Glossary of Ingredients for Chinese Cuisine

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Abalone – It can be purchased fresh, canned, dried or salted in fish market and Asian specialty stores. It is a symbol of wealth and good fortune to the Chinese. Abalone is used to enhance a distinct flavor to Chinese soup. It is one of the most expensive and exotic ingredients used in Chinese Cuisine. Abalone are found in the water were rocks and seaweeds are abundant. There are very few varieties and the red abalone is the most available in the marketplace. Canned abalone is the most popular used for cooking because it’s cheap and easy to cook.

Adzuki beans – It is cultivated in China and Japan. It is a small reddish-brown bush bean. You can get them fresh, dried or ground into flour.  The outer skin of the Adzuki bean is fairly thick and required soaking and long cooking time. The beans are mainly used in dessert.

Allspice – Its taste is like a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It can be brought in whole or ground. It is also known as Jamaican Pepper.

Almonds – It is not commonly used in Chinese stir fried dishes. Almonds are mostly as snack. It is usually coated with sugar in the form of candy.

Asparagus  – Asparagus are available in fresh, canned and frozen.  If you are getting fresh ones, always look for firm, bright-green or pale ivory stalks with tight tips. Once the asparagus is cut, it will start losing it flavor. Uncut asparagus can be kept in a Ziplock bag and refrigerate up to 3 days or place the asparagus standing upright in a container with a couple inches of water.

Aubergine – is a English word for “Eggplant”. It is actually a berry that is eaten as vegetable. It was cultivated in China since 500 BC. There are many varieties – Japanese eggplant, Chinese eggplant, Indian eggplant , American eggplant, Mediterranean areas eggplant and European eggplant. You can find this vegetable all year round. The Japanese & Mediterranean varieties are the small one. The Chinese eggplants are whitish and long. The American & European varieties are large, pear-shaped and deep purple in color.

Bamboo shoot – It is the shoots of a tropical bamboo plant. It shapes of cone and the meat is light-colored. It is very commonly used in Chinese cooking. Bamboo shoots are usually sold in can or sometimes fresh in Chinatown in the West, easily available in Asian countries. If you are using fresh bamboo shoots, they must be boiled or if not they will be toxic. Fresh bamboo shoots can be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

Beancurd sheet (Bai Ye) – It is made from soy beans. It has to be soak in water and baking soda to be soften first before use.

Beancurd stick – It is also known as dried bean stick. It is made from the thin skin layer form from the top of heated soy milk. To use the beancurd stick just simply soak the stick in water and use in fried dishes or soups.

Bean paste – After soy sauce is brewed, the soy bean pulp are removed from the vats and made into different kinds of condiments. The condiments are Brown Bean Sauce or Paste and Yellow Bean Sauce or Paste. It is a rich salty condiment replacing soy sauce and where thicker gravy is required.

Bean Sheet – It is also called Mung Bean Sheet and is made from the starches of mung bean. It can be available in fresh or dried.

Bean sprout – In Teochew it is called “Tow Gay” and in Cantonese it is “Nga Choi”. It is from the young sprouts of the germinating mung bean. It can be eaten raw or cook. Fresh bean sprouts can only be kept for 3 day in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Once it becomes discolored and with a musty-smell, discards away. It can be available at any well-stock supermarkets or any Asian grocery stores.

Bell Pepper – It is also known as Capsicum or bell pepper. It has a sweet flavor, crisp texture and with a mild juicy flesh. It can be available in green, red and yellow color.

Bird’s Nest – It is made from the swiflets’ (swallow) saliva. It is very highly priced because of the process of harvesting the bird’s nest. Bird’s nests are available in two forms – shaped like a cup (high quality) and uneven & loose pieces. Most widely known to Chinese women that consuming bird’s nest has their ability to rejuvenate, restore youthfulness and ensure glowing and wrinkle-free complexion.

Bitter melon – It is also known as the balsam pear or bitter gourd. It resembles a cucumber with bumpy skin. It is usually stir fried or steamed with pork, ginger, black bean sauce and onion. This melon is also commonly used in Chinese soups. The taste of this bitter melon is very bitter when it becomes yellow/orange color from green color. It can be refrigerated in the fridge for at least a week more.

Fermented black bean – It is also known as Chinese black beans. They are made from soy beans flavored and preserved in salt and spices. It is also a very important and common ingredient in the Chinese cooking like Cantonese and Szechuan Cuisines. Most of the time, it is used to season stir fried, braised and steamed Chinese food. It is available in plastic bags or cans in any Asian grocery stores.

