Basic Chinese Pantry. Chinese Rice Wine and Thick Sauces and Pastes

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Chinese-Rice-Wine_2cBy the article "Basic Chinese Pantry. Bean Curd" we began a series of articles about Chinese Pantry. Here is the next text on this topic. It's about such products as Chinese Rice Wine (important contributor to the flavour of Chinese cuisine, this wine is used extensively for cooking and drinking throughout the country) and Thick Sauces and Pastes (Quick and easy Chinese cookery involves the use of a number of thick tasty sauces and pastes. These are essential to the authentic taste of the food and it is well worth making the effort to obtain them).


Chinese Rice Wine

An important contributor to the flavour of Chinese cuisine, this wine is used extensively for cooking and drinking throughout the country. There are many varieties but the finest is believed to be that from Shaoxing Chinese-Rice-Wine_cin Zhejiang Province in eastern China. It is made from glutinous rice, yeast and spring water. Chefs frequently use rice wine not only for cooking but also in marinades. It is now readily available from Chinese grocers' and some wine merchants. Store it, tightly corked, at room temperature. A good-quality, pale, dry sherry can be substituted for Chinese rice wine but cannot equal its rich mellow taste. Do not confuse this wine with sake, which is the Japanese version of rice wine and quite different. Western grape wines are not an adequate substitute either.

Thick Sauces and Pastes

Quick and easy Chinese cookery involves the use of a number of thick tasty sauces and pastes. These are essential to the authentic taste of the food and it is well worth making the effort to obtain them. Most are now easy to find; they are sold in bottles or tins by Chinese food shops and some supermarkets. Tinned sauces, once opened, should be transferred to screw-top glass jars and kept in the refrigerator where they will last indefinitely. Using these sauces in your cooking produces delicious results with little effort.

Bean sauce This thick, spicy, aromatic sauce is made with yellow beans, flour and salt which are fermented together. It is quite salty but adds a distinctive flavour to sauces and is frequently used in Chinese cookery. There are two forms: whole beans in a thick sauce; and mashed or pureed beans (sold as 'crushed yellow bean sauce'). I prefer the whole bean variety because it is slightly less salty and has a better texture. It keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Thick-Sauces-and-Pastes_cChilli bean sauce This thick, dark sauce or paste, made from soya beans, chillies and other seasonings, is very hot and spicy. Formerly used in cooking only in western China, it is now widely used throughout the country and is usually available here in jars. Be sure to seal the jar tightly after use and store in the refrigerator. Do not confuse chilli bean sauce with chilli sauce which is hot, red, thinner and made without beans and rs used mainly as a dipping sauce for cooked dishes. There are Southeast Asian versions of chilli bean sauce (called sate sauce) which I find very spicy and hot. You can use them as a substitute for chilli bean sauce if you like really spicy food.

Hoisin sauce Widely used in this book, this thick, dark, brownish red sauce is made from soya beans, vinegar, sugar, spices and other flavourings. Sweet and spicy, it is a very popular ingredient in southern Chinese cookery. In the West it is often used as a sauce for Peking duck instead of the traditional sweet bean sauce. Hoisin sauce (sometimes also labelled 'barbecue sauce') is sold in tins and jars. When refrigerated, it keeps indefinitely.

Sesame paste This rich, thick, creamy brown paste is made from roasted sesame seeds, unlike the Middle Eastern tahini. It is sold in jars by Chinese food shops. If oil has separated from the paste in the jar, empty the contents into a blender or food processor and mix well. Chinese sesame paste is used in both hot and cold dishes and is particularly popular in northern and western China. If you cannot obtain it, use a smooth peanut butter instead.



Read also:

Basic Chinese Pantry. Black Beans and Chinese White Cabbage

Basic Chinese Pantry. Bean Curd

Basic Chinese Pantry. Chillies

Basic Chinese Pantry. Coconut Milk and Coriander, Chinese Parsley or Cilantro

Basic Chinese Pantry. Five-spice Powder and Garlic

Basic Chinese Pantry. Cornflour and Curry Paste

Basic Chinese Pantry. Ginger and Mange-tout

Basic Chinese Pantry. Chinese Dried Mushrooms

Basic Chinese Pantry. Noodles/Pasta

Basic Chinese Pantry. Oils

Basic Chinese Pantry. Oyster Sauce and Rice

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