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Glossary of Chinese Ingredients


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#1 udscbt

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 02:36 AM


I am not sure that this should be a separate thread but, as a complement to the thread “A pictorial guide to chinese ingredients”, here goes.

I live in Paris and am exploring Chinese regional cuisines. To execute the different recipes (mostly in English), I have bought ingredients from specialty shops often by showing the Chinese characters for ingredients I cannot find.

I wonder if you have the same problem of needing the Chinese equivalent for an ingredient. If so, perhaps the following list in English and Chinese would be useful. Since I am not Chinese, I probably have made some mistakes; if so, please correct them and I thank you ahead of time.

Also, since there are surely many other ingredients which I have not yet used, please add them if you will.

Have a good day !

I have made my list in alphabetical order:

abalone, canned (鲍 鱼 )
alcohol, Chinese: Fenjiu or Fen Chieu (汾 酒 )
asian eggplants (茄 子)
bamboo shoots (竹 笋 )
bean curd, fresh (豆 腐 )
black beans, salted/fermented (豆 豉 )
black bean sauce ( 豆 豉 酱 )
….. white Beijing variety (aka Napa) (大 白 菜 )
….. green Shanghai variety (aka bok choy) (上 海 白 菜 )
celery, Chinese ( 芹 菜 )
chili bean sauce ( 辣 豆 瓣 酱 )
chile bean paste ( 豆 瓣 酱 )
chili (hot peppers), dried ( 干 辣 椒 )
chili oil ( 辣 椒 油 )
chives, Chinese or garlic (韭 菜 )
cinnamon or cassia bark, Chinese ( 桂 皮 )
coriander leaves (aka Chinese parsley/cilantro) ( 芫 荽 or 香 菜 )
five-spice powder, Chinese ( 五 香 粉 )
..... fresh ginger
.…. young ginger ( 子 姜 )
marinated ginger ( 腌 姜 )
..... american ginseng ( 花 旗 参 )
….. white panax ginseng ( 白 蔘 )
….. red panax ginseng ( 红 蔘 )
….. young ginseng (dangshen) ( 党 参 )
green algae in powder ( 绿 色 紫 菜 粉 )
hoisin sauce ( 海 鲜 酱 )
….. sweet flour sauce ( 甜 面 酱 )
lily flowers (aka golden needles), dried ( 金 針 )
lotus leaves, dried ( 荷 叶 )
….. black mushrooms, dried
………. wood ear mushrooms ( 木 耳 )
………. cloud ear mushrooms ( 云 耳 )
………. snow ear mushrooms ( 雪 耳 )
….. fragrant mushrooms (or shiitake) (香 菇 )
….. bean thread (or cellophane) noodles ( 粉 丝 )
….. (fresh) egg noodles ( 鲜 蛋 面 )
….. Shanghai noodles (or udon) ( 上 海 粗 面 )
oyster sauce ( 蚝 油 )
pandan leaves ( 斑 兰 叶 )
pickled mustard leaves ( 咸 菜 or 咸 酸 菜 )
….. red-in-snow ( 雪 菜 or 雪 里 红 )
plum sauce ( 酸 梅 酱 )
….. "long grain" white rice
….. glutinous rice ( 糯 米 )
….. red rice ( 红 米 )
rice wine ( 米 酒 or 料 酒 )
rice wine from Shaoxing ( 紹 兴 酒 or 紹 兴 花 雕 酒 )
rice wine vinegar
….. white rice wine vinegar ( 白 米 醋 )
….. black rice wine vinegar ( 香 醋 )
….. black rice wine vinegar from Zhenjiang/Chinkiang ( 鎮 江 香 醋 )
sausage, Chinese ( 香 肠 or 腊 肠 )
scallions ( 葱 )
scallops, dried ( 瑶 柱 )
sesame oil ( 香油 or 麻油 )
sesame paste ( 芝 麻 酱 )
sesame seeds
….. white sesame seeds ( 白 芝 麻 )
….. black sesame seeds ( 黑 芝 麻 )
shrimp chips ( 虾 饼 干 )
shrimp, dried ( 虾 米 )
Sichuan peppercorns ( 花 椒 )
Sichuan preserved vegetable ( 四 川 榨 菜 )
snow peas ( 雪 豆 or 荷 兰 豆 )
soy sauces
….. soy sauce (light or thin) ( 生 抽 )
….. soy sauce (dark or thick) ( 老 抽 )
star anise (八 角 or 大 料 )
….. corn ( 太 白 粉 )
….. potato ( 生 粉 )
….. sweet potato ( 地 瓜 粉 )
….. brown sugar
….. rock sugar ( 冰 糖 )
taro root ( 芋 头 )
water chestnuts ( 荸 荠 )
….. water chestnut powder ( 荸 荠 粉 or 马 蹄 粉 )
….. jicama (fresh water chestnut substitute) (豆 薯 )
white radish, Chinese ( 白 萝 卜 )
wolfberries ( 枸 杞 子 )
yellow bean sauce ( 黄 豆 酱 )

#2 liuzhou

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 09:43 PM

chili oil is more commonly referred to as 红油

black mushrooms, dried are 冬菇

#3 CFT

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 08:48 AM

Those black mushrooms are more commonly known as shiitake mushrooms.

