Ingredients for Chinese Cooking

A typical Chinese kitchen is atypical to Western kitchen when it comes to dealing with some of the ingredients found in Chinese cooking. Quite often when my friends visit my place, they are curious to know some of the stuff I have in the pantry or refrigerator. In this article, I’ll talk about ingredients that are commonly used in Chinese cooking. Before you go out and get them, let me emphasize the importance of getting the freshest ingredients available. Because half of the time, Chinese cooking is about focusing on and bringing out the essence of these ingredients.

Roasted pig head

Alum Powder used for pickling or baking.

Baby corn Very young and tender sweet corn that is 2 to 3 inches long. Available in canned form.

Bamboo shoots Available in the form of canned and fresh in water-filled tubs. Texture varies with age- the younger is more tender.

Bean sauce and paste Available in various forms like yellow, brown and hot bean sauce, all made from soybean fermented with salt. This add a salty flavor to stir-fries and stews.

Bean sprouts Popular sprouts from mung bean and soy bean. Mung bean sprouts are the most common- they have pale yellow with white 2-inch stems and taste sweet nutty. Soy beans have large pale greenish heads with long firm white stems and nuttier flavor. Best used the day they are bought.

Bean thread noodles Made from the starch of mung beans, they look semi-transparent and can be referred to as mung bean noodles, cellophane noodles and vermicelli. Good in soups, stir fries or deep fried.

Bitter melon Also known as bitter gourd, it resembles a wrinkled cuke with bumpy ridged skin and has light green to yellowish green in color. It has a sharp bitter taste that can be mellowed when cooked a long time. Good as stir-fried and steamed. Chinese believes it can purify the blood.

Black cloud ear fungus OK. Don’t let the name freak you out. It’s actually quite tasty. This fungus has a beautiful, black, velvety-smooth texture. When eaten raw, it is crunchy and refreshing. It is also available dried. This fungus is versatile and can be used in many cooking techniques such as stir-frying, boiling in soups, etc.

Black moss Don't freak out on me again! It resembles hair but it's dried algae. Commonly found in Chinese New Year dishes.

Bok choy Cantonese for “white vegetable”. A very popular vegetables in Chinese cooking. It is a member of the cabbage family and has a mild sweet taste. It has bright green leafy leaves, white stalks and a slightly bulbous base. Great in stir-fries, soups and many more. Bak choy is a good source of calcium, vitamin A and C. Check out my grilled bak choy recipe :)

Brown sugar Another substitute for white sugar and gives a caramel flavor. Brown cane sugar is 3 to 5 inches rectangular caramel-colored slabs of compressed layers of honey, brown and white sugar.

Cassia bark It looks like cinnamon quill but it has a more intense flavor with a sweet pungent smell. It is the thick, inner bark of an evergreen of the laurel family that is native to China.

Chillies Check out my article Knowing My Peppers Chinese cooking typically utilizes Thai chilies or Szechuan peppers

Chili flakes Simply fresh chilies that have been left to dry in the sun and then pounded into flakes. The drying process intensifies the flavor and sweetness as well as its fiery sting. The flakes are used to create chili sauces or oils.

To make chili oil, add 1 tbs of chili flakes to 0.5 cup of vegetable oil in a wok. Heat over low fire for a few minutes to infuse the flavor in the oil. Then allow to cool and strain the oil. The chili oil keeps well in the fridge for several months.

Chili oil Also known as hot oil or red pepper oil. Available in bottles ready-made. Can be used in a variety of dishes.

Chili powder It is formed from dried chilies that have been grounded finely. It is used to make chili-salt and can be used for adding to spice pastes.

Chinese BBQ sauce Move aside American BBQ sauces! The Chinese BBQ sauce comprises of soy beans, salt, sugar, garlic, pepper and Chinese 5-spice powder. It has a sticky, luscious consistency and rich, dark browny-red hue. Great for marinating meats or sauce for stir-frying.

Chinese pickles Vegetables like cucumbers, garlic, ginger, bamboo shoots, daikon and carrots are pickled in a brine made of dark soy sauce, sugar and spices.

Chinese sausage Chinese wax meat. Also known as lop chong in Chinese. Most sausages are made with pork, pork fat, duck or beef seasoned with salt, rice wine and sugar. It is 6 inches in length and has a red or brownish skin, almost like salami. It must be cooked and typically used in fried rice, noodles, stir-fries and clay pot dishes. It is sold in strings of 2 in 1-lb vacuum sealed packages. These sausages can be kept for months in the freezer.

