Cooking Oil - I use olive oil for almost all of my cooking. It is healthy, light and has a pleasant fragrance especially when fried with vegetables or used as a base for a sauce. Be careful when frying with olive oil because it burns at a lower temperature. Even though I prefer olive oil, any vegetable cooking oil will be fine with Chinese cooking.
I recently bought grape seed oil for cooking. The taste is very light and clean. I love it! Grape seed oil has a very high smoking point, which makes it better than olive oil for cooking at high temperatures, such as stir-frying, sautéing and deep-frying.
Cooking Wine/Rice Wine – Cooking wine is very important to a lot of Asian stir-fry dishes, especially meat and fish dishes. The acidic content makes it great for marinades and sauces.
Soy Sauce – For my family’s health, I only use low-sodium soy sauce. It tastes slightly sweeter than normal soy sauce but just as fine. In chinese cooking, soy sauce is often combined with other sauces that already contain with salt, so low-sodium soy sauce balances the sodium content lower and the saltiness balanced.
Vinegar – I use this Chinkiang Black Rice Vinegar. This vinegar is very popular in China. The taste is very smooth with a hint of caramel and sugar so its a slightly sweet. It's perfect for cold dishes or sauce and dipping base. It’s inexpensive and only costs $1.20 at the Chinese grocery store.
Oyster Sauce - Oyster Sauce is commonly used in Cantonese,Thai,Vietnamese and Khmer cuisine. You can find this sauce at any Chinese supermarket or Chinatown. It tastes like a combination of fish sauce and soy sauce - flavourful and a little bit sweet. But it doesn't have the strong fishy taste so don't worry. I like to use vegetarian oyster sauce which is prepared from mushrooms.
I have so many different Asian sauces as you can imagine. You really don't have to prepare all of them to cook delicious Chinese food. Simple soy sauce can make delicious food. I'm showcasing this to you incase if you are not familiar with any of these Chinese/Asian ingredients and to help if you are shopping at the Chinese grocery store.
Sesame Oil - Sesame oil brings out the fragrances and flavors of meat and vegetables. It's one of the most comment basic ingredients for Chinese cooking. Sesame oil burns very easily and is very intense so it is not used as a cooking oil. Rather, it is added at the final stages of cooking or in marinades and sauces.
Sesame Paste - It's impossible to do justice to the rich aroma and flavor of sesame paste. Its rich and nutty flavor is an excellent compliment to sauces and bases and imparts a unique flavor especially to noodle dishes. I can't have noodles without sesame paste. Make sure to mix it evenly when you use it because it will most likely stick in the bottom of your bowl if you don't.
Asian Thick Broad Bean Sauce - The Asian thick broad bean sauce is a little bit different than Chili broad bean paste. They are both made from chili, broad bean, salt except this one has wheat flour. It's thicker and tastes stronger. This sauce was my mom's favourite sauce when I was a kid. Now I use it for seasoning meat. It's the best for Szechuan Cuisine. If you can't find this sauce where you live, you can just use any broad bean sauce instead.
Sesame Seasoning Vinegar - I love Japanese Sesame seasoning vinegar. This is my secret ingredient for cold dishes and noodles. It's a must for hotpot.
Shacha Sauce - Shacha sauce is made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilis, brill fish, and dried shrimp. It's my favourite sauce. It's a must for hotpot and also it's delicious when you cook with meat. It comes in a vegetarian version which I prefer as a hot pot sauce base. I find the vegetarian version less oily and intense, allowing the flavors of the green onion, cilantro and garlic to come out.
Satay Sauce - Satay sauce is very popular in East Asian Cooking. My favourite is Peanut Satay Sauce. Satay sauce is great for BBQ and to marinate meat before you stir-fry or put it on the grill. You can also use it as a BBQ dip as well.
Fermented Bean Curd - Fermented Bean Curd is made by bean curd, soybean, sugar, salt and wine. It has the special flavor from tofu and tastes sweet. I used it to stir-fry with vegetables and make dipping sauce for hotpot.
XO Sauce - XO Sauce is a spicy seafood sauce especially for Cantonese cuisine. Unlike other Sichuan spicy sauce, the XO sauce is just a little bit spicy with seafood fragrances and flavors. I have lived in Hong Kong for a few years and I love Cantonese food. I learned a lot of Cantonese cooking styles when I lived there and I love using XO sauce because it can create very unique tastes that combine the best of Cantonese cuisine and Szechuan cuisine.
Chili Broad Bean Paste - The Chili broad bean paste is made by soybeans and chili, it's usually used for Szechuan Cuisine dishes. There is a lot of different types of broad bean paste on the market, I probably have all of them. I like to use different sauces to create something new. It comes in many different varieties and degrees of spiciness depending on one's palate.
Sichuan Peppercorn Oil/Prickly Ash Oil - This Prickly Ash Oil is made from Sichuan peppercorn. This ingredient is great for Sichuan cuisines, Chinese salad or cold dishes. It's a very unique which adds a numbing sensation to the lips and tongue. If you are unable to find this ingredient in Chinese supermarket you can make it yourself. Please click on my Homemade Sichuan Peppercorn Oil Recipe and you will see how easy this is.
Chili Oil – I use my Homemade Sichuan Chili Oil. Please check my video recipe below.
Dried bay leaves
I always keep fresh garlic, ginger and green onion in my fridge. These are three most important ingredients for Chinese food. I also like fresh cilantro, bay leaves and fresh chili peppers as well. You can store fresh chili peppers in your freezer. Just simply rinse with warm water whenever you need to use it.