Black bean sauce – It is a sauce blended with fermented black bean and spices like chilies or garlic. It is usually packed in jars and is available at any Asian grocery stores.  The sauce is mainly used in stir-fried dishes and steamed dishes. It is also a ideal sauce for meat, poultry and vegetables.

Black hair & Black Moss – It is also known as Hair Seaweeds as the texture is fine threads of black dried vegetable that resemble human hair. The flavor is tasteless and when it is cooked, it is very slippery. The blackhair/black moss is very most commonly used in the traditional vegetarian dishes like Buddhist dishes and soups. On Chinese New Year this hair seaweeds is a must for the Chinese households to serve a dish associated with this ingredients. The reason is that the word pronunciation of “hair seaweeds” sounds like “Good luck”. This ingredient is available from well-stocked Asian grocery stores.

Black pepper – Most Chinese cooking only uses black pepper in hot and sour soups and mixed with salt as a dipping condiment for fried foods.

Bok Choy – It is also known as Chinese cabbage. There are roughly about 33 types of this variety. You many not familiarize with the names given to all these cabbages, but the taste of each vegetable are quite similar. Bok Choy literally translated is “White Cabbage” and the leaves are dark green color and its whitish ribs are crisp. These vegetables are usually used in the stir fried dishes. There are many varieties of Bok Choy too like Baby Bok Choy, Hanakan Hybrid, Mei Qing Choy, Hybrid, Pak Choy Green, San Fan, Hybrid, White Stem Bok Choy (Pak Choi), Chinese Bok Choy, Dwarf Bok Choy, Extra Dwarf Bok Choy, Joi Choi, Hybrid, Taisai, Tatsoi, Tatsoi Savoy, Toy Choy, Hyrid, Fun Jen, Hybrid, Golden Yellow, Hybrid and Red Violet Tatsoi, Hybrid.

Broccoli – The most common broccoli are usually deep green color. There is also white and purple colored broccoli. These vegetables are a relative of cauliflower and cabbage family. The broccoli can be found all year round available in the supermarket. Broccoli is made up of tiny, tightly closed green buds on a thick edible stem.  To purchase a stalk of broccoli you have to make sure that the tightly closed firm buds are in deep dark green colored. Do not purchase broccoli with open buds that are yellowish in color and a limping stem. Wash the broccoli under running and peel of the thick skin from the stem before cooking.

Bunching onion – It is also known as green onion or spring onion or shallot. It has a small white bulb at the root and with long green soft stems.  The whole stalk is edible and should be used while it is crisp and with a sharp fresh onion taste. It is used extensively in Chinese cooking.


Capsicum – It is part of the pepper family. There are two categories of pepper which are chili peppers and sweet/bell peppers. The capsicum is also known as bell pepper. It is not spicy but has a sweet taste.

Cashew – It is one of the most popular ingredients in many Chinese dishes. Cashew is not cook frequently as other nuts because they become soft very quickly and very often the cashew are added to hot dish just as it is about to serve. Cashew is very high in fat content and uncooked cashew should be refrigerated.

Castor sugar – It is a superfine sugar that dissolves almost instantly. You can substitute to granulated sugar.

Celery – The only variety that can be available in America is Green Pascal. The ribs, stalks and leaves are edible. You have to look for thick, crisp stalks and unwilted leaves. Celery can be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Cellophane Noodle – It is made up of mung beans. It is also known as bean threads, bean vermicelli, transparent noodles and Chinese vermicelli. The Chinese noodles have a tasteless flavor. It is usually used in preparing soups and stir fry dishes.

Century Egg – Another name known is Hundred-year Egg. The eggs has been preserved with coating of lime, coal ashes and salt and buried for 3 months.  It has a pungent cheese-like flavor. The most commonly used are chicken eggs. It is usually eaten uncooked with soy sauce and pickled ginger.

Cheesecloth – It is made of cotton gauze/muslin. It is used in the kitchen for wrapping food and straining liquids.

Chicken Egg – It is available in two kinds, brown and white eggs and both have the same nutritional value. Nowadays, organic eggs are so popular in the marketplace. An average weight for an egg is about 2oz)

Chicken Stock – It is one of the most important ingredients in Chinese savory dishes.  It is known as Chicken broth in the West. It can be substituted with chicken cubes or granulates.

Chow-chow – It is a mustard flavored mixed vegetables and pickle relish. In the Chinese cuisine it was to describe a condiment made of dried orange peel and ginger in heavy syrup.

