19 Essential Chinese Ingredients (& Where to Buy Them)

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An introduction to 19 essential Chinese ingredients that will help you recreate Chinese restaurant dishes in your own kitchen. 

An introduction to 19 essential Chinese ingredients that will help you recreate Chinese restaurant dishes in your own kitchen.

Over the past few years, the one question that I’ve received the most is – What are the basic ingredients to get me started cooking real-deal Chinese food?

The short answer is, you only need 6 Chinese ingredients to get started cooking delicious Chinese food. These are the ingredients I use 80% of the time, if not every day. 

I’ve also listed 3 must-have fresh ingredients, which you can often get at a grocery store.

The rest of the post contains 5 sauces and 5 spices that are commonly used in many of my recipes. It can come in handy, depending on the type of food you want to cook. For example, if you’d like to make authentic dim sum or Sichuan food.

After getting these basic Chinese ingredients, you’ll be able to cook a wide variety of Chinese dishes by combining them with other ingredients that you can find at the average grocery store.

NOTE: I have included a short introduction for each ingredient. If you want to read more about the ingredient, click on the title. It will lead you to a more thorough article on the use, storage, and shopping for that ingredient.

6 Must-Have Basic Chinese Ingredients

(1) Light soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)

Light soy sauce, or Sheng Chou (生抽), is a must-have Chinese ingredient. It’s saltier than regular soy sauce but has a lighter color. It adds a savory umami flavor to the dish without adding much color. Light soy sauce is commonly used in all kinds of dishes. 

Note, “lite” soy sauce is a totally different thing, which is usually sold by Japanese brands. “Lite” soy sauce contains less sodium and has a different taste. It’s not suitable for Chinese recipes.

I usually keep a bottle of regular soy sauce on hand as well, which will add a bit of color to a dish. If you want to keep your pantry less crowded, you can keep either light soy sauce or regular soy sauce.

Regular soy sauce brands

If you avoid gluten, you can either use tamari to replace the (light) soy sauce.

Three soy sauce brands I use

Recommended Brands

(2) Dark soy sauce

Dark soy sauce, or Lao Chou (老抽), tastes less salty and slightly sweet and is thicker in texture and darker in color. Dark soy sauce is more like a food coloring than a condiment. It is usually used together with light soy sauce in braising and sometimes stir frying, to add an appetizing dark brown color to a dish. It is responsible for the lovely deep color of dishes such as Beef Chow Fun and Red Braised Pork.

List of dark soy sauce I use

Recommended Brands

Pearl River Bridge, Lee Kum Kee, Haitian

(3) Chinkiang vinegar 

Chinkiang vinegar, or Zhen Jiang Xiang Cu (镇江香醋), is sometimes called old vinegar (老醋, Lao Cu), or black vinegar (黑醋, Hei Cu). Chinkiang vinegar has a distinctive dark brown color that is almost like that of soy sauce. It has a rich, pungent, and tart flavor, with a fermented, malty taste and woody character that differentiates it from the lighter colored rice vinegar.

In China, Chinkiang vinegar is an important Chinese ingredient balsamic vinegar is in Italian cuisine. I use it to make General Tso’s Chicken, Hot and Sour Soup, and Cucumber Salad.

PS. On a different note, if you love northern Chinese cooking, also keep an eye on Shan Xi vinegar (sometimes called aged vinegar or mature vinegar). It has a more intense flavor and less sweet. It’s perfect for dumpling dipping.

List of Chinese dark vinegar I use

Recommended Brands 

Golden Plum, Heng Shun, Shan Xi Vinegar (NOTE, the last one is not Chinking, but for dumpling dippings)

(4) Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)

Shaoxing wine (绍兴酒, pronounced “shao-shing”) is a type of rice wine. It’s an important Chinese ingredient as soy sauce. It has a light brown color and a savory umami flavor that resembles light soy sauce. It adds depth of flavor to a dish and I use it in almost everything, from making sauce, to deglazing pans, and making marinade.

It has an alcohol content of around 17%, so it is impossible for grocery stores in some states to carry the original unsalted type. Purchase your Shaoxing wine from an Asian liquor store or Asian grocery store, where it is usually displayed in the liquor section (not the pantry section). 

NOTE: Read the label before purchasing and avoid the type that has salt in it.

The next best thing to Shaoxing wine is dry sherry (avoid the sweet type), which you can get at most liquor stores.

