.
Leftover steamed rice is the basis for fried rice. Cold day-old rice works best. Fried rice is a marvelous way to combine small amounts of leftover meats and vegetables. But it doesn't have to be made with leftovers.
Sweet rice, or glutinous rice, is a short-grain, plump, milk-white, pearly rice. It must be soaked before cooking. Cooked sweet rice is sticky and is often used as a basis for desserts, pastries and stuffing’s.
Rice Noodles-Dried thin noodles made from rice flour. If they are to be used in soups or stir fried dishes, they must be soaked. Deep-fried rice noodles will puff and become crunchy. Store them at room temperature or in a cool dry place.
Most soy sauces are made from soybeans, flour, salt and water. Although there are many different kinds and grades, the most common are black soy sauce and thin soy sauce. Mushroom soy sauce, fish soy sauce and other variations are regional versions to be used for certain local dishes.
Black or dark soy sauce contains caramel and sugar so it has a slightly sweet taste and is darker and thicker than thin soy sauce.
Thin or light soy sauce is saltier than black soy sauce. Because of its saltiness, you don't need to add extra salt when you use it.
Most supermarkets do not carry either black or thin soy sauce. They are available in Oriental food stores. The saltiness of the soy sauce you buy in supermarkets depends on the particular brand.
Keep opened bottles of soy sauce tightly closed and refrigerated to help retain the flavor. Because soy sauce can lose its flavor fairly quickly, it's best to buy it in small bottles unless you use it on a daily basis. Sweet Cucumbers-Canned shredded cucumbers in syrup. The can may also contain pieces of carrot and papaya. Do not drain off the syrup before using. Once the can is opened, refrigerate cucumbers and syrup in a covered container.
Sweet Rice Powder :Made from sweet rice. Desserts made with sweet rice powder instead of flour have a sticky consistency and may resemble undercooked dough. Store it in a dry place.
Szechwan Peppercorns : (Flower Peppercorns, Brown Peppercorns) - Dried reddish berries that resemble miniature flowers. They are fragrant and mildly hot. Use them sparingly. Store them in a tightly covered container in a cool dry place.
Tiger Lily Buds (Golden Needles):Pale golden brown dried buds with a delicate flavor. They must be soaked before using. Add them to soups and stir-fried dishes for flavor and texture.
Water Chestnuts : Walnut-size vegetables grown in lakes. Peel before using. Canned water chestnuts are peeled. To store, refrigerate them in cold water in a covered container. Change the water daily and use the water chestnuts as soon as possible.
Wonton Wrappers : Made with flour, eggs and water, these can be purchased in Chinatown noodle factories or in some supermarket
frozen food sections. Immediately rewrap unused portion with plastic wrap and freeze. (Won ton pay.)