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hzrt8w

A pictorial guide to Chinese cooking ingredients

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Wonderful topic, thank you!  Could you also include clues about how to choose veggies that we did not grow up eating?  For example, lotus roots or bitter melons or....(the list goes on indefinitely.....)

Sure... time permitting.

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I'm waiting patiently for the beans to come up. I bought some chili bean sauce in Singapore, and some black beans so I could make mabodofu. But I think I bought the wrong kind of black beans....

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Hi Everyone:

Thanks for such enthusiastic feedbacks. I have just made 2 enhancements to the template:

1. I have added a link to a webpage (under a website which I have set up for storing Chinese sound clips) for the pronounciations of each item. So far I recorded only the Cantonese pronounications. When you click on each link, it should play the corresponding sound clip on your computer through your favorite MP3 player software. (Remember to turn up the volume and put in unmute). If you are curious about how an item sounds like in Chinese, go back to the modified posts and follow the links.

I am seeking for a native Mandarin speaker who is interested to record the Mandarin version of these sound clips for us. Anybody who is interested to record these clips, please PM me.

The idea is you should be able to go to an Asian grocery market, show the workers the Chinese characters, the pictures, and play the sound clips if necessary to help you locate the item. Your Palm pilot or other handheld devices would come in handy.

2. I have added a "Storage suggestions" field to suggest how to store the ingredients once the bottle/package is opened. This should help you store the ingredients in the long run.

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I'm waiting patiently for the beans to come up.  I bought some chili bean sauce in Singapore, and some black beans so I could make mabodofu.  But I think I bought the wrong kind of black beans....

Noisiest birdie gets the worms... :laugh::laugh: I will move up the publishing schedule of ingredients questioned in this thread.

Are these fermented black beans you were referring to?

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Worth noting - the best shaoxing for my cooking i've found is Pagoda Brand, with the Blue label - it is usually clled Hua Tiao Chiew.

This is the original Shaoxing, made in Zhejiang province and is a great sipping wine as well - although if I am drinking it, I stick with the $20+ bottles in ceramic urns - it is aged far longer and is absolutely wonderful with any Chinese meal.

I think to use a US$20+ bottle of Hua Tiao Chiew for cooking may be an overkill. But... if you like it.

I have purchased the $20+ Hua Tiao and did a taste test side-by-side with a $6.00 bottle ShaoHsing wine. For the life of me I could not tell the taste difference.

Described in this post.

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Noisiest birdie gets the worms...  :laugh:  :laugh:  I will move up the publishing schedule of ingredients questioned in this thread. 

Are these fermented black beans you were referring to?

Well, my teachers always did say I talked too much! Actually, they worded it in a much kinder way--I was actually a pretty nice kid!

Someone wrote that you could use black beans instead of brown bean sauce in mabodofu, so when I was in Singapore, I bought some black beans. Except I think I bought the wrong kind. Someone told me to buy the kind in a bag, so I did, but they're just plain old black beans--rather hard, actually. I might break my tooth on one if I put it in mabodofu! The fermented black beans were in a jar, and there were some salted black beans (I think) in a bag, too. But I didn't buy those.

Now I'm wondering what to do with these black beans!

I also bought some chicken rice mix, chicken rice sauce, chili bean sauce (for the mabodofu), salted threadfin (two jars!), and I'm sure there was something else, I just can't remember now.

And yesterday I saw some mabodofu-specific tofu at my favourite grocery store!

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Someone wrote that you could use black beans instead of brown bean sauce in mabodofu, so when I was in Singapore, I bought some black beans.  Except I think I bought the wrong kind.  Someone told me to buy the kind in a bag, so I did, but they're just plain old black beans--rather hard, actually.  I might break my tooth on one if I put it in mabodofu!

Hmmm.... I think you might have bought the actual black beans. The fermented black beans are not really black beans. They are soya beans (yellow) which have gone through the fermentation process, which turn them black.

