Chinese herbs and spices Photo: Thinkstock
The Chinese flavour
Chilli paste - A peppery condiment that varies in intensity depending on the brand. Test before adding to food.
Five-spice powder - A blend of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. Often used in marinades or as a seasoning for soups, stews and stir-fries.
Hoisin sauce - A dark, thick, sweet and salty sauce made from fermented soybeans. Use it in stir-fries and as a condiment served at the table.
Hot mustard - A very vinegary mustard used as a dipping sauce.
Sesame oil - Light sesame oil has a slightly nutty flavour; add it sparingly at the end of cooking. Dark sesame oil is fragrant and intensely flavoured. Nut oils tend to turn rancid in a hot environment so store in a cool place.
Soy sauce - The most important and commonly used seasoning in China and all of Asia, this salty sauce made from fermented soybeans comes in several varieties. Light soy sauce is thinner and saltier. Dark soy sauce is thicker and less salty. Chinese black
soy sauce and Japanese tamari are very dark and sweet.
Star anise - This pretty star-shaped spice has a strong aniseed flavour. It comes from a Chinese evergreen tree. Use in soups and stews.
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