Chili bean paste/sauce – It is made of fermented soy beans, garlic and red chili peppers. Usually it is sold in jars. China and Taiwan are the two countries that manufacture the most. It is usually use in Szechuan & Hunan cuisines.

Chili Oil – It is made of hot red chilies soaked in vegetable oil. The pepper releases their heat and flavor which also give the oil a reddish color. It is very popular in Chinese cooking. It should be stored in the refrigerator to preserve the flavor.

Chili Pepper or Hot Pepper – Chili peppers are smaller, more pointed than sweet peppers and have a very fiery heat. It is more popular as a condiment than as a vegetable.

Chili powder – It is made up of dried hot peppers. It is pounded into a powder. Sometime chili powder is a combination of different spices and dried hot pepper.

Chinese cabbage – There are as many as 30 varieties of Chinese cabbage in Asia. The most common varieties in the West are Bok Choy, Celery cabbage (known as Napa cabbage) and Choy Sum.

Bok Choy – It has a dark green colored leaves with a whitish ribs. It is also called Chinese white cabbage. It is often used in stir-fry dishes for it crisp and crunchy texture. The other popular variety is Baby Pak Choy.

Choy Sum - Is also another variety of cabbage. It has a pale green slim stems with light green leaves and with a clusters of tiny yellow flowers in the inner shoots. It is commonly used in soups and stir-fries.

Celery cabbage - It is also known as Napa cabbage or Chinese celery cabbage and is native to China. It has a crisp, delicate, faint cabbage taste and texture; and also resembles Romaine lettuce. It is commonly used in stir-fries.

Chinese black mushroom – It is also known as Shiitake mushroom. It is usually grown in China and Japan. The Japanese shiitake mushrooms are more costly than the Chinese mushrooms. It is usually available in dried form and vacuum packed. It can be kept for about a year. Now, you can get these fresh in the marketplace. To use the dried mushroom, you need to wash well and soak in hot water for at least 40 minutes. Cut the stem off and strain the soaking water to add flavor to a stock.

Chinese broccoli – Chinese broccoli is pronounced as “Gai Lan” and is of the best vegetable. It does not look like regular broccoli. It has a long stem and big dark green leave.

Chinese chives – It is extensively used in Chinese cuisine. It is also called garlic chives. It has flat leaves and a garlicky flavor. It can also be substituted by garlic shoots or flowering chives.

Chinese sausage – It is called “Lap Cheong” in Cantonese. It is made of minced pork. The taste is a sweet and salty sausage. It can be available from Oriental stores.

Chinese Egg Noodle – It is also called Egg Flour Noodles and made up of wheat flour, eggs and water. It can be available fresh from some Asian supermarkets. It is also known as the most popular type of Asian noodle.

Chinese long bean – It is also called as Ward-long bean or asparagus bean. The length of the bean is about ½ a yard long and usually used in stir-fly dishes.

Chinese Pickled Cabbage/Mustard Green – There are at least four kinds of pickled vegetables. They are pickled mustard greens, Red-in-Snow, preserved mustard greens and Tianjin pickled vegetables. The pickled mustard greens come from North China and the taste is sour. It must be rinsed before using. It can be kept for at least 2 week. The preserved mustard greens are the specialty of the Hakka Clans in China. The leaves are dark green color and have a smoky flavor. The Red-in-Snow type is also known as “Snow Cabbage” or at time called “pickled cabbage”. It is usually packed in can and always salted. It needs to rinse off the salt before cooking. Tianjin pickled vegetable is also come from the North of China. It has a sweeter flavor. It is always used to cook with duck meat in soup.

Chinese spinach – It is also known as Amarand. The leaves have a sweet flavor and also a source of protein. The Asians also called this spinach, “Een Choy”.

Chives – It is a plant related to onion, garlic and leek. It has a very delicate onion smell. It has a bright green color, slender and hollow stems. Usually chives are used to flavor and garnish fish, meat, soups, seafood, tofu, omelets, poultry and soups. Chives can be kept in the refrigerator for just a couple of days.

Cinnamon – Cinnamon are sold in two forms. It is available in sticks and the other in powder. Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. The spicy bark is harvested during monsoon period as the barks will be more pliable to strip. The world biggest producer is Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Cloves – It is a flower bud of a clove tree. It is always sold dried as it gives out the pungent and long-lasting taste. In cooking, it is usually used in whole but sometimes in powder. In the ancient days, the Chinese refresh their mouth by sucking on cloves. It is always best to purchase cloves in whole as the aroma will last longer than ground cloves. The most famous spice used in Chinese cooking is the Chinese five-spice, a mixture of cloves, anise pepper, cassia, fennel seeds and star anise.