The real black beans are, like all beans, rather hard. Don't feel despair, you can use them in making soup.

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are the dried scallops usually that expensive??? I was going to get some whenever I went to the dry goods store, but they have all different grades, just like the dried seacucumber that I got (and had problems soaking....), I found a little bag of small dried scallops for US$8.00, which would probably equal to about 6 medium sized dried scallops. can someone tell me the different grades? and what prices seem reasonable for these items.

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[...] I found a little bag of small dried scallops for US$8.00, which would probably equal to about 6 medium sized dried scallops. can someone tell me the different grades? and what prices seem reasonable for these items.

The dried conpoys/scallops shown in the pictures of my pictorial recipes were bought in China Town San Francisco. On average, they are about US$0.40 to $0.50 a piece. Those are about medium size I would say. If yours are of a higher grade, they can be priced higher.

What to look for? A whole one instead of broken ones or ones that have big cracks or chips. Bigger size is always better than smaller size. The color should be natural orange brown and not pale brown or white-ish brown.

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Picture:

gallery_19795_2352_30295.jpg

English name: Fermented Black Bean, or Salted Black Bean

Chinese name:豆豉

Chinese pronounciations: (Click here)

Category: Seasoning

Usage: Cooking

Description: Fermented (salted) black beans are used very often in Cantonese style cooking. They are typically mixed with crushed/minced garlic into a paste in making stir-frying and steaming dishes. Commonly used on beef, pork, chicken and seafood. They are not really "black beans". They are soya beans that have gone through a fermentation process with salt added. They taste soft and salty. (Not suitable for consuming uncooked.)

Where to find it: Asian grocery market, dry goods section

Shopping tips: Fermented black beans are very generic. They taste about the same from different brands. Buy those that are packed in a clear plastic bag where you can see the beans. (Some brands may contain very dry fermented black beans - not good.) Squeeze the beans and feel them. They should be soft to the touch (moist) and can be crushed easily. Don't buy those that are dry and hard, and crack when squeezed. A package of 8 oz typically sells for around US$1.00 to $1.50.

Storage suggestions: Store in a dry place at room temperature.


Edited by hzrt8w (log)

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Picture:

gallery_19795_2352_1895.jpg

English name: Chili Bean Sauce, Fermented Chili Bean Sauce

Chinese name: 辣豆瓣醬

Chinese pronounciations: (Click here)

Category: Cooking sauce

Usage: Cooking

Description: Fermented Chili Bean Sauce, or simply Chili Bean Sauce, is an important sauce in most Chinese cooking. It is usually used in conjunction with other sauces (such as soy sauce, brown bean sauce) and aromatics (such as garlic, onion, ginger, green onion) for many stir-fried dishes. It is basically fermented soya beans with salt and chili mixed in. It tastes very salty and a bit hot.

Where to find it: Asian grocery market, sauce section

Shopping tips: Chili Bean Sauces are very generic. They taste about the same from different brands. In California, a jar of 4 oz typically sells for around US$2.00 to $3.00.

Storage suggestions: Store at room temperature should be fine. Or you may store the jar in the refrigerator after opened.


Edited by hzrt8w (log)

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Can you discuss salted vegetables? I know there's alot of em...but I only know how to use one of the many, kiam chay(Hokkien/salted mustard). And there are others that are kinda wet, some are dry, some slightly moist with salt crystals forming on it. so in what recipe's do you use these?

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Can you discuss salted vegetables? I know there's alot of em...but I only know how to use one of the many, kiam chay(Hokkien/salted mustard). And there are others that are kinda wet, some are dry, some slightly moist with salt crystals forming on it. so in what recipe's do you use these?

There was a lot of discussion on this ingredient a while ago. Ah Leung could pull up the thread and post link.

I use these "preserved vegetables" for steaming with pork or beef, and also, the ham choi, I throw into lotus root/octopus soup. I especially like the stalk and leaf parts in the soup.