The correct and wrong Shaoxing wine

(5) Peanut oil

A great bottle of high-quality peanut oil will make all dishes instantly better. It has a high smoking point, which is perfect for stir-fries. Try to find an Asian brand that consists of 100% peanut oil. When you open the lid, the oil should be particularly fragrant and smell like peanut butter. It is as fragrant as toasted sesame oil, but with a higher smoke point and a much lower price (per volume, anyway). If you cook simple vegetable dishes, such as bok choy with hot garlic soy sauce or stir fried cabbage, you’ll notice a big difference when using pure peanut oil instead of regular vegetable oil. I often skip adding sesame oil in my dishes because I use the pure peanut oil.

You can usually find high quality peanut oil in an Asian grocery store. Note, it usually has a golden color, which is darker than that of the pale-colored regular peanut oil you see in regular grocery stores.

NOTE: read the label before purchasing. You should only purchase the one that contains 100% peanut oil. Some brands will produce both types – See the picture below. The one on the left says blended peanut oil in Chinese, and the product has a golden color. The one on the right is pure peanut oil and has a dark amber color.

100% pure peanut oil for Chinese cooking

Recommended Brands

Lion & Globe (I love this brand it’s easier to find in the US), Arowana Brand (we use this in China)

(6) Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a very important part of any Asian pantry, because you will use it to thicken sauces and soups, marinate meat, and pan fry ingredients to create a crispy crust. 

For example, you will use the cornstarch slurry to create the silky texture of egg drop soup. You will need it to create the sticky texture of sauces, such as orange sauce and General Tso’s sauce. In many recipes, I use cornstarch to coat meat and pan fry it, to create a super crispy deep-fried texture. Such as with the salt and pepper chicken.

It’s possible to use other starches, such as potato starch or tapioca starch, to replace the cornstarch. But each starch has a different thickening power. So you might need to adjust the amount used in my recipes.

3 Essential Fresh Ingredients – Aromatics

Ginger, Green Onion, and Garlic

I’ve seen cookbook authors call these the Holy Trinity of Chinese Cooking. It’s very true and I will forever have all three of them in my pantry. You will use them in most Chinese dishes. All three of them add aroma and fragrance to a dish. Although ginger has another advantage – it contains enzymes that can tenderize meat. 

For stir-fried dishes, you will saute aromatics in oil to infuse the flavor of the aromatics, which creates a rich and robust sauce that tastes so much better than bottled sauce. Just look at how much of these aromatics I used in the Char Siu Chow Mein.

Aromatics are also commonly used in meat marinades, dumpling fillings, soups, and cold dishes. See how I repetitively used green onion and ginger in the Wonton Soup. And how I used all three of these aromatics and some Chinese sauces to turn poached chicken into a feast in my Bang Bang Chicken recipe (So many readers have told me it’s their favorite Game Day snack now).

You might be familiar with green onion and garlic, which are very common in a regular market. However, I do find that fresh ginger can be hard to find sometimes, depending on where you live. So I’ve created a post on How to Freeze Ginger, so you can store it for a long time. Sometimes you will also find packaged ginger paste that comes in a tube. It’s less fragrant than fresh ginger, but still works much better than dry ginger powder. 

7 Nice-to-have Chinese Ingredients – Sauce & Paste

(1) Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is fruity and slightly sweet. Compared to Chinkiang vinegar, rice vinegar is less commonly used on a daily basis. However, if you like dishes such as Orange Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, and Honey Chicken, rice vinegar is a must. I also like to use it to make Pickled Cabbage.

Recommended Brands

Marukan (or other Japanese brands)

(2) Oyster sauce

Oyster sauce (蚝油, hao you) is a dark, thick sauce made from oyster extract. It is salty, savory, a bit seafoody, and lightly sweet. It adds umami and sweetness to a dish. Commonly used in Cantonese cuisine, it is a must-have ingredient for fried noodles and dim sum. 

No matter whether you’re making a quick Chicken Chow Fun or Chicken and Broccoli, oyster sauce will add a rich taste to your dish. It’s also a key ingredient for making authentic egg rolls.

NOTE: Oyster sauce comes with different grades. The premium type (left in the picture) contains more oyster essence and has a better taste. The regular one (middle in the picture) contains more sugar and is cheaper. 

For vegetarian and vegan dishes, you can use vegetarian oyster sauce or homemade vegetarian oyster sauce.

LKK oyster sauce and the vegetarian / vegan alternative

Recommended Brands

Lee Kum Kee (they invented oyster sauce), Chee Hou Sauce for vegetarian / vegan alternatives

(3) Hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce (海鲜酱, hai xian jiang) is a dark, thick sauce made mostly from sugar and soybeans. It’s commonly used in Cantonese cuisine – a key ingredient for making Char Siu Pork and Char Siu Buns. It’s also a popular dipping sauce that is great for veggies and roasted meat. 

Consider using my Homemade Hoisin Sauce recipe instead of purchasing it.

