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Home > Cooking Tips > Glossary > Glossary C - D

Glossary C - D

Chinese Cooking Glossary

Chinese Cooking Glossary



[Back to Glossary Index]


Chinese Black Mushrooms - See Mushrooms, Chinese Black

Chinese Cabbage - See Napa Cabbage.  

Chinese Celery -
According to The Oxford Companion to Food, the Chinese have been using celery since the 5th century AD. Chinese celery is quite different from regular celery, which is European in origin.  (Chinese celery originated in a form of wild celery found in Asia). As the photographs illustrates, the stalks are much thinner (they are also hollow), and the color can range from white to dark green. Along with a different appearance, Chinese celery has a much stronger flavor. It is seldom, if ever, eaten raw, but is a popular addition to soups and stir-fries. Just chop up the entire plant and toss it in with other vegetables. Chinese celery can be stored along with regular celery in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator, where it will keep for several days. Rinse before using. 

Chinese Sausage or Lop Cheong -
Smaller (up to six inches in length) and thinner than western sausages, Chinese sausages are usually made from pork or liver. The taste varies somewhat depending on the ingredients used, but they generally have a sweet-salty flavor. Chinese sausages can be purchased in Asian markets, either fresh or prepackaged.

Chinese White Radish or Lo Bak - Also known simply as White Radish, and in Japan as Daikon, this popular Asian vegetable has no resemblance to the round red radishes we are used to. Instead, Chinese radish, or Raphanus sativus to use its scientific name, resembles a large white carrot. In Japanese cooking, Daikon is a popular ingredient in relishes and salads, while Chinese cooks use it more for soups and stir-fries.  Daikon makes a interesting alternative to potatoes or turnips in soups and stews, as it can withstand long periods of cooking without disintegrating. Nutritionally, it is rich in vitamin C and calcium.

Chinese radish is usually peeled and sliced prior to cooking, although some recipes call for it to be grated. Store in the vegetable crisper section of your refrigerator. Wash before using.

Choi Sum or Choy Sum - A relative of bok choy, choi sum is recognizable by its small yellow flowers and medium green leaves. Also known as Chinese flowering cabbage, it has a sweet, mustardy flavor. Nutritionally, it is rich in calcium. While the stems of choi sum are generally preferred, you can eat the leaves as well. Stored in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator, choi sum should last at least a few days. It makes a nice alternative to broccoli. 

Christian Brothers Frost White Brandy - Frost White brandy is a crystal clear, softer and more refined brandy from Christian Brothers, available in a white bottle.
Buy Christian Brothers Frost White Brandy.

Cilantro  - Also known as Chinese parsley and Mexican parsley, cilantro is the leaves of the coriander plant. Featured prominently in Asian and Latin cuisines, chinese cooks use cilantro in soups, stir-fries, and frequently as a garnish. Although a member of the parsley family, cilantro has a much stronger flavor, which its detractors have described as "soapy." (Like bitter melon, it is definitely an acquired taste). When choosing cilantro, look for leaves that have a bright green color with no yellow spots, and no evidence of wilting. You can store cilantro is in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator where it will last a few days. However, if you want the cilantro to last longer, try placing it in a cup of water with the stems down, cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate. If you change the water every two days, the cilantro should last for up to two weeks.  

Cinnamon - The dried inner bark of tropical Asian trees in the genus Cinnamomum. Buy

Cloud Ears - Cloud ear is actually a type of fungus.   Also known as black fungus, tree ears, and jelly mushroom, it has been featured in Chinese cooking since the sixth century A.D. Like tofu, cloud ear has no flavor of its own, but soaks in the flavors that it is cooked with. The delicate, crinkly fungus is also valued for its crunchy texture. Cloud ear is often added to hot and sour soup, and stir-fry dishes.  Cloud ears are sold mainly in dried form, in plastic bags. If stored in an airtight container, they should keep for up to a year. Before using, soak the fungus in warm water for at least fifteen minutes. It will puff up to several times its normal size. Then, rinse the fungus and trim the stem where it was attached to the wood of the tree (cloud ears grow on trees such as the mango and kapok). Once the cloud ears have been cut up into an appropriate shape and size, add them to a dish near the end of stir-frying, so that they do not lose their crunchy texture.

Cornflour - See
Cornstarch below.

Cornstarch - A powdery "flour," nearly all starch, that is obtained from the endosperm of corn. Mixed with water to form a paste, it is often added to stir-fries as a thickening agent - near the final stages, as overcooked cornstarch loses its power as a thickener. If necessary, cornstarch can be used as a substitute for tapioca starch. Buy cornstarch  

Creme de Cacao - A dark brown or clear chocolate-flavored liqueur made from the cacao seed.
Buy Creme de Cacao.



Daikon - See Chinese White Radish

Dark Rum - Aged rum, sometimes colored with caramel.

Deep-frying - Deep-frying, in which the food is completely covered in hot oil and cooked, is an important Chinese cooking technique along with stir-frying and steaming. The objective is to brown the outside of the food, but not so fast that the inside is not thoroughly cooked. A wok is normally used for deep-frying Chinese food, although if you prefer you can use a deep-fat fryer instead. Kung Pao Chicken, a popular restaurant specialty made with diced chicken, peanuts, and red chili peppers, is a deep-fried dish. 

Dong Gwa -
See Winter Melon

Dried Bean Curd Sticks - Made from soy beans and water, bean curd sticks resemble long yellowish colored icicles.  They feel like thin plastic and break apart quite easily. Stored in a cool, dry place, they will keep for months.  Most books call for dried bean curd sticks to be soaked overnight in cold water before use, but breaking them up and boiling them for 20 minutes or soaking in warm water for 1 - 2 hours  works also.

Dried Lily Buds  - Also known as golden needles and tiger lilies, dried lily buds are the unopened flowers of day lilies.  The lily, Hemerocallis to use its scientific name, has been used in China as both a food and medicine for over 2,000 years. Dried lily buds are yellow-gold in color, with a musky or earthy taste. Two dishes featuring lily buds are Muxi Pork, a stir-fried dish, and Hot and Sour Soup.

When purchasing lily buds, look for ones that are pale in color, and not brittle.   At home, store them in a jar in a cool and dry place. Before using, you may need to cut off about a quarter inch at the bottom to get rid of the woody stem. Like many other "woodsy" Chinese vegetables, lily buds must be soaked in warm water (in this case for about thirty minutes) before use. They can then be left whole or cut in half crosswise as called for in the recipe. Or, for better flavor, try tying them in a knot.  

Dried Tangerine Peel  -
Dried tangerine peel has been a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking for hundreds of years - chicken with orange peel is a popular Szechuan dish.  You can use dried tangerine peel in braised dishes, stews, and soups. Unfortunately, it is rather expensive, but you can also make your own - just leave the tangerine peel to dry naturally, and then store it in an airtight container for several months.  One note: there is some disagreement over whether or not you should remove the white pith. While it has a bitter taste it does contain healthy bio-flavonoids. Tangerine peel purchased from an Asian grocer should also be stored in an airtight container.

Before using, soak the tangerine peel in warm water to soften it. You can leave the peel whole, tear it into smaller pieces, or cut up as desired. It is thought to be good for improving digestion and treating infections. The peel of unripe, green tangerines is also used by herbalists to treat stomach and liver problems.


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