• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Apicio

Lye water

46 posts in this topic

Hi muichoi and Apicio

Unlike borax, which is a health hazard, the occasional use of baking soda is fine, as it is not toxic.

Many great Chinese chefs are not adverse to adding it to tenderize beef, and like you, I too use it occasionally for those typically Cantonese beef dishes which just do not taste right without its addition, namely classic stir fries involving sliced beef with oyster sauce, with or without vegetables, jung sik Ngow lao etc.

With the gradual awareness of and ban on borax, I do notice that many chefs even in Chinese restaurants in several well known 5 star hotel chains in Asia have been resorting to treating their prawns with soda, which results in a chewy yet less crispy texture than borax treated prawns; however the natural taste of prawns are sadly missing in soda treated prawns.

One chef and manager of the chinese restaurant of a major hotel chain here in Manila lamented to me that customers complain that the prawns they serve do not seem to be as crisp as those served outside; so he has to take great pains in explaining that the crispier the prawns the riskier the prawns, as they probably have been treated with borax. It is good to know that this Hotel chain is being extra careful about safe culinary practices.

The use of borax and soda results in removing the natural flavor of prawns, this

usually results in the heavier use of MSG, etc to restore flavor which I feel is also an unfortunate consequence.

The safest way to marinate prawns which preserves natural flavor while still adding a more natural crispiness is with plain salt.

My mother does marinate beef slices for stir frying, and they are simple marinades

consisting of good quality light soy, yellow rice wine, the type for drinking, and not the soulless " cooking" wines; sesame oil, a pinch of sugar, egg white cornstarch....the beef marinates for about an hour, then it is passed through medium temp oil "Gwoh yiao", strained in a collander, then added to whatever stir fried vegetables and all of it then "bao" or blast flamed in the wok with wine and tossed with sauce at the last step. This is where one has to have excellent skill in handling the wok....but that is another long tale.

you be careful now :wink:

cheers,

:smile:


Edited by danjou (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Danjou- I've never much liked the technique of passing through medium hot oil when applied to beef, though for fish and chicken it's obviously essential-I like to put a very moderate depth of oil in the wok, heat it up then add the beef, not starting to stir or toss for five seconds or so-I like the very fast cooking and seared effect that results, though this only works on a huge flame-your mother's marinade is the same as mine except for the egg white-do you stir in oil to separate just before frying?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not one to like soda taste on the tongue, I prefer to tenderize beef using papaya or kiwi fruit. Not very chinese, but... :wink:

A bit of patience is needed for searing beef slices, have to do it a few pieces at a time. Can't dump them all at one go, or it'll 'water' rather than sear. <--- muichoi, this is not directed at you...just a mental note...


Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I certainly wouldn't do more than 250g at once,even on my 55,000 BTU burner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's one more bit of food trivia: Egg whites, like lye water, borax, and baking soda, is also alkaline, which probably explains why adding it to marinades has a tenderizing effect on meats.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again to Danjou and also to Sheetz and Tepee. And Muichoi you let us know how your giant squid adventure turned out. I find this to be so informative because this subject hardly ever gets discussed anywhere.


Edited by Apicio (log)

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

" Waht" can be achieved thru' velveting without baking soda.

"Chueh" in beef balls is from soda and waterchestnut flour. With the recipe I use from Wei-Chuan series, I use only 1 tsp. of soda in 2 2/3 lbs of meat.

We used tenderizer powder (made from papaya extract) on sirloin beef before slicing for stir-fries.

Wouldn't soda render tenderloin "mushy" and fall apart as you stir-fry? What is your reasoning behind that?


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hi all, interesting forum here, now I know why I never be able to get my prawn taste like the one in my local chinese take away, in Australia we are able to buy prawn already shelled ( which we refered to as prawn cutlet) I remember I bought some once and it has a weired firm and slightly slippery feel to it, and when I cooked them ( in a clay pan , with lots ofolive oil , garlic and parsley ) it has an amazing firm and springy texture that I never encountered with any of the prawns that I ever cooked :hmmm: , taste a little different to the prawn that I shelled myself, I wondered if the prawns that I bought might already been treated with either borax or baking soda. If so, is there any chance that if it is at all possible to give soda or borax treatment to prawns still in their shell ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wouldn't soda render tenderloin "mushy" and fall apart as you stir-fry?

