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How do you stock your Chinese kitchen?

What do you always have on hand to prepare Chinese food day-to-day? Here are mine:

Non-perishables: white rice, light and dark soy sauces, cooking wine, black and rice vinegars, dried shitake mushrooms, wood ear mushroom, sesame oil and paste, canned bamboo shoots, pork floss, dried tofu skin, dried rice vermicelli, star anise, five spice powder, cornstarch, MSG

Perishables: Firm tofu, at least two bunches of various greens, some kind of white fish, pork loin, ground pork, xiang chang sweet sausage, frozen tofu skin pork rolls, frozen pot stickers, red chiles, ginger, garlic, scallions, cilantro.

Equipment: carbon steel pan, soup pot, rice cooker, light cleaver, heavy cleaver.

Oh yeah, my family is originally from Taiwan. I would like to see your Chinese kitchen staples; to make things interesting, please also state your regional origins. Non-Chinese please also feel welcome to reply.

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  1. It looks like you got it well covered. I also stock fermented black beans or if you want to cheat ready made black bean sauce (like Lee Kum).

    BTW my familiy is originally from mainland China.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CCDiner

      Black bean sauce is a definite plus, as is mushroom soy sauce. I like Chinese black vinegar. After you use it when it is called for, no substitute works.
      Dried orange peel.
      I use a dumpling mold (never learned to fold them properly).
      I grow Chinese chives out back in the summer.
      Wire skimmer for getting food out of hot oil.
      Books:
      1. Bear and Fish Family
      2. Martin Yan Chinatown
      3. Barbara Tropp (Modern Art gets used. China Moon does not)
      4. Occidental Tourist (tea brined chicken)
      5. Shun Lee
      6. Blue Ginger
      7. Steamy Kitchen
      8. Ching De Huang
      9. Blue Eye Dragon

      Wife is Taiwanese. i lived, worked and cooked there for a few years

    2. Not sure "stock" is the right word, but these are the things I find to be essential:

      Soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, white pepper, MSG, sesame oil, corn (or peanut) oil, scallions.

      As far as equipment, I don't find it necessary to have, say, a wok. It would be nice, but not necessary. Just give me a good deep-enough fry pan and I can make do -- either for a stir-fry, or a quick soup, or even making rice. Same with cutlery.

      1. I'm a non-Chinese Asian, but I cook Chinese frequently and keep pretty much the same ingredients as you but also have hoisin, fermented black beans, oyster sauce, laoganma, tahini, Sichuan pepper corns, doubanjiang, Sriracha, chili oil and spiced tofu on hand. The condiments are especially handy in making a quick sauce for stir fries and putting together a delicious dinner in under 30 minutes if I've done my prep work properly.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          Just remembered that I also keep master stock in the freezer for poaching chicken or pork.

        2. Teochew/Peranakan from Singapore originally: jasmine rice, light and dark soy sauces, black vinegar, dried shitake mushrooms, sesame oil, oyster sauce, fish sauce, black bean sauce, Sichuan chilli black bean sauce, chili sauce, chili paste, white pepper, cornstarch, sambal belacan, coconut milk, at least 5 types of dried egg, rice and wheat noodles and vermicelli, fried shallots.

          Perishables: silken tofu, fried tofu (at least 2 different varieties), tofu "puffs", greens, garlic, scallions, cilantro, red chiles, fish balls, fish paste, white fish, ground pork.

          Convenience food: packaged mixes and pastes for assam laksa, laksa lemak, mapo tofu, prawn mee, curry maifun. Instant noodles.

          Equipment: rice cooker

          1. A good go-to book is Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

            Two more things I always have on hand is waterchestnut powder and spicy chili paste with garlic

            5 Replies
            1. re: ctfoodguy

              What do you use water chestnut powder for?

              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                Dredging items to be deep fried especially chicken wings. It gives them a great crunchy coating

              2. re: ctfoodguy

                Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think water chestnut starch is typically from the "water caltrop" (which can be called water-chestnut, but is not the same thing we usually think of when people talk about water chestnuts in the context of Chinese cooking -- 菱角 vs 荸薺 / 馬蹄, though I think you can buy starch made from both).

                Despite the connection with 菱, I'm pretty sure líng fěn (菱粉) gets used to refer to a range of different types of starches in a generic way.

                Some thoughts in
                http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

                I am guessing that different starches are more common in one region or the other; the exact potency varies, and there are probably some subtle differences, but I don't know that you need to keep more than 2-3 kinds around. I usually have sweet potato starch (used a lot in Fujianese cooking, and a bit more uneven / coarse texture) and potato starch around.

                1. re: will47

                  Wow, thanks for the great link! There's even a Char Siu Bao cookoff thread there that was tailor-made for me. :)

                  Following on ctfoodguy's recommendation, during my trip to Fubonn on Monday, I bought a 1/4 kilo box of "Pure Water Chestnut Flour". It was in the same area as the bagged starches. The box says this is a "Speciality of Patang, Guangzhou". When I shake the box it sounds like there's something granular in it, rather than powdery, if that adds anything to the discussion. (I haven't broken the shrinkwrap on it yet.)

