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Chinese Cooking 101: Exploring Different Ingredients & Flavours

Being in India, it is quite understandable that the array of Indian cuisine is the most popular and most consumed among people. However, Chinese cuisine is considered a close second, as one of the popular cuisines here. The sheer uniqueness of noodles, soups, and Dim sum among other lip-smacking options leaves one craving for more.

Indians love the authentic flavours of Chinese food, and to this delectable cuisine some Indian tweaks were made to create something unique, what is known as ‘Indo-Chinese’ cuisine. Well, this is nothing else but Chinese food with some additions made to suit the Indian palate.

Earlier making Chinese food at home sounded almost ‘impossible’ and one would only rely on restaurant visits for Chinese fare. Often, attempts at home would fail, obviously due to a lack of authentic Chinese spices and sauces in the kitchen or worse lack of their availability. With time, thankfully Chinese spices and sauces are very easily available and can be kept at home to whip up your favourite meal in no time.

Here are a few Chinese spices and sauces that are a must to get the perfect ‘Restaurant like’ foods at home.

Umami Taste Enhancer or Ajinomoto

This ingredient plays a crucial role in giving that true Chinese flavour to food. It is greatly used in authentic preparations as it helps to mask the odours of fish and helps food to last longer. It lends a savoury flavour to foods and is a ‘must have’ while preparing Chinese noodles or rice or even soups.

Buy Ajinomoto here

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce can be easily called the ‘backbone’ of Chinese cooking. It is traditionally used as one of the key ingredients in most Chinese dishes, be it in a simple stir fry or as a dip or in a complex recipe. Some of the key ingredients of Soy sauce are soya beans, wheat and wheat bran. It gives the food a sharp pungent and savoury flavour.

Soy Sauce is available in two options:

Light Soy Sauce: This sauce is primarily used as a dip, as it has a relatively lighter pungent taste. It is also used to make stir-fries or quick salads.

Dark Soy Sauce: This sauce has a darker hue and a more intense taste. Meats are seasoned fantastically using dark soy sauce. It can also be used to add darkness to a dish.

Buy Soy Sauce here

Oyster Sauce

Made obviously from Oysters along with sugar, soy sauce wheat flour etc. The sauce has a very prominent sweet and salty flavour. You can cook various kinds of meats and stir fry using this sauce. It is considered one of the favourite sauces in Chinese cuisine.

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

Vegetarians need not miss out on this sauce as an alternative vegetarian option is also now available. Made out of mushrooms, this sauce is devoid of any animal ingredients but retains the prominent Oyster sauce flavour.

Buy Oyster Sauce here

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is to Chinese cooking; what Olive oil is to Italian cooking. The nutty delicious taste of sesame oil is hard to miss in typical Chinese dressings or dipping sauces. The oil is also used to marinate meats and a mouth-watering stir fry is incomplete without the addition of some sesame oil. This dark red-coloured oil is primarily made of sesame seeds.

Buy Sesame oil here


Can any Chinese preparation ever be complete without the acidic kick of Vinegar? Whether you use rice vinegar, chilli vinegar or any other variant, the unmistakable taste of vinegar adds perfection to any preparation. It can be used to add flavour to soups and salads or even to braise meats. A stir fry tastes flavourful only after the perfect hint of vinegar.

Buy Vinegar here

Rice Wine

This cooking wine may not be ideal as a party drink but plays an important role in Chinese cooking. The key ingredient of rice wine understandably is rice, particularly sticky rice along with millet. The main role of this ingredient is to mask strong or offensive odours from certain meat and fish. The fragrance of rice wine also helps to enhance the aromas of a preparation. It also allows deeper penetration of flavours in the food.

Buy Rice Wine here

Chilli Sauce

This is a famous dip that is most commonly seen especially in India, where spice is relished in meals. This is the perfect addition to all noodles, rice or soups and much more to add the kick of spice. Available in two variants, green chilli sauce and even red chilli sauce.

Buy Chilli Sauce here

Chilli Oil

Though this sauce may not be used as an ingredient in a Chinese preparation, it surely is one of the most loved toppings or dips. A fiery sauce made using slow-roasted chillies with a layer of oil can be added to your choice of dumplings, noodles or anything else. It can add zest to even the dullest dishes.

Buy Chilli Oil here

Sichuan Pepper

This is a particular addition to all kinds of Sichuan preparations. It lends a pungent yet spicy taste that can even numb the tongue. It is a great ingredient when making a meal, especially for a person having a cold or even some stomach ailments. It can be added to meats to hide some strong odours or simply to relish the Sichuan dish.

Buy Sichuan Pepper here

Five Spice Powder

As the name suggests, this spice mix is an amalgamation of five different spices, namely cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, Chinese cinnamon and star anise. The five-spice powder saves the chef the trouble of using individual spices or even the risk of going wrong with the measurements.

This spice mix is very popular in Chinese preparations and is often used to season food including meats, eggs, or fish. It gives each food an authentic Chinese flavour.

Buy Five Spice Powder here

Schezwan Stir Fry Sauce

No list of Chinese sauces could ever be complete without a mention of this multi-purpose delicious sauce. In India, this sauce has helped to make mouth-watering Chinese preparations even for the most amateur home cooks. This sauce is the perfect base not just for a stir fry, but easily becomes the base of any noodles, rice or many other preparations. What’s more? It adds flavour even to foods that do not feature in a typical Chinese menu. This is also a proud addition to the newly innovated Indo-Chinese foods.

Buy Schezwan Stir Fry Sauce here

The list of Chinese spices and sauces can go on far longer, however, having some of these basic products can ready your kitchen for a wide range of home-cooked delectable Chinese dishes.

1 comment on “Chinese Cooking 101: Exploring Different Ingredients & Flavours

  1. Indo-Chinese cuisine is basically, Indian sprinkled with Soya sauce, vinegar & chilly sauce 😀

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