As to your other "mushrooms" they're fungi. Wood/cloud/snow ear fungus.
Best Wishes,
Chee Fai.

#4 udscbt

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 09:14 AM


Thanks for your replies. I will integrate them into my personal Glossary. I do have a problem distinguishing mushrooms and fungi!

I haven't been able to connect all day for some reason. I wanted to add that I forgot to mention that I have benefited from exchanges with Sunflower on her blog (sunflower blog) but whatever mistakes in my glossary are my fault.

Have a good day.

Edited by udscbt, 25 June 2010 - 09:16 AM.

#5 udscbt

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 04:07 AM

Hello again re fungi and mushrooms:

I am a physicist and not a botanist so I have relied on dictionaries and wikipedia. Here is what I have found, with references, concerning the definitions of these terms, as well as those of Chinese mushrooms/fungi.


1. reference - the unabridged "Random House Dictionary of the English Language: fungus": Any of numerous thallophytes of the division fungi, comprising mushrooms, molds, mildews, rusts, smuts, etc., characterized chiefly by absence of chlorophyll and by subsisting upon organic matter
2. reference - free dictionary: fungus : Any of numerous eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Fungi, which lack chlorophyll and vascular tissue and range in form from a single cell to a body mass of branched filamentous hyphae that often produce specialized fruiting bodies. The kingdom includes the yeasts, molds, smuts, and mushrooms
3. reference - wikipedia: fungus: A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms.

1. reference - unabridged "Random House Dictionary of the English Language: mushroom": Any of various fleshy fungi incluiding the toadstools, puffballs, coral fungi, morels, etc. Also: Any of several edible species, esp. of the family agaricaceae as agaricus camestris
2. reference - free dictionary: mushroom : Any of various fleshy fungi of the class Basidiomycota, characteristically having an umbrella-shaped cap borne on a stalk, especially any of the edible kinds, as those of the genus Agaricus.
3. reference - wikipedia: mushroom: A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.

Therefore, apparently, mushrooms are fungi of a special kind

(for your information, they both have the same name in French: champignons)

II. CHINESE MUSHROOMS: reference - wikipedia: chinese mushrooms (same as “Chinese edible fungi” for wikipedia)

Among other mushrooms in their list, you will find:

· Cloud ear fungus: 云耳, yún ěr, "cloud ear"; or 木耳, mù ěr, "wood ear"/"tree ear"
· Shiitake: 香菇, xiānggū "fragrant mushroom"; high grades are 冬菇, dōnggū, "winter mushroom" and 花菇, huāgū, "flower mushroom". Other names include Chinese black mushroom and black forest mushroom.
· Snow fungus: 银耳, yín ěr; "silver ear"; or 雪耳, xuě ěr; "snow ear"; or 白木耳, bái mù ěr, "white wood ear"
· Wood ear: 木耳, mù ěr, "wood ear" or "tree ear"

There is apparently a difference in Chinese between those mushrooms/fungi with the 耳 (ěr) ideogram and those with the 菇, (gū) ideogram. Is that correct?

I think that we should not focus on the semantic differences between fungi and mushrooms (one is apparently a subset of the other from a botanical point of view). The important thing for the cook is that, roughly, there are two kinds: those that are used to give flavor (for example: the shiitake in its different forms), and those that are used to give texture (for example: cloud ear fungus, snow fungus, wood ear).

Do you agree?

Have a good day.

#6 CFT

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 03:59 AM

There is no ambiguity in the Chinese. But if you described the cloud/wood/snow fungus as mushrooms you might be confusing people when they go down to the shops to source their ingredients.
Best Wishes,
Chee Fai.

#7 udscbt

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 08:09 AM

Hello again,

Let me give an example of how I use the glossary. I have just made a dinner with the following four dishes: Chicken in Taro-Root Nest; Orange-Peel Beef ; Smoked fish, Shanghai style; and Assorted Meat Soup in Wintermelon. These dishes require some ingredients which can only be found in specialty shops, for example, taro-root, water-chestnut powder, Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang rice vinegar, wintermelon (瑶 柱) and dried scallops or conpoy (干 贝 ou 瑶 柱 ). In particular, since I have never used the latter two, I used their Chinese equivalents given in the glossary in order to ask the persons working in a few large supermarkets. This usually enables me to find the appropriate items.

I was able to find the wintermelon but not its 2.5kg version which I wanted but rather smaller ones, about 800g which I adapted to the recipe. I later found out that the larger version could be found in another part of town. I was unable to find the dried scallops and substituted fresh ones which is not really what I wanted; does anyone have a better substitute?