                  1. re: RelishPDX

                    waterchestnut flour IS granular Much moreso than , say, cornstarch. That's what adds to the crunchiness of the foods dredged in it

              3. One thing I keep on hand is dried lily buds. When I make hot-n-sour soup, once every six-to-eight weeks or so, I tie them up into little bows before rehydrating.

                The first time I saw them in a recipe, I couldn't recall seeing them in any soup I'd ever had, but I haven't ordered hot-n-sour soup in a restaurant since learning how easy it is to make at home. While they aren't an ingredient in the Tyler Florence recipe I use, they are in others I saw, so in they went once I found them at Fubonn here in Portland.

                Last night I picked up some Maltose and preserved kumquats for a roasted chicken recipe I want to try, plus a packet of preserved black beans. I've always disliked regular black beans, except in one particular Cuban dish, but before last week I hadn't realized that the Asian black beans were totally different—fermented soybeans! I ordered Black Bean Chicken at lunch the other day after learning this, and was totally blown away that I'd been avoiding black beans in Asian dishes for so long.

                If anyone has a pointer or two on how to melt the Maltose, I'm all ears! This recipe didn't really say, and it's nearly as hard as a brick. I left the tub in a bowl of boiling water for a while thinking it would react like honey, but that didn't seem to do much.

                I'm also branching out beyond wheat noodles for chow mein, and have begun buying an array of rice noodles. What I'm going to do with them eventually, I haven't got a clue!

                Kecap Manis was also a new addition to my larder last night, plus Chinese sausage and a Thai brand of "thick" soy sauce for fried rice. I haven't opened up any of them yet. I'll have to do some kind of soy sauce taste test soon to sort out what I've got now—regular, light, dark, and now thick and Kecap Manis.

                I also keep all of the essentials for Tom Ka Gai on hand, either in cans or in the freezer, plus a small tub of miso, oyster sauce, TerraPak'd firm tofu, assorted dried mushrooms, fresh shallots, and always pick up bags of baby bok choy and snow peas whenever I make a run to Fubonn.

                Does anyone mind if people use this thread to ask questions about items? The folks at Fubonn have been really helpful finding things and answering my questions, but sometimes I'd like to go in there feeling less like a clunk, if you know what I mean.

                Great thread! Just what I've been looking for.

                5 Replies
                1. re: RelishPDX

                  Kecap Manis moved into our house and will never leave. Totally a different flavor. Try mixing with some lime juice, add some Thai peppers, and you have a simple and delicious dipping sauce.

                  1. re: RelishPDX

                    Questions are a-OK in this thread. And I have one for you when you are done with your taste test. How does kecap manis compare to a typical dark soy sauce?

                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      Think of dark soy sauce blended with molasses.

                    2. re: RelishPDX

                      What would be a good receipt for hot and sour soup?

                      1. re: Xellosw2099

                        I use Tyler Florence's recipe:

                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...

                        All of the ingredients were easy to source in one stop at the Asian market. Two tips: I like the shredded strips of bamboo shoots better than the wide strips, and let the egg set on the top of the soup and cook before you stir it in. If you stir it too soon, then the soup gets a bit slimy textured, rather than having identifiable bits of egg in it.

                        This last time I added a drained can of peeled straw mushrooms, rinsed and cut in half lengthwise. They worked well in addition to the dried mushrooms, which will have a different texture. I've also been tying up the dried lily buds into little bows. :)

                    3. Realizing that day-to-day Chinese in an Asian household is often very different that that of an ordinary western kitchen, I would like to list what my MIL had me stock when I got married and started to learn the basics of Cantonese cooking.
                      Medium weight carbon steel cleaver.
                      Heavy 12 inch round chopping board.
                      14 inch hammered wok with long handle with cover and wok ring.
                      Steaming basket and wire base.
                      Chan and ladle.
                      10 inch sand pot soaked for 2 days.
                      Lots of bamboo chopsticks.

                      Soy,dark and light.
                      Black vinegar.
                      Shao xing wine.
                      Peanut oil.
                      Sesame oil,toasted and chili.
                      Chili in oil.
                      Black bean sauce.
                      Oyster sauce.
                      Hoisin sauce.
                      XO sauce.

                      White pepper.
                      5 spice.
                      Corn starch.
                      Rock sugar.
                      Other than instructions to always have on hand garlic,ginger,scallions,and some fresh peppers and of course good rice,just about anything in the fridge will make a fine meal.There are so many things I have added to my pantry as the years passed but I always remember what Mother Ng had me buy and her recipes still please today even if cooked by that skinny Lo Fan.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Duppie

                        Okay, now you have me intrigued. What is a 'sand pot'?

                        XO sauce. Forgot to add that to my list. I bought it one day on a lark because I remembered seeing it on the old Japanese version of Iron Chef. What do you use it in? I made a dish with it once, and it didn't light up the night sky like I thought it would.

                        (I have to admit, I didn't check the ingredients carefully—when I read them later, there weren't any dried shrimp or scallops in this brand like I thought there is supposed to be.)

                        1. re: RelishPDX

                          My picture shows two sizes of sand pots, the smaller is the original and is 18 years old.My MIL soaked it in fresh water for two days before using to prevent cracking when on a flame and I soak them every few months when not in use. They are great for slow cooked rice dishes,stews and soups. Great for making Congee.
                          OX sauce I buy and use sparingly but a little can be added to enhance stir fry's, to fortify sauces and soups. Think of it as the equivalent to anchovies added to a pot of tomato sauce or dressing. basically umami.