Coconut Milk – A liquid is produced by combining fresh/frozen grated coconut with one equal amount of hot water. Mixed well and strain thru a cheesecloth.  The liquid that produced is known as coconut milk. It can also available in can from the Asian specialty store and most supermarkets. Mainly it is used to cook curries and desserts.

Coriander Leaf – It is also called Chinese parsley or cilantro. It is a very aromatic herb. It is a must fresh herb in the Chinese cuisine. It is not everyone favorite herb because of its distinctive, medicinal flavor and pungent smell, use it with discretion. When purchasing fresh coriander leaves you need to look for crisp, firm and green.

Corn flour – It is a fine ground cornmeal. It is obtained from kernels from which the germ has been removed. It is usually used for breading and baking.

Cornstarch – It is obtained by extracting the starch from the endosperm of the corn kernel to make into a fine white powder called cornstarch.  In the Chinese cooking it is often used to thicken the liquid/sauce for a smooth texture and the seasonings to adhere to the ingredients like meat or vegetables or seafood. The cornstarch is added to the cold water to dissolve and then add into the hot food during the final stage of cooking and stir until the mixture is thickened.

Corn syrup – It is a thick and sweet syrup which can be available in light or dark color. Corn syrup is used as a lesser sweet replacement for granulated sugar.

Crab – Crab is also considered highly priced seafood throughout the world. Its texture and flavor are also considered to be the equal of lobster. There are many varieties of crab like soft shell crabs, stone crabs and rock crabs and many others. Crabs should always be purchased alive if you can. Also select crabs that are very heavy in size and has no smell of ammonia. Crab meat can be purchased in cans.

Cucumber – Cucumbers are a gourd and melon family. When purchasing a cucumber, always remember to select a firm and evenly shaped. The skin should be dark green in color and smooth surface. China is one of the largest producers of cucumbers in the world. Cucumbers should be kept in the refrigerator not more than a week. Cucumbers also come in many varieties.

Cumin – It can be purchased in whole or powdered. This spice is used occasionally in Northern Chinese cooking.

Curry Powder – It is made up of mixture of red peppers, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, fenugreek, cinnamon and cumin.


Daikon – It is also called Chinese white radish or Oriental radish. Its taste is sharp but somewhat sweet too. It is cooked like any turnip, in soup, stews or stir-fry. It has a firm and smooth skin.

Dried chestnut – When using them, it has to be soaked in water for overnight first; and then cook in water over low heat for 30 minutes.


Eggplant  It is also known as Aubergine. The Chinese eggplants are usually whitish in color, both inside and outside. There are many varieties in the world. In Europe and America, the eggplants are large pear shape and purple in color, Japan and Mediterranean regions the eggplants are small. The Chinese eggplants you do not need to peel before use. The American ones, you need to peel the thick skin off before using. The small and young eggplants contain fewer seeds

Egg roll wrapper  It is also known as egg roll skins. Egg rolls wrappers and Spring roll wrappers are two different wrappers. Egg roll wrappers are made from wheat flour, egg yolk and salt as Spring roll wrappers are from all-purpose flour and water. Egg roll wrappers are thicker than Spring rollwrappers.

Enoki mushroom  It is also known as golden needles mushroom because of its small white mushrooms grown in clumps with thin and long stems end with a tiny ball caps. The taste is fruity and mild flavor.  These mushrooms are very highly recognized in Asia in many of the prominent dishes in the Chinese and Japanese Cuisines.

Fermented bean curd – It is also known as Asia-style cheese. The taste is very salty and accompanied with a powerful strong smell; one has to learn to enjoy this bean curd. It is made up of fermented soy bean curd cured in rice wine, salt and chili or sesame oil. It goes well as a side dish with Asia-style rice porridge (Congee) and also as a seasoning with some meat dishes.

Fermented black bean – Refer to Black beans, fermented
Fresh rice noodles – It is also known as “Hor Fun” in Cantonese dialect. It is made up of rice flour base. The mixture will be spread thinly/thickly onto a square baking tray and steam until cooked. After that it will be oiled and cut into broad/thin flat strips. It is widely used as snack, known as Dim Sum and also used in various dishes, like subgum noodles and Char Kway Teow.

