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Chinese Herbs and Spices


liuzhou
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18 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

It has been fun for me to explore and hopefully the same for some you out there, too.

Thank you so much for this topic. I have really enjoyed it. However, there has been a downside, as usual. I have endured vegetable envy, cured meats envy and now I am going through major herbal envy. Your choice of food is truly amazing.

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42. 霸王花 (bà wáng huā) – Pitaya Flowers – Selinicereus undatas

 

780320224_Pitaya.thumb.jpg.a97d98cc5974cf07fe860a8fe9e55c54.jpg

Dried Pitaya Flowers

Of course, as soon as I say the topic is done and dusted, I think of another herb.

 

3D4A2555.thumb.jpg.11d92b48da5e347694fc9f141abd19e4.jpg

Pitaya - Dragon Fruit

 

Pitaya, pitahaya, dragon fruit; call it what you will. The Chinese is 火龙果 (huǒ lóng guǒ), literally ‘fire dragon fruit’. They are the fruit of a night-flowering cactus, native to the Americas, but long cultivated in China.

 

What is perhaps less well known is the flowers are also edible and used both in TCM and as a herbal dinner ingredient. The flowers are sold dried and are known as 霸王花 (bà wáng huā).

 

Both the flowers of the white (Selinicereus undatas) and red fleshed (Selenicereus costaricensis) varieties are used. They are used to make tisanes and other drinks as well as being used in a number of soups.

 

The flavour, stronger than the fruit, is mildly herbal and refreshing with a sweet scent.

 

863735856_DriedPitayaflowers.thumb.jpg.045e7a253a778faa658cd675b464cc09.jpg

 

Here is a video of one recipe, which for obvious reasons, I have never made exactly as shown! I have done similar soups missing that one disgusting ingredient she uses. The narration is in Cantonese, but there are English subtitles. Note she refers to the flowers as Hylocereus undatus, an older scientific name, now disused.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Thanks for the pitaya. I'd no idea on the flowers. Not the most attractive plant, visually attractive fruit (which I find boring) but will give flowers a go when I encounter them. We have started growing them commercially in California. Not a hit list bullet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

43. 烧烤料 – (shāo kǎo liào) – Barbecue Spicing

 

1115755292_.thumb.jpg.66a35a96973992bd9dfce60f40db8783.jpg

 

Another important spice mix turned up today. This is a mix of ground fennel, ground cumin, ground chilli and white sesame seeds. It is mainly used on the ubiquitous 肉串 (ròu chuàn) stands on every night market across China. Originating in Xinjiang province these are usually fatty lamb meat kebabs/kebobs grilled over charcoal, although other meats and offal may also appear. The spicing is liberally sprinkled over the meat as it cooks.

 

I normally make my own mix, but I've used this one before and the relatve proportions of the mix are similar to how I would do it. Some others I find are unbalanced.

 

IMG_4956.thumb.jpg.5112e4541263ae5c83bfd4d530876c91.jpg

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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On 9/26/2021 at 12:33 AM, liuzhou said:

e Spicing

 

1115755292_.thumb.jpg.66a35a96973992bd9dfce60f40db8783.jpg

 

Your dinner last night looked great. Fortunately, these are all spices that I have in my pantry. I was wondering if you would mind giving us the proportions for the mix. I have some beautiful pork loin steaks that would be perfect for this.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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36 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

Your dinner last night looked great. Fortunately, these are all spices that I have in my pantry. I was wondering if you would mind giving us the proportions for the mix. I have some beautiful pork loin steaks that would be perfect for this.

 

I think you really have to experiment to find what you like - each one is different. For example, I probably make mine more chilli heavy than many people. I've never really measured but I'd guess I do it with around 40% cumin, 30% chilli, 20% fennel and 10% sesame.

 

(Dinner last night, was actually tonight. I'm 14 hours ahead of Costa Rica time.)

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4 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

Thank you, I try to keep that in mind but I still get confused.

 

I would have responded to your question earlier, but it took me some time to work out the time difference. It does get confusing at times.

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44. 茯苓 (fú líng) – Chinese Tickahoe – Wolfiporia extensa

 

687214386_fuling.thumb.jpg.8fe298864f3997709336412015c1b5e3.jpg

 

Wilfiporia extensa is actually a type of underground fungus which grows on decaying wood. If you look it up on Wikinonsense, you will be told that is used in TCM to provoke urination, aid digestion and calm the mind. All very well, but they don’t mention that it is also used in culinary recipes. Perhaps not technically a herb or spice, but those are very loose terms and the product is sold on the culinary spice counters in most supermarkets.

 

The dried root-like fungus is peeled and cut into 1 cm squares. Added to many hotpots and soups. To be honest, it is almost tasteless by the time all the other ingredients go in, but on its own it is vaguely fungi tasting. I wouldn’t go out my way to track it down.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Returning to this topic to bring you some video links. All over China, Sichuan style hotpot is popular and food companies have not been slow to react. Most supermarkets now offer kits of Sichuan hotpot base for the home cook. Here are four videos showing how this concoction is made, the spices that go into it and how to use it in the home. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the less conscientious retaurants use it too. Enjoy.

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1457223008674713604

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1457503958780420097

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1457674230095495171

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1457679594216050689

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

@liuzhou I have been trying to get a Master stock going and I am having a problem. Instead of getting more intense it seems to be losing flavor. The spices that I am using are star anise, cinnamon stick, Ginger, and dried Tangerine peel. I strain them out after each use and when I use it again I add fresh spices. Is there something more that I should be using?