Chinese white cabbage Also known as napa cabbage. It has an oblong head 6 to 10 inches long. It has a light, sweet, delicate flavor with a crunchy texture. Like any cabbage, it can be served raw in salads, steamed, stir-fried, boiled in soups or braised in soy sauce.

Choy sum Cantonese word for “vegetable heart”. It has green oval leaves with narrow stems and sometimes come with edible tiny yellow flowers. It has a bitter, mustard-like flavor. Versatile for many cooking methods.

Cinnamon quills It adds robustness to dishes and a crucial component in the Chinese 5-spice powder. It can be used to flavor soups and stews.

Coconut milk Used to thicken sauces and curries. Available in unsweetened in cans in the USA.

Corn flour/ corn starch I don’t use much corn flour in my cooking but it is handy for thickening sauces or creating a crunchy coating for dishes like sweet and sour pork.

Custard powder/ mix Also known as dessert mix. It is made of egg.

Daikon Belongs to the radish family, it can grow as long as 1 foot and as wide as 3 inches in diameter. Has crisp flesh with a peppery bite. Good in stews, stir-fries, soups and clay pot dishes.

Dried shrimp Tiny shrimp that has been brined and dried. It has a strong flavor and thus, should be used sparingly. Provides flavor and texture in stir-fries, stews and braised dishes.

Dried tangerine peel Wrinkled, burned looking orange strips of dried citrus peel. Soak prior to cooking. Good to flavor stews, soups and braised dishes.

English cucumber Also known as hot house cucumbers, they are seedless and have edible bright green skin.

Eggs Ahhh, eggs. Pretty important in any kitchen. Its uses are vast and one cannot go wrong with cooking eggs in any kind of cooking method. Chinese folks also pickle their eggs :)

Fermented bean curd Available in 2 colors: red and white. The red one contains annatto seeds that give it the red color and may have additional ingredients such as red wine, rice wine or chilies. The white is saltier and is used as a condiment or flavor stir-fried.

Fermented rice is fermented cooked grains of glutinous rice. It appears porridge-like and sold in glass or plastic jars. Has a slight fermented, sweet-starchy flavor.

Fish Must be eaten FRESH! And always keep them refrigerated if possible to prevent any stench! When purchasing fish, select firm-textured fish that do not smell fishy, has a natural glow and sheen, light pink inside the gills, clear protruding eyes and no yellow-brown tinges. When buying fish fillets, look for firm-textured flesh with no fishy smell, pink to white hue and slightly oily. Do not buy soggy fish fillet.

Fish sauce I don’t usually use this in my cooking but it is a common ingredient for flavoring. It has a clear, amber-colored liquid that is a product of salted and fermented fish. It has a unique, pungent aroma and taste. Can be used for marinating, stir-fries, dressing and dipping sauces. Good brands are Squid and Golden Boy.

Five-spice powder Made from 5 to 7 spices- cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, liquorice root, Sichuan peppercorns and ground ginger- to create the burst of exotic flavor unlike any other. It is used for marinating, braising and making sauces. It is available ready-mixed in packages. Store the powder in an airtight container away from light, heat and moisture.

Fried shallots My fav final touch to alot of my stir-fries and soups. Can be found in plastic jars.

Fuzzy melon Also known as hairy squash. Has a pale green hairy skin that should be peeled prior to use. Long and cylindrical. Has similar taste to cucumber and zucchini and cook like you would zucchini.

Gai choy By now, you would realize that “choy” means vegetable in Cantonese dialect. It is also known as mustard cabbage that has a deep green with a bulbuous core and thick, curved stems that bear coarse, wrinkly leaves. Used for stir-frying, braising and in soups, it has a tangy, bitter flavor.

Garlic Keeps the draculas away :) It is a critical integral to the cuisine of East Asians for, like, ever! When purchasing lashings of garlic, select the firmest heads. Available fresh, dried or minced and bottled. When cooking with garlic, mince it and use it within the hour. Great for simple stir-frying vegetables.

Ginger I was never too fond of ginger when I was in my wee years but now I love it! Fresh ginger has a clean, aromatic flavor and another crucial ingredient in Chinese cuisines. Always choose the firmest, heaviest root with smooth, taut skin. You can scrape off the skin prior to cooking but sometimes, I keep it on for a more earthy flavor.