Five-spice Powder – In Chinese translation it is called Five Fragrances. It is a blend of spices consisting of ground cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorn, star anise and fennel. It can be substitute with allspice. It is also one of the most popular seasoning in the Chinese Cuisine. It should be used sparing because of it strong spices. 

Fish maw – It is the air bladder of a large fish. It is very costly and also a luxury ingredients in the Chinese cuisine. The texture of fish maw is like the sea cucumber. It is also known as a nourishing tonic for the blood circulation in the Chinese culinary traditions. There are two ways of purchasing them – in the form of dried fish maws and deep-fried fish maws. Fish Maws are mainly used in soups or braising dishes.


Gailan – Refer to Chinese broccoli.

Garlic – It is also a member of the onion family. It has a pungent flavor and very aromatic when it is fried with oil. It is a very common ingredient for many Asian cuisines like Korean, Japanese, Indian, Chinese – especially a essential ingredient in Szechuan cooking. You can get them in many forms, like fresh, paste and powder.

Garlic chive – Refer to Chinese Chives

Ginger root – It is widely used in Asian cuisine likes Korean, Japanese Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Chinese, Thai and many South-east Asian cooking. Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale. Young ginger roots are juicy and with a very mild taste and the mature ginger roots are fibrous and a little dry. The juice of mature ginger roots is very potent. It also acts as a food preservative. You can them in dried, paste and powder form. It is a ingredient often used in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and many South Asian cuisines.

Ginger sherry - The gingers are peeled and thinly sliced and pickled in the sherry or vinegar. It is often use as snack or condiments added to many Chinese dishes
Ginkgo nut – It is a fruit from maidenhair tree. The fruit is actually a nut with a very hard creamy color shell. Inside is the seed and the Chinese believed it has health benefits. They are usually used in rice porridge (congee) and during weddings and Chinese New Year.

Glass Noodle – Refer to Cellophane Noodles

Golden Needle – Refer to Tiger Lily buds

Golden Needle Mushroom – Refer to Enoki mushroom

Green onion – Refer to scallion


Ham – It is the cured leg of pork and comes in whole or half portion. It is fully cooked most of the time unless labeled. Easy assessable from Supermarkets or well stocked Deli.

Hoisin Sauce – This is a Chinese Barbecue Sauce and also known as Peking sauce. It is made of garlic, chili, soy beans, sweet potato, sugar, salt, sesame seeds and other spices. This sauce is commonly used with barbecued pork (known as Chai Siew), meat & seafood dumplings and the world well-known dish, the Peking duck.

Hair Seaweed – It is also called black moss or black hair. The texture is fine thread, resembles hair and has no flavor or taste when cooked. It can be found in Asian and Chinese supermarkets. During Chinese New Year, this hair seaweeds are always used in one of dish called Buddhist Delight and Soup as in Cantonese dialect is sound “Fatt Choy” means “Good Fortune”.

Hot Bean Sauce – This sauce is very popular in Szchuan and Hunan Cuisines. It may also use in the Chinese Cuisine for some meat and seafood dishes. It is basically the combination of hot chili sauce and brown bean sauce.

Hot Chili Oil – Dried hot chili peppers and other spices are been pan-fried and infuse with vegetable oil until the oil becomes very spicy. Then the hot peppers and spices are removed and sieved and stored in airtight glass jars. This oil is always used as table condiment to accompany with finished stir-fries dishes, dumplings and many others.

Hot Chili Sauce – This sauce is made up of dried crushed chili peppers and sweet red peppers with soy sauce, garlic, salt, onions and other spices.

Hundred-year Egg – These eggs are coated with lime ashes and salt and preserved for 100 days by burying in ashes. The lime act as a petrifying effect making the egg look alike it has been preserved for a century. When the outer coat is removed and exposed – an amber-colored white and golden yolk. It has a cheese-like flavor. These eggs in the commercial market are known as Ming Dynasty egg, century egg but the most commonly known is hundred-year egg. It is made of chicken eggs; sometime you can get them in duck or goose eggs. Mainly used as appetizer in the combination cold dish serve during festive time…like wedding, birthday, Chinese New Year and so on…


Jellyfish – It is processed with salt and alum and with a tedious processing, the jellyfish becomes a crunchy and crispy texture. It does not have a unique or special taste but only gelatin texture. In Chinese cuisine, it is mainly used as an appetizer.