                           
                          1. re: Duppie

                            I have one of these, but we call it a clay pot, not a sand pot...

                            1. re: boogiebaby

                              Must be a regional thing,in NYC I've seen it referred to as both at times,in Hong Kong, I believe I've seen it referred to in English as clay pot also but I've always gone with my MIL's description and she was from HK..

                        2. re: Duppie

                          Oh yeah, forgot the sand pot. I don't use it much but it is great for braising lion head meatballs.

                          1. re: RealMenJulienne

                            My present wife is Filipino and we now use it all the time to make Adobo, that's why we got the big one.and I like to slow braise Ox tails in them for stew but use a fire tamer to prevent cracking.

                        3. I'm of Indian descent but my mom and dad grew up in Singapore and Burma respectively, so I cook a lot of South East Asian food.

                          I always have on hand: Sauces: light and dark soy, seasoning sauce, oyster sauce, sambal oelek, fish sauce, kecap manis, sesame oil, garlic oil

                          Condiments: Fried onions, siracha, sambal pedas, Yeo's hot chili sauce, Maggi hot chili sauce, Yeo's sweet chili sauce, Spring roll sauce, pickled green chilis,

                          Pantry items: coconut milk, dried egg noodles, mifun noodles, rice wine vinegar, tapioca flour, corn starch, star anise, 5 spice powder, cinnamon, dried red chillis, curry powder (from Malaysia), assorted whole and ground spices, canned bamboo shoots, canned water chestnuts,

                          Fridge items: tofu, green onions, chinese sausage, garlic, ginger, frozen roti pratas, frozen potstickers, fresh red chillis

                          Equipment: 3 woks (2 nonstick - one large, 1 small, 1 steel for frying), rice cooker, cleaver, large "cooking" chopsticks, spider tool (for scooping fried items), wok spatula - 1 metal and 1 plastic for using in nonstick wok.

                          1. What you didn't list:
                            Sweet bean paste, hot bean paste, chili paste (I like Lao Gan Ma), hoisin sauce, Szechuan vegetable, Szechuan peppercorns, dried shrimp.

                            I don't deal with (cannot obtain) tofu or tofu skin or chinese sausage or frozen pot stickers (I have made them). I don't know what "pork floss" is. I tend to just make stir fried main dishes and not soups or steamed items, desserts, or snacks.

                            I'm an American from the East Coast living in Italy. I really get in a bad way when I can't source the cooking wine and the bean pastes, esp. the hot bean paste, the most elusive ingredients I rely on. I have never seen fermented beans on their own in Italy. Fresh cilantro is non-existent.

                            I go to the US every couple of years and bring back as many Chinese ingredients as I can.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lidia

                              Pork floss is kind of like cracklings except fried until completely dried, then processed into a shredded, cotton-candy like texture. It's good on top of a block of tofu with chopped scallion and soy sauce. Or on buttered bread for breakfast.

                            2. How does kecap manis compare to a typical dark soy sauce?

                              -----------------------------------------------------------------------

                              As promised, my soy sauce taste test. I've a bounty of Char Siu pork left over from experiments with marinades this week, so I cut up some of the batch with the lightest-tasting marinade flavoring. In a large nonstick pan, I warmed the pieces up, divided them into three small piles, then poured some sauce on each, allowing it all to come up to temperature.

                              I will try the same test with plain rice later, as this test was to determine the characteristics of each for a dipping sauce, where other flavors are present.

                              The 3 contenders:

                              1) Kimlan brand Dark soy sauce (Taiwan):

                              I liked this very much. It has the soy sauce taste that I'd like to have in a dipping sauce when you don't want the soy component to leap out screaming with a "Kikkoman here!" harshness.

                              Most people in the blogosphere seem to prefer Pearl River Bridge brand for Dark soy sauce, which I remember purchasing once a few years ago and didn't like very much. I see nothing wrong with the Kimlan brand at all. I'm pleased that I chose the Kimlan brand for the Light soy sauce I bought at the same time.

                              2) Healthy Boy brand Thick soy sauce (Thailand):

                              My least favorite, by quite a margin. It has heavy Kikkoman overtones, almost burnt Kikkoman overtones, with some sugar added as an afterthought presumably to hide its harshness. I'm not really sure where this sauce would be appropriate.

                              3) ABC brand Kecap Manis (Indonesia):

                              Oooh la la! Kecap Manis added what I'd say is more of a tamari with cane syrup flavor, rather than a sulphury molasses and soy sauce taste. Very pleasant, almost fruity taste to it as well, that I can see being useful in any number of ways. That said, I don't think it's much of a cooking sauce, but more of a dipping or sandwich sauce.

                              It's obvious that these are all very different beasts.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RelishPDX

                                Thanks RelishPDX, I'll keep an eye out for kecap manis at the Asian store.

                              2. Quick update, as I did the rice test tonight since I made a pan of rice to go with dinner tonight.

                                All of my previous observations remain intact. The burnt taste in the Thick soy sauce overwhelmed even its salt flavor when eaten plain on rice. There isn't anything I can think of where I'd want to introduce that flavor. I only bought it after reading that this style of soy sauce is used to color fried rice in restaurants, and my fried rice has always looked a bit pale. I'm thinking it'll end up in the trash sooner than later when I need the space in the fridge.