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19 hours ago, Tropicalsenior said:

@liuzhou I have been trying to get a Master stock going and I am having a problem. Instead of getting more intense it seems to be losing flavor. The spices that I am using are star anise, cinnamon stick, Ginger, and dried Tangerine peel. I strain them out after each use and when I use it again I add fresh spices. Is there something more that I should be using?

 

I've never made a master stock, although I've eaten plenty. It is a Cantonese concept, and Cantonese cuisine is far from being my favourite of China's regional cuisines.

I can't see it being the herbs or spices causing your problem. What else is in there? I know it usually contains rock sugar (which in China is considered to be a spice (as it is elsewhere).

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On 12/1/2021 at 7:00 AM, Tropicalsenior said:

@liuzhou I have been trying to get a Master stock going and I am having a problem. Instead of getting more intense it seems to be losing flavor. The spices that I am using are star anise, cinnamon stick, Ginger, and dried Tangerine peel. I strain them out after each use and when I use it again I add fresh spices. Is there something more that I should be using?

Perhaps helpful  https://forums.egullet.org/topic/148943-asian-style-master-stock/  And a goofy format but references a trusted eGer 

 

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On 9/26/2021 at 9:33 AM, liuzhou said:

Another important spice mix turned up today. This is a mix of ground fennel, ground cumin, ground chilli and white sesame seeds. It is mainly used on the ubiquitous 肉串 (ròu chuàn) stands on every night market across China. Originating in Xinjiang province these are usually fatty lamb meat kebabs/kebobs grilled over charcoal, although other meats and offal may also appear. The spicing is liberally sprinkled over the meat as it cooks.

 

 

Is citrus zest a (somewhat) common addition? Or is it more likely that the one I tasted a while ago just used plenty of citrusy peppercorn?

~ Shai N.

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2 hours ago, shain said:

 

Is citrus zest a (somewhat) common addition? Or is it more likely that the one I tasted a while ago just used plenty of citrusy peppercorn?

 

Dried citrus peel is very common, usually tangerine or orange. Everyone dries their own, including me, but if you forget or run out, every store also sells it. Unlikely to be peppercorns in Cantonese cuisine.

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13 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

Dried citrus peel is very common,

I can't buy it here but I do make my own. A couple of times I have been out and have even used fresh peel. Going back over my recipe I noticed that it does call for peppercorns. Would they be using white pepper instead? Or is it just not used?

I've noticed in your dinners and the meals that you have posted from restaurants that there aren't many braised foods. Is that not common in your area or just a personal preference?

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20 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

I can't buy it here but I do make my own. A couple of times I have been out and have even used fresh peel. Going back over my recipe I noticed that it does call for peppercorns. Would they be using white pepper instead? Or is it just not used?

I've noticed in your dinners and the meals that you have posted from restaurants that there aren't many braised foods. Is that not common in your area or just a personal preference?

 

Black pepper is rarely used in Chinese cuiusine, so yes, I'd bet on it being white pepper. Depending on the region Sichuan peppercorns are also a possibility, but as I noted they aren't normally a feature of Cantonese cuisine.

There are a number of braised dishes in the Chinese kitchen, although it is not as common as in western cooking. I guess the reason for that goes back to the fuel-saving idea that led to the stir-fry wok culture. Braising would have been seen as too fuel-guzzling.

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10 hours ago, heidih said:

Perhaps helpful  https://forums.egullet.org/topic/148943-asian-style-master-stock/  And a goofy format but references a trusted eGer 

 

Thank you for this. I knew that there were other threads on master sauce but this one alone sent me down an 8-hour rabbit hole. I think I know what went wrong. The recipe that I started with was not good. Unfortunately I'm going to have to pitch it and start over. But at least now I will be starting out on the right foot.

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  • 1 month later...

These little beauties turned up in the supermarket this mornng. First time I've seen them here. They are dried  贵州子弹头 (guì zhōu zǐ dàn tóu) - Bullet Head Chillies from Guizhou Province.

 

The interwebs seem to confuse them with Facing Heaven cillies, but although the heat level is similar, the shape is very different. That said they could happily be used in Sichuan recipies. Mid to hot in heat and carry a fruity profile.

 

749566763_.thumb.jpg.95795d72bc0f8eabf79f1fae70eb50f0.jpg

 

 

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I decided to check further into the confusion about Guizhou Hullet Head and Facing Heaven Peppers and have concluded they sure ain't the same cultivar. Here are specimens of each as sold dried in the supermarket now.

 

2002483914_GuizhouBulletHeadsandFacingHeavenPeppers.thumb.jpg.81a7f64a64b4c362dd2ff83baad84eeb.jpg

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 1/29/2022 at 2:51 AM, liuzhou said:

 

I have removed this post while I double check some facts. A potential problem has been identiified. Sorry.

 

 

 

The whole world is waiting.

 

Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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6 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

The whole world is waiting.

 

 

It transpires that certain types of sumac are poisonous, possibly including the one I find here. It is not used in a culinary manner here, but in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

I have removed it until I can confirm its  edibility or lack of such. With it being the start of the two-week long Chinese Spring Festival tonight, that process may take a while.

 

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22 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

It transpires that certain types of sumac are poisonous, possibly including the one I find here. It is not used in a culinary manner here, but in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

I have removed it until I can confirm its  edibility or lack of such. With it being the start of the two-week long Chinese Spring Festival tonight, that process may take a while.

 

 

If it helps, sumac is often poisonous here as well.

 

Edit:  it is pretty though.

 

 

Edited by JoNorvelleWalker (log)

Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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