Authentic seasonings are essential to Chinese cooking. Most supermarkets now stock
many of these ingredients, as do the growing number of Asian markets throughout the
metro area. Here's a list of some of the most readily available spices and sauces:
Chili peppers: Add a hot and spicy edge to Sichuan-style dishes.
Chili paste: Made with mashed chili peppers, vinegar and garlic, a fiery flavor that puts
zing into Chinese dishes.
Five-spice powder: Ground anise, Sichuan pepper, fennel, cloves and cinnamon. The
pungent blend is for flavoring meat and poultry.
Ginger root: A gnarled brown tuber with a lemon-zesty flavor; shaved and skin
removed, it's great for stir-fry.
Hoisin sauce: A thick, reddish-brown concoction of soybeans, flour, sugar, salt, garlic and
chili peppers that adds a sweetish taste to cooked dishes and also is a good marinade or
dipping sauce for seafood and poultry.
Scallion: Mild, tender green onion with a small white bulb and tall green stalk, great for
soups and stir-fry flavoring.
Bamboo shoots: Ivory-colored, mild-flavored sprouts from the bamboo plant used in
stir-fries and soups; canned versions are most common.
Bok choy: Tall, thick-stalked cabbage for stir-fry, soups and pickled side dishes.
Chinese cabbage: Also called napa, the oval-shaped, densely packed, broad leaves are
juicy and slightly sweet. Use in dumplings, fillings, soups and stir-fries.
Dried mushrooms: Shitake, black and wood ear are among varieties used. Soak in water
before adding to soups and stir-fries.
Mung bean sprouts: Used in stir-fry and other dishes for their sweet taste and tender
Oyster sauce: A dark-brown mix of oysters, brine and soy sauce, cooked until it's thick
and concentrated. Use in stir-fries and as a dip.
Peanut oil: Distinctive flavored oil for stir-fries.
Pea pods: Flat green pods with tiny green peas inside. Provide a fresh, sweetish taste
that's perfect for soups, salads and stir-fries. Cook only slightly to preserve their crisp
Sesame oil: Nutty and pungent; add a teaspoon to finish a stir-fry dish.
Tapioca flour: Extracted from the root of the cassava plant; used as a thickening agent for