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.
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
granite mortar & pestle
Japanese teapot with cups
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)
toasted sesame oil
hot sesame oil
light soy sauce
dark soy sauce
mushroom soy sauce
fish sauce (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
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
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)
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)
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.)
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.
rice (variety varies)
light soy sauce
dark soy sauce
five spice powder
dried egg noodles
chili garlic sauce (I THINK that's what it is!)
dried red peppers
black fermented beans
pork (cuts and ground)
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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:
I (more or less) transcribed the method below from a video -- I believe this one:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
My latest discovery, Lingham's Hot Sauce from Malaysia. I want to put it in everything!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shao xing wine.
Sesame oil,toasted and chili.
Chili in oil.
Black bean sauce.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I use Tyler Florence's recipe:
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. :)
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
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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