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Mar 11, 2008 11:48 AM

chinese spices question


Hello, I am not necessarily new to cooking, but after moving in with my meat-eating boyfriend (i am vegetarian), I have become more motivated to cook different foods, etc. He LOVES chinese, and well, I am willing to try new recipes and new things, but wanted to first get some ideas on what are the most essential chinese spices I should buy. I did a little bit of brief research and found:

--Chinese 5-spice
--white pepper
--sizhuan peppercorns
--cassia bark
--sesame seeds
--hot red pepper flakes
--what about coriander or fennel or cloves? I see that sometimes too.

Am I missing any and/or are any of these not really used that much (if so, I won't waste my money!)? I just want the most often used.


  1. I think you've got a good list. I don't think coriander, fennel or cloves are integral to Chinese cuisine. Some recipes have them but not a lot.

    I think what's more important are items such as Chinese rice wine, ground bean sauce, salted black beans, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, etc. than the spices. My in-laws are Chinese from the Canton area (and have owned a few Chinese restaurants in the past). I think the only thing they have on your list is white pepper and sesame seeds.

    1. We're locking this thread, as there are two of them and the other has more responses. Please respond here:


      1. I myself just use the following (and so does my mom):
        Fresh ginger
        Fresh garlic
        Soy sauce
        Rice wine vinegar
        Sesame oil

        I don't use any of the ones you've listed above. I do have star anise and rock sugar which come out occasionally for braised pork dishes, but maybe you could try out some spices first rather than buy whole bottles/jars. Whole Foods out here in California offers spices where you can purchase as little (one teaspoon) or as much (by the lb) as you like, which is good for experimenting!