Hoisin sauce brands I like

Recommended Brands

Lee Kum Kee, Koon Chun, Kikkoman

(4) Doubanjiang

Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), or Chinese spicy fermented bean paste, is a thick dark brown paste that tastes salty, fermented-savory, and spicy. A key ingredient in Sichuan cuisine, you’ll need this one if you want to cook a good Mapo Tofu, Twice Cooked Pork, or Yu Xiang Eggplant. I also highly recommend this ingredient if you like spicy food, because it adds a rich taste to any simple stir fried dish immediately. For example, super simple yet delicious Green Beans with Ground Pork and Braised Daikon Radish.

Pi Xian Doubanjiang

Recommended Brands

Pi Xian Dou Ban (named after its origin and current source of production).

(5) Toasted sesame oil

Toasted sesame oil has a dark amber color and an intense, nutty aroma. It has a low smoking point and can’t stand up to high heat, so it’s usually only used at the end of cooking. I skip sesame oil most of the time in my cooking since I always use a high-quality peanut oil (see above). But it’s an important condiment to have, since you can use it to create delicious soup and dumplings

Kadoya toasted sesame oil

Recommended Brands

Kadoya, Spectrum (can be find in Whole Foods and other grocery stores)

5 Nice-to-have Spices

(1) White pepper powder

White pepper powder (白胡椒粉, Bai Hu Jiao Fen) is widely used in Chinese cooking. It has a sharp, spicy, and smoky flavor that is perfect for adding a clean and light spiciness without being too overwhelming. It is spicier and fruitier, but less complex, than black pepper. 

Finely ground white pepper is a key ingredient in popular Chinese dishes such as Hot and Sour Soup and Salt and Pepper Chicken.

(2) Five spice powder

Five spice powder (五香粉, wu xiang fen) is another common ingredient in Chinese cuisine. As its name would suggest, the powder is a mixture of five spices – star anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel seed, and Sichuan peppercorn. Five spice powder has a warm, savory, earthy and licorice flavor. A tiny amount goes a long way. While not a necessity in the Chinese pantry, it is a very convenient spice blend to have, in order to infuse savory goodness into meat dishes.

Five spice powder is usually used in braising, as a dry rub for grilling, and in marinades. 

Five spice powder is a key ingredient in the popular Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork) and I use it as a secret ingredient in my famous Homemade Chili Oil recipe.

Dried chili pepper

Not only is it a key ingredient in authentic Sichuan food, it’s commonly used in braising and stir-frying to infuse fragrance into the oil. There are a few types of commonly used Chinese chili peppers. For example, Facing Heaven Chili (the most common) is medium-hot and very fragrant. The fat Lantern Chili is smoky and mild. Xiao Mi Chili (looks like a bird’s eye chili) is very spicy. 

It’s nice to have dried chilis on hand so you can easily add smokiness and fragrance to your dish.

See how I use dried chili peppers to make this fragrant 4-Ingredient Fried Cabbage and the authentic Sichuan Mala Chicken.

The Mala Market Dried Chili Peppers

Recommended Brands

The Mala Market (they import premium high-quality ingredients from Sichuan)

Sichuan peppercorn

Sichuan peppercorn, or Hua Jiao (花椒), is a lesser known and underrated ingredient that’s crucial to the Chinese pantry. It has a pungent aroma, slightly lemony overtones, and numbing properties (it’s not exactly “spicy”). If you bite into one of these small peppercorns, you’ll immediately feel the tongue-tingling, buzzing, party-in-your-mouth sensation otherwise known as “ma” (numbing).

It’s a key ingredient in authentic Sichuan food, as important as the chili peppers. And like dried chili peppers, it’s commonly used in stir fries, noodles, and cold dishes, to add an intense aroma to the dish.

The Mala Market Sichuan Peppercorns

You will need it for all the famous Sichuan dishes, such as Dan Dan Noodles, Mapo Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, and Dry Fried Green Beans. It’s also a key ingredient to make great Sesame Noodles, Xinjiang Lamb Skewers, and Beef Meat Pies.

Recommended Brands

The Mala Market (some of the most fresh products I’ve seen in the US)

Star anise

One of the ingredients in five spice powder, whole star anise pods (大料, da liao) are commonly used in braised dishes to add a warm licorice-like aroma. 

You will need it to make Chinese Red Braised Pork, Tea Eggs, and Soy Sauce Chicken.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Marissa | Pinch and Swirl says:

    What a great reference, Maggie! Thank you so much…

  2. Helen @ Scrummy Lane says:

    I learn so much from you about Chinese cooking, Maggie – I love how you make it all so easy to understand.

