Chinese Glossary

Chinese Glossary

Monosodium Glutamate Or Msg

It is extracted from seaweed and other vegetable matter. Flavour enhancing secret of this seaweed is an amino acid called glutamate.

Bamboo Shoots

These are the tender spear shaped shoots from the base of bamboo plants.

Bamboo Steamer

A special kind of steamer made from bamboo strips used in Chinese cooking specially for steaming dimsums.

Bean Curd

Also known as Dou Fu in Chinese and Tofu in Japanese, it is made with boiled soya bean liquid. It is soft and white, cheese like in texture, ranges from firm to silken.

Bean Sprouts

Bean sprouts are sprouted green gram (moong) and are highly nutritious.

Black Bean Fermented

These beans are aromatic and are cooked either only with salt or with salt, ginger and orange peel. Before using them, salt should be rinsed off.

Black Bean Sauce

Used in place of soy sauce when a thicker sauce is required. Made from salted soya beans, ground and mixed with flour and spices.


Similar to cauliflower, dark green in colour. The word brocco means sprout.

Brown Sugar

Small crystals of refined white sugar treated with dark grade molasses. Soft light brown sugar is treated with light colored molasses.


A shoot vegetable with a distinct sharp and savoury flavour. The stalk is used to flavour soups and salads.

Cellophane Noodles

Cellophane noodles are made from green gram flour. They are very hard and fine. Also known as transparent noodles or bean threads.

Chilli Oil

It is a very spicy bright red oil made of chillies with oil.

Chilli Sauce

It is made from chillies ground with vinegar, starch and salt. Occasionally flavoured with garlic, it has thick consistency like tomato sauce and is very hot.

Chinese Bar-Be-Cue Sauce

A combination of hoisin sauce, vinegar, sesame oil or paste and bean sauce. Used in marination.

Chinese Cabbage

Large headed cabbage with firmly packed pale green leaves. Chinese cabbage is also wrongly referred to as Bok Choy.


Leaves of coriander plant, also referred to as Chinese parsley. Used as a garnish.


Commonly referred to as cornflour. Blended with water to form paste, it is used as a thickening agent.

Dry Sherry

Traditional fortified wine. Largely used in cooking, marinating and its sweet version is used in making desserts.

Egg Noodles, Fresh

These yellow noodles range in size and shape from long spaghetti like, to thin vermicelli like strands.

Fermented Bean Curd

Also called bean curd cheese, it is made by fermenting small cubes of bean curd in wine and salt.

Fish Sauce

It is a salty, thin, brown liquid made by fermenting fish/shrimps with salt and soy sauce.

Five Spice Powder

Made from varying combinations of star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and Sichuan peppercorns ground together.


This potato coloured root is indispensable to Chinese cooking.

Hoisin Sauce

It is a thick and brownish red sauce. It is made from soya beans, sugar, salt, garlic and chillies with sesame oil.

Hot Mustard

Condiment served with Chinese appetizers. Made by mixing dry mustard powder with water, causing a chemical reaction that produces a sharp hot taste.


Vegetables, like carrots, capsicums or even ginger cut into long thin strips.

Lemon Grass

A sub tropical plant resembling spring onion which gives a delicious lemony flavour to South East Asian dishes.

Lemon Rind

Lemon peels with the inner white membrane removed can be used, grated or julienned, to garnish dishes both sweet and savoury.


There are three varieties of lettuce – crisp-head, romaine butter-head or cabbage. All are mainly used raw and in salads.

Lotus Root

Crunchy and gourd shaped, lotus roots grow underwater, four to five together strung like sausages and often one to one and half feet long.

Morel Mushrooms

These are the most expensive of the dried mushrooms. But only a few should be used as they add quite a lot of flavour.


Chinese mushrooms called Shitake are a beautiful pale gold colored when fresh and have a pleasantly firm texture and a haunting flavour. Available dry and should be soaked before cooking.

Mushrooms, Black

Usually available dried, the caps are thick with a nice curl and range in colour from black to speckled brown black.


A seafood, closely related to the clam. Mussels are generally sold fresh in their shells and eaten raw or steamed or used in salads or soups.


Noodles is a Chinese staple food. Mein is the generic term after which the popular dish Chow Mein is named.

Orange Rind

Dry peels of oranges, julienned, used for garnishing in various sweet and savoury dishes.

Oyster Sauce

A dark brown sauce with a rich flavour made from extract of oysters, salt and starch, used mainly in south of China.

Peanut Butter

A paste made from crushed peanuts, used mainly as a spread. Sometimes it is also used to thicken sauces.

Plum Sauce

A thick, rich, spicy fruit sauce it is used in savoury braised dishes or in dips. It is available bottled.

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are made in southern China from rice flour. They are flat, ribbon like strands that do not require soaking before use.

Rice Vinegar

Light and delicately flavoured vinegar. Rice vinegar is distilled from white rice and is very aromatic.

Rice Wine

Wine from fermented rice, it is golden yellow in colour. It has a dry sherry like flavour and is used to flavour many Chinese dishes.


Unknown in ancient times and of uncertain origin, it is less pungent than onion. Mainly used in sauces, the elongated variety tends to be stronger in flavour.


Another type of seafood. Pale pink when raw, shrimps are available fresh, frozen or canned.

Shrimp Paste

Often used in dishes of vegetables and soups, it is salty in taste and should be used sparingly. Sold in jars and cans, should be refrigerated once opened.

Sichuan Pepper

This spice is not a species of pepper, though it does have a peppery taste.

Snow Peas

Also known as Mangetout. Early varieties of peas, which have very tender pods.

Soy Sauce

It is made from fermented soy beans, salt, yeast and sugar. Available in two versions – Dark and Light.

Soya Bean Paste

Ground soya beans are seasoned and flavored with chillies, peppers, sugar and salt. It is very hot and aromatic.


This seafood is found world wide in temperate waters, they are available fresh or frozen

Sticky Rice

Despite its name this rice, widely used in Chinese cooking, is completely gluten free. When boiled it becomes sweet and sticky.


To cook small pieces of food in very little fat, tossing constantly over high heat, usually in a wok.


It is an aromatic and nutritive liquid extracted by boiling bones, spices and/or vegetables with water.

Water Chestnut

It’s a walnut sized bulb with brown /green skin. Inside the flesh is white and crisp. Water chestnut flour too is used.

White Wine Vinegar

Wine vinegars are ideal for mayonnaise and all kinds of salad dressings. They are also used in many sauces that can be served with fish.


Cone shaped utensil which is normally used to cook Chinese food. It has a rounded bottom, which encourages ingredients to return to the centre.

Wonton Wrappers

Wafer thin wrappers eight centimeter (three inches) square made from wheat flour, egg and water.


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