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Chinese cooking


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I'd like a source for basic sauces used in Chinese cooking. I am retired at last, and it's time to learn how to cook! I'm looking for a light sauce that can be used with broccoli and chicken and a darker sauce (red sauce? but not sweet and sour) to be used with vegetable patties and beef stir fries. Thanks. lkm

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There is an eGCI (The eGullet Culinary Institute) class on Southern Chinese cooking. One of the recipes in the class includes a black bean sauce.

Click here for the class.

At the bottom of the class are some links to chinese recipe cookbooks that the instructor recommends.

And I am sure someone will come along and post some sauce recipes of their own.

edited to add: Welcome to eGullet!

Edited by Toliver (log)


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Tim Oliver

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I like taking the simple approach to Chinese cooking, and I also like to experiment. I think there are a few basic (bottled) sauces and ingredients that are essential to any Chinese kitchen that you can use in combination to come up with your own creations.

The basic ingredients I keep in my kitchen are:


soy sauce(light and dark)

hoisin sauce

oyster sauce

black bean (either dry, or bottled in a paste form)

Asian chilli sauce or paste

shaoxing rice wine

white vinegar

sesame oil (for flavoring)

Dry ingredients:



white pepper


corn starch

If you have those things in the kitchen, you have almost everything you need to cook stir-fry. I wouldn't ever put everything into a dish, but pick two or three of them.

For example, to make a chicken and broccoli stir-fry, I could fry some garlic and ginger in oil until fragrant, then add the chicken that's been seasoned with sesame oil, white pepper and corn starch and stir fry till brown. Stir-fry the broccoli separately and add salt, oyster sauce and shaoxing wine to taste. Add a slurry of corn starch in water if more thickening is required. Combine the two and voila!

For a beef stir-fry, you could try garlic, corn starch, black bean paste, soy and maybe a little chilli.

A vegetal stir-fry can be as simple as just garlic and salt. A little shaoxing wine or vinegar may be added to change the complexion of the dish slightly.

Feel free to experiment.

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Ditto Laksa.

Good sauces are improvised on-the-fly using the basic "elements."

Dry sherry is an excellent substitute for shaoxing wine.

Cook often - pay attention to sights, sounds and smells - as well as tastes.

You'll "get it."


Food is all about history and geography.

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I've replied to all responses here, but my replies are not showing up on screen. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks lkm

Edit: This one showed up immediately. We "old things" take a little longer learning, I guess!

Edited by lmarshal1 (log)
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I've replied to all responses here, but my replies are not showing up on screen.  Am I doing something wrong?  Thanks  lkm

I received a personal message (PM) from you. To post a message to the thread, you need to click the "add reply" button at the top and bottom of the page.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I stumbled on this website and its collection of Chinese Sauces. I've made a few and they are very tasty although the instructions are a bit confusing at first. They are kind of formulas (e.g. "with mix #1 add with #2.") and you can basically cook the sauce first, separately from the dish.


I'm a vegetarian and was very happy to find ways to make sauces myself because I've been told that many restaurants often use chicken stock, oyster sauce, and other non-vegetarian ingredients.

I think all the recipes come from "Chinese Cooking Made Easy" , a small cookbook by Mu-Tsun Lee written in both English and Chinese. I ended up getting the book on Ebay. I think I'll get the most use out of the sauce recipes although the book does have some ideas for how to use the sauces. Some area specifically for braising, stewing, and baking. Many of the rest can be used for stir-fry dishes or dipping.


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Jayne, Thanks for the site for Chinese sauces. Since my previous post I've purchased a few of the items listed in one of the posts above. I especially like the flavors added when using peanut oil and sesame oil. Many of the other items I already had on hand. There is a new Asian market in the nearest town of any size, and the prices there are very reasonable...even cheap compared to the usual grocery stores. I picked up a couple of the prepared bottled sauces there and five pounds of jasmine rice (half the price I usually pay!). Anyway, I'm raring to go!

I would think that Chinese cookery would be great for a vegetarian. A little off the topic of Chinese cookery...but what is your best way of getting enough protein into your diet? Mostly a combination of grains, beans, legumes? Do you eat eggs and drink milk? I do think that aiming toward eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains is the way to go! Hard for us long-time meat eaters...but we do eat less and less of it as time goes by.

Thanks again for the Chinese sauce-making site! LKM

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I would think that Chinese cookery would be great for a vegetarian.  A little off the topic of Chinese cookery...but what is your best way of getting enough protein into your diet? 

To answer your question, yes, Chinese food is a good option (as are Indian food and Italian food, and Thai if I figure out how to make things myself) That's one of the reasons I went looking for sauce recipes. The spicy hunan sauce was very tasty when I tried in with tofu and asparagus. My diet does include dairy and eggs and I've found over the years that just eating varied foods really does provide enough protein.

Oh yeah, one more thing about the sauces, I don't think the web page or the cookbook indicate a refrigerator life or shelf life for the prepared sauces so I'd recommend making them for close to when you need them.

Also, you may find some recipes call for szechuan (szechwan) peppercorns. They can be difficult to find because of import restrictions and there is an egullet discussion thread all about it and what the peppercorns are at: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=29130

Good luck with your cooking.


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Thanks for the reminder of "shelf" life and the site for peppercorns. I'll check it out.

I think variety is the key to any sort of diet. Now that I am retired (yippee!), I'm really enjoying spending time cooking. No longer the mad rush to throw something together! It's fun to have the time to come up with variety! My husband and I love Italian, Mexican, and Chinese...so those ought to give me a good jumping off spot!

I admire your vegetarian choice. If I thought about it long (allowed myself to think long), I'd have to give up meat. This is coming from the wife of a former cattle farmer! We find ourselves eating less and less red meat at least.

Thanks for your responses. lkm

Edited by lmarshal1 (log)
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