Sue-On, in a word, no. It has almost the opposite effect in that besides making tough meat chewable and it also affects it by giving it a "springy" texture.

Easy does it though as too much will give the meat a bitter taste. My usual dose is 1/3 tsp. to a half pound of sliced raw meat. Mix it in with the regular marinade and the longer you let it sit, the more tender the meat becomes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wouldn't soda render tenderloin "mushy" and fall apart as you stir-fry?

Sue-On, in a word, no. It has almost the opposite effect in that besides making tough meat chewable and it also affects it by giving it a "springy" texture.

Easy does it though as too much will give the meat a bitter taste. My usual dose is 1/3 tsp. to a half pound of sliced raw meat. Mix it in with the regular marinade and the longer you let it sit, the more tender the meat becomes.

I find if you cut the meat finely enough then less than half this amount works, and then you can't taste it. I used to scorn the idea of freezing the meat before cutting-but actually it gives wonderful results.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bounce - From a modernist cuisine they use sodium bicarbonate to make certain dishes alkaline to increase the Maliard reaction, lye water also does this can they've substituted. You can't kill or cause major damage (via cooking anything that someone would eat) with bicarb but you could with lye water. Can they be exchanged?

Reason I''m asking, have baking powder but no sodium bicarb, but have lye water I bought by mistake as in a rush and was next to rice vinegar (just that is a worry) and not reading Chinese how was I to know. Good job I read the ingredients of everything I buy and cook with.


Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So much of the problem with these English recipes is the translation. Gad, "lye water" for jianshui is one of the deadliest renderings I've ever seen! No, NEVER USE LYE IN FOOD except under very rare and controlled circumstances, as this can cause severe burns! (FWIW, caustic soda or lye in Chinese has names like shaojian 燒鹼 or yejian 液鹼.)

Even Wikipedia has it wrong (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lye): recipes for moon cakes, amber Chinese tamales (zongzi), etc., use baking soda in their preparation, not lye. Period.

Jian means "alkaline," and, as some have already pointed out here, this means baking soda. So, jianshui would (as Chinese dictionaries explain) just be baking soda dissolved in water, allowing better distribution in the batter. It's used as a leavening in moon cake wrappers, but from what I can find, this only applies to Cantonese style moon cakes.

And so the initial question is quite interesting; why add it to the wrappers? An old Chinese cookbook called "Zhongguo dianxin xiaochi pu" mentions no leavening for the Beijing and Suzhou style moon cakes, as these rely on using two types of dough (one of flour with more water than fan and the other with more fat than water) to form flaky layers. Only Cantonese moon cakes call for leavening, at least according to this cookbook.

The recipe says to mix the dough out of good quality flour with sugar syrup, lard, and the alkaline water, so I would imagine that the density caused by the syrup would make this leavening quite necessary.

Hope this helps.


@MadameHuang & madamehuang.com & ZesterDaily.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So much of the problem with these English recipes is the translation. Gad, "lye water" for jianshui is one of the deadliest renderings I've ever seen! No, NEVER USE LYE IN FOOD except under very rare and controlled circumstances, as this can cause severe burns! (FWIW, caustic soda or lye in Chinese has names like shaojian 燒鹼 or yejian 液鹼.)

Even Wikipedia has it wrong (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lye): recipes for moon cakes, amber Chinese tamales (zongzi), etc., use baking soda in their preparation, not lye. Period.

Jian means "alkaline," and, as some have already pointed out here, this means baking soda. So, jianshui would (as Chinese dictionaries explain) just be baking soda dissolved in water, allowing better distribution in the batter.

It's not baking soda. Most commercially available jianshui I've seen is a solution of sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide (which are both "lye") or potassium carbonate, and I think these are what are most commonly used for making zongzi, moon cakes, noodles, etc. Sodium bicarbonate is sometimes also present, but it's there as a buffer, not as the primary alkaline agent. For example, the "Koon Chun" brand, which is one of the more commonly available ones in the US, is potassium carbonate, buffered with sodium bicarbonate. Historically, mugwort potash (penghui) was also used as an alkaline substance for noodle making.

The reason recipes specify "lye water" is because that's the most common English language label on bottled jianshui, and a simple sodium bicarbonate solution made at home won't be strong enough.