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Can you discuss salted vegetables? I know there's alot of em...but I only know how to use one of the many, kiam chay(Hokkien/salted mustard). And there are others that are kinda wet, some are dry, some slightly moist with salt crystals forming on it. so in what recipe's do you use these?

This question has been asked and discussed before. Check out the following series of notes:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1035147

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Picture:

gallery_19795_2352_9135.jpg

English name: Ground Bean Sauce, Brown Bean Sauce

Chinese name: 磨豉醬,原磨豉

Chinese pronounciations: (Click here)

Category: Cooking sauce

Usage: Marination, Cooking

Description: Ground Bean Sauce is an important sauce in Chinese cooking. It is made from soya beans, flour and sugar. It is usually used in conjunction with other sauces (such as soy sauce) and aromatics (such as garlic, onion, ginger, green onion) for many stir-fried dishes. It is also used in meat marination for Cantonese barbeques (such as roast pork, barbequed pork, roast duck, etc.). It tastes a bit salty and full of bean flavor, very similar to Japanese miso soup paste.

Where to find it: Asian grocery market, sauce section

Shopping tips: Ground Bean Sauces are very generic. They taste about the same from different brands. My favorite brand is Koon Chun. In California, a jar (about 12 oz) sells for around US$2.00.

Storage suggestions: Store at room temperature should be fine. Or you may store the jar in the refrigerator after opened.

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Picture:

gallery_19795_2352_24060.jpg

English name: Shrimp Sauce

Chinese name: 蝦醬

Chinese pronounciations: (Clicke here)

Category: Cooking sauce

Usage: Cooking, condiment

Description: Shrimp Sauce is commonly used in Cantonese-style stir-fried dishes with seafood (e.g. squid), beef, and steamed dishes with pork. It is made with small shrimp, fermented and ground. It tastes very salty and has a strong fishy smell.

Where to find it: Asian grocery market, sauce section

Shopping tips: Shrimp Sauces are very generic. They taste about the same from different brands. My favorite brand is Koon Chun. In California, a jar (about 12 oz) typically sells for around US$2.00 to $3.00.

Storage suggestions: Store at room temperature should be fine.

For more information: A sample recipe that uses Shrimp Sauce:

Squid Stir-Fried with Shrimp Sauce (蝦醬炒鮮鱿)

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Picture:

gallery_19795_2352_8000.jpg

English name: Plum Sauce

Chinese name: 酸梅醬

Chinese pronounciations: (Click here)

Category: Cooking sauce

Usage: Marination, cooking, condiment

Description: Plum Sauce is commonly used as a condiment in Cantonese barbeques and appetizer such as fried egg rolls and fried wonton. It is also used in some Cantonese steamed and stir-fried dishes. It is made from plums: cooked and mixed with sugar. It tastes a bit like fruit jams, very sweet and fruity.

Where to find it: Asian grocery market, sauce section

Shopping tips: From my experience, the taste of Plum Sauces from different makes vary quite a bit. You may need to try different brands to find the one that pleases you. My favorite brand is Lee Kum Kee, and second favorite is Koon Chun. In California, a jar (about 12 oz) typically sells for around US$2.00 to $3.00.

Storage suggestions: Store in the refrigerator after the jar is opened.

For more information: A sample recipe which uses Plum Sauce:

Steamed Pork Spareribs with Plum Sauce (梅子蒸排骨)

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Which Chinese ingredients are soaked in water before use and for how long? Some people have told me to soak black beans, other people do not soak them. Do you use the liquid from soaking dried scallops or other ingredients when cooking?

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Which Chinese ingredients are soaked in water before use and for how long?

It depends on the ingredients. Some takes longer time than others.

RE: Some people have told me to soak black beans, other people do not soak them.

I assumed you were referring to the fermented black beans. If you can get some good ones, they are soft to the touch and can be smashed easily. Those you don't need soaking. If they are hard and dry, which is not recommended anyway, then they would need to be soaked maybe for 30 minutes or so.

