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Aug 30, 2005 12:39 PM

Help Me Decipher All the Dried Roots and Fish at the Chinese Groceries

  • l

Hello. I just moved to Chinatown in NYC, and have a question about some of the things I see in the markets. There are many storefronts in Chinatown with huge barrels of dried fish and shrimp and roots and twige. Are these for cooking or medicinal? What sorts of things might they be used for?

What about the dried scallops and squid I see in the food markets? How are these used?

If there's a site on the web that had pictures and uses for any of these things, I'd love to see it.

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  1. The dried fish and scallop and shrimp are for cooking, although there is an extensive overlap between food and medicine.

    The dried scallop is great for soup especially and other dishes also. You take a couple and soak them in water and use them in soup. It has a very strong flavor. It's also good for fried rice, scramble eggs, stews, etc. I have only used the dried squids in soups.

    1 Reply
    1. re: peter

      Check out this recipe for one way to use the dried squid:

    2. There's an excellent paperback book you might want to get ahold of, "The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" by Linda Bladholm. There's drawings, and brand info for packaged goods, it's GREAT.

      Maybe they'd have it at The Museum of the Chinese in the Americas (on Mulberry St)

      1 Reply
      1. re: pitu

        The Strand often has copies of books from that series (there are three that I know of.)

      2. you might get some help at

        1. I know this is an old thread but this ingredient guide with pictures may be of help to someone:

          1. Most of the things you see at the markets are for cooking. Some of them also have medicinal uses but strictly medicinal items are more likely to be sold at the herbalist shops.
            A lot of the roots and things will be items like ginger, ginseng, lotus, bellflower, dried fiddle head fern, lilies, and literally hundreds of other wild and domestic edible plants.
            There is a Korean Cooking blog at that has some good recipes.