Kumquat – In Cantonese pronounced as Gam Gwat. It is a very small Asian citrus fruit with a soft bright orange color and the taste is slightly tart. It is cultivated in Japan, Philippines and Southeast Asia. Kumquat is usually consumed whole and raw. It also used in the culinary art in preparing preserves, candy and one the salad ingredient. It can be available in can.


Leek – Leek is a vegetable and also belongs to the onion and garlic family. It has a very mild and sweeter taste than onions. In is grown in a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths. It is also very commonly use in many cuisines. The edible part of the leek is the white portion and the light green stem. The darker portion is always discarded. The small of the leek smell similar to green onion in its raw state.

Lettuce – In the marketplace there are 3 most commonly used lettuces. Such as the buttered heads/cabbage, crisp-heads and romaine/cos varieties and not a hardy vegetable; and should handle with great care as their leaves are easily bruised and wilted. It has to be refrigerated. In order to avoid the bruising and browning you must use a plastic serrated knife instead a metal blade knife to cut.


Oil - Polyunsaturated oils are more preferred for Chinese cooking. Peanut oil is the most flavorsome by the Chinese chefs. Corn, soy and safflower oil are used in Chinese cooking. These days, in China soy oil are widely used because it is easily available. Discard oil after a long period of used like deep-frying when it changes from clear to dark color.

Onion – This bulb is also considered as vegetable and condiment in Asian cooking. The most common onions are Red onions, Spanish onions and white onions. The red onions are the sweetest, Spanish onions are the mildest and the white onions are sweet and mild taste. The other variety is green onions and is also known as Scallions or Spring onions.

Orange peel - It is the dried peel of tangerine orange. It has a very strong flavor. To use these dried peels you need to first soak in hot water until soft in order to use in stir-fries. It can be used in soups and desserts. It can be substituted by fresh orange peel.

Oyster Sauce – It is made from oysters with soy sauce. It is a very delicate dark brown sauce and is a most popular seasoning to add richness in food without altering it natural flavor. There is no substitution for this sauce.

Oyster Mushroom – It shapes like a fan. The color of this fan-liked mushroom flesh is white and grayish brown on the exterior. It has a very peppery and robust flavor in the raw state and commonly used in salads. The oyster mushrooms when cooked, it softens and has a unique flavor added to soups, stir-fries and casseroles.


Pomelo – It has a thick, light pale green skin and change to yellow color when it is ripened. The flesh is a sweet white segment with a thin, clear thick film wrap around it. It is a citrus fruit and native to Southeast Asia. It can be used in stir-fry dishes and salad.

Pot Sticker Wrapper – It is made up of flour, eggs and salt and roll out into very thin sheets of dough. The skins (wrappers) are used for making dumplings. The dumplings are filled with meat and vegetables mixture, sealed all the edges and then boiled or steamed or pan-fried or deep-fried. It is a common and popular dumpling in China. There are many variations of using these wrappers.

Preserved white radish or turnip – These preserved roots are very common in the Chinese cuisine, especially in China. These are usually sun-dried in strips and then salted or soaked in soy sauce or just plain salted water. They can be preserved them dried or in liquid. If you are using the dried types, you need to wash off the salt but the ones preserved in soy sauce are normally prep in slices or cubes and store in clean small jar. No prep is necessary.


Quail Egg – Is the egg of the Quail. It is a very tiny little bird with feathers totally brown. It looks like a small chick but the quail is a grown up bird. The quail eggs are considered a delicacy in the Chinese cuisine. It is usually served hard-boiled, poached or sometime pickled.


Red bean – The red beans are quite similar to red kidney beans but rather small. In Chinese cuisine it is usually cooked with sugar and very often it is mashed to a paste. The red bean paste will use in making Asian buns and cakes. It is very commonly used in South East Asia countries. It can be cooked into a sweeten bean soup. A numbers of dessert called for this red bean paste like moon cakes, Chinese steamed buns, sticky dumplings and many more.

Red Date – The date is the fruit of a deciduous shrub in the Arabian Desert. Most of Chinese dates are dried. In the Chinese culture it is believed that it gives nourishes to the blood and calms the mind. In food it is used to enhance and harmonize other herbs. There 3 forms of Chinese date…they are black date, being smoked and dried, that is why it called. Red dates are due to its natural state after harvest and dried. Brown dates being soaked and dried.

Rice-flour Noodle – It is made up of water and flour. It can come from thin to thick noodles.  It can be fresh or dried. Fresh and died noodles are available at any Asian/Chinese grocery stores and dried noodles in the well-stocked supermarkets.