Edited by Will (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So much of the problem with these English recipes is the translation. Gad, "lye water" for jianshui is one of the deadliest renderings I've ever seen! No, NEVER USE LYE IN FOOD except under very rare and controlled circumstances, as this can cause severe burns! (FWIW, caustic soda or lye in Chinese has names like shaojian 燒鹼 or yejian 液鹼.). . . .

The reason recipes specify "lye water" is because that's the most common English language label on bottled jianshui, and a simple sodium bicarbonate solution made at home won't be strong enough.

Could jianshui be a solution of sodium carbonate, that is, heat-treated sodium bicarbonate (AKA baking soda)?

According to Cook's Illustrated (January & February 2012, p. 31), spreading sodium bicarbonate in a layer on a baking tray, and baking it for two hours at 250 F° (121.1 C°) will increase its pH 'from about 8 to about 11' (lye has a pH between 13 and 14).

A solution of sodium carbonate gave a result very similar to that of lye, when preparing soft pretzels, without the risks associated with the use of a lye solution.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reason I''m asking, have baking powder but no sodium bicarb, but have lye water I bought by mistake as in a rush and was next to rice vinegar (just that is a worry) and not reading Chinese how was I to know. Good job I read the ingredients of everything I buy and cook with.

I guess it would depend on the recipe but you can go ahead and try. The stuff you bought is food grade so it is safe to consume (in small quantities).

Re: Sodium carbonate, apparently it can be used in place of lye water for some applications. As for lye water's use in Cantonese moon cakes, I think the higher pH may cause the gluten in flour to become more elastic and make it easier to stretch the dough into a thin layer around the filling. For this reason lye water is also used in making hand pulled noodles.


Edited by sheetz (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having read a little more about lye water's uses in Chinese cooking, I found out that lye water will initially cause gluten strands to become stretchier, but then after about 30 min they completely stiffen up.

In recipes for hand pulled noodles using lye water you have to work very quickly so you can be finished pulling the noodles before the dough stiffens up. In contrast, recipes for mooncakes using lye water say to let the dough rest for an hour before shaping them. Based on what I've read and my own experience, I believe this helps the skin become more plastic so that the patterns molded onto the dough will hold their shape during baking.


Edited by sheetz (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember that they cure olives in Lye too


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are these lye water treated noodles referred to as "CHEWING NOODLES"?


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Terribly interesting reading, explains so much of what I tasted/chewed over 18 years in Hong Kong and Japan. Picked up a bottle of Koon Chun lye water at the local Asian grocery witht he intent of making Tsukemen (ramen variation) noodles. Seems it contains Potassium Carbonate and baking soda. Love to know the concentration. Also gives instructions for rehydrating squid....

Lye.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello, Danjou, alias Ed Chung here,

greetings to all :-)

I can't believe it has been years since I have posted here....but life has been hectic indeed.

I just want to add some brief thoughts to what I have already written in this post way back in 2005 here, that traditional Northern Chinese "hand pulled " noodles, or "lah mien " is made with high protein ( high gluten ) flour and water only. The artisanal way is to use good high protein ( gluten) flour, and water....no chemicals......The trick here is the kneading time, as well as the intensity of the kneading as well as the kneading technique. This is very similar to making wrappers for Northern Chinese dumplings ( think of Kuo tieh, Sueh jiao, jin jiao etc.....which have no lye water....wrappers for these Northern style dumplings are instead simply made from dough formed with cold or hot water combined with good quality high protein flour..... ).

The longer you knead the dough made from this high gluten flour in Northern style lah mien, the more you "develop" the gluten, and the resulting noodles are firmer, more elastic and chewier......no need for chemicals.

Ramen, tsukemen, Cantonese wonton mien....are all sub classes of Lye water, or kansui (Japanese , or gansueh ( Cantonese ) noodles. These noodles tend to be far firmer and chewier than Northern style noodles, and these qualities are achieved with using BOTH, chemical and mechanical means.....chemical means, being an alkaline solution to chemically change the protein, and mechanical.....being long kneading.....

Dumpling skins used in Southern, or Cantonese sueh gao ( sueh jiao in the North ), and wonton are usually lye water treated to give elasticity and to give a bit of an "al dente " quality.....

cheers :-D

Ed


Edited by danjou (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Terribly interesting reading, explains so much of what I tasted/chewed over 18 years in Hong Kong and Japan. Picked up a bottle of Koon Chun lye water at the local Asian grocery witht he intent of making Tsukemen (ramen variation) noodles. Seems it contains Potassium Carbonate and baking soda. Love to know the concentration. Also gives instructions for rehydrating squid....