                                I also compared the Kimlan Light against the USA-made Yamasa brand soy sauce that I picked up the last time I needed some.

                                Kimlan Light is just as well-made as the Dark, and has no bitter taste or lingering aftertastes to it. Can't say the same for the Yamasa, though!

                                The Light tastes more like regular soy sauce, while the Dark tastes surprisingly like tamari when eaten plain on rice, I was very happy to discover.

                                I've some new favorites as a result of all this, so it was well worth the effort and minimal expense.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: RelishPDX

                                  I'd try using a little of that thick soy sauce as a condiment with your fried rice to introduce a smokey wok flavor. I think it could be a lot like smoked paprika: a lot tastes terrible, but a judicious amount is just right.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    That's a valid point, and I'd certainly be willing to sacrifice a plate of fried rice someday to try it out. The burnt taste came through when I tested it on the pork though, so I'm not going to rush to try it. Perhaps buy another brand in a small bottle first to see if this taste is inherent to thick soy sauces.

                                    What I'm not able to wrap my head around yet is that I should have eaten enough Thai food by now that I've had some dish with thick soy sauce in it, probably even this brand, but don't ever recall this flavor coming through.

                                    Next up, I'm going to be testing bean sauces. I'd bought a small can of sweet bean sauce for a recipe I want to try, and the sauce tasted so good right out of the can, I bought the regular and hot versions from the same Szechuon brand yesterday when I went to a different Asian market to shop. An Dong Market also had Red Boat fish sauce ($7.99 for 17 oz./500mL), that people rave about, so I picked up one of those too while I was there.

                                    An Dong also had some interesting vegetables, such as pea tips and baby bok choys that were probably no bigger than zucchini flowers. I would have bought some pea tips if I'd known what they were (I do now), but I was there mainly in search of coriander roots, but they too had none.

                                    1. re: RelishPDX

                                      Pea tips are probably my favorite green vegetable but please be aware you have to pick out the woody stems before cooking. If you don't it's like flossing and eating at the same time.

                                      1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                        Thanks for the heads up. I'm used to prepping snow peas and green beans, so that shouldn't be a problem.

                                        How are pea tips best used? In recipes like a stir-fry or as a side dish?

                                        1. re: RelishPDX

                                          i usually just stir-fry with garlic and salt and finish with a little cornstarch slurry but I'm sure the more accomplished cooks here can think of something more elaborate to do with em. They're also good simmered briefly in hot pot.

                                      2. re: RelishPDX

                                        What brand is your hot bean sauce? I've been looking online for a Sichuan hot bean paste, but I have no idea which brands are good.

                                        1. re: nonaggie

                                          The brand is "Szechuon" by the Sze Chuan Food Products Co. of Taiwan. It comes in a blue can with a white oval on the front bordered in yellow, with the brand name done in red in script, like handwriting.

                                          I opened up the other two cans earlier today, the regular and hot. Disappointment. The regular is simply reconstituted fermented black beans, like you'd get in the plastic bag, and the hot is the same but with some type of chili added to it, and not much at that.

                                          Not sure what else is in the sweet version, it certainly didn't taste anything like fermented black beans, although going by its consistency, I'm sure that's what they've used for its base.

                                    2. re: RelishPDX

                                      Totaly agree.

                                      I did a similar test few years back and seems that soy sauce is a lot like that other fermented product: wine. There are hundred of kinds, each country has it's twist. I was so overwhelmed by the wall a of soy sauces at our local stores here in MTL that I bought one of each (at $2 each, it was about a small price to pay to settle a life-long mystery.) I classified them by country (China, Taiwan, Thailand), didn't get to the Japaneese ones. Then by type: General Soy including( Dark & Light), Sweet Soys. Main Brands were Pearl River, Kimlan, Yummi House, O'Long. Then did a taste test of each. Straight up, in a spoon, Striaght into cooked Jasmine rice, as a dip for a simple pork egg roll.

                                      Anyways, just like wine, there is anazing variance. In saltiness, sweet, sour, umani. BOttom line for me was:

                                      Sweet Soys: ABC Kecap Manis for Thai & Indonesian cooking. Also as a sweet element for hot dipping sauces... They also make a Manis "Sedang" version which is a musky midway between sweet and salty. Their Kecap Asin is just a salty, slightly sweet.There was a Thai brand, DragonFly which was like pure consentrated molasses. Totaly agree with you re: Healthy Boy thick soy... Conimex also makes manis, which I loved untill trying the abs's.:)

                                      General Cooking Soys: the Kimlans, Dark was fav. Light is saltier. Pearl River was almost Kikkoman for a while, but has recently really improved. Their red labeled "Superior" was great in a spoon, on the rice or on the eggrolls. Their perenial "mushroom" soy is much better lately, and more of a specialty soy imho.

                                      Yummy House Soy: I really didn't want to like this one, but oh so good in the egg roll test.

                                      Dim sum dipping soys: O'Long, They make a wheat free soy that goes sooo well as a Dip with the frozen Dim sums. Also in this category, a thing from Maggi, sans english, "Dam Dac Hdn", probably full of msg, but very deep.