    I love Chinese 5-spice powder – it makes such a huge difference to the flavour of a dish. And I just bought some Siaoxing wine to try in a receipe – it was great!

    • Maggie says:

      I love five spice powder too! It’s really powerful and a tiny amount makes a dish very different. I’m glad you decided to try out Shaoxing wine and able to find it! Looking forward to reading your new recipe 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  3. Nancy | Plus Ate Six says:

    Fantastic round up! I’ve seen the lily flowers but had no idea what they are or what to do with them. And now I do 🙂

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Nancy, you need to try out the lily flowers while you can get the good ones in China (I need to bring these to the US every time, because the local ones are not very fresh)! They taste great in stew and stir-fry. If it’s your first time to cook with them, try to add a few into a savory stew, like braised chicken (something like this: https://omnivorescookbook.com/recipes/moms-best-braised-chicken-with-mushrooms). I believe you’ll like the taste 🙂

  4. J-Mom says:

    This is a great resource. I had to immediately check my soy sauce ingredients. And next time I’m getting the ‘toasted’ sesame oil.
    I do have black bean sauce. Do I also need the fermented black beans?
    Ginger: I use them up to twice a week. So I end up peeling them, cutting them into tablespoon size and freezing them, grate them frozen as needed. Is there a better way to store them?

    • Maggie says:

      Nope, you don’t need the fermented black beans if you already have the sauce. I actually like the sauce more, because the flavor is more balanced. I listed the black beans here, because you can use them to make the sauce in a slightly cheaper way. They also stay in your fridge slightly longer.
      As for the ginger, what I usually do is to freeze a portion of the root after purchasing, if the chunk is too big. I grate them in food processor, flatten them in a bag and freeze them. So I can break off a piece whenever I need it. For the fresh ginger root, I wrap them with several layers of paper towel and wet the towel with water. You need to wet the towel every few days, but the ginger root will stay fresh for very long time. Don’t put it into a bag. So ginger can breath and won’t rot.
      I hope this is helpful!

      • David says:

        I keep my ginger root in a rolled up brown paper bag in the refrigerator and it keeps far longer than out on the counter.
        Really enjoy your recipes, keep them coming

  5. Robyn @ Simply Fresh Dinners says:

    I’m so excited to have this list, Maggie. I really want to explore Chinese cooking and your beautiful dishes are such an inspiration. I’m going to have fun scouting out these ingredients, too. Great post!

    • Maggie says:

      You probably only need one trip to the Asian market to get all of them. If you’re just starting out, the first ten ingredients are enough for you to cook many dishes. Like, most the recipes in my ebook 😉

  6. Alice says:

    I have everything except the doubanjiang and the peanut oil, so I guess I’m on the right track! Love your blog- you make everything sound easy and delicious! Oh, and I just keep ginger root at room temp in a little bowl along with my fresh garlic. It stays fresh a long time, at least 2 weeks, without going rotten or moldy, without water or refrigeration. It gets dried out eventually, but I try to use it before then.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Alice, yep, it seems like you’re on the right track! I’m so glad to hear you like my blog 🙂
      Thanks for sharing your tip of storing ginger! My mom used to keep them in room temperature without any problem. Next time I’ll try keep them in the room temperature with some damp paper towel wrapped around. The wet paper won’t cause rotten because it’s allow the air to flow (I discovered it by a “flood” accident). But yeah, they will eventually dry out. If I cannot use it fast enough, I’ll just freeze it.

      • Amita Bhalla says:

        Even if ginger dries out, it’s aroma intensifies. BTW I love your recipes. So good and easy to make

  7. Kevin | Keviniscooking says:

    Fantastic write up here Maggie and I am happy to report I have everything either in my pantry or refrigerator except for the Doubanjiang. While I do have fermented black bean paste, it’s not the red spiced one you have here. One thing though – no ginger paste? I use that non stop! If I don’t have any of the fresh ground ginger paste I always keep a frozen root in the freezer and grate it. 🙂

    • Maggie says:

      Wow, it’s surprising to hear you got everything for cooking Chinese food Kevin! Sounds great 🙂
      As for the ginger, I personally always prefer the fresh ginger root. I grate them in food processor and freeze them, if I got more than I can use. But since we can easily get it at most supermarket, and I use quite a lot, I just cut the portion I need from the root. How long will the fresh ginger paste stay good in the fridge? I want to try this too so I can save prep time!

      • Kevin | Keviniscooking says:

        I usually pick it up in any Asian market and now in most food markets in the vegetable section. It’s in jars or tubes. Ginger paste lasts a bit, but I usually buy the smaller jars and use it quick. Fresh is the best!

