Soy sauce is the most iconic and well-known Chinese pantry essential product that you probably already have in stock. Many Chinese dishes use this ingredient, and today, many Western chefs add soy sauce to their pantry arsenal to add more umami to their dishes. Black rice vinegar is as essential to Chinese cuisine as soy sauce, but it's not as popular outside of China. It contributes to many classic dishes, such as salad dressings, noodles, stir-fries, soups, dipping sauces, etc.
Hoisin (, hai xian jiang) sauce is a dark, thick sauce made mainly of sugar and soy. It is commonly used in Cantonese cuisine, a key ingredient for making Char Siu pork and Char Siu rolls. It's also a popular dipping sauce that's ideal for vegetables and roasted meat. There are a lot of tasty flavors in Chinese cuisine, thanks to the rich condiments used in most dishes.
From soy sauce to rice wine, here are nine essential sauces and condiments you won't want to run out of. Soy sauce, omnipresent in Chinese cuisine, is used in marinades, sauces, as a sauce and more. Light soy sauce (also called fine soy sauce) is lighter and saltier, while dark soy sauce has a darker color and richer flavor. You'll want to have both on hand.
The following recipes show how soy sauce is used in marinades, sauces and how it is cooked in dishes. This thick, dark brown sauce is known for its spicy and slightly sweet flavor with just a little bit of spice. Hoisin sauce is used in sauces, for marinating meat, especially pork, and as a sauce. It is famous as an accompaniment to Peking duck (diners spread hoisin sauce on the thin pancakes served with the duck).
Here are some recipes that show how to use hoisin sauce in stir-fries and other dishes. Indispensable in Chinese cuisine, rice wine is used as a softener in marinades, to add flavor to sauces and in many dishes. Fortunately, good-quality rice wine is becoming increasingly available. However, pale dry sherry is a good substitute.
Are you struggling to find rice wine? Get some suggested replacements. While there are exceptions, most Chinese vinegar is based on rice. Generally milder and with a more subtle flavor than Western vinegar, Chinese rice vinegar is a key ingredient in several recipes, including bittersweet and bittersweet dishes, and is used as a sauce. The three most common types of Chinese rice vinegar are white, red and black rice vinegar.
Of the three, white rice vinegar (also called simply rice vinegar) is the easiest to find and is often available in major grocery stores. Balsamic vinegar is an acceptable substitute for black rice vinegar if needed. Made with oyster extract and spices (and often thickened with cornstarch and added caramel for color), oyster sauce is used to enhance existing flavors and add a darker color to dishes. A vegetarian version of oyster sauce, made with mushrooms, is also available.
All it takes is a small amount of this dark-colored oil, made from pressed and toasted sesame seeds, to add flavor to marinades, sauces and cooked dishes. Asian sesame oil is generally not used as cooking oil, both because of its strong flavor and its relatively low smoke point compared to other oils such as peanut oil. Hoisin Sauce Hoisin sauce (hṛixiān jiàng,) is a thick, dark condiment with a sweet and salty taste. This Chinese pantry staple is made with fermented soy paste, as well as additional condiments such as garlic, chilies, and sesame.
Also known as sweet bean sauce (tián miàn jiàng,), this essential pantry staple is made of wheat flour, sugar, salt and fermented yellow soybeans. As the name suggests, the sauce is a little sweeter than other salty bean pasta. Some brands and recipes use the terms hoisin sauce and sweet bean sauce interchangeably, but in general, commercial Hoisin sauces are thinner, lighter, and sweeter than a traditional sweet bean sauce. One of the most delicious ways to use Hoisin is with Moo Shu pork (spread on the delicate pancake before filling it).
I learn a lot from you about Chinese cuisine, Maggie. I love how you make everything so easy to understand. With them, you can prepare many delicious dishes that reflect what good Chinese food really is and how simple it can be. Chinese cuisine is a melting pot of fresh ingredients, condiments and spices from different regions with varied topography, climate and historical backgrounds.
It is usually used together with light soy sauce for braising and sometimes for sautéing, to add an appetizing dark brown color to a dish. And how I used these three aromatic ingredients and some Chinese sauces to turn poached chicken into a feast in my Bang Bang chicken recipe (many readers have told me that it's now their favorite Game Day snack). After obtaining these basic Chinese ingredients, you can cook a wide variety of Chinese dishes by combining them with other ingredients that you can find in an average grocery store. While black pepper () is more common in Western cuisine, white pepper is more common in Chinese cuisine.
Chili and Garlic Paste Made with chili pepper, garlic, rice vinegar, and salt, this staple from the Chinese pantry is spicy and fragrant, and will be kept in the fridge for months. Not to be confused with regular chili pasta or sauce, this thick and spicy chili bean sauce is made with chilies, fermented soybeans, and often fermented beans and a variety of condiments. Ginger/ground ginger powder or jiāng fěn () is a must-have item in your pantry for Chinese baking and cooking. Dark soy sauce, or Lao Chou (), tastes less salty and slightly sweet, and has a thicker texture and darker color.
When you're new to Chinese cuisine and find a recipe you want to prepare, it can be difficult to find a local source for some of the ingredients. To cook Chinese food in the comfort of your kitchen, you should start by creating a collection of pantry items. On the other hand, if you love North Chinese cuisine, also check out Shan Xi vinegar (sometimes called aged vinegar or ripe vinegar). In very basic terms, “fish sauce” is a fine and very salty liquid that is added as an element of salt to dishes.