                                      Havn't even begun on the Japanese or Koren brands...
                                      Your're right -- it is sooo worth the effort. We made a party out of it and gave away all the bottles after.

                                      Very much recommend doing similar test with Fish Sauces.

                                      1. re: RicerRickoni

                                        Thanks for sharing your taste test results. You're right, soy sauces are just like wine in a sense.

                                        I'd love it if someone would eat their way through all of the ingredients in an Asian market, comparing brands and commenting on what each item is useful for, and blog about it. Something like what's at this link, but more structured and organized:

                                        http://asiansupermarket365.blogspot.com/

                                        My latest discovery, Lingham's Hot Sauce from Malaysia. I want to put it in everything!

                                    3. Wow, you guys are pros!

                                      In the freezer: lap cheong, edamame, ground pork, pork tenderloin.

                                      In the fridge: Light soy sauce, shaoxing wine, tamari, sriracha, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, hoisin (tho I've had trouble sourcing non-flour-thickened brands lately), chili-garlic paste, firm tofu, ginger, bok choy or gai lan or similar, scallions.

                                      In the cupboard: rice vinegar, peanut oil, sesame oil, silken tofu, crystallized ginger, five-spice, palm sugar, star anise, hot mustard powder, Sichuan peppercorns, cornstarch, canned bamboo shoots, dried mushrooms (usually shiitake), rice paper wrappers, glass noodles and rice vermicelli

                                      I'm Estonian & French-Canadian. :)

                                      1. much the same here.
                                        Non-perishables: jasmine & sushi rice, kimlan thick soy sauce, mushroom dark soy sauce, black vinegar, xao-xing wine, sesame oil, rice vermicelli, bean thread, red & green mung bean, dried red date, dried mushroom (chinese black & wood ear), dried lily flower, star anise, white & szechuan peppercorns, corn starch, tapioca & rice flours, white & black whole sesame. teas.
                                        Perishables: garlic, ginger, scallion. chili in oil, sa-cha sauce, sesame paste. tofu, veg, meats, fresh noodles i buy as needed. edamame & tofu skin in the freezer
                                        if pork floss = pork sung, i haven't bought it in years.
                                        all equipment is fair game in cooking any meal.

                                        1. Two quick items regarding substitutions:

                                          Shaoxing wine: There's almost universal scorn for the "cooking wine" version. I've been to two Asian markets, several supermarkets, and the state liquor store, but come up empty-handed. Does dry sherry *really* taste like Shaoxing, and is it acceptable enough to stop searching for Shaoxing? (I've even seen one cookbook suggest using Scotch!)

                                          Chinkiang vinegar: Bought some of this on Monday, since Andrea Nguyen uses it a lot. It's going back for a refund since the bottle started leaking, but from what I can tell, it does indeed smell just like a bit lighter version of balsamic vinegar. First time a substitution really did seem like it'd be close to the original. Just need to water down balsamic a bit, and voila, Chinkiang.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: RelishPDX

                                            I think the substitutions are suggested for people in areas where it's not possible to find Shaoxing cooking wine. Shaoxing wine is definitely one case where the "cooking" wine is good for cooking, though you wouldn't want to drink it (it's heavily salted). Conversely, you can buy drinking grade Shaoxing wine, but I'm not sure you'd get the same effect if you used it for cooking, unless you added extra salt.

                                            1. re: will47

                                              A couple of years ago my local liquor store started carrying Shaoxing wine and I began using that instead of the cooking-grade wine I used to buy in Chinese markets. I didn't notice a need for more salt in the dishes in any of my usual go-to recipes. In fact, I find most Chinese recipes sufficiently salty (Dunlop, Young, Solomon) without adding any extra salt at all. There's a "freshness" to the drinkable Shaoxing that I find much more appealing compared to the cooking wine, although that might be because I keep the former refrigerated whereas the cooking wine just used to sit in the cabinet.

                                            2. re: RelishPDX

                                              I would probably avoid using scotch as a substitute for Shaoxing unless you have a really peatless blend. The rice wine I use for cooking tastes something like a cross between sherry and dry vermouth. Unless you are trying to make a cold dish like drunken chicken, I think your recipes will survive just fine with sherry or vermouth. I would give the Asian supermarket another go, though. It is illegal to sell potable wine in grocery stores here, but I can still get a few Chinese brands of Shaoxing wine at the Asian market.

                                              1. re: RelishPDX

                                                Dry sherry is very definitely a good substitute for Shaoxing. The flavor isn't identical, but it is certainly very close, certainly a _lot_closer than Scotch would be.

                                                1. re: The Professor

                                                  What about opened dry sherry? I'm picky about sherry, and find that dry sherry changes rapidly after opening. Which is the substitute, newly opened sherry or been open awhile sherry?

                                              2. We have a lot of staples on hand. Usually try to avoid buying things until I need them in a recipe, though, and we don't keep much produce around, except what we're going to use.

                                                Rice of various kinds. Light and dark soy sauce, as well as more expensive Japanese soy sauce, kecap manis, Shaoxing cooking wine, Fujianese cooking wine, rice vinegar, black vinegar, peanut and / or canola cooking oil, sesame oil, lye water, dried shitake, red yeast rice wine lees ("anka sauce"), doubanjiang (broad-bean chili paste), douchi (fermented beans), zhacai and other preserved veg, rock sugar, palm sugar, various dried spices, vegetarian "chicken" powder (so basically msg), sweet-potato starch, potato starch, fuzhu (dried tofu-skin stick), frozen or dried tofu skin, dried kelp (kombu) and usually a few other kinds of seaweed, bean thread noodles, flour of various types.