Pickled ginger is pieces of ginger that has been pickled in salt, sugar and vinegar with pink dye. Found sliced, shredded or in chunks. Besides eating it with sushi, pickled ginger can be eaten in stir fries or salads and gives a sharp clean taste.

Gingko nut Has a small elliptical-shaped ivory colored nut with slightly biter taste. Available fresh, dried or canned. Good in soups, stews and desserts.

Ginseng Known to boost the immune system, intelligence and cleanse the internal organs. It's added in teas, soups and steamed dishes.

Glutinous rice flour Made from ground glutinous rice. Use to make dim sum dough. When boil, it produces a smooth, chewy dough. When fried, it creates a outer crispy shell and sticky inside. When steamed, it has a sticky texture.

Haw Pear- shaped dark red fruit, it has a sweet juicy taste and grown in China only. Used to make moke and haw flakes. I love to eat them when I was a kid. Sold in grocery stores in the snack section and have a sweet, sour fresh taste.

Hoisin sauce Made from fermented wheat and soy beans flavored with 5-spice powder. It has a dark purplish-brown, jam like sauce and tastes sweet and slightly spicy. Good for marinades, stir-fries and dipping sauce. I trust the brand Lee Kum Kee.

Hokkien noodles Eggy, meaty yellow noodles that are robust and tasty. Avoid buying slimy or greenish noodles and look for noodles made with real eggs, not yellow coloring. Good in soups and stir-fries.

Japanese bread crumbs Also known as panko- they are coarse, irregular crumbs that absorb less grease than ordinary dried bread crumbs when fried. They give fried foods a golden-brown, crispy texture with a toasty flavor. Check out my meatballs recipe using panko.

Jicama A starchy root veg with crisp ivory flesh and tough brown skin that should be removed before cooked or eaten raw. Has a sweet flavor. It is a main component of rojak.

Kaffir lime leaves Have bright green, bumpy, double lobed leaves. Available as whole leaves and in fresh or frozen forms. They give a lemon-lime flavor when cooked in dishes but shouldn't be eaten as a whole as they can be tough.

Kicap manis Literally means “sweet soy sauce” in Malay. It is sweetened, thick and rich soy sauce used in marinades and sauces.

Kumquat A grape-sized citrus fruit with edible rind. Used as a garnish or added to desserts or eaten as a snack.

Lemongrass A herb with a long, pale-green stalk. It imparts a lemony, slightly floral flavor. Only the bottom 6 inches of stalk is used. Remove tougher outer layers prior to use. It is crushed or sliced and added to dishes, curries and sauces. Can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for months.

My mum taught me a good trick- save at least an inch of the bottom, soak it in water and you'll see roots growing after a few days. You can plant it in soil with plenty of sun and water and new stalk will appear after a few weeks.

Longan A small oval fruit that has the size of a red globe grape. The white flesh has an appearance, taste and texture similar to a lychee. Available in canned, dried, crystallized or fresh. Eaten raw with skin removed or cooked in herbal soups and desserts.

Lotus leaves Belong to the water lilies, they are sold dried and about 2 feet long. They are used as a wrapper for savory fillings and rice or meat dishes such as naw mai gai. They give a tea flavor to the food. The leaves are soaked to soften prior to wrapping.

Lotus root It looks like a series of thick, irregular shaped, off-white sausages. Its cross section shows a ring of holes that run the length of the root. The root is peeled and sliced and added in soups and stir fries. Available fresh or frozen.

Lotus seeds are available in fresh, canned or dried forms. The beige, dried seeds and olive-size need to be soaked in boiling water for an hour prior to use. When the seeds are softened, remove the greenish central core since the core gives a bitter taste. These seeds are cooked in soups and stews or when crushed to paste, they become filling in sweet buns or desserts.

Lychee A fruit with a semi-translucent flesh and red, wrinkly skin. It tastes and has texture similar to grapes. Eaten raw or used in dishes, soups and desserts.

Maltose A type of malt sugar made from barley. It is used to coat the skin of roast duck, giving a deep rich flavor and color.

Malt vinegar The golden color vinegar is brewed from barley and wheat. Provides a slightly caramel flavor.

Meat and poultry Need I say much? If you can, try to get the freshest, chemical-free, hormone-free, non-genetically-modified, free-range, grass-fed and organically produced meat and poultry. They taste much sweeter, more refined and clean and provide more nutrients and minerals, beneficial to our overall health.

Moke stick is a brownish- red stick with 0.25 inch thick and 2 inches long. It is made from pureed haw fruit and sugar and gives a tangy sweet flavor. Can be found in the candy section at the Asian stores.