I don't personally have this information but I did try doing some google searches and came up with this blog that did some experimentation on using koon chun lye water and adjusting measurements to make ramen noodles.

http://norecipes.com/blog/homemade-ramen-noodle-recipe/

If you go to the preview pictures for modernist cuisine on amazon and look at the picture for pasta, you can see for ramen that 0.1% potassium carbonate and 0.9% sodium carbonate are "suggested" measurements (percentage of total weight of flour used). You could make a leap of faith and extrapolate from this that whatever the "correct" amount of lye water for ramen contains .9 % and .1% of total weight of flour of sodium and potassium carbonate respectively

I was unable to find the concentrations of potassium carbonate or sodium carbonate on Koon Chun's site, which is a little disconcerting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By Soul_Venom
      The best Chinese food restaurant I have ever been to is a place called the Imperial Buffet in Aberdeen SD. Their General Tso's is unlike the Tso's anywhere else. The closes comparison I could make is the Orange Chicken at the Panda Garden only 3x better. Their Lo-Mein Noodles are done with the skill of a master Italian pasta chef & perfectly seasoned. They also used to do a mean fried squid. I say used to because they had it when I lived in Aberdeen from 02-04 but didn't when I visited in 15'. One of their other discontinued specialties was a dish advertised as 'Golden Fried Cauliflower'. Note, this was NOT a breaded product. The cauliflower was cooked as though it had been boiled perfectly. It was not greasy as I recall but was a golden orange color as was the sauce it was evidently cooked in. I never could identify the flavors in that sauce. I wish I could describe it better but it has been well over a decade since I had it. Is anyone familiar with it or something similar? I can't seem to find anything like it online & all my searches just bring up links to breaded deep-fried crap.
    • By liuzhou
      An old friend from England contacted me yesterday via Facebook with a couple of questions about Five Spice Powder.

      Thought there me be some interest here, too.

      Is there anything more typically Chinese than five spice powder (五香粉 - wǔ xiāng fěn)?
       
      Well, yes. A lot.
       
      Many years ago, I worked in an office overlooking London’s China town. By around 11 am, the restaurants started getting lunch ready and the smell of FSP blanketed the area for the rest of the day. When I moved to China, I didn’t smell that. Only when I first visited Hong Kong, did I find that smell again.
       
      In fact, FSP is relatively uncommon in most of Chinese cuisine. And if I ever see another internet recipe called “Chinese” whatever, which is actually any random food, but the genius behind it has added FSP, supposedly rendering it Chinese, I’ll scream.

      I get all sorts of smells wafting through the neighbourhood. Some mouth-watering; some horrifying. But I don't recall ever that they were FSP.
       
      But what is it anyway? Which five spices?
       
      Today, I bought four samples in four local supermarkets. I would have would have preferred five, but couldn’t find any more. It's not that popular.
       
      First thing to say: none of them had five spices. All had more. That is normal. Numbers in Chinese can often be vague. Every time you hear a number, silently added the word ‘about’ or ‘approximately’. 100 km means “far”, 10,000 means “many”.
       
      Second, while there are some common factors, ingredients can vary quite a bit. Here are my four.

      1.


       
      Ingredients – 7
       
      Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Sand Ginger, Dried Ginger, Sichuan Peppercorns.
       
      2.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Cassia Bark, Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Coriander, Sichuan Peppercorn, Licorice Root.

      3.
       

       
      Ingredients – 15
       
      Fennel Seeds, Sichuan Peppercorns, Coriander, Tangerine Peel, Star Anise, Chinese Haw, Cassia Bark, Lesser Galangal, Dahurian Angelica, Nutmeg, Dried Ginger, Black Pepper, Amomum Villosum, Cumin Seeds, Cloves.

      4.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Pepper (unspecified – probably black pepper), Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, Cassia.
       
      So, take your pick. They all taste and smell almost overwhelmingly of the star anise and cassia, although there are subtle differences in taste in the various mixes.
       
      But I don’t expect to find it in many dishes in local restaurants or homes. A quick, unscientific poll of about ten friends today revealed that not one has any at home, nor have they ever used the stuff!
       