      • Maggie says:

        I’ll look out for these next time. Fresh is the best, but the paste sounds so convenient when I’m in a rush. Thanks for sharing the tips Kevin 🙂

      • Amita Bhalla says:

        I normally grind a big bunch of ginger as I use it a lot(I am Indian) what I do is after grinding I put it in ice tray to freeze. Then remove the cubes and store them in freezer bags in the freezer. This way I use one cube at a time without having to thaw the whole lot.BTW I do the same for Thai green curry paste.

  8. ColinR says:

    Thanks for this article maggie; it’s just what I needed. Deciding to learn chinese cookery is a bit like deciding to learn European cookery; there’s a lot of it; it can be overwhelming. What attracted me to chinese cooking is that it respects the main ingredients. Gradually learning how these basic flavourings are used to compliment different meats and veg offers plenty to engage with.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Colin, I’m so glad you found this list helpful. Yes, if you’re just starting out, the new ingredients and spices might sound a bit daunting. However, I found there are many ways to incorporate the cooking with a lot of cookware and ingredients you already have. Of course you’ll come across more than the ones listed here, but with the top 10, you already can cook most of the dishes from my ebook (it’s for free when you sign up my newsletter) 🙂 Seems like you already get the gist of Chinese cooking very well 😉
      Have a wonderful week ahead!

    • Tony says:

      Hey Maggie was looking through your comments and saw Kevin in 2016 mention the ginger paste.i know it’s a few year later 😂 I make my own ginger paste and garlic paste for my italian Asian and middle Eastern cooking the cost can be high throughout the year, I grow my own garlic and ginger At my apartment in large tubs by the window when it’s ready to harvest I blend all the garlic in normal blender with cooking oil(rapeseed and little peanut oil) and do the same with the ginger and I then put the pastes in large chip shop pickle jars usually fill one with the ginger paste the garlic is around half to three quarters and both are very strong in flavour they last whole year in fridge the oil preserves them and doesn’t affect the flavour if I have a busy cooking year I top up with some store bought if I don’t have any ready for picking so it never runs out and very rarely have to buy any to top up maybe once or twice the past few years I recommend everyone do this takes no effort not much space just soak and plant some ginger root plant a few sections of garlic wait couple month harvest repeat always have a fresh batch every couple month depending on your indoor growing skills and indoor climate control👍

  9. Zoee Tan says:

    Hi Maggie

    Your braised mushroom chicken is superb. My husband loves it. So does my sister. They commented that I am a good cook but I believe it’s your recipe :-).

    I have just downloaded some of your other recipes to try.

    Thank you very much for sharing.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Zoee, thanks so much for leaving a comment and letting me know your cooking result! And I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it 🙂 You just made my day!
      Happy cooking and have an awesome weekend!

  10. Joseba says:

    Thanks indeed for your tips, recipes and information about oriental cooking.
    It´s so clear than push me to try your recipes. They´re easy and I get fantastic results.
    Thanks indeed !!

    • Maggie says:

      Glad to hear the article is helpful and your cooking turns out well 🙂

  11. Thos says:

    I have never once seen salt-free Shaoxing wine, neither in Asian stores (understandable as they would not be selling alcohol that can be imbibed) or reasonably up-scale liquor stores. Could you tell me what town / city you have to visit to acquire this, and any suggestions you might have for finding / ordering it?

    That being said I use the salted stuff presently, and just draw back on any salting suggested in the recipe.

    • Maggie says:

      Sourcing salt-free Shaoxing wine is one of my biggest issue now. I got mine in 99 Ranch Market in Houston. I’m living in Austin. Our biggest Asian market just started to carry it (the bottle looks a bit suspicious though). Up-scale liquor stores usually don’t carry them. We’ve talked with Spec and seems like they do not have distributor resource to order them.
      Yes I think it’s no problem to use the salted one as long as you adjust added salt accordingly. My next best option is dry sherry. The flavor is quite similar to Shaoxing wine, just slightly sweet. I also use rice wine (it’s much easier to get Japanese sake in liquor store) when I cook seafood or poultry, whenever I don’t need a strong flavored cooking wine.

      • Laura B says:

        I’ve bought Shaoxing wine from this site several times and it’s great!

      • Maggie Zhu says:

        So happy to hear it worked out for you! 🙂

  12. Jacqueline says:

    Hi Maggie,

    Thanks for all the tips on Chinese ingredients. It is extremely informative.

    Your the BEST!

    • Maggie says:

      You’re the most welcome! Glad to hear the post is helpful 🙂 Have a great day Jacqueline!

