When you get a craving for Chinese food, it can be tempting to pick up the phone, call in the order, and spend the night relaxing on the couch instead of cooking. While there’s nothing wrong with ordering take-out every once in a while, there are a lot of perks to cooking up your own Chinese dishes! First off, you get to customize your dish any way you want. Want breaded seitan instead of steak with your Hoisin dish? No problem! Want a lot of chili paste but don’t want to pay for extra at a restaurant? Done! Plus, when you make food yourself, you can rest assured that you know every single ingredient going into the final product.
Cooking Chinese food is also a ton of fun! Whether it’s testing out spices, trying out bold ingredients for the first time, or getting to play around with a wok and feel like a professional chef, these are culinary moments you would otherwise miss out on if you succumb to the convenience of take-out. What may not be so fun is figuring out all of the cooking essentials you need to make a tasty a nd authentic Chinese meal. That is unless you have One Green Planet to help you out! That’s right, we’ve done the research, gathered everything you need to make a killer Chinese dinner, and now are ready to share all of our precious knowledge with you! Here are 15 cooking essentials you should consider getting before hittin’ the kitchen.
La Tourangelle Toasted Sesame Oil
When making authentic Asian cuisine, the art of flavoring begins in the saucepan. La Tourangelle Toasted Sesame Oil is an all natural oil handcrafted with sesame seeds that are harvested from South America and Africa. Once collected, the seeds are toasted and then expeller-pressed to extract the oil. According to Amazon reviewers, cooking with this oil adds a rich, nutty flavor to Asian vinaigrettes, stir-fries, or BBQ dishes. There seem to be some reviewers commenting on Amazon’s negligent packing of this item, but all of them are dated from several years ago and this issue is not mentioned in the most recent ones. If you’d like to give this oil a shot, you can get one 16.9-ounce can for $10.25.
House Foods Tofu Shirataki Angel Hair Pasta
Every Asian cuisine has a preferred noodle for cooking. In Japanese cooking, it’s udon and soba, in Vietnamese cooking it’s tapioca, and in Chinese it’s tofu-based. While you could certainly flavor other types of noodles with Chinese seasonings, if you want to go for the full-fledged Chinese culinary experience, try out House Foods Tofu Shirataki Angel Hair Pasta. These particular noodles are gluten-free, low-carb, low-calorie, and are infused with yam for some added nutrition. As with all tofu, it’s all about what flavoring methods and seasonings you use, so House Foods suggests being very liberal sauce-wise. While some reviewers were completely satisfied with this product, others felt that the noodles were chewier than expected. If you’d like to try these out for yourself, you can get 10 bags for $16, that’s just $1.60 a package!
Eden Mirin Rice Cooking Wine
Rice cooking wine has been enjoyed by the Chinese for thousands of years. This cooking liquid is made by a fermentation process involving yeast that transforms the sugars from glutinous rice into alcohol. When products like Eden Mirin Rice Cooking Wine is used, the alcohol evaporates and a wonderful flavor and glaze is left. According to reviewers, there are a lot of imitation mirin products in the U.S. market today, but Eden Mirin is not one of them. Because this naturally-sweet cooking wine is hard to come by, it is a bit on the expensive side at $11 for a ten-ounce bottle, but if you want the authentic stuff, this seems to be one of the few options you have.
Simply Organic Five Spice Powder
While Simply Organic Five Spice Powder can be used in a number of different cuisines, it is most known for its inclusion in Chinese cooking. The organic seasoning includes cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, and white pepper. Simply Organic recommends the mix for savory rice dishes, marinades, stir-fries, and grilling, although some reviewers have reported also using the product on sweet breakfast cereals or fruit bowls. If you’d like to see which way you prefer to include it in your cooking, you can get one two-ounce container for a little over $5.
Joyce Chen Wok Kit
To cook Chinese food with ease you need the right cooking equipment in addition to the right ingredients. While you can certainly cook a stir-fry in a regular saucepan, as several Amazon reviewers point out, there are definitely some perks to working with a wok. Firstly, a wok is designed to concentrate all of the heat at the bottom, it has sloped sides so that you can give certain parts of your dish a rest, and lastly, it’s designed to make it very easy for you to feel like a legit chef and toss and shake your food without a spatula. The Joyce Chen Wok Kit has a wok with these characteristics and the kit also comes with a bamboo spatula if you feel like giving your wrist a rest. You’ll also find a domed lid and a recipe book for some simple ideas. It is worth noting, however, that a large number of Amazon reviewers warn that you must, must, must season this wok correctly to get good cooking results. So, if you’re thinking of purchasing, make sure you acquaint yourself with the process! You can get this wok kit for a little over $35.
Three Ladies Spring Roll Rice Paper Wrappers
If you enjoy the spring rolls offered in Asian restaurants, and have always wanted to make them at home, you may consider buying Three Ladies Spring Roll Rice Paper Wrappers. These gluten-free wrappers are made with just four ingredients: tapioca, filtered water, rice flour, and salt. Reviewers have been using them to wrap up julienned veggies and kimchi or frying them for a crispier version. Some reviewers have had success with frying them while others haven’t, but the reviews, in general seem more positive than negative. For a little under $10 you get three packs, or 15 wrappers.
Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce
Dark soy sauce is different than a lot of the soy sauces on shelves today. Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce, for example, is thicker and has a bolder, stronger flavor than the ones you will find at an Asian restaurant, at least that’s what Amazon reviewers are reporting. This product is made primarily from soybeans and wheat flour but it’s also worth noting that Lee Kum Kee adds caramel color, sugar, and some preservatives. If you still want to give this flavorful sauce a try, one 17-ounce bottle costs about $15.
Fresh Ginger Root
Yes, you can likely get fresh ginger root at your local grocery store, but why would you when you can have the convenience of getting it delivered right to your door? Plus, Amazon reviewers (with the exception of a handful) report that the Fresh Ginger Root they received from this vendor was much plumper and fresher than what they tend to find at local supermarkets. Considering the ginger root originated in China it seems only appropriate that this root be liberally used in the country’s cuisine. The juice from ginger roots is very potent and its pungent taste adds flavor to many dishes and tea. Reviewers have been grating this fragrant spice directly onto dishes for a burst of tangy flavor. To try it out yourself, one pound is a penny, a price set to balance out the $6 shipping charge from China.
Harmony House Foods Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
While finding ways to include fresh vegetables in your cooking is always a plus, sometimes it’s nice to have a convenient product that allows you to get the flavor and nutrition of vegetables without all of the prep. Take this four-ounce jar of Harmony House Foods Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, for instance. These air-dried mushrooms have all of the nutrition of fresh ones, but according to Harmony House, can stay in your pantry for 1-2 years. Reviewers report using the mix for cooking vegetable soups, as a fried rice add-on, and for enhancing ramen noodles. This #1 bestseller in Amazon’s dried vegetable category comes out to about $14.
Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is mild and sweeter than white wine vinegar and is often used to season rice. The difference between rice wine and rice vinegar (since many confuse the two) is that beyond the fermentation process of rice wine, rice vinegar further ferments the liquid into an acid. Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar comes with a bit of salt and sugar added which reviewers report gives the vinegar a unique tangy flavor. In addition to using it for rice, one reviewer soaks vegetables in the liquid to create a flavorful side dish. Each 12-ounce bottle is about $7.
Nishiki Medium Grain Rice
Big fan of the sticky rice Chinese restaurants dole out? Then you’ll likely enjoy Nishiki Medium Grain Rice. Amazon reviewers report that when cooked correctly, this product results in pearly, perfectly sticky rice that is super easy to eat using chopsticks. One reviewer even proclaimed they would buy this brand for the rest of their lives! That’s commitment. If you’d like to see if you’ll have the same enthusiastic reaction, you can buy a 15-pound bag of this Amazon Best Seller for about $17.
Dynasty Sliced Bamboo Shoots
When recreating any cuisine, the details are what really make or break the dish. To easily add some authenticity to your Chinese dishes, consider stocking up on some Dynasty Slice Bamboo Shoots. These bamboo shoots are packaged in brine, and apparently have a less “canned taste” than some other brands. Reviewers have been using these to add a “nice crunch” in stir-fries and soups, and many have commented that these taste “just like the ones you get at a restaurant.” You can get this 12-pack of eight-ounce cans for about $10.50.
Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Paste
Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Paste is a Sichuan-style chili sauce made from chilis and fermented broad beans. Reviewers report that this paste is salty but not insanely hot and some have even gotten inspired to step out of the Asian realm and experiment with this sauce in other cuisines. Some reviewers have also pointed out that when using this chili paste, no other spices need to be added. One 13-ounce jar costs a little under $11.
Joyce Chen Bamboo Steamer
While at first it may seem like it, not everything is stir-fried in China. Which is why having other cooking appliances, like the Joyce Chen Bamboo Steamer Set can definitely come in handy. The steamer itself has two tiers, a domed lid aimed to trap moisture, and according to Joyce Chen, is designed for use inside a wok or over a stockpot. Amazon reviewers report that this steamer makes cooking dinner a speedy process, makes healthy cooking a breeze and that compared to the prices at Asian specialty markets, this product ranks pretty equal. You can either wash this bamboo steamer with water after every use or as one reviewer suggests, you can lay down some parchment paper while you cook for an easier clean-up. This bamboo set costs a little over $24.
Wok Mei Hoisin Sauce
Wok Mei Hoisin Sauce is the #1 best seller in Amazon’s Asian Barbecue Sauce category, and reading through the Amazon reviews, you can see why. Reviewers report that this gluten-free product is a “wonderful addition” to their kitchen and is much healthier than most Hoisin sauces since it doesn’t have high-fructose corn syrup. One reviewer even commented that this sauce tastes good on “practically everything.” The sauce is made with miso, dried cane syrup, sesame oil, distilled vinegar, natural corn starch, caramel color, soy sauce, spices, and garlic. You can get an eight-ounce jar for $9.
Ready to hit the kitchen? Let us know which product you plan on buying first in the comments!
Lead Image Source: Fermented Sweet and Sour Cauliflower