Chinese food brings to mind the bright colors, rich aroma and strong flavors. Be it the crunchy stir fried vegetables and meats or the long list of sauces and condiments, almost all the dishes have strong flavors that can be distinctly associated with Chinese cuisine. That’s because most of the ingredients used in Chinese cooking are extremely versatile and are used in almost every dish. Stocking some of the commonly used ingredients can be very handy. You will save a lot of time and also get the best results. So if you are planning to cook something Chinese at home, make sure you have all the basic ingredients with you before you start cooking.
1. The wok. This is like the backbone of Chinese cooking. This incredibly versatile pan is truly indispensable and any kind of stir-fry without a wok would only mean Chinese food minus the crunchiness and flavor.
2. Soy sauce is another absolute must. You cannot do without a bottle of Soy in your kitchen. It forms the base for seasoning, not only adds color and flavor to the food, but also blends very well with meats, fish or vegetables. Soy sauce could also be used as a dipping condiment or table sauce.
3. Fresh vegetables (as fresh as possible) form an essential part of Chinese cuisine. Almost all recipes include fresh vegetables which is why Chinese food looks so appealing. Keep stock of commonly used vegetables like Cabbage, Capsicum, Snow Peas, Carrots, Bamboo Shoots, Bean sprouts, Broccoli and of course the indispensable spring onions.
4. Chinese Black Vinegar is used in stir-fries, dipping sauces and braises. It is dark colored vinegar, somewhat like Balsamic vinegar, but made from sticky rice and malt. Sometimes people use other types of vinegar or sherry as a substitute for black vinegar, but you may not get the authentic Chinese taste.
5. Sesame Oil is popular with oriental and Chinese cooking, especially for stir-fries and salads. Sesame Oil gives a distinct flavour to the food, but burns easily; hence it’s never used for long cooking. It’s usually used for quick tossing or just drizzled over salads and food before serving. The oriental sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds; the non-toasted version is not a good substitute.
6. Chicken or vegetable stock: Chinese recipes have chicken stock or vegetable stock as the base for gravies and soups. It would be a good idea to prepare the stock and store it in the freezer for your convenience.
7. Chilies, both green and red chilies are extensively used in Chinese dishes, especially the Sichuan cuisine from china. Chili Sauce made from fresh red chilies is also an important ingredient of several Chinese recipes.
8. Ginger adds spice, flavour and aroma to the food.
9. Pepper, whether freshly ground or powdered, is always used in almost all Chinese recipes. White pepper is more popularly used due to its strong flavour.
10. Garlic is such an important ingredient of Chinese food, you cannot even think of not having it in your kitchen. Garlic is prominently used in Sichuan and Northern style Chinese cooking.