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peanut oil in china: is it number #1 cooking oil?

  • j

The question really is what type of oil is used in most Chinese cooking in China. Is it peanut oil--which is what I generally use at home--or is it some other type of oil? And would there be a difference in a high end restaurant versus a street vender?

My curiousity relates to peanut allergies and the likelihood of sending an allergic person into distress were they to consume something prepared with peanut oil. If odds are good that everything in China is cooked in peanut oil, then I guess an allergic person should probably pack a lot to eat but if it is unusual because of cost well, then perhaps not.

Thanks!

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  1. I believe that the most commonly used cooking oil in China is still rapeseed oil, the ancestor of Canola oil. Soy oil may be second. Don't think peanut oil is used that much, though please don't go by my word.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gary Soup

      If rapeseed oil has a high smoking tempature and is fairly inexpensive then you are likely correct. I think in the US, rapeseed oil is not very easy to come by but peanut oil is which might explain its prevalence in Chinese restaurants in the US and in US cookbooks.

      I certainly couldn't tell by taste when in China though the oil in use was clearly not mustard or olive.

      Not to fear: no one will be eatting and dying--its really more for a story line.

      thanks!

      1. re: jenn

        In the US rapeseed oil is also called Canola oil is is available everywhere (well everywhere I've lived).

    2. Peanut oil was once the primary oil used in Chinese restaurants in the US. The cost of peanut oil has risen so much the past 15 years or so it is no longer economically feasible. Plus there is the peanut allergy that didn't seem to be so prevalent years ago. The primary oil use in the States is soy. It is cheap cheap cheap, flavorless and has a high smoking point.
      I agree with GarySoup that in China, rapeseed oil is used, but not as much as soy. I am sure there are places in China that still use peanut oil but it is not common.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        You may be right. Historically, cooking oil has been a very expensive ingredient in China; my wife was amazed, when she first came to the US, that cooking oil here is cheaper than soy sauce. Rapeseed oil was long the most plentiful and inexpensive in China, but as economic conditions have improved, soy oil may have gained precedence as it is considered a superior oil for cooking.

        1. re: Gary Soup

          I enjoy using peanut oil. When I can find one imported from China I'll buy it over Dukes or Lu Ana. Chick-Fil-A uses it 100%. Peanut allergies are a problem to only a very,very small precentage of the population. I also use soy oil as well as olivie oil. The peanut oil price in my area is about the same as extra virgin olive oil. But peanut oil takes the heat better.

      2. I am Chinese.Peanut oil has the richest flavor in vegetable oil,so Cantonese cuisine choose it as main used oil.Rapeseed oil is the local produced oil in south China.In the past it is the most used oil in Sichuan, Guizhou,Yuannan,and other south provinces.It has a vador that north Chinese do not like. soy oil and peanut oil are the main cooking oil in the north.As for prices,peanut oil is the highest,soy is less,rapeseed is the cheapest.hign end restaurnt choose brand peanut oil,vender use none brand,mixed oil,usually no peanut oil,because of its price.

        1. I'm astonished by some of the answers here. Peanut oil is by far the most common cooking oil. I was in my local supermarket earler today and the oil section was 99% peanut oil.

          2 Replies
          1. re: LIuzhou Laowai

            I remembered this post and went (finally) to check at my local Hualian (like a kind of mini-supermarket). Peanut oil takes up at most 30% of the shelf space and is about 1/3 more expensive than the other soy/canola what-have-you oils/blends. The same sort of proportion holds for the Carrefour shelves.
            Liuzhou Laowai where is your supermarket? It's interesting that they only carry the peanut oil.

          2. Here is a list of oils I have seen used for cooking in restaurant kitchens in China:

            Rapeseed oil(unrefined) Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, and very surprisingly Xinjiang provinces

            Rapeseed oil(refined) Yunnan Province

            Palm oil in Jin Hong and Mengla in Yunnan province

            Tea oil(made from the dried fruit--not the leaves--but from the same plant) Changde in Hunan Province

            Lard in Yunnan, Hunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, etc

            Duck fat in Jiang su, Guizhou, and Fuzhou Provinces

            Yak fat in 1 restaurant in Lhasa in Tibet

            Yak butter in Tibet(yes for cooking not just for flavoring the tea)

            Whole cows butter in Xinjiang Province

            Clarified cows butter in Kashgar in Xinjiang Province

            Lamb fat in Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai Provinces

            Peanut oil in Shandong, Heilongjiang, Guangdong, Liaoning, Jilin and a few others that I forget now.

            Soybean oil and blends almost everywhere.

            As far as using oils for flavoring and not cooking, I have seen sesame oil , mustard oil, green onion oil, sichuan peppercorn oil, 5 spice oil, 13 spice oil, Cao guo oil, bai kou oil, cao kuo oil( sorry I don't know the English for the last 3 but they are all spices),star anise oil, Indonesian long pepper oil, lemongrass oil, ginger oil, garlic oil, hot pepper oil(made hundreds and hundreds of different ways).

            This is the ones I can remember now but I am sure I forgot a few.

            4 Replies
            1. re: IHTJ

              Thanks, that's an awesome amount of information.

              Cao guo, bai kou, and cao kuo may all be alternate names for cardamom. See this source:

              http://alternativehealing.org/cao_guo...

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                Yes that picture is exactly bai kou. It is used in the 13 spice mixture of the Hui ethnic group and I have seen it used once in Ningbo ground up with a few other spices to sprinkle on the medium starch deep fried mini potatoes that I love.
                Cao Guo is a larger more oval spice that is much darker on the outside and tastes like smoked meat on the outside and a cardamom flavor in the seeds inside. Also used in 13 spice mix and extensively in Yunnan foods of both the Yi and the Dai ethnic group.
                Cao Kou, I have also heard it called dou rou kou, looks like a small dry brain. Again used in 13 spice mix, but I first encountered it in in the most unusual roasted lamb skewers I have ever tried. The owner of 2 table restaurant in a small suburb of eastern Urumqi ground his own version of 13 spice and added a good deal of tumeric and it came out tasting like curry. Then didn't grill it but cooked it in the Naan Keng (like a tandoori oven) instead. Really amazing! The only bad news is that that area has since been developed and I can't find that anywhere now:(

                1. re: IHTJ

                  Thanks. I'm curious as to how you came upon all your far-flung experience of cooking oils. Does it extend to other cooking practices/ingredients across China? If you don't mind, can you drop me a line at shanghaigaryATgmailDOTcom? (Don't want to get too far off-topic here.)

                2. re: Xiao Yang

                  This comment is ridiculously late, but I understand cao guo is known in south Asian cooking as black cardamom. They certainly look alike.