Rice vermicelli – In Southeast Asia, especially, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia it is known as “Bee Hoon”. It is also made up rice flour and water. It is mainly comes dried in a cellophane packaging. It is a fine to thin opaque noodles. To prep the noodles you need to soak in warm water for about 20-30 minutes before cooking. Mainly use the noodles for stir-fry, deep-fried as garnish or soup. You can get them at any Asian/Chinese grocery stores or well-stored supermarkets.

Rice Paper – It is made of rice flour and water. The sheets come in round, square and triangles. It is mainly used for wrapping vegetable/meat mixture to make to a Chinese spring roll (Chinese) or samosa (Indian) or fresh popiah (Singaporean spring roll) and summer spring roll (Vietnamese).

Rice Vinegar – In Chinese cuisine there are three kinds of rice vinegars, such as white, black and red color. It is mainly made from fermented rice. The white vinegar is milder than Western distilled vinegar. It is used in sweet and sour dishes. Black vinegar is milder then Western malt vinegar and is used generally as table condiment. Red vinegar spicy and sweet flavored vinegar are mainly from Zhejiang Province, China.

Rice Wine – In China it is called Shao Hsing or Chinese cooking wine. It has a very clear, dry strong flavorful wine made from fermented rice. It can be substituted with dry sherry or Sake. It is mainly used in stir-fries and steam dishes. The alcohol contains is low. It is available at any Chinese grocers.

Rice Vinegar – It is an important ingredients in Chinese cuisine is that salt is not easily substituted with soy sauce. In some of the dishes are simply clear and pure white in it sauces. It is known as “white or clear cooking” like “Soft Tofu and Shrimps in Egg White Sauce”.


Shallot – It is also known as potato onion or small onion. It has a more aromatic and very subtle in flavor than onion and less pungent than garlic. The shallot normally has two cloves in a bulb. It is very easy to be spotted in the supermarket market or Asian/Chinese store as the size is smaller than the big red onion. It can be sliced and deep-fried to be used as garnish in soup, fried noodles and fried rice. It can be stored for about a month in a dry and dark cool place. Also it can be stored in the refrigerator.

Shark’s fin – It is one of the most expensive delicacy dishes of the Chinese cuisine. It is mainly used in Shark’s fin soup as the fins have its glutinous and slippery texture that replaces the cornstarch for it thickening. The Chinese believe that shark’s fins will strengthen the human internal organs and the aging. This expensive has been revered in China for centuries.

Snow Fungus – It is often used in Chinese savory soup and Chinese sweet soup (dessert). The Chinese believe that this fungus will improve their skin and complexion. It is also known as silver ears or white tree ear fungus. The most superior quality snow fungus is the ones with a pale and yellowish-white color texture. The low grade ones are usually the texture are very white in color.

Snow pea – It is also known as Sugar peas, Sweet peas or Chinese peas. It can be eaten raw and also ideally used in stir-fries. It is a flat and soft pod with a light green translucent smooth cover.

Soy bean – It has been cultivated in China for over more than 3,000 years ago. In the Chinese culture soybeans represent one of the five essential grains (wheat, rice, millet and barley) of life. Soybean is one of the most nutritious and easily digested of most of beans. You can purchase them in many ways, soybean oil, soy sauce, soy flour, tofu, soybean curd and milk. It has high vegetable protein content. The Chinese also believe that when you are pregnant, you must drink soy milk so that the baby when he/she is born will have a fair complexion.

Soy sauce – The soybeans are stored in large earthen pot with salt and water to ferment. It brewed into a highly flavored light salty liquid known as soy sauce. If molasses are added during the brewing its liquid will became a dark sauce. If more sugar is added it becomes sweet soy sauce. You can purchase all these three kinds from any Asian/Chinese grocery store and well-stocked supermarkets.

Spring onion – see Scallion

Spring roll wrapper – see Rice Paper

Star anise – It is also known as Chinese anise. The name tells you that it resembles a star and the texture is very woody. It is one of the most popular ingredients in the Chinese cuisine. It is mainly used in Chinese cooking especially in stewing and braising dishes. This spice has a licorice flavor and also one of the ingredients used in making Chinese Five-Spice powder. You need to remove this spice after cooking before you serve.

Starch – One of the most important ingredients in Chinese cooking for binding. It can be substituted to corn flour or water caltrops or pea flour. Not all Chinese cooking calls for starch. The Cantonese cuisine uses more starch in many of dishes for thickening and Chinese cuisine uses lesser. Also the Chinese prefers a lesser thin skin for their deep-fried dishes.