RE: Do you use the liquid from soaking dried scallops or other ingredients when cooking?

Again, it depends on the ingredients. You can gradually build up your knowledge by trial-and-error.

Dried scallops: Best soaked overnight. Or 4-5 hours minimum. Or else they remain hard. I use the soaking liquid.

Dried black mushrooms: 2-3 hours soaking recommended. I don't use the soaking liquid though many people do.

Dried fungi (e.g. cloud ear), dried Lily buds: 1-2 hours soaking. Don't use soaking liquid.

Dried oysters: 1-2 hour soaking. Don't use soaking liquid.

In general I don't use the soaking liquid. Dried scallop is pretty much my only exception.

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English name: Plum Sauce

Chinese name: 酸梅醬

Chinese pronounciations: (Click here)

Category: Cooking sauce

Usage: Marination, cooking, condiment

Description: Plum Sauce is commonly used as a condiment in Cantonese barbeques and appetizer such as fried egg rolls and fried wonton.  It is also used in some Cantonese steamed and stir-fried dishes.  It is made from plums: cooked and mixed with sugar.  It tastes a bit like fruit jams, very sweet and fruity.

Is there a substitute you can suggest for Plum Sauce? I wanted to make the Sweet and Sour Spareribs (using pork), but haven't been able to find plum sauce, yet. I'm still looking, though...

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Is there a substitute you can suggest for Plum Sauce?  I wanted to make the Sweet and Sour Spareribs (using pork), but haven't been able to find plum sauce, yet.  I'm still looking, though...

This may be considered "unChinese" for some... but I suggest that you may use Apricot Jam as a substitue for Plum Sauce. If you do, add more vinegar since Jam doesn't taste sour like the Plum Sauce does.

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This may be considered "unChinese" for some... but I suggest that you may use Apricot Jam as a substitue for Plum Sauce.  If you do, add more vinegar since Jam doesn't taste sour like the Plum Sauce does.

And I just happen to have some apricot jam!

I'm not giving in on my search yet, though. I'm sure Chinese Plum Sauce exists somewhere in Japan! There may even be a Japanese version, but I'm always wary of Japanese versions of Chinese foods--they just don't have the flavours I'm used to.

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Which Chinese ingredients are soaked in water before use and for how long?

RE: Some people have told me to soak black beans, other people do not soak them.

RE: Do you use the liquid from soaking dried scallops or other ingredients when cooking?

I use the soaking liquid from most dried ingredients other than the black moss, wood ear and lily buds.

With the liquids that I do use, I make sure I wash the ingredients first to remove any dirt, etc. before soaking. Then it's good to use.

With the stronger flavoured ingredients, if you throw out the soaking liquid, you lose the flavour, especially with items like oysters, dong goo.

I usually stir-fry fishy items like oysters with ginger and a little pepper to remove any fishiness, but retains the flabvour before adding to a dish.

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If there should be any sand left in the dried mushroom soaking liquid, it will settle to the bottom of the bowl, and the clear liquid can be easily poured off.

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Yes, dried shrimp comes in many sizes.  The general rule is: the bigger the size the more expensive for obvious reasons.  As far as which ones are better, I think it is more a personal preference.  Theoretically the bigger the size the better.  But sometimes they might be a bit hard.  I personally like the tiny ones.  They seems to be more flavorful and easier to cook.  These tiny ones are the size of a dime.

The tiny ones are traditionally used in Malaysian and Indonesian food. If you're making recipes from those countries, unless otherwise specified, "dried shrimp" means the tiny little ones. Very salty, but a very good flavoring in appropriate dishes.

Also, the tiny ones are often called "ha mai" in Cantonese (I think it refers to the size of the shrimp ("ha" meaning shrimp, "mai" meaning uncooked rice). The really big dried shrimp (they're not circular and are flatter) are called "ha gon" in Cantonese ("gon" meaning dry/dried). These are less salty, much sweeter, meatier, shelled and more expensive. Flattened, they are about 1.5 inches in length.

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