I have briefly introduced two most classic and expensive Chinese cooking ingredients (shark fins and bird’s nest) in my previous article. Here I’ll continue to introduce some other special ingredients that are more regularly used in our daily cooking. They are far more affordable. Not like shark fins and bird’s nest, people can only dream about in China unless you have plenty of money and don’t know where to spend.
Jellyfish is preserved in salt and alum. Large, thin and translucent ones are especially good served as appetizer. It is produced in the South Seas and along seaboards of China, Korea and Japan. The South Seas product is considered to be of the best quality.
Method of Preparation
- Soak jellyfish over night, change water and soak for one more day.
- Roll the jellyfish up and shred
- Dip in boiling water for a few seconds and quickly rinse in cold water and drain.
- Season with vinegar, salt and sugar. Serve. Note: There are many other ways to cook jellyfish
Duck eggs thickly coated with a mixture of salt, lime and rice husks are preserved in a cool, dark place for about three months. The interior becomes brownish black in color due to fermentation. Remove lime crust and shell, rinse clean, cut lengthwise into six pieces and serve wit shredded ginger, vinegar and soy sauce as an appetizer.
The best bêche-de-mer or sea cucumber when dried is black in color, as that produced in Hokkaido, Japan. It may be sautéed, stewed or braised.
To soften: Wash, cover with water and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Slit the middle lengthwise and clean inside. Rinse, cover with water and bring to boil again. remove from heat, place on lid, and let stand for three days.
Dried shrimps after soaking in warm water for about 10 minutes may be used in soups and sautéed dishes, or served cold as an appetizer.
Dried scallops have a delicate flavor and after softening in hot water, may be used in soups or other dishes as with dried shrimps.
Preserved Szechwan (SiChuan, in mandarin) Vegetable
This vegetable is the bulb of mustard green preserved in chili, salt and spices, produced in Szechwan, China, and has a unique flavor. It may be used in soups, sautéed dishes or simply sliced and served as an appetizer. People from north of China normally eat it along with rice congee as breakfast.
There are black and white varieties of cloud ears and the white variety being much more expensive, is used only in special dishes. Most of the Japanese product is either black or dark brown in color. Softened in warm water, it may be used in soups and sautéed or braised dishes.
Bean Thread – Chinese Vermicelli
Chinese vermicelli made from bean starch is translucent in appearance and does not melt under long cooking. It may be used in soups or braised dishes after softening in warm water.
The top of this mushroom is variegated with cracks resembling that of a turtle shell. This flavorful mushroom is used in many of the delicate dishes, and may also be served deep fried.