Did you know that Chinese food is one of the most loved and eaten foods in the world, not just in China, where the 1.3 billion population would make it so, but also in the Western world too! Chinese restaurants are everywhere, and there is a Chinatown in most big cities.
If you fancy emulating some of the delicious feasts you’ve tried in a Chinese restaurant, ensure you have some essential ingredients first, as it is the ingredients listed below that recreate that authentic Chinese flavour.
Most of the ingredients can be bought from the local supermarket, such is the popularity of Chinese food, so you won’t necessarily have to go to Chinese speciality stores or markets to get them.
The vegetables listed can be used fresh or, if you can’t get fresh, tinned is fine. Ensure you have a good cookbook and clean utensils to work with, such as wok, spatula and sharpened knife. Some of these great tips came from our friends over at the Mandarin Restaurants in Reading Ma so enjoy the dish and have fun!
Soy sauce is used in all types of Asian cooking, light soy sauce is used to cook food in and dark soy sauce which is thicker is used to dress and add flavour to food once it is cooked.
Oyster sauce is made from boiled oysters and seasoning. It’s a rich and savoury sauce and is used in meat and vegetable dishes. It is one of the key ingredients in Cantonese cooking.
Chinese mushrooms are usually of the black mushroom variety. They are quite slimy and taste unusually earthy, but they add a traditional taste to Chinese cooking. Other popular Chinese mushrooms are Shitake, and the beautifully named Wood Ear and Snow Fungus.
Garlic is present in most Chinese dishes and is used to flavour and season Ginger is also a very popular Chinese flavour that is present in many of the traditional dishes, such as ginger beef or chicken.
Spring onions, Green Onions, Scallions, and Spring onions are a very frequently added to Chinese cooking, which adds flavour and crunch.
Water Chestnuts are a traditional Chinese vegetable and will add a wonderful crunch to a chicken stir-fry.
Some other great vegetables used in traditional Chinese dishes are Broccoli and Zucchini.
Chinese Rice Wine adds authentic Chinese flavour and removes strong odours from cooking. Bamboo Shoots – No vegetable seems quite as Chinese as Bamboo Shoots. These can be bought tinned or fresh, and cooked in stir fries or eaten raw, on top of stir-fry, salads, and soups.
Rice is the staple to Chinese (and Asian) diets everywhere. Long grain or delicately scented Jasmine Rice is used for savoury dishes and short grain sticky rice for snacks and desserts.
Sesame Oil – This strong tasting oil is used for cooking and seasoning, particularly to add flavour to stir-fries and soups.
Chinese chili paste is made with chillies, salt, garlic, ginger and oil. The Szechuan region of China is where hot and spicy food is a speciality. These spices are the spicy seasonings added to heat up a stir-fry or one of our marinades and sauces.
Mung Bean Sprouts are another favourite Chinese vegetable, found mainly in stir fries.
Oil – Oil is very important in Chinese cuisine as most dishes are stir fried or deep fried. Traditional Chinese cooking uses peanut oil, however, a healthier version often used today is plain vegetable oil, such as canola. Peanut oil tends to go rancid rather quickly, which can be a problem if you’re just getting into Chinese cuisine and don’t cook Chinese food often.