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Glossary > Glossary A - B
A - B
Chinese Cooking Glossary
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A mollusk that is popular
ingredient in Chinese and Japanese dishes.
In China it is featured in Cantonese cooking.
Abalone is a member of the genus Haliotis, which
means sea ear, referring to the flat shell.
It is available fresh, dried, or canned.
In dried form it must be soaked for several days
Alum - Crystals of potassium aluminum
sulfate, commonly used in canning before it was
discovered that it can cause gastic distress in
some individuals. Although still considered safe
in small quantities, depending on individual
tolerance, the FDA (Food and Drug
Administration) no longer recommends its use for
home canning. Alum is also sometimes used as a
home remedy; treating canker sores for example.
In Chinese cooking, it is one of the ingredients
used to make deep-fried crullers.
A beautiful name
for a group of plants that are found primarily
in tropical areas. While some are grown for
their seed which is used as a grain, and others
are treated as weeds, there are several
varieties which are grown as a leaf vegetable.
These fall into two groups: those with green
leaves and those whose leaves are tinged with
beautiful red and purple colors. Amaranthus
Tricolor, a red-leafed species, is also known as
Angles or Angled Luffa - A
great name for a gourd that is vaguely related
to the luffa brush in your shower. It also goes
by the rather unattractive name of "dishwater
gourd," as well as silk squash and Chinese okra
(it bears some similarity to okra in taste and
texture). Like tofu, angled luffa absorbs the
flavors of the foods it is cooked with. It is
used in stir-fries and deep-fried dishes.
(See also Silk
American word for aubergine is eggplant. While
there are many varieties grown in Asian, the
term Chinese eggplant refers to the narrow,
purple variety that can be streaked with white
(it looks somewhat like a purple zucchini).
Interestingly, Asian recipes don't normally call
for eggplant to be salted and degorged, as is
the custom in western and European cooking.
Also called Shanghai
cabbage, the name is appropriate as this is a
smaller version of bok choy (see below for
description of bok choy).
Buy Bailey's Irish Cream.
Cream - A unique Irish spirit made from
a mix of cream, sugar, cocoa and the finest
Irish spirits. Each bottle of Bailey's is 50%
fresh cream, combined with triple distilled
Irish Whiskey. It contains no additives or
preservatives, and has become the best known
Irish cream in the world since it's initiation
The shoots of the bamboo plant,
native to Asia, and a popular item in Chinese
cooking. Edible bamboo shoots fall into two
broad categories, winter and spring shoots.
Spring shoots are larger and tougher than winter
shoots. In general, canned bamboo shoots are
easier to obtain than fresh shoots. After
opening the can, you can rinse them in hot water
to get rid of any "tinny" taste. Unused bamboo
shoots should be stored in the refrigerator in a
jar of water, with the water changed daily.
Barbeque Sauce - Chinese barbecue sauce
is very different from western barbecue sauces,
which are often tomato or mustard-based. While
there are variations, Chinese barbecue sauces
vinegar, sesame oil or paste, and perhaps bean
Bean Curd -
See Soy Bean
Bean Sauce - A thick (really more like
a paste than a sauce) aromatic sauce that is
made from soybeans mixed with flour and salt,
and fermented. There are a number of varieties,
including brown bean sauce, yellow bean sauce
and bean paste. Keeps indefinitely when stored
in the refrigerator.
Bird's Nest - Authentic bird's
nest soup is made using the nests of the
swiftlet, a tiny bird found throughout southeast
Asia. Instead of twigs and straw, the
swiftlet makes its nest from strands of gummy
saliva, which harden when exposed to air.
Once the nests are harvested, they are cleaned
and sold to restaurants, where they are served
simmered in chicken broth. Authentic bird's nest
soup is quite popular throughout Asia, perhaps
because it has the reputation of being an
aphrodisiac. It is also quite costly; many
western restaurants serve a less expensive
version consisting of soup with noodles shaped
to resemble a bird's nest.
Bitters - Bitter
tasting spirits made of/flavoured with plant
extracts, barks and roots.
or Foo Gwa -
Also known as Balsam
Pear, this is a very strange looking gourd,
shaped something like a cucumber with a rough,
pockmarked skin. The flavor is unusual as
well - like cilantro, it's an acquired taste.
Fortunately, blanching it before cooking will
help reduce the bitter taste. (You can also
degorge them as you would with eggplant). In
addition, you'll often find bitter melon paired
with strong flavors such as black beans, which
counteracts the bitterness. In one well-known
Chinese recipe bitter melon is stuffed with
pork, garlic, and mashed black beans, and
steamed. Bitter melon has long been thought to
have medicinal value, and has been used to treat
low blood sugar and infections. More recently it
has been used to treat HIV.
Stored in a plastic
bag in the vegetable crisper section of the
refrigerator, bitter melon should keep for four
to five days. Before using, cut in half, seed
and core, and then blanch if desired.
imparting a dark color. Vegetables such as bok
choy can also be braised.
Blanch - Blanching is a process whereby
the food is briefly plunged in boiling water for
a moment, then immediately transferred to ice
water to stop the cooking process. It is a
technique commonly used with Chinese vegetables
prior to stir-frying. The goal is to bring out
the color and flavor of the vegetable without
Bok Choy - A type of cabbage, the most
common variety of which is the distinctive
vegetable with the white stem and dark green
leaves readily available in most supermarkets.
There is also Shanghai or baby bok choy, a
smaller version of the same vegetable. Besides
being used in soups and stir-fries, you'll also
find it in braised dishes. Keep in the
vegetable crisper section of the
refrigerator. Rinse thoroughly before using.
Braise - As in western cooking,
braising is a technique used with tougher cuts
of meat. After browning, the meat is boiled and
then slowly simmered in a stock, usually
accompanied with seasonings. Red cooking,
popular in eastern China, is a method where the
food is braised in
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