Welcome to our Chinese dried, cured & pickled ingredients page, a comprehensive yet quick-to-navigate reference guide to Chinese dried and preserved ingredients, including dried mushrooms, fruits, seaweed, seeds, and herbs, as well as dried seafood, cured meats and preserved eggs, pickled and salted vegetables, and more.
This category contains many key umami-producing/flavor-packed ingredients, many of which can only be found in Chinese markets or from Chinese online groceries. If you’ve seen one of these ingredients in one of our recipes, and are looking to learn more about what it looks like and how to use it, read on!
If you’re looking for more information on other Chinese Ingredients, go to our main Chinese Ingredients Glossary page to review the different categories and easily find what you’re looking for.
This is a living page that we continuously update, so if you have any suggestions, additions, or questions, feel free to comment below.
Click on an ingredient below to jump to it!
Dried fungi, fruit, seeds & other Plant Foods
Preserved Meats & Eggs
In general, these products can be found in any well-stocked Chinese grocery store. For those of you who can’t find local Chinese markets, sometimes include Amazon and other retail links to shop online.
Full disclosure, these are affiliate links that allow us to make a small commission, but be aware that online vendors sometimes sell at premium prices and/or in bulk (you may have to buy 2 bottles or a larger size). It’s always best to shop at your local Chinese market if you have one!
Other online sources of ingredients include:
Some of the above sources are regional, and others ship nationwide. Some carry only dry goods, while others (usually the regional ones) also carry produce and refrigerated products.
Dried Fungi, FruitS, seeds & Other Plant foodS
This first section is the most extensive on this page, and includes everything from dried mushrooms to herbal ingredients you might find in soups, to beans and seeds, as well as seaweed, dried vegetables, and leaves used to wrap other foods.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (冬菇，Dōnggū)
Dried shiitake mushrooms have an intense meaty flavor (stronger than fresh mushrooms) that enhances the flavor of soups, stir-fries, and braised dishes. Different varieties range in color from light to dark brown and smooth to having a more cracked pattern (known in Chinese as huā gū – 花菇). They can especially add meaty flavor to vegetarian and vegan dishes like our Ultimate Braised Tofu. To prepare them, soak them in hot water for at least 2 hours, or overnight. We almost always use a small plate on top of the bowl to keep the mushrooms submerged.
Squeeze out the excess liquid and trim any tough stems before slicing, chopping, and/or cooking. If the mushrooms have some dirt on them, you can also rinse them. The soaking liquid is very flavorful, and can be used in place of stock or water in recipes. Just be sure to avoid any sediment that may have settled to the bottom of the bowl you soaked them in. If you live in a dry climate, learn more about how to dry your own mushrooms!
Wood Ear Mushrooms (木耳，Mù’ěr)
Wood ears or more specifically, black wood ears (hēi mù’ěr – 黑木耳) are a type of fungus that grows on old wood. Prounounced “mook yee” in Cantonese, they have a slightly crunchy texture in salads and stir-fries, but can be cooked softer in soups or stews. They‘re usually sold dried (either loose, or in very small compressed bricks), but fresh ones may be available in well-stocked Asian markets. Soak them before cooking for 30 mins to 1 hour. They may have a tough base that needs to be trimmed, though this isn’t always the case.
White Cloud Ears / Snow Fungus (银耳，yín’ěr)
These are similar to wood ears, but more delicate in texture and lighter in color. They’re bland, absorbing flavor from the soups & stir-fries they’re cooked in. They can have a crunchy or silky texture, depending on how long you cook them. We also use them in desserts like our Snow Fungus Dessert Soup. White cloud ears or snow fungus can be found at a well-stocked Asian grocery store, in the same aisle where the dried mushrooms and wood ears are located. They’re usually sold dry, so soak them in water to soften before use.
Dried Spongy Gluten (烤麸，Kǎo fū)
This is a dried version of wheat gluten, also known as seitan. It has the texture of a sponge when rehydrated and takes on the flavors of the sauces/seasonings it’s cooked with, much like tofu. Use it in our Shanghainese Braised (Hong Shao) Kao Fu recipe.
It can be rehydrated in water and then blanched, braised, stir-fried, and used in vegetarian/vegan dishes as a meat substitute. Read more about gluten on our Tofu/Seitan ingredients page, which can also be available fresh, frozen, or fried!
Dried Red Dates / Jujubes (红枣，Hóngzǎo)
Dried red dates or red jujubes (pronounced hóng zǎo in Mandarin and hong zo in Cantonese), are often used in Chinese desserts and sweet soups, like our Chinese New Year Sweet Rice Cake (Nian Gao) or our Snow Fungus Soup. You’ll also see them in savory soups, like our Cantonese Pork Soup with Carrot & Yam. They’re thought to be especially beneficial to women’s health according to Traditional Chinese Medicine—try our Ginger Date Tea. Note that they are usually sold whole, with the pit still intact, so they may need to be pitted before using or consuming.
Dried Honey Dates (蜜枣，Mì Zǎo)
Honey Dates are similar to Chinese red dates in that they come from the same fruit—Chinese jujubes. These are candied rather than simply dried, making them sweeter. They have quite a different appearance, with a sort of vertical striping and powdery coating. We don’t use these as often as dried Chinese jujubes, but we do use them in certain herbal soup recipes, like our Ching Po Leung Cantonese Herb Pork Bone Soup.
Dried Goji Berries (枸杞，gōu qǐ)
Goji berries, also known in English as wolfberries, are known as gōu qǐ in Mandarin and “gao gay” in Cantonese. They’ve gained superfood status in recent years, becoming increasingly available in health food stores. In Chinese cooking, we use them most often to augment healthy soups, tonics, and teas. You may also see them as a