Saturday, July 01, 2006

Stocking Your Shelves For Chinese Cooking

Stocking Your Shelves For Chinese Cooking

Here is a list of the "Basic Ingredients And Utensils"
you need to cook Chinese food.

Basic Ingredients

1. Celery - Regular celery works well in stir-fries.

2. Chinese Rice Wine - It adds flavor and is good
for removing strong odors, such as fish.

3.Chinese Dried Black Mushrooms - Found in bins in
Asian markets. cheaper brands work fine in soups
and stir-fries.

4. Cornstarch - Used in stews, marinades, and as a
thickener. Can substitute for tapioca starch in recipes.

5. Garlic - Along with ginger, it is often used to season cooking oil.

6. Gingerroot - Always use fresh ginger unless the
recipe states otherwise.

7. Green Onion (Also known as spring onions) -
Often used as a garnish. If you don't care
for the taste of raw green onions, combine them
with the other ingredients in the wok just before serving.

8. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) - Optional.
If a recipe calls for MSG and you don't want to use
it, try a bit of sugar as a substitute. If you're out
of MSG, substitute Accent.

9. Oyster Sauce - The cheaper brands are fine for
use in stir-fries; stick to the more expensive
brands for dips.

10.Rice - Long grain for meals; short grain
or "sticky" rice for desserts or snacks.
For something different, try a scented rice,
such as jasmine.

11. Sesame Oil - Used as a flavoring in stir-fries
and soups.

12. Soy Sauce - both light and dark. The bottles are
not always clearly labeled, but you can tell by
holding it up to the light - dark soy sauce is
thicker and darker.

13. Vegetable Oil for frying - It's healthier and has
a higher smoking point than peanut oil. Also,
peanut oil goes rancid sooner, which can be a
problem if you don't cook Chinese food often.

14. Other Items You May Want To Have On Hand:

Black Bean Sauce
Chile Paste, Chile Sauce
Fish Sauce (Southeast Asian)
Hoisin Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Plum Sauce
Sweet And Sour Sauce
Hot Chili Oil
Rice Vinegar
Rice Wine
Dry Sherry (a common substitute for rice wine)
Sesame Oil (also called sesame seed oil)
Soy Sauce, Light
Soy Sauce, Dark


1. Chopsticks - Use in the kitchen for stir-frying
and mixing ingredients.

2. Cutting Board - Wood or acrylic are best.

3. Knife - for cutting and chopping

4. Wide blade Spatula - for stir-frying

5. Wok - Carbon Steel is best.**

*(Assuming you already have other basic cooking tools and supplies)

**For electric ranges, it is better to have a flat-
bottomed wok, as a round-bottomed wok may
reflect back and damage the heating element.

You'll want to add items as you go along - such
as a cleaver and a bamboo steamer - but this will
get you started. There are many dishes you can
prepare with these basic supplies.

A Few Tips

If possible, go to an Asian marketplace for Asian
vegetables. They will be less expensive, and the
produce may be fresher.

When preparing a dish, put all your cut vegetables
on a large platter. (A flat baking tray is ideal.)
When stir-frying, the individual vegetables are
added separately,ensuring that none are
overcooked or undercooked. However, if you
put the vegetables on separate plates until
needed, you'll wind up with a lot of extra
dishes to wash.

Don't put any condiments on the table. In many
restaurants in Asia, the chef will become quite
upset if he sees a customer drowning the food in
soy or Worcestershire sauce. Chances are, if you
leave the condiments in the cupboard your family
won't even miss them.

Chinese Sauces And Seasonings - Storage Instructions

Must Be Refrigerated after Opening

Black Bean Sauce
Chile Paste, Chile Sauce
Fish Sauce (Southeast Asian)
Hoisin Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Plum Sauce
Sweet And Sour Sauce

Can Be Stored in the Cupboard

Hot Chili Oil
Rice Vinegar
Rice Wine
Dry Sherry (a common substitute for rice wine)
Sesame Oil (also called sesame seed oil)
Soy Sauce, Light
Soy Sauce, Dark

Storing Chinese Sauces And Seasonings:

Always keep the container tightly sealed (this is
especially important for sauce that needs to be
refrigerated). Store non-refrigerated sauce
away from direct heat and light

There is nothing wrong with storing a sauce like
soy sauce in the refrigerator instead of the
cupboard. In fact, the sauce may keep its flavor
longer. It's just that refrigeration is not required.

What about canned sauce?
If you shop at Asian markets, you may find
certain types of sauce, such as sweet and sour
sauce, sold in cans as well as bottles.

For canned sauce, place in a sealed container
after opening and refrigerate.

What is the shelf life of different types of Chinese sauce?
It varies, depending on the type of sauce and even
the specific brand. Properly stored, all sauces
should have a shelf life of at least three months.

What are the main signs that a sauce is starting to
go bad?
In general, a change in flavor and/or color is the
first indication that a sauce is beginning to lose its

For more specific tips, I turned to the experts.
Sandra Gin of Asian Family Products offers the
following advice on refrigerated sauce: "I suggest
that once the sauce lid is opened, you should
always refrigerate the sauce instead of leaving
the sauce out on the kitchen counter top where
warm conditions can easily form bacteria.
If the sauce is refrigerated, the oyster sauce or
hoisin sauce can be kept for up to 3-6 months.

Obviously, the sooner you can consume the sauce,
the better it is and the less likely bacteria will build
inside the sauce.

Some signs you can look for sauces going bad
include the formation of bacteria (white or
green fuzzy ball), water separated from the
thickening agents binding the sauce, and a
bad sauce odor."

When it comes to soy sauce, I received the
following advice from the Consumer
Department at Kikkoman. While the comments
refer specifically to Kikkoman soy sauce, in
general they should be applicable to other soy
sauce brands:

"For the freshest tasting sauce, we recommend
using Kikkoman Soy Sauce within three to six
months after opening. The sauce is still safe to use
beyond this time but the quality may not be at its best.

Once opened, the freshness and flavor of the
sauce will slowly deteriorate. Therefore, we also
recommend refrigerating the soy sauce after
opening. Refrigeration helps the flavor and quality
characteristics remain at their peak for a longer
period. In addition, our soy sauce will not spoil if
it is not refrigerated but its quality will decline faster.

A fresh bottle of Kikkoman Soy Sauce should have a
piquant flavor and reddish-brown color. When
opened and exposed to air, naturally brewed
soy sauce will darken and become stronger in
flavor and aroma over time.

This is the result of oxidation. Although this is not
harmful in any way, it will cause the quality to
decline. With an older bottle, the sauce may
appear darker in color and have a strong,
heavier taste. We believe the flavor of our soy
sauce is at its peak when the bottle is first opened."

1 comment:

Diaz Howard said...

WOW (impressed look). Your version looks so yummy.

Here I bought a sauce pack for mapo tofu so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.