Straw mushroom – These are cultivated on straw to get its name. It is also known as paddy-straw mushrooms. The straw mushroom has a conical cap over a bulbous stem and has a grayish brown color. It has a very mild flavor than the Shiitake mushroom. It is mainly available in can but sometime you can get fresh in specialty produce stores.

Sichuan/Szechuan pepper or peppercorn – In Chinese it is called “Hua Jiao”. It tastes is only faintly hot but it marries into many food well and it tastes. Sichuan/Szechuan peppercorns cannot be substituted with red chili peppers or crushed pepper. There is a very well known dish called Sichuan Chicken.


Walnut – It is an edible seeds and plays an most important nuts in Chinese Cuisine. It usually used in any savory and sweet dishes. Walnuts can be eaten in raw form which contains the most antioxidants.


Yand-long Bean – In Asia, it is known as Chinese long bean or asparagus bean. It resembles a long, thin and flexible green rope with pods. It is a all year round vegetable in Asia and Southeast Asia. Its taste is less sweet than green beans. The vegetable can be boiled, steamed and stir-fried.


Water Caltrop – Its original name is called Ram Horn Nut in English; Ling Jiao in Chinese and Ling Gok in Cantonese (Hong Kong). At time it is called Peanut in Water. It is a aquatic plant. It can be cooked in three forms…boil or roast and steam.

Water chestnut – This nut has a dark-brown shell and with a creamy colored, sweet and nutty flesh. It is available in can, fresh or dried from any well-stocked supermarkets or Oriental Grocery stores. It plays a very important role in Chinese cooking especially stir-fried dishes.

Watercress – The hollow stems of watercress are floating and with small, crisp, dark-green leaves and flowers in clusters. It has a strong, peppery and slight bitter taste. Available all year round and are usually packed into a small bunch. It can be used raw or cook form. In the Chinese cuisine, it is mainly used in soups, as garnish and also stir-fried dishes.

Water Convolvulus – In English, is known as Water Morning Glory, Water Spinach, Chinese Spinach or Swamp Cabbage. It is a common vegetable in Asia and Southeast Asia. This vegetable can be cooked in many ways…hot and spicy, simply stir-fry with minced garlic and onions, grated coconut, sambal with or within meats.

White Pepper – The skin of the fresh pepper seeds are soaked in water for a week; and remove the skin of the fruit and then the naked seed is dried. They come in two forms – whole or powdered. It has a very unique taste than black pepper. Most Asian cooking calls for this pepper.

White rice – It is a good source of starch and is the stable food of the Southeast Asia countries.

Wolfberry – Chinese has been growing this herb for hundreds of years. It is a wild bush only found in the North-west of China. In the marketplace is called Goji berry. It is mainly sold dried and need to be cooked before consumption. The Chinese use these more as a herbal ingredient and are often used in tonic soups, rice porridge (congee) and tea.

Wonton – A popular dumpling in the Chinese cuisine. It is made up of egg noodle dough filled with ground pork or seafood and vegetables mixture. It can be served steam, deep fried and boiled.

Wood Ear Fungi – Also known as Tree Ear, Jew’s Ear or Cloud Ear Mushroom. It looks like ear shape. It has a translucent flesh with a firm gelatin, crunchy and tasteless flavor. It is sold in most Asian and Chinese stores. It comes in a dried form. You needs to soak them in cold water and remove the gelatin film; then soak them again with warm water for 15 minutes. By this stage the dried wood ear fungi will expand by 4 times in size. It is one of the common ingredients in Szchuan Cuisine.


XO Sauce – Created by Lee Kum Kee Company, a producer of all kinds of gourmet condiment. This concentrated sauce does not contain XO (Extra Ordinary Congac/Brandy). It is a spicy seafood sauce. It is made of chopped scallops, dried shrimp and fish blend with onions, garlic, oil and chili.  It is also an excellent sauce to enrich any meats, vegetables, tofu, rice and seafood.
Yellow bean paste/sauce – Refer to Soy Bean Sauce.

Yellow Chinese chive – At time it is also called yellow garlic chives and this chive gets it color because it has been shield from the sun.

Zhenjiang Vinegar – This vinegar has a very sharp and spicy flavor like Worcestershire Sauce; and it is made from millet.

Zucchini – It has a creamy white-green color fresh and the taste is mild and delicate flavor. The shape is long and cylindrical with a dark to light green color skin. It is a summer squash.

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