                                                Usually have garlic, ginger, and often scallions or green garlic on hand.

                                                Equipment - wok, ladle, bamboo steamers, clay pot, vegetable cleaver, bone chopper

                                                I'm white American; my wife is from Shanghai but also with family from Vietnam and South China. Also, I'm vegetarian, and we eat mostly vegetarian at home.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: will47

                                                  I've looked at black vinegar, but the ingredients just suggest it is sweetened and colored plain vinegar.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    Are you looking at Chinkiang vinegar? I think it does have a very specific and distinctive taste compared to standard rice vinegar, in addition to the color and sweetness. I have heard some people suggest substituting balsamic vinegar; to me, the taste is fairly different, though.

                                                  2. re: will47

                                                    Oh and we've also got dried red peppers (chao tianjiao type), "red oil" (chili oil), and vegetarian oyster sauce.

                                                    1. re: will47

                                                      Oh, yes I forgot dried red peppers in my list. I love putting them in oil until they darken to flavor a dish. I also use them to make red oil.

                                                  3. wow, for a suburban Chicago girl of English/Irish/Czech decent, my Chinese kitchen is pretty well-stocked! Not that I know how to make a fabulous dish, but it sounds like I have the basics.

                                                    I have to say that I'm more comfortable with Japanese rather than Chinese, Korean or Thai. So am I more PC to talk about my "Asian Kitchen"? I'm ashamed to say that I probably "Americanize" most truly Chinese dishes. My take is that I'll find some wonderful ingredients at 99 Ranch and then cook them to the best of my culinary skills. I adore baby bok choy, but not sure if I've ever really made it authentic.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Barbara76137

                                                      I'm not the best cook out there but with bok choy I just prepare them the same way I do most Chinese greens: trim and wash, then shallow-fry smashed garlic cloves on high heat before adding vegetables, salt to taste, cook until desired doneness and then transfer to a serving plate. Bok choy sometimes gets a little drizzle of oyster sauce.

                                                    2. In addition to the ones in the first post, I usually have pepper salt (for deep fried foods), salted duck eggs (for with bitter melon), thin flour noodles, chicken and pork stock, soft tofu, oyster sauce, chili sauce, XO sauce, chinese BBQ sauce and glutinous rice. Plus there's usually some random dried stuff left over from specific recipes - dried chestnuts, scallops, shrimp, etc. For fresh stuff, there's always some sort of leafy green or cabbage on hand.

                                                      For the rest of the stuff, we tend to buy what we need for that week fresh, so it varies a lot. As far as fresh Chinese ingredients go, we regularly use leafy greens and cabbage, cucumber, bitter melon, eggplant, chinese celery, broccolis, various types of young ferns, chayote squash leaves, daikon, green pepper, and in season fresh bamboo, water chestnuts, water caltrops and lotus root, plus pork, chicken, and various seafood (fish, squid, shrimp, clams, oysters).

                                                      Background is Canadian married to Japanese, but we live in Taiwan.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                        May I ask which brand of XO sauce you buy, and about how much it cost? Up thread I realized that the bottle I bought (cheaply) a few months ago with the big XO lettering on it, had neither shrimp nor scallops on the ingredient list. While I was at the Asian market a few days ago, I saw one with those ingredients for $5.50 for a small bottle, but perhaps only 2 or 3 oz. worth, so it's probably the real deal.

                                                        (Speaking of prices, I had a bit of a sticker shock at my local neighborhood Safeway last night. I was comparing prices on items I'd bought earlier this week at Fubonn, and the first thing I laid eyes on was a can of straw mushrooms. For the half-size can (about 7 oz. before draining), Safeway was charging $3.19 for the Sun Luck brand, I think it was. I'd bought the full size can of the Double Pigeon brand (about 15 oz. before draining) at Fubonn for $1.48. Safeway was quadruple the price! All of the other packaged items I looked at were at least 2x or 3x what I paid at Fubonn.)

                                                        1. re: RelishPDX

                                                          At 99Ranch, LKK brand of XO sauce is priciest, often sold in a gift box.

                                                          Apparently XO just means 'extra special', originally applied to pricey whiskey.

                                                        2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                          How do you make bittermelon and salted duck eggs? I usually use fresh chicken eggs for bittermelon and eat the duck eggs cold so the combination sounds very unusual to me.

                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                            You can do the same treatment with fresh si gua (luffa) - I think either way the preparation is often called 'jin sha ...' (golden sand) or 'huang jin ...' (or just 'xiandan chao ...'. You're not scrambling them, but rather breaking up the (cooked) salted egg yolk to coat the food. There are a lot of variations in terms of the ratio of egg to vegetable, how the vegetable is cut, and whether or not it's blanched first.

                                                            A few different recipes (in Chinese) with pictures or videos, showing some of the different ways this can be prepared:
                                                            http://www.meishichina.com/Eat/RMenu/...
                                                            http://www.xiachufang.com/recipe/164506/
                                                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPmNUy...