       
      I'm not suggesting that FSP shouldn't be used outside of Chinese food. Please just don't call the results Chinese when you sprinkle it on your fish and chips or whatever. They haven't miraculously become Chinese!

      Like my neighbours and friends, I very rarely use it at all.

      In fact, I'd be delighted to hear how it is used in other cultures / cuisines.
    • By liuzhou
      For the last several years Cindy's* job has been to look after me. She takes care of my residence papers, my health insurance, my travel, my housing and associated repairs. She makes sure that I am supplied with sufficient cold beer at official banquets. And she does it all with terrific efficiency and great humour.
       
      This weekend she held her wedding banquet.
       
      Unlike in the west, this isn't held immediately after the marriage is formalised. In fact, she was legally married months ago. But the banquet is the symbolic, public declaration and not the soul-less civil servant stamping of papers that the legal part entails.
      So tonight, along with a few hundred other people, I rolled up to a local hotel at the appointed time. In my pocket was my 'hong bao' or red envelope in which I had deposited a suitable cash gift. That is the Chinese wedding gift protocol. You don't get 12 pop-up toasters here.
       
      I handed it over, then settled down, at a table with colleagues, to a 17 or 18 course dinner.
       
      Before we started, I spotted this red bedecked jar. Shaking, poking and sniffing revealed nothing.
       
       
      A few minutes later, a waitress turned up and opened and emptied the jar into a serving dish. Spicy pickled vegetables. Very vinegary, very hot, and very addictive. Allegedly pickled on the premises, this was just to amuse us as we waited for the real stuff to arrive.
       
       
      Then the serious stuff arrived. When I said 17 courses, I really meant 17 dishes. Chinese cuisine doesn't really do courses. Every thing is served at roughly the same time. But we had:
       
      Quail soup which I neglected to photograph.
       
      Roast duck
       
      Braised turtle
       
      Sticky rice with beef (the beef is lurking underneath)
       
      Steamed chicken
       
      Spicy, crispy shell-on prawns.
       
      Steamed pork belly slices with sliced taro
       
      Spicy squid
       
      Noodles
       
      Chinese Charcuterie (including ducks jaws (left) and duck hearts (right))
       
      Mixed vegetables
       
      Fish
       
      Cakes
       
      Fertility soup! This allegedly increases your fertility and ensures the first born (in China, only born) is a son. Why they are serving to me is anyone's guess. It would make more sense for the happy couple to drink the lot.
       
      Greenery
       
      Jiaozi
       
      There was a final serving of quartered oranges, but I guess you have seen pictures of oranges before.
       
      The happy couple. I wish them well.
       
      *Cindy is the English name she has adopted. Her Chinese name is more than usually difficult to pronounce. Many Chinese friends consider it a real tongue-twister.
    • By liuzhou
      A few days ago, I was given a lovely gift. A big jar of preserved lemons.
       
      I know Moroccan preserved lemons, but had never met Chinese ones. In fact, apart from in the south, in many parts of China it isn't that easy to find lemons, at all.
       
      These are apparently a speciality of the southern Zhuang minority of Wuming County near Nanning. The Zhuang people are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live in Guangxi. These preserved lemons feature in their diet and are usually eaten with congee (rice porridge). Lemon Duck is a local speciality and they are also served with fish. They can be served as a relish, too. They are related to the Vietnamese Chanh muối.
       
      I'm told that these particular lemons have been soaking in salt and lemon juice for eleven years!
       

       

       
      So, of course, you want to know what they taste like. Incredibly lemony. Concentrated lemonness. Sour, but not unpleasantly so. Also a sort of smoky flavour.
       
      The following was provided by my dear friend 马芬洲 (Ma Fen Zhou) who is herself Zhuang. It is posted with her permission.
       
      How to Make Zhuang Preserved Lemons
      By 马芬洲
       
      Zhuang preserved lemons is a kind of common food for the southern Zhuang ethnic minority who live around Nanning Prefecture of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. The Zhuang people like to make it as a relish for eating with congee or congee with corn powder. This relish is a mixture of chopped preserved lemons, red chilli and garlic or ginger slice in soy sauce and peanut oil or sesame oil.
       

       
      Sometimes the Zhuang people use preserved lemons as an ingredient in cooking. The most famous Zhuang food in Guangxi is Lemon Duck, which is a common home cooked dish in Wuming County, which belongs to Nanning Prefecture.
       
