To make the perfect authentic Chinese dish, you need the right temperament, the right tools, and naturally, the right ingredients. All of these are of utmost importance in a Chinese kitchen, and if you are turning your very own kitchen into one, they are not just luxuries, but absolute essentials.
Some recipes will suggest easy substitutions and similar ingredients, but the taste will always differ, and you will be deprived of the perfect Chinese platter. It is the real thing, after all, that makes all the difference, even if it is something as simple as soy sauce.
Duck Sauce is not, as its name suggests, made of duck. It is actually made from plums. But the sauce does share a relationship with ducks, considering it was a dip made for roasted duck. Plums are the main ingredient, coupled with secondary ingredients such as vinegar, ginger and sugar, giving this sauce its sweet, tangy taste.
Chinese five spice powder packs a powerful punch. It has a simple base, but the final powder is most unusual in Western cooking. You cannot get the wallop of the five spice powder with any substitutions. Consisting of star anise, fennel seed, Schezuan pepper, cinnamon and cloves, even the smallest pinch of this powder can awaken the flavour of any meat, vegetable and fruit.
This sauce, like most Chinese sauces, is known for the salty, bold flavour it contains. Black beans are pureed and seasoned with other ingredients such as garlic, flour and ginger. It is used sparingly in the preparation of stir-fried meats and vegetables.
Chinese food is cooked predominantly in sesame oil, whether the dish is centred on fish, mushrooms, lobster or vegetables. Sesame oil can add a lot of aroma to the dish. It is also light and can be used in cold dishes, dressings and dipping sauces. However, it has to be used in small quantities as the aroma can overpower the other ingredients. For that extra zing, add a splash of sesame oil while plating your dish.
Photo courtesy of Royalty-free Google images
With a pungent, citrus-y aroma, Sichuan peppercorns simply have no replacement. Though the name suggests it, these peppercorns are not really peppers, but the outer pod of a fruit. They can be wok-roasted, cooked in oil or mixed with salt as a condiment. Try some of our Asian Recipes and incorporate these ingredients to get the perfect Chinese dishes.
Find your nearest Asian Store