Monosodium glutamate Known as MSG, it is taste essence to enhance natural salts and sugars. Traditionally, it was made from dried fermented wheat gluten and soy bean protein and seaweeds. The modern version is made from sea-tangle Laminaria japonica. I don’t use it in my cooking because I find it gives a rather artificial flavor and makes me dehydrate.

Mustard powder When mixed in a liquid, it makes a spicy mustard condiment for dipping.

Nori Dried paper-thin seaweed used to make sushi.

Oyster mushrooms This cream-colored, fan-shaped mushroom is no stranger to Asian dishes because it provides a sweet and rich, velvety texture. Great in stir-fries, steamed, soups or braised.

Oyster sauce A necessity in my kitchen. It is made from oyster extract, sugar, salt, caramel and flour. The thick, light-brown sauce a robust flavor and used alot in my stir-fries. I recommend brands like Lee Kum Kee and Panda.

Palm sugar Made from sap of palm trees. It is boiled down to a thick paste, which forms hard round disks. The tan sugar has a mild flavor with distinctive almost coconut-like fragrance. Often sold as coconut sugar. Use a knife to cut off a portion of the slab and coarsely chop. Store in tightly sealed container.

Pea shoots Tender stems about 2.5 inches long with tiny green leaves, from the snow pea plant. Added to stir-fries, salads, soups and noodle dishes.

Peanut oil Great for deep frying and scalding due to its ability to heat at high temperatures without burning. It has a nutty, toasty and smoky flavor that the oil infuses to a dish. If you are allergic to nuts, then substitute with vegetable oil with a dash of sesame oil.

Peppercorns These berries come in two colors- white and black. The white peppercorns tend to be hotter and less aromatic than their black cousins. White peppercorns are typically use in fish, seafood and chicken dishes and soups while black peppercorns are typically use in pork and beef dishes. However, don’t let these “rules” deter you from using your fav peppercorns in your dishes.

Plum sauce Golden jam-like condiment made from salted plums and apricots, rice wine vinegar and pureed yams with some red chili flakes. It has a sweet, tangy and salty balance that works with roasted and BBQ meats.

Prawns / shrimps A nice option for seafood selections. When buying prawns, pick firm and vibrant looking creatures. They are easy and take minutes to cook.

Preserved pork Also known as Chinese bacon and has a pink meat with thick layer of fat. It is made from pork that has been salt-cured. It needs to be cooked. Used in soups, stir fries and noodle dishes.

Quail eggs Bite-sized eggs that are sold raw, hard-boiled, peeled or canned in brine. Use in stews, soups, deep fries or in dumpling fillings or as snacks.

Red dates Also known as Chinese jujubes, sold dried or preserved. They resemble wrinkled red raisins. They have a sweet-tart apple flavor.

Rice If there’s something synonymous to Chinese culture, it is their love for rice in every meal. There are two kind of rice- short grain like sushi rice which tends to be stickier, and long grain like jasmine or basmati with naturally separate grains. I tend to use jasmine rice produced from Thailand.

My mum taught me a pretty nifty trick when cooking white rice. Rinse rice grain in a deep bowl. Fill the bowl with water until it covers an inch above the rice. Place the bowl in a microwave and set to cook at HIGH for 13 mins. For first timers, I recommend checking the rice after 10 mins to make sure the rice doesn't dry out. If it looks like it's drying, add some more water. After 13 mins, remove bowl and fluff the rice. If it's still soggy, cook for 2 more mins. If it's fluffy and not soggy, the rice is ready to eat!

Rice noodle sheets Made from rice (doh!), water, starch and peanut oil, it has a delicious silky and slippery texture. It is also the only thing my second older sister cannot possibly eat despite numerous tries. They are versatile for any cooking styles.

Rice wine vinegar There is a variety of brands and intensities but it is mainly made from rice wine lees and alcohol.

Salted black beans I don’t use them much but my mother does. Also known as fermented black beans, they are made from fermenting small soy beans with salt and spices. Thus, giving a distinctive salty, rich taste and pungent flavor. They are typically used in conjunction with ginger and garlic in seafood and rich meats.

Salted plum Firm, light colored plum that has a sweet, tart taste but soft and firm texture. It is made by soaking the plum in salt brine, then in sugar solution and drying it. It is thought to stimulate the appetite. My sisters eat it while traveling during long journey because it helps to minimize motion sickness.