      The following steps show you how to make Zhuang preserved lemons.
       
      Step 1 Shopping
      Buy some green lemons.
       
      Step 2 Cleaning
      Wash green lemons.
       
      Step 3 Sunning
      Leave green lemons under the sunshine till it gets dry.
       
      Step 4 Salting
      If you salt 5kg green lemons, mix 0.25kg salt with green lemons. Keep the salted green lemons in a transparent jar. The jar must be well sealed. Leave the jar under the sunshine till the salted green lemons turn yellow. For example, leave it on the balcony. Maybe it will take months to wait for those salted green lemons to turn yellow. Later, get the jar of salted yellow lemons back. Unseal the jar. Then cover 1kg salt over the salted yellow lemons. Seal well the jar again.
       
      Step 5 Preserving
      Keep the sealed jar of salted yellow lemons at least 3 years. And the colour of salted yellow lemons will turn brown day by day. It can be dark brown later. The longer you keep preserved lemons, the better taste it is. If you eat it earlier than 2 years, it will taste bitter. After 3 years, it can be unsealed. Please use clean chopsticks to pick it. Don’t use oily chopsticks, or the oil will make preserved lemons go bad. Remember to seal the jar well after picking preserved lemons every time.
    • By liuzhou
      Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, where I live, is sugar central for the country. Over two-thirds of China's output of sugar is grown right here, making it one of the largest sugar production areas on the planet. I have a second home in the countryside and it is surrounded by sugar cane fields.

      Much of this is produced by small time farmers, although huge Chinese and international companies have also moved in.
       
      Also, sugar is used extensively in Chinese cooking, not only as a sweetener, but more as a spice. A little added to a savoury dish can bring out otherwise hidden flavours. It also has medicinal attributes according to traditional Chinese medicine.
       
      Supermarkets have what was to me, on first sight, a huge range of sugars, some almost unrecognisable. Here is a brief introduction to some of them. Most sugar is sold loose, although corner shops and mom 'n pop stores may have pre-packed bags. These are often labelled in English as "candy", the Chinese language not differentiating between "sugar" and "candy" - always a source of confusion. Both are 糖 (táng),

      IMPORTANT NOTE: The Chinese names given here and in the images are the names most used locally. They are all Mandarin Chinese, but it is still possible that other names may be used elsewhere in China. Certainly, non-Mandarin speaking areas will be different.

      By the far the simplest way to get your sugar ration is to buy the unprocessed sugar cane. This is not usually available in supermarkets but is a street vendor speciality. In the countryside, you can buy it at the roadside. There are also people in markets etc with portable juice extractors who will sell you a cup of pure sugar cane juice.


       
      I remember being baffled then amused when, soon after I first arrived in China, someone asked me if I wanted some 甘蔗 (gān zhè). It sounded exactly like 'ganja' or cannabis. No such luck! 甘蔗 (gān zhè) is 'sugar cane'.
       
      The most common sugar in the supermarkets seems to be 冰糖 (bīng táng) which literally means 'ice 'sugar' and is what we tend to call 'rock sugar' or 'crystal sugar'. This highly refined sugar comes in various lump sizes although the price remains the same no matter if the pieces are large or small. Around ¥7/500g. That pictured below features the smaller end of the range.


       
      Related to this is what is known as 冰片糖 (bīng piàn táng) which literally means "ice slice sugar". This is usually slightly less processed (although I have seen a white version, but not recently) and is usually a pale brown to yellow colour. This may be from unprocessed cane sugar extract, but is often white sugar coloured and flavoured with added molasses. It is also sometimes called 黄片糖  (huáng piàn táng) or "yellow slice sugar". ¥6.20/500g.
       


      A less refined, much darker version is known as 红片糖 (hóng piàn táng), literally 'red slice sugar'. (Chinese seems to classify colours differently - what we know as 'black tea' is 'red tea' here. ¥7.20/500g.


       
      Of course, what we probably think of as regular sugar, granulated sugar is also available. Known as 白砂糖 (bái shā táng), literally "white sand sugar', it is the cheapest at  ¥3.88/500g.



      A brown powdered sugar is also common, but again, in Chinese, it isn't brown. It's red and simply known as 红糖 (hóng táng). ¥7.70/500g


       
      Enough sweetness and light for now. More to come tomorrow.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.