                                                            I (more or less) transcribed the method below from a video -- I believe this one:
                                                            http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTk0Mjk...

                                                            1) Cut off pith [this particular video had you cut off way more pith than I usually cut off], cut kugua in small strips, blanch in hot / just off boil salted water with a little oil added to the water [this will coat it when you take it out of the water]
                                                            2) Stir-fry whole yolks of 2-4 cooked xiandan (salted duck eggs) in some oil on fairly low heat.
                                                            3) Add green onion whites, in ~ 1" chunks
                                                            4) Add chopped whites of xiandan
                                                            5) Add kugua and stir-fry a little longer, then add some hot water or stock - about 2 ladles.
                                                            6) After water cooks off, add a little salt, MSG if you want, rice wine, and sesame oil.

                                                            1. re: will47

                                                              Interesting that there is no acidic component. I always add tomatoes to bittermelon and eggs. I'll definitely try the jin sha ku gua next time I have xiandan.

                                                        3. quote
                                                          In the fridge: Light soy sauce, shaoxing wine, tamari, sriracha, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, hoisin (tho I've had trouble sourcing non-flour-thickened brands lately), chili-garlic paste, firm tofu, ginger, bok choy or gai lan or similar, scallions. unquote
                                                          i usually keep Light soy sauce, shaoxing wine, tamari, sriracha, fish sauce, on the shelf, sometimes sweet chili sauce.
                                                          shaoxing wine is near stove, never noticed it being salty but never tried to drink it either, well under $5/bottle.
                                                          lately using dark mushroom soy sauce, well worth having for even western dishes, very meaty.
                                                          also useful sesame seeds, ground mustard, hot banana sauce, won ton wrappers.
                                                          what do you do with pork floss and dried tofu sticks/skins?
                                                          viet jerky/dried meat is very good in salad. i need to grow some herbs.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: divadmas

                                                            "what do you do with pork floss and dried tofu sticks/skins?"

                                                            The dried tofu skin sticks (fuzhu) are really good in stews and braises. Added some the last time I made this dish, and it was great:
                                                            http://www.thelittleteochew.com/2009/...
                                                            They keep their texture pretty well even when soaked (they should be soaked for quite a while - overnight or all day). Then, usually they're cut up into short lengths. I'm sure they'd be good 'red-braised' as well.
                                                            I have had them in Hakka style "poon choy" (peng cai), and it's great in that.

                                                            Another trick I learned recently -- when making congee, adding some cut up bits of doufu pi (I think my friend uses the frozen kind, but soaked dried doufu pi might work too) adds a softer / creamier texture.

                                                            1. re: divadmas

                                                              Yes, tofu skin is very good soaked and then braised in a flavorful sauce. I like it in a dish I made up with tofu skin, pork meatballs, and bamboo shoots in a brown sauce.

                                                              I used to eat pork floss straight out of the jar when I was a kid but then again I was a pretty fat kid. I don't recommend you do that. It's good on buttered toast, crumbled on top of firm tofu with soy sauce, or eaten with rice as a simple meal.

                                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                It is good on a cream filled bun - that's my favorite item from a Chinese bakery.

                                                            2. Equipment: a cast iron frying pan (works on my stove for wok), steaming equipment, pot for rice and soups, chef's knife and also maybe a cleaver, skimmer, prefer cheap mandoline to julienne certain items, cutting board, a bamboo thingy to stir my stir-fry and it must have a slanted edge.

                                                              Pantry: Jasmine rice, sherry, light soy sauce and rarely dark, black and white vinegar, dried shitake, wood ear mushroom, dry fermented black beans, bamboo stalks, broad bean paste, sambal oelek, some type of starch say corn, sesame oil and seeds and paste, type of salt preserved vegetable, salt preserved red chili pepper, white pepper, oyster sauce, stock like chicken, chili oil, spices for 5 spice powder, bean thread, ho fun, sometimes hoisin, various wrappers. My other products are probably not very "Chinese" in how I use them, so I don't list them, like tamarind, coconut, fish sauce, Thai sticky rice, etc.

                                                              Perishable: pork and chicken and eggs, scallion or garlic chive or some such, ginger, garlic, sometimes tofu, maybe a hot chili. I use whatever vegetables or meat I have. So, I've used prosciutto in fried rice for the Chinese ham. I make batons of celery and stir fry them as a vegetable in a stir-fry.

                                                              I am an American who likes my own food much better than that found in the local "Chinese" restaurants.

                                                              1. Something I just discovered: if you freeze silken tofu and then defrost and drain, the texture changes to become kind of spongy and chewy like the inside of fried tofu. The flavor is concentrated as well, it's a lot more savory. It's good at soaking up sauces and broths at times when you don't want the greasy exterior of fried tofu products. I'm not a big fan of regular silken tofu so I'm glad to discover a use for it.

                                                                1. Everyone has pretty much covered what I have...

                                                                  These are other items I have in my Cantonese based pantry...

                                                                  Fermented bean curd, dried bean curd sticks and sheets, preserved salted turnips, dried mung beans (green), dried red beans, dried black beans, dried lotus seeds and dried red dates (actually dried jujubes). Also there's dried salted fish, dried oysters, dried scallops and dried shrimp.