Sea salt Another variation of table and kitchen salt. It provides the “sea” to the dishes as well as its flaky texture.

Sesame oil The amber-colored oil is made from pressed roasted sesame seeds. Use small quantities as flavoring since it has a strong aromatic, nutty taste. I won’t recommend cooking with it as it has a low cooking temperature and can burn.

Sesame seeds Available in white and black seeds. Use as garnish for their color, taste and crunch. It should be dry-roasted before use to bring out flavor and oils. Sesame paste is made from finely ground toasted white sesame seeds and has a nutty flavor with peanut butter consistency. Stir to incorporate the oil with heavier paste before use.

Shao Hsing Wine A common cooking wine in China, it is a blend of glutinous rice, rice millet, yeast and water that has been aged in earthenware vessels for a decade in an underground cellars. The rich, mellow taste of the wine enhances and adds complexities in stir-fries, braises and stocks. If you don’t have one in the kitchen, you can use dry sherry.

Shiitake mushrooms I buy dried shittake mushrooms in packages. The dried mushrooms have very concentrated flavors and complement any dishes. Before cooking them, I reconstitute them in warm or boiling water for several minutes until they are tender. For quick results, I zap them in a microwave for 1 to 2 mins. You can buy them fresh but they don't keep for a long time and can be expensive. They are great as stuffings or in stir-fries, soups, etc.

Shrimp paste Critical ingredient in nasi lemak and other Malaysian dishes. It is a thick, pinkish gray paste made from salted and fermented shrimp. Has a pungent aroma and flavor that mellows when cooked.

Sichuan pepper and salt This mixture is good for sprinkle over dishes or in stir-fries, salads, braises and marinades. You can also make your own mixture by dry roasting a tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns and 3 tablespoons of sea salt in a heavy-based pan. When the peppercorns begin to ‘pop’ and become aromatic. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Sichuan peppercorns These berries of the prickly ash tree are dried and hollow, reddish-brown in color. They are intensely aromatic with a woody fragrance and should dry-roasted prior to use. When eaten they leave a pleasantly numbing, tingling sensation on the tongue.

Siu mai wrappers Made from wheat noodle dough, these round or square wrappers are the thinnest noodle wrappers available.

Snow fungus Also known as white fungus. It looks like a small, golden beige sponge. With no or little flavor, it absorbs other flavors when cooked in a dish. Before using, soak in warm water to soften. Provides a crunchy texture in soups, stir fries and desserts.

Snow peas Flat, green pods with mild flavor and gentle crunch. The ends and the strings that run from one end to another along the sides should be removed. Used in many dishes.

Soy sauce Arguably the most common sauce used in Chinese cooking. It is made from soybean meal and usually wheat, which are naturally fermented and aged for up to 2 years. Dark soy sauce is aged longer than light soy sauce and mixed with molasses. Thus, giving a dark, caramel color. Light sauces are used in dressings, stir-fries, braises and steamed dishes. Dark sauces are used in marinades, stocks and braises. Reliable brands include Kikkoman and Pearl River Bridge.

Spring roll wrappers Thin, delicate wrappers made from wheat-flour and water batter. When fried, the wrappers become light and crispy.

Squid and calamari These creatures are easy and fast to cook. They are commonly found frozen in the US but you can find fresh ones in Asian grocery stores in the US or in the Far East. When buying fresh squid, get ones that smell sweet with no trace of ammonia and should be used immediately. Be careful to avoid leaving them sitting in water or ice for long periods of time since they absorb water easily.

Star anise This unique hard, star shaped, 8-pointed seed pod from the magnolia family has a robust, liquorice flavor and scent. It is an important ingredient in the 5-spice powder and typically used in stocks and braises, usually with soy sauce and cinnamon. It makes a pretty garnish too.

Straw mushrooms Small mushrooms that have dark brown caps and tender white stems with delicate sweet flavor. Found canned, peeled or unpeeled.

Sugar Available in 2 colors- brown and white sugar. They are great to sweeten dishes, marinades, sauces, soups and many more. Rock sugar is lump of crystallized sugar with a yellowish tint. It is used in braised dishes, soups, sauces and desserts. Has a richer flavor than refined sugar.

Sugar snap peas Bright green peas with edible pod containing tiny peas. The ends and the strings that run from one end to another along the sides should be removed. Used in many dishes.

Tamari Another version of dark soy sauce that is brewed without wheat.

