Fruit of the pimento tree. The dried spice is dark reddish brown, called all spice, because its flavor and aroma are reminiscent of a combination of pepper and coves with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. It keeps well in an airtight jar and should be ground as needed. It grows mainly in Jamaica and Mexico but available all over the world. Good substitute for all spice is Indian ‘Garam masala’.
Used as a jelly, thickening agent, also used in ice-cream to prevent crystallization of sugar syrup. Commonly used in China and Asian countries. Should be soaked in hot water, until tender before use. When used for setting or thickening allow agar agar to dissolve in hot water gradually. Also known as china grass.
In North-East India it is used commonly in food. Fresh shoots are available in market like vegetables all over North- East. Out of hundreds of tropical and sub tropical varieties of bamboo al over the world. 160 varieties grow in Asia. Shoots grown around the base of the plant. Canned or dried shoots are available all over the country. If using fresh, then remove outer layer, soak in cold water, then slice and boil before use. Canned bamboo shoots should be rinsed well before use. Will keep fresh in refrigerator for several days. Keep changing the water. In North-East India every home makes dry bamboo shoots and picked bamboo shoots known as ‘Kho-Ri-Cha’ and this is stored for the whole year. Bamboo leaves are also used for cooking.
A green herb with distinctive aromatic quality. There are two types of coriander; the other one with little large leaves. Both the corianders are available all over. The second type is known as Man-Coriander. The former one is available all over the world.
FIVE SPICE POWDER:
Grind together 25 gms cloves, 20 gms star anise, 1.25 gms pepper, 2 large pieces dry orange peel, 15 gms cinnamon to make a powder.
There are two more types of five spices used in China.
25 gms garlic, 20 gms cinnamon, 15 gms pepper, 15 gms fennel, 20 gms star anise. Ground together, but this wil have a strong flavor and aroma.
25 gms star anise,20 gms cinnamon, 20 gms cardamom, 20 gms cloves, 20 gms fennel. Grind together.
All five spice powders are to be ground just before use. It can be added to dishes which are cooked or sprinkled over finished dishes or mixed into meat or fish marinades.
Chinese are known to have used ginger for cooking food over 2000 years. It is a most vital ingredient to achieve the true Chinese taste.
Dried or fresh lotus eaves impart a pleasant distinctive aroma to the foods cooked in them.
Fresh lotus roots are available all over India. Canned and dried roots are also available in market. If using dry, soak them before use. Used for soups, vegetable dishes and also used with fish or meat, snacks and desserts.
Used fresh or dried for decoration and stuffing- chopped, boiled or mashed. Highly nutritious.
RED SOYA BEAN PASTE:
A reddish brown color; very thick and smooth. Made with ground red soya beans. Used as a filling for various types of steamed dumplings. Dim Sim and Chinese sweet dishes.
SOYABEAN FLOUR NOODLES:
Often known as cellophane noodles. They are transparent and expand when soaked in hot water. Do not soak for long or they become tough.
These sprouts are valued in China for thousands of years as a rich source of protein and other nutrients. Best for use when they are small, not more than 2” long pods. Avoid using canned sprouts. Must be eaten fresh.
SWEET SOYABEAN PASTE:
Made from fermented yellow soya beans. Dark brown puree type. Used in various ways. While using, salt and flour are added, sometimes sugar and spice for sweet dishes. Also vinegar, garlic paste, chilli paste, sesame oil can be added if you are using for barbeque dishes.
SWEET LOTUS SEED PASTE:
Lotus seeds are cooked made into a paste. Add Sugar and cinnamon powder; can be used instead of sweet soybean paste for Chinese buns, cookies, cakes as filling.
SESAME SEED PASTE:
White sesame seeds are ground to a paste. Add a little sesame oil. Used commonly for Chinese cooking.
Take ¾ cup ground sesame paste. Mix some water, vinegar, soya sauce to make a pouring consistency. Excellent for poultry, meat and casserole dishes. Also can be used as dip.
Used as dip or spread. Ground paste and pickled shrimps are available in jars.
Very high source of gelatin protein. Chinese use this to prevent Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease). They believe, it is wise to eat gelatin protein after the age of 35. Available in market ready for use. Needs soaking, blanching and lengthy cooking to turn them into gelatinous consistency. The fins are taken from various types of sharks and best quality of dried fin comes in long filaments, and lower quality in odd pieces. Whole fin is the most expensive. Available all over the world.
STAR ANISE (ILLICIUM VERUM):
Star shaped seeds. Cultivated all over South- East Asia. Both fruit and plant are used for herbal medicine. Crush before using. Used commonly in Chinese cooking, particularly with poultry, roast meat, fish dishes. Also used for flavouring drinks and preserved foods. Star Anise is included in the ancient ‘pents’ so pharmacopoeia’.
Also mentioned in Chinese mythology often as a symbol of long life and helps digestion.
TARO (COLOCASIA) OR ARBI (MOCK FISH OR VEGETARIAN FISH):
Used as a substitute for fish and meat. Can also be used boiled, steamed, deep fried and baked. Cantonese eat them on full moon day and at the mid autumn festival. Simply boil and remove skin, and use for cooking meat, fish, duck, etc. In North-East India, the stems are used as vegetable after keeping them overnight in moonlight and outer skin from the stem removed. Also used for medicine. In Gujarat the leaves are used for making ‘patral’. Small varieties are available all over India but medium and large varieties are available in Orient and North-East India. Large Taros are more than one foot in length and medium bulbs are big as sweet limes. If you are cutting them raw without boiling, then it is advisable to rub little oil in your palm to avoid itching.
TOFU (BEAN CURD):
Soya bean curd is one of the many by-products of the soya bean. Widely used by vegetarians in the East as meat and fish substitute. Rich in protein and many other vital nutrients. Can be made at home. It is commercially available in India in blocks, slices, plain, smoked and spiced. Smoked Tofu is a specialty of Szechwan.
BEAN MILK SKIN:
Made from the thin layer that forms on boiled bean milk. It is commercially supplied in China. This is the main ingredient used for making all snack and meat dishes for the vegetarian. It is specially made for the monks. Rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus and is also thought to posses creative properties for coughs.
This is known as soybean cheese. Colour is red or white, with a very strong flavor. Made by mixing, salt, rice, wine (Lao-Jin), sugar and spices and left to ferment and ripen for several months. Used as added ingredients in Chinese cooking for boiled rice, meat, fish, poultry and vegetable dishes. Also as meat substitute as it highly nutritious and is rich in vegetable protein. Tofu remains fresh in the refrigerator if kept in cold water but change the water every day.
WATER CHESTNUT (SINGHARA):
Black in colour, it grows in water. It has to be boiled and skin removed before using. Many varieties are available all over the world. Canned water chestnuts are less crisp. Used with vegetables, for fillings, desserts and to thicken sauce.
(Source: ‘The Flavours of China’ by Purobi Babbar)