                                                                  1. Non-Chinese, but Chinese ingredients are taking over my cupboard! I'm increasing what I keep in stock, but I have to do it slowly; SO is already feeling his hot sauce being crowded out of the pantry.

                                                                    Non-perishables:
                                                                    rice (variety varies)
                                                                    light soy sauce
                                                                    dark soy sauce
                                                                    sesame oil
                                                                    rice vinegar
                                                                    maifun
                                                                    five spice powder
                                                                    dried egg noodles
                                                                    chili garlic sauce (I THINK that's what it is!)
                                                                    dried red peppers
                                                                    black fermented beans

                                                                    Perishables:
                                                                    scallions
                                                                    broccoli
                                                                    carrots
                                                                    celery
                                                                    garlic
                                                                    ginger
                                                                    beef/venison
                                                                    pork (cuts and ground)
                                                                    chicken

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. Non-Asian here, but I began cooking Chinese cuisine back in NY in 1974 & currently cook Asian dishes (now in VA) at least once a week & usually more - even it's just for myself for lunch. I have an entire pantry dedicated solely to Asian ingredients, & just off the top of my head it contains:

                                                                      carbon steel wok with cover
                                                                      3-tier bamboo steamer
                                                                      rice cooker
                                                                      granite mortar & pestle
                                                                      Japanese teapot with cups
                                                                      various teas
                                                                      fermented black beans
                                                                      canned bamboo shoots
                                                                      canned water chestnuts
                                                                      canned straw mushrooms
                                                                      canned baby corn
                                                                      canned mixed Chinese vegetables (bean sprouts, baby corn, straw mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts - great to toss into an impromptu Egg Fu Yung)
                                                                      peanut oil
                                                                      sesame oil
                                                                      toasted sesame oil
                                                                      hot sesame oil
                                                                      light soy sauce
                                                                      dark soy sauce
                                                                      mushroom soy sauce
                                                                      fish sauce (unopened)
                                                                      mirin (unopened)
                                                                      dry sherry (not Chinese, but I use it more for that than anything else, as it's similar to the Chinese product, less expensive, & more available)
                                                                      dried Chinese Black mushrooms
                                                                      dried Shitake mushrooms
                                                                      dried Wood Ear mushrooms (aka "Cloud Ears")
                                                                      dried lily buds (aka "Golden Needles")
                                                                      dried Thai Dragon chili peppers
                                                                      Star Anise
                                                                      Five-Spice Powder
                                                                      whole Szechuan peppercorns
                                                                      oyster sauce (unopened)
                                                                      hoisin sauce (unopened)
                                                                      Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce (the BEST!) (unopened)
                                                                      Black Bean Sauce
                                                                      Peanut Satay sauce (unopened)
                                                                      dried ramen noodles
                                                                      dried rice noodles
                                                                      dried rice wrappers
                                                                      besan (chickpea) flour (used in Indian cooking actually)
                                                                      various canned Thai curry pastes (red & green)
                                                                      Instant Miso soup
                                                                      Instand Dashi
                                                                      Nori seaweed
                                                                      Hiziki seaweed
                                                                      Jasmine rice
                                                                      Basmati rice
                                                                      White rice
                                                                      Brown rice

                                                                      Again - there's definitely more in there, the above is just what I immediately recall & use frequently.

                                                                      In the fridge:
                                                                      Any opened jars/bottles of any of the above.
                                                                      Chinese hot mustard
                                                                      Chinese duck sauce
                                                                      extra-firm tofu (always have this on hand)
                                                                      seitan (braised wheat gluten)
                                                                      Napa Cabbage
                                                                      Bok Choy (large & baby)
                                                                      Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli)
                                                                      fresh baby corn
                                                                      fresh snow peas
                                                                      fresh Shitake mushrooms (I use these frequently & nearly always have some on hand)
                                                                      ginger
                                                                      scallions

                                                                      In the freezer:
                                                                      tiny dried shrimp
                                                                      frozen peas (even though not "Chinese", I frequently toss some for color into stirfries, & always have some on hand)
                                                                      individually-wrapped 1/4# packages of ground turkey to use in place of the ground pork called for in many recipes

                                                                      That's just off the top of my head without going downstairs & rummaging thru everything.

                                                                      (Oh, & since I'm an avid gardener, I grow my own Thai chili peppers, garlic chives, Mizuna & other stir-fry greens, etc., etc. when I can.)

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Westy

                                                                          Yup - I've purchased seeds from both.

                                                                      1. Great lists people ... Just to add a few items: Shark Brand Sriracha sauce. Dried Sichuan peppercorns and peppercorn oil. Shao Hsing rice wine. Fresh Galangal and dried Galangal. Sesame paste. Wide dried rice noodles. Dried dates.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Maggie19

                                                                          Totally agree with these lists. For me, the key has been keeping the pantry stocked with these items at all times. In the past, I was forever one ingredient short for a dish I wanted to make on a particular night. In the course of work, commute, etc, that was enough to dissuade me from doing much Chinese cooking at home. Such common sense, of course, but having a fully stocked pantry makes Chinese cooking at home just as easy and convenient as Western cooking. With some easy supplementation of proteins and vegetables during the regular weekly Safeway or Whole Foods run, many 30 minutes meals become possible on a regular week night.