  13. Greg says:

    Very good article. Just bought a wok and want to eat healthier. Thanks!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Greg, glad to hear the post is helpful! Happy cooking and enjoy all the delicious stir fry dishes 🙂

  14. Cheryl Talbot says:

    Thank you Maggie! I just read your list of Asian ingredients. Such a tremendous help to and I’m sure others who love Chinese food and cooking.

    • Maggie says:

      I’m glad you found this list helpful Cheryl! Let me know if you have other questions about Chinese ingredients or I missed something from the list. I’d like to look into it 🙂

  15. Marijke Schellenbach says:

    Great list with very good information on each ingredient!!! Thank you for always sharing your wonderful recipes and helpful hints.

  16. Pradeep Singh Chauhan says:

    I want to study more about the chinese cuisine and culture.
    Can you suggest any books for it ??

    • Maggie says:

      I highly recommend All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips 🙂

  17. Marivic Tamura says:

    There is also Wei Wei cold store to find Chinese products esp for hotpot.

  18. Ksenya Zavarin says:

    hi maggie. love your recipes, and these “cheat sheets” for essential ingredients. i have a question about doubanjiang. i bought a brand readily available at my asian market and i think it’s the one you recommend (red envelope with green rectangle). however, i have a problem – it’s the chili skins, lots of them, and very large pieces. they are as annoying as popcorn skins that get stuck between my teeth, gums, and under my tongue. i’ve been using “as-is” and removing the larger pieces before serving, but wondered whether i should run the paste through a blender. is this how it’s supposed to look, or was my envelope a bad batch? thanks so much!

  19. Alan says:

    New to your site and finding it easy to follow.
    Which of your must have ingredients must be kept in the frig.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Alan, I’m glad to hear you find my website helpful!
      I would always keep oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, Doubanjiang, and fermented black beans in the fridge.

  20. Yvonne says:

    Love your recipes, technically helpful videos and commentary.. Having had to replace my beloved gas stove with an induction stove due to modern building codes, your advice re wok substitutes was especially helpful. Also helpful to give recommendations re essential ingredient brands. Thanks!

  21. Vinni says:

    I am so impressed with your website and am looking forward to trying your recipes. LOVE your explanations and planning to make each recipe seem simple and approachable.

  22. Patricia Willis says:

    I love Chinese dishes but I have stopped eating/cooking them because I now have to be Gluten Free. I use Tamari when soy sauce is required but in the UK I cannot find gluten free oyster sauce or blackbean/yellow bean sauces etc. Any advice?

  23. Chance Miller says:

    Hello, I absolutely LOVE cooking authentic Chinese. When I saw you had a Fu Qi Fei Pian recipe, I knew I had found the right place. Another favorite of mine is a dish made with Pork Blood and Intestines in a spicy broth with tons of Sichuan peppercorns.I dont know what you call this dish, but it is delicious! I also would like to learn to do Pork Kidneys with preserved vegetables. I’ve been using “Woks of Life” as my go to recipe site. But as I browse through your recipes,I can see they are the “Real Deal” Looking forward to leaning from you.

  24. Christy says:

    What would you suggest when considering mujiangzi oil? I understand it is litsea seed oil- would the litsea oil called cubeba be the same stuff? Thank you!

  25. Heather says:

    This is so incredibly helpful! I have been trying to understand the differences between soy sauces for years and this is the first really good explanation I’ve come across! I also genuinely appreciate your recommendation of brands because the variety at the international markets is so overwhelming, even for a seasoned homecook.

  26. Maria says:

    I would love to sign up for the 5 day cooking course but the subscribe button isn’t working. 🤗

  27. Agnes Szabadfalvi says:

    Hey Maggie, I live in Europe (Hungary) and enrolled in your 5-day free cooking course. First I would get the “musts” and “nice-to-haves”. Do you have any info if the brands you recommended are also available in Europe, or we should take the advice of the shopkeeper to replace the ingredients if the recommended ones are not in the European Chinese market?
    Thank you and all the best,

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Hi Agnes, I’m not very familiar with the brands available in Europe. Although some of my favorite brands have a pretty good oversea appearance and you might be able to find them. If the recommended ones are impossible to find, you should take the advice of the shopkeeper.

  28. Heather Boyce says:

    What is my biggest challenge to Chinese cooking? The mistake of over cooking.