Tapioca starch Fine white powder that comes from the cassava root. It is used to thicken sauces and extra bonding to dim sum doughs. Can be known as "tapioca flour". Used to make the popular tapioca balls for desserts and drinks.

Taro root A tuber with a dark brown, rough skin and pale speckled flesh. It ranges in size from as small as a golf ball to as big as a melon. When cooked, it gives a sweet, nutty flavor.

Thai sweet basil An herb with angular green leaves, purplish stems and a crown of purplish flowers. Adds pungent, slightly minty-licorice flavor to curries, soups, stews and stir-fries.

Tobiko Also known as flying fish roe and has a crunchy texture and flavorful. Consists of tiny, bright orange eggs. Popular in sushi but can be used in salads or mixed in scrambled eggs.

Tofu Also known as bean cake, soybean cheese or bean curd, the white block is a protein-rich, low fat food made from soy milk coagulated using either natural gypsum or nigari, which is derived from seawater. Tofu is sold in 3 textures in the US- soft/ silken, regular and firm that are determined from its compression time of the bean curd. All types have a distinctive smooth, silky, velvety texture and a bland, neutral taste. Tofu is versatile and a great protein source for vegetarians. It can be cooked in numerous cooking techniques.

Always purchase tofu that has not expired as bad tofu produces a horrible smell. Avoid buying tofu that has a greenish yellow slime or looks bloated as it is fermenting.

Some tofu are sold after they are treated with 5-spice powder or soy sauce, or deep-fried.

By-products of the tofu-making process are bean curd skins in forms of sheets and sticks.

Tofu puffs or bean curd puffs Light, crispy, golden brown, deep-fried cubes of tofu with soft, dry spongy centers. Stuff these puffs with meat or veg fillings and then pan fry, deep fry or boil them in soups or stews.

Turmeric Bright, rusty orange member of the ginger family. Available fresh in as a whole root or powder form. Used primarily for color and has a pungent, bitter flavor.

Vegetable oil Vegetable oils such as cottonseed, canola, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils are good for deep-frying as they have a neutral, unobtrusive flavor and odor and do not easily burn at high temperatures.

Vegetables Chinese love their vegetables. When buying fresh vegs, look for the most firm-skinned, unbruised, unwilted, uninfected, vibrant colored, intense and fresh-smelling tender young ones. Use them within the week as they can wilt. Store them in the veg container in the fridge. Wash all parts of the vegetables properly prior to cooking to remove bacteria and avoid soaking them for a long time as you can loose vital vitamins and minerals. Do not use bleach, toxic or washing detergents as they can leave residuals on the produce.

Preserved veg are usually made with turnips, radishes, napa cabbage, mustard greens or bok choy. They exist in vacuum-sealed, canned or in small crockery pots. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.

Vinegar See malt vinegar and white vinegar.

Wasabi Can be called Japanese horseradish. Sold as powder or in can,s, jars or tubes. Has a sharp bite which clears stuffy nose!

Water chestnuts Available fresh or canned. Walnut-sized with a dark skin that should be removed prior to use. Have a mild taste and crunchy texture.

Wheat starch Fine off-white powder left after all glutinous proteins are removed from wheat flour, used to make dim sum doughs.

White vinegar White vinegar is used to make pickles and sweet and sour sauce. The sweet and harsh liquid’s flavor tends to lengthen out. So use appropriately.

Winter melon A large pale-green gourd with milky-white flesh and have a mild flavor. Must be cooked and typically used in soups, stews and steamed dishes.

Wolfberries Small, deep red oval fruit of the medlar tree. Has a slightly spiced apple flavor. Sold dried and used in soups, desserts and steamed dishes.

Wonton wrappers These wrappers come in round or square shapes, usually 3 inches in length are available in the refrigerated sections of most supermarkets. They easily simplify your life than making from scratch. Wonton wrappers come in two version- the white and yellow ones. The white ones are made with flour and water while the yellow ones are made with an additional ingredient- eggs. Buy wrappers that are not expired and avoid any with dark mouldy spots. Wonton wrappers can be used to make dumplings, wontons and even, crisps and fried wonton with sweet fillings as snacks.

XO sauce Originated in Hong Kong, it's a sauce made of dried scallops and shrimp, chili peppers and spices. Taste salty, fishy and spicy. Used as a condiment or flavor to a variety of dishes.

Check out soup recipes that utilize these ingredients :)


- Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong

- Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking

Date: 10/21/2010 (Last updated: 11/28)