If you love Chinese foods, you may have tried to cook them at home. But, if you are like most people, what you cook do not quite taste like the fast Chinese food you can pick up on your way home from work. One of the reasons why may be that you are not using all of the real spices that your favorite Chinese restaurants use. While many recipes have been converted using substitutions that are easier to find in an American grocery store, using the real thing can make a big difference. Here are a few of the spices you may want to pick up if you are going to be able to create your favorite dish.
Rock Sugar - Many times when you see brown sugar or granulated sugar listed as an ingredient in your Chinese recipes, what would actually be used in your Chinese restaurants would be rock sugar. This is crystallized sugar made from sugar cane that has not been processed. It not only lends a sweet taste, but it also give your dish the perfect sheen. It is often used in the following:
- Chinese Braised Oxtails
- Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs
- Shanghai Braised Pork Belly and more
Soy Sauce Powder - Did you know that soy sauce has been around for more than 2200 years? If the only soy sauce you are use to using in your recipes is the dark stuff that comes in a bottle, you may want to try adding soy sauce powder to your Chinese dishes. Although this powder taste very similar to its liquid cousin, its powder form gives it a lot more versatility. It can be reconstituted with the addition of a little water or it can be used in powder form. It can be used in any of your Chinese dishes that need a little extra salt and flavor.
Sichuan Peppercorn - This is sometimes called Sichuan pepper or Chinese coriander. Although it is named peppercorn, it is not related to black or chili peppers. It is actually a member of Rutaceae or citrus family. Because of this, instead of being spicy like pepper, it has a slight lemony overtones, but it is used in conjunction with other hot spices. It is used as a flavor enhancer in many Sichuan dishes.
Star Anise - If your dish would benefit from a slightly licorice taste consider purchasing star anise. This spice is actually a fruit of a Chinese evergreen tree, which is then dried. Although it can be used on its on, when you combine it with cloves, fennel, cinnamon, and Sichuan peppercorns, you will have Chinese five-spice. It can be used whole or ground.
If you do not want to take the time to experiment with all of these flavors, continue to pick up fast Chinese food, such as from Empress Express ,on your way home. The Chinese restaurants would love to continue to cook it for you.