21 Most Important Chinese Food Ingredients

Written by Sally Guo Updated Mar. 10, 2022

China is a country full of delicacies, with a wide range of food ingredients. From the basic rice and noodles to the unusual animals’ organs, there is more than you could imagine in Chinese cooking.

1. 12 The Most Important Chinese Cooking Ingredients

These are the most important ingredients for cooking Chinese food, which every Chinese chef use. 

Light Soy Sauce

Various Soy Sauces

Various Soy Sauces

Light soy sauce is probably the most-used ingredient when comes to Chinese food.  There are light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Light soy sauce is thinner, lighter, and has a fresher taste; also saltier. It is used in cooking, as a table condiment, and as a dipping sauce. 

Dark Soy Sauce

 Dark soy sauce is rich and used to add both color and flavor to many sauces and marinades. Quite salty and often used instead of salt to season a dish. 

Oyster-flavored Sauce

Oyster-flavor Sauce is used for cooking various meat and vegetables for a distinctive flavor. It is made from cornstarch, salt, sugar, and oyster essence. 

Shaoxing Rice Wine

Shaoxing Rice wine is produced in East China's Shaoxing, close to Shanghai.  It has a brown color and floral amora. It can add flavor to a dish,  and also brings the dish bright color. 

Sesame Oil

Chinese food ingredient - sesame oil

Sesame oil is mostly used as a seasoning in Chinese cooking but not as cooking oil (  peanut oil is wildly used as cooking oil.   Sesame oil has a natural nutty aroma, which is a very good seasoning for cold-dish dressings, dips, and stir-fries. It is usually only used at the end of cooking. 

Rice Vinegar

There are white rice vinegar and black rice vinegar. White rice vinegar is usually used to add acidity to dishes usually stir-frying dishes. Black rice vinegar has a rich, pungent, and tart flavor, which is usually used as dipping.  

Dried Chilli Pepper

Dried chilli pepper

Dried chili pepper is widely used in braising and stir-frying dishes, especially in China's Sichuan and Hunan Cuisines. Dried chili pepper can add a strong spicy flavor to a dish, and also enrich the dish's color.  

Five-spice powder

 Five-spice powder, as the name suggests, is a mixture of five-star anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel seed, and Sichuan peppercorn. It is not a must for Chinese cooking, but it provides a perfect balance of hot, sweet, and sour. It is widely used for meat dishes. 

White-pepper Powder

White-pepper powder has a strong, spicy, and fragrant flavor. It is usually used for light-color dishes and roasted meat for a spicy and fragrant taste. 

Sichuan Peppercorn

Sichuan Peppercorn

Sichuan peppercorn has a very distinctive numbing, fragrant and spicy flavor. It is most commonly used in spicy Sichuan cuisine. It is used in stir-frying, soup, cold dishes, and noodles to add an intense fragrance to the dish. 

Sichuan Bean Paste

Sichuan bean paste is a kind of thick paste made from chili pepper, broad bean, soybean, sesame oil, etc.  It is widely used in Sichuan cuisine. 

Fermented Black Beans

Fermented black beans are mainly used in stir-frying, braising, and soups.  It is sharp, pungent, and spicy, which tastes salty, somewhat bitter, and sweet.  It is used to season a number of dishes in Chinese cooking, especially fish and beef. Sold in packets or tins.

2. 3 Essential Fresh Ingredients

Green onions, ginger, garlic, and coriander are the most common fresh ingredients used as spices for seasoning in Chinese cooking.

Coriander: Chinese parsley, a herb with a strong flavor, usually cooked with sauces, soups, dim sums, or as garnish.

4. 3 Widely Used Soybean Products Ingredients

Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts

China is the hometown of soybean and has thousands of years of eating soybean and its products.

4. Many Types of Meat

Braised Rabbit Head

Braised Rabbit Head

Chinese people love to eat and almost all animals’ meat can be eaten. In addition to the common meat like chicken, duck, fish, pork, beef, mutton, etc., every part of the animal can be cooked and served, like the organ of ox and sheep.

Adventurous food lovers can try some strange but delicious meat dishes during their travel in China: Chongqing “Mao Xue Wang” (made from pig’s blood, tripe, duck’s blood, ham, and chicken gizzard), Chengdu “Husband and Wife Lunge Pieces” (sliced beef and ox organs in chili sauce), Cantonese Snake Soup, Steamed Frog Legs on Lotus Leaf, … Would you dare to try any of them?

5. Lots of Vegetables

Vegetables are the second most important part of Chinese cuisine, after rice. You can find a large variety of vegetables in a Chinese kitchen: lettuce, onions, mushrooms, carrots, white radishes, bean sprouts, yard-long beans, Chinese cabbage, Chinese eggplants, bamboo shoots, lotus root, all kinds of melons…

6. Nice-to-Have Dry Herb Ingredients


Spicies in Chinese Cooking

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