Chinese Food Ingredients

China is a country full of delicacies, with a wide range of food ingredients. In terms of culinary experiences, Chinese cuisine has contributed a great deal to the world, from ingredient & flavor exploration to kitchenware designs, all with the purpose to turn dining into a unique experience. On this page we list some basic Chinese Food Ingredients, which should be present in your Chinese shelf and are used to prepare some of the most common Chinese Food Recipes.

1. Staple Food

Rice and noodles the two ingredients form the base of traditional Chinese food. China is the world’s largest rice producer, and one of the earliest centers of rice cultivation. Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China. The domination of white rice began during the Song dynasty when many people migrated south. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. It is the staple food in everyday meals of Chinese Southerners. 

Noodles are another staple food, especially favored in the northern parts of the country. Wheat arrived from western Asia by 2000 BC and became widely used in the form of noodle soups. Noodles can be served hot or cold with different toppings and broth. The noodles appear in wide variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors.

In wheat farming areas in Northern China, people largely rely on flour-based food, such as noodles, breads, dumplings and steamed buns. Some other food like Chinese Dumpling, Millet, Rice Noodles, Wonton are also serve as the sample food of some areas.

2. Seasoning

Ginger, garlic, and scallions

Ginger, garlic, and scallions are the mirepoix or holy trinity of Chinese cooking. These aromatics are each essential to Chinese cooking. Garlic has been a primary ingredient in Chinese cooking for many centuries; in fact it’s one of the ingredients that give Chinese recipes their distinctive flavours. Having a spicy, sweet, fresh taste, garlic adds a distinctive flavour to soups, sauces and stews. 

Condiments and Seasonings

  • Soy sauce is the foundation of Chinese and other Asian cooking. It is used in cooking, as a table condiment and as a dipping sauce. Other sauces include Oyster-flavored sauce, Hoisin sauce, Chili sauce, Plum sauce, Thick broad-bean sauce, etc.
  • Chinkiang Vinegar is very popular for its strong smoky flavor. This dark rice vinegar is made of glutinous rice and can be added to soups, dipping sauces and braised dishes.
  • Chilies/peppers: fresh or dried, hot or hotter, mostly used in spicy dishes, especially in Sichuan and Hunan cuisines.
  • Five Spice Powder is a mixture of star anise, Sichuan pepper, fennel, cloves and cinnamon and produces a pungent, spicy, fragrant and somewhat sweet flavour to recipes. 
  • Chinese Parsley, a very popular herb with a strong flavor, also known as Coriander. It is popular in Chinese cooking with sauces, soups, dim sums and as garnish.
  • Some regions also use anise, white peppers, peppercorns, fennel, cinnamon, and cloves.
  • Oils include cooking oil such as peanut oil; flavoring oil such as sesame oil and Chili oil.

See more on Chinese Seasonings

3. Meat

“The Chinese eat everything with four legs, except for tables, and everything that flies, except for airplanes.” Chinese people love to eat and almost all animals’ meat can be eaten, such as chicken, duck, fish, pork, beef, mutton, etc. Besides, almost every part of the animal can be cooked and served, no matter the head, neck, or the organ. Among them, pork is the most widely consumed meat. 

Chinese people rarely eat any raw meat. There are so many different ways to prepare all types of meat: fried, boiled, roasted, baked, stewed, poached, pickled… Ham is a widely used ingredient in Chinese dishes. It is so common that the word ‘pork’ in Chinese can refer to meat in general. 

4. Soybean Products

Soybean products, like soy milk, soy oil, soy paste, soy sauce, and especially tofu (bean curd), have been a staple in Chinese and other Asian cuisines since ancient times. 

  • Tofu is made of water, soy milk, and a curdling agent and it is valued as a rich source of proteins, which always served in soups, salads and stir-fried dishes.
  • Pickled bean curd is a fermented tofu, usually pickled with soy beans, chili, or red yeast rice. It looks much like blue cheese and is quite salty. Doufuru is often combined with rice and beans.
  • Soy milk or soymilk is a plant-based drink produced by soaking and grinding soybeans, boiling the mixture, and filtering out remaining particulates.
  • During the boiling of soy milk, in an open shallow pan, a film or skin forms on the liquid surface called Tofu Skin.
  • Sprouts that come from beans — and while sprouting can be done using just about any bean, the most common bean sprouts usually come from mung beans and soybeans.

5. Vegetables

It’s hard to find a Chinese table that is without a big plate of perfectly stir-fried leafy greens. Vegetables are the second most important ingredient used in Chinese dishes. Chinese people like vegetables, especially leafy greens, and eat many different kinds at almost every meal. 

The most widely consumed vegetables include leafy vegetables like Chinese White Cabbage, lettuce, and spinach, mushrooms like shiitake, golden needle mushrooms, wood ears, oyster mushrooms, and tea tree mushrooms. Other vegetables like green beans, bamboo shoots, Chinese eggplants, white radishes, onions and carrots are also favored by Chinese people.

6. Egg

Eggs are very popular in China and China has a large consumption of eggs each year. Chinese people eat the eggs laid by almost all types of poultry – chicken, geese, ducks, pigeons and quails. And they can make lots of dishes with eggs such as salted duck eggs and preserved eggs. Eggs can be dried with vegetables like onions, chives, and chili, or steamed, boiled in soup.

Fried rice is one of the most popular fried rice in China. 

Food Culture Travel

Food is an integral part of Chinese culture and it should be an integral part of your trip too if you are a foodie who loves Chinese food. Don’t miss the famous local cuisine at the destination you stay. Most often, delicious food is with beautiful sceneryBeijingXianChengdu and Shanghai are famous food centers of China. Peking Roast Duck, Sichuan Hot Pot, Mapo Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken… Different cities have different local flavors and different food culture. Choose places to visit according to your preference. We have designed a series of China food tours for you. If you have enough time, you can visit several places to taste the great regional cuisine. Also, if you are interested enough, you can also have chances to make Chinese food.

Recommended Food Culture Tours:
Xian Evening Tour with Dumpling Dinner, Xian Tang Dynasty Show and City Night View
2 Days Beijing Highlights Tour with Beijing Roast Duck and Kong Fu Show
9 Days Beijing-Xian-Chengdu Small Group Tour
12 Days China Paradise Culture Tour by Train

Read more about China Food Culture Tours.