So, sometimes its works and sometimes it doesn’t.

If you use the glossary, perhaps you can give your experience as well. Or, if you have some other way to proceed, I would be very interested.

Have a good day.

#8 annachan

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 06:47 PM

I was unable to find the dried scallops and substituted fresh ones which is not really what I wanted; does anyone have a better substitute?

Dried scallops have a pretty unique flavor. The only thing I can think of that is somewhat similar is dried shrimps. Not so much the tiny ones but the large dried prawns, with shells and heads on. Not sure if that's easy to source either....

#9 udscbt

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 09:24 AM


In the same spirit to the list in English, you can check out the French names of Chinese ingredients on the web site associated with my book at www.cuisines-chinoises-regionales.comwith its detailed descriptions and images of the recipes and ingredients, and with its recipe of the month! The Chinese names are given for the recipes and their ingredients so that you can easily order the dish in a restaurant or find the ingredient in a specialty food market.

Try it out!

Best regards, udscbt

#10 liuzhou

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 09:06 AM

The problem with all lists like this is that there are so many regional variations in ingredient names in Chinese.

Another, more easily dealt with, problem is that all the names given above are in Simplified Chinese as used in Mainland China today.

Most overseas Chinese use Traditional Chinese as still used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This means that labels and packaging in Chinatowns around the world are more likely to use Traditional. Some times there is no difference between the two, or they are similar enough to be guessed at, but very often they are very different. If you go looking for 绍 兴 酒 but can only find 紹 興 酒 you may go home frustrated. But they are the same thing - Shaoxing wine first in simplified, then in traditional.

Any list needs both.

#11 udscbt

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 06:04 AM

Thanks Liuzhou,

Even though I have never had the problem you mention, I think that you are right.

In the next edition of the glossary, I will put the traditional characters, where appropriate, in addition to the simplified ones I have used. In fact, I am curious to find out what percentage of the ingredients are written differently, as in your example of Shaoxing wine.

BTW, what important ingredients are left out all together?

Best regards

#12 liuzhou

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 10:55 PM

I have now posted an extended list of ingredients on the wikiGullet Project. This list includes simplified and traditional characters along with Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciations.

The list is at http://wiki.egullet....ese_ingredients

#13 udscbt

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Posted 02 June 2011 - 09:59 AM

Hi Liuzhou,

Many thanks for all the hard work.

For curiosity, I have analysed the list with the following results:

1. 114 ingredients of which 59% have the same characters in traditional as in simplified form.
2. 288 total characters (with some duplicates) of which 82% have the same characters in traditional as in simplified form.


Have a good day, Georges

#14 udscbt

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 06:31 AM

Hi Liuzhou,


After a year I am back with some proposed additions to your list which I admit is already quite complete. As usual, I only use simplified characters:



1.    add 2 varieties of "cabbage":

a.    pickled mustard greens  ( 咸 菜 or 咸 酸 菜 ) 

b.    red-in-snow cabbage   (雪 里 红 )

2.    add dried chili (干 辣 椒 )

3.    add 2nd definition for chili oil ( 红油  or 辣 椒 油 )

4.    add Fenjiu or Fen Chieu liquor ( 汾 酒 ) 

5.    add ginseng

a.    american ginseng  (花 旗 参 )

b.    white ginseng (白 蔘 )

c.    red ginseng ( 红 蔘 )

6.    add to hoisin sauce

a.    sweet flour sauce/paste (甜 面 酱 )

7.    add egg noodles (鸡 蛋 面 )

8.    add 2nd definition to radish (萝卜 or 白 萝 卜) 

9.    add green seaweed powder (绿 色 紫 菜 粉 ) 

10.  add 2nd definition to sesame oil (麻 油 or 香 油 ) 

11.  add shrimp crackers (虾 饼 干 ) 

12.  add 2nd definition to Sichuan preserved vegetable (mustard tuber) (榨菜 or 四 川 榨 菜 )

13.  add 2nd definition to snow peas (荷 兰 豆 or 雪 豆)

14.  add 2nd definition to star anise (八 角 or 大 料 )

15.  starch

a.    add 2nd definition: to corn flour/corn starch (玉米粉 or 太 白 粉 )

16.  add red rice vinegar ( 红 米 醋 ) 

17.  add winter melon (冬 瓜 )  


Do you agree/disagree with any or all of the above?


Have a good day, udscbt


#15 liuzhou

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:08 AM

For various reasons, I gave up on updating the Wikigullet list a long time ago. (See PM)


I did continue with an expanded version on my website here. It is still very much a work-in-progress although I only now add things sporadically (not because there isn't still a lot to add; just I get busy.) 


Some of your suggestions have already been included (I think). I will look at the others when I have more time.



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