  29. May says:

    how do you make a couple of dishes and keep them hot and ready to serve at once?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      It’s always a challenge but a few things you can do:
      – diversify the types of dish so you can have some made-ahead (soup, braised meat, rice, or even roasted etc) and you can heat up right before you serve or cook them on the side while you prepare other things
      – prepare pickles and cold appetizers so you don’t have to worry about keeping them hot
      – making wontons and dumplings ahead and cook them later (if it’s a big dinner spread and you want more complicated food)
      – Do all the food preps so you can finish up stir fries all at once
      For certain dishes, I think you can keep in them in the oven and set the lowest temperature to keep them warm. In China, we cover all the food with plastic covers or pot lid so they stay hot a bit longer.
      It is a challenging thing to do if you’re hosting a big dinner party (you will need more planning and pairing). But for daily cooking, these tips will help a lot.

  30. barbara says:

    We are excited after making your Chinese eggplant with garlic. A new world to explore!
    I have a chive patch in the garden. Can I use them instead of green onions? And are Sichuan peppercorns related to black pepper?
    thank you

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      You can use chive to replace green onions sometimes, but if it’s used at the beginning of cooking, it might be overcooked.
      Sichuan peppercorns are totally unrelated to black pepper because it tastes citrusy and has a numbing sensation.

  31. Alice Hanson says:

    Chinese noodles confuse me. Can you tell me more or do you have a blog? We have lots of asian grocery stores in Seattle so the problem is not knowing what to buy. Also, Is sweet soy sauce the same as dark soy sauce? I bought a big bottle of sweet soy sauce at a vietnamese grocery store in the international district, but now don’t know what to do with it. Also, does your blog cover chinese veggies? I am a gardener and many of them grow well here, but not sure what to grow, Thanks for your wonderful website!

  32. Kathy says:

    Thank you…now I understand the difference in Soy Sauce and Vinegars! Your pictures and example of dishes to use each item was most helpful. I’m looking forward to the next five days.

  33. Pete says:

    Learned a lot, thank you.

  34. Desiree says:

    I loved this info so much. I live cooking Chinese food and have most of these ingredients. Did not know about any of the vinegars except rice wine vinegar. So glad I signed up for this to take my Chinese cooking to the next level

  35. Jake says:

    Authentic Chinese spare ribs.

  36. Sally says:


    Just wanted to say that I used your website to teach myself to cook Chinese food and stock a pantry as you suggested, and I have been so impressed with the results: they brought so much joy and variety to weekday meals during various periods of lockdown. As a busy resident of NYC myself, your recipes are consistently incredible. I’m not affiliated with this site, but my husband and I started to order from https://asian-veggies.com/ in order to support a local NYC business when lockdowns prevented us from visiting our favorite Queens markets in person and H-Mart’s deliveries were backed up. Maybe other NYC residents would appreciate this resource too? They have a great selection, fast delivery, and everything has been incredibly fresh. Thanks again for everything: I have learned so much from you!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Hi Sally, thank you for your kind words and sharing the great source of Asian vegetables! I’d love to share it with my readers 🙂

  37. Cathy says:

    Hi Maggie, thanks for the detailed post!
    I went to get Shao Xing wine from an Asian grocery store. I remembered the brand to get (Pagoda) but didn’t read the label clearly and ended up with the Salted version.
    Would the salted version work a lot differently from the regular version?
    Thanks so much.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      It’s totally OK! When you use the salted version, some of my recipes might turn out a bit salty (most of the recipes should be fine). What you can do is to slightly reduce the salt content (which can be achieved by reducing 1/4 teaspoon salt, use one 1 teaspoon less soy sauce, or using a low sodium broth, depending on the recipe), and adjust the seasonings at the end of the cooking if it’s not salty enough.

      • Cathy says:

        Thanks so much for the quick response 🙂
        Also thanks again for the great content! Your recipes are laid out so clearly and it’s really easy to follow.

  38. Lucy O’Connor says:

    I cannot use rice wine in cooking because of medical reasons. Despite claims that alcohol is burned off in cooking, only 30% actually is. Are there any substitutes for it that you know of that will get the same flavor?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      If you cannot have any alcohol in your food, you can usually replace the wine with chicken broth. The flavor won’t be the same, but if the wine is not a main ingredient in the recipe (such as three cups chicken), the dishes would turn out fine.

  39. Laura says:

    The ingredient list you provided in your introduction was extremely helpful! I was able to purchase those items I didn’t already have in just minutes. Thank you very much!

    • Jacquie WEIDEN says:

      Hi Laura,
      WOW. Impressive!
      How and where did you purchase the ingredients so easily? All the same brands Maggie recommend?
      Pretty please.. SHARE!
      Sincere Thanks,
      Jacquie : )

  40. Joanne says:

    Love the pictures. I have a large asian supermarket nearby but hardly any employees speak English making it difficult to find what I need sometimes. The pictures certainly help.

  41. Darlene says:

    Wonderful list of ingredients, thank you!

  42. Ruth says:

    MAGGIE, thank you so much for the detailed list. My problem is I live in Finland, and far from Helsinki. There are no places to buy some of the ingredients. I cook a lot of Mediterranean, Spanish and Middleast. I also cook southern,Cajun and creole foods.most spice mixes I end making myself. Is there anyway I can make the five spice mix?
    My husband allergic to peanuts so I use sunflower oil. He love some of the dishes I made from your blog and keep pushing me to take the 5 day course!

  43. Mary Anne says:

    Hi Maggie. I’m trying to source high quality furu (?) … fermented bean curd/tofu. Any suggestions?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      This is my favorite brand: http://amzn.to/20mhDq0
      You can find them on Amazon and in most Chinese grocery stores.

  44. Lisa says:

    I love how much information you pack into such a concisely written post! The pictures are also super helpful. I love Chinese food and always struggle to make it restaurant style authentic— I think with your help, I’ll get there!!

  45. G Neher says:

    You state 7 Nice to have ingredients but only show 5?

  46. Mary says:

    I want to start cooking Chinese recipes andI. Used

    I want to start doing Chinese cooking and I am wondering if the Spring/egg rolls can be baked rather than cooked in oil?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes you can. The result will be different – baked rolls will cook less evenly and puff up less, but crispy and delicious nonetheless.
      I have a recipe in the past: http://omnivorescookbook.com/shrimp-baked-spring-rolls/ (not the traditional type, but you can bake the traditional spring rolls)
      To get the best result, you should brush oil onto both sides of the wrappers so it will be “fried” in the oven.

  47. Sharon Simon says:

    I love how you make it all so easy to understand.

  48. Jacquie WEIDEN says:

    Hi Maggie,
    We love your recipes! My 23 year old son wants to cook more of them. Question:
    Is it possible for you (or someone who works with you) to purchase the basics, and brands you recommend, and for us to pay for it and have it delivered? That would be so AWESOME!!
    Thank you,

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Hi Jacquie, I’m afraid I don’t offer the service at the moment. If you’re based in the US, you can easily find most of those ingredients online, and many of them on Amazon. When you click on the product name under the “recommended brands”, it will lead you to the page where you can make the purchase.

  49. Scott says:

    I love the fact that you have recommended brands with pictures. It can be a challenge deciding which brand has the right flavor and is made safely. After the melamine baby formula scare, I moved away from mainland manufactured goods, sourcing most of my things from Taiwan and HK. With your suggestions, I’ll give the bean paste a try. Also, I just got my first order from the Mala Market, and their baoning vinegar is unique. Thanks for the suggestion.

  50. Suzanna says:

    Hi Maggie, I see that you have listed Kadoya brand sesame oil under “toasted sesame oil.” Is this indeed toasted? I assumed it was not since “toasted” is not on the label, unlike a bottle I found at a fancy supermarket. I would much prefer to stick with Kadoya brand as it is much easier to find. Thanks!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes it is toasted as long as the color of the oil is golden brown. Most of the sesame oil doesn’t use “toasted” on the label because it’s quite default.
      The un-toasted sesame oil has a super page yellow-ish color like vegetable oil, which is rather rare.

  51. Ken B says:

    Great Reference List

  52. Sparhawk says:

    Hello Maggie and thank you so much for your page. I’ve tried a few of your recipes and the best so far is your Chinese BBQ Ribs. Being in a remote location it took me some time to get the Chinese ingredients and I’m glad I finally did (though I have more on the list to find). I can’t recommend the ribs enough. The ribs are so tender, juicy and full of flavor that everyone enjoys them and often request that I make them again.

  53. lafoy says:

    What a well constructed internet site. I congratulate you on your in-depth knowledge of Chinese ingredients, recipes, and instruction on how to prepare and cook so many dishes.

  54. Mavee says:

    Most Asian foods are low in sugar, fat, and refined carbs. It signals our bodies when we are full. Discover the essential Asian ingredients that will match your taste buds. Asian dishes are aromatic in flavor.

  55. Veronica says:

    Will I need a pepper mill for the Sichuan Peppercorns?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes it’s the best to have one for Sichuan Peppercorns. If not, you can also use coffee grinder to ground a small amount at a time, and store the leftover in the fridge.
      Mala Market has one that comes with grinder. Highly recommend it. Their Sichuan peppercorns are super fresh and you can refill the grinder.

  56. Yan says:

    Great post! 👍

  57. Ray Badger says:

    Do you have a starter package of all the necessary spices, sauces, and other ingredients for the beginning Chinese cooking person?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I’m afraid I don’t have one at the moment 🙁

  58. Susan Berne says:

    I am glad to get. the description and brands of the products you use.

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