- Oil for stir-frying. "I cook with peanut, because it has a high smoking point and a slight nuttiness that I love," Ching told me, "but canola works well, too."
- Five-spice powder for just about everything. "This versatile powder is great for marinades, fish, and meats. Try roasting a duck with it."
- A good rice vinegar or two. "Black rice vinegar is made from black rice, and it's very mellow and not as sour as white rice vinegar. You can buy both and use them for different purposes; if you can't locate black rice vinegar, balsamic is a good substitute."
- Shaoxing rice wine to intensify flavor. "It's the most crucial ingredient in Chinese cooking," Ching says. "It's sort of bittersweet. The bitter brings out the sweet, and the sweetness brings out the salty." If you don't cook with alcohol, Ching recommends using an intensely flavored chicken, vegetable, or beef stock instead, to help achieve an umami-rich flavor.
- Soy sauce both light and dark. "A light soy sauce gives a dish a fresh saltiness," the cooking host explained. "In contrast, a dark soy sauce is mellow, rich, and caramelly. It's good for color, as you eat with your eyes, too. Just be sure to use it sparingly."
Do you ever cook Chinese at home? If so, what essential items do you keep in your kitchen?
Source: Flickr User andrewrennie