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the chinese 
pantry an illustrated guide 
to the basic ingredients in 
Chinese cooking
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It never ceases to amaze me how, in even the tiniest little towns on the outer edges of nowhere, you can still find a little Chinese restaurant dishing out soy-sauce-drenched fried rice, sticky General Gau’s chicken, fluorescent yellow egg drop soup. So unless you’ve been living in a cave your whole life, you’ve no doubt encountered enough Chinese cuisine – or at least its Westernized bastardizations – that the foundations of its flavors don’t seem so terribly exotic to the palate. Soy sauce, ginger, scallions and rice … these may already play a role in your cooking. But there’s a lot more to Chinese cooking than those familiar fundamentals. If you’re looking to expand your skills beyond the same old soy sauced stir-fry medley, you’ll need to get your kitchen stocked with some of these goodies …

the basic pantry

1. soy sauce | Soy sauce is a staple of Chinese cooking. Made from a fermented mixture of soy beans, flour and water, the richness and saltiness of soy sauce varies considerably from one brand to the next – an important factor to keep in mind when you’re following recipes. In general, I prefer Japanese soy sauces, which seem to have a smoother flavor to me than Chinese brands … the organic San-J brand tamari is a favorite.
2. sesame oil (toasted) | This dark brown-colored oil has a delicious aroma, and is generally sprinkled over dishes and into sauces as a seasoning rather than for cooking.
3. canola or vegetable oil | Traditionally, peanut oil was the preferred oil for cooking in China, but vegetable and canola oils are much healthier, and, like peanut oil, have a nice, neutral flavor that makes them ideal for stir-frying.
4. black vinegar | A dark, slightly sweet, relatively mild vinegar that’s made from rice, wheat, millet or sorghum, black vinegar is used in braised dishes and dipping sauces.
5. rice vinegar | A clear, mild vinegar with a nice clean flavor, commonly used in sauces. If you substitute cider vinegar (or ordinary vinegar), use a little less than the recipe calls for. Japanese Marukan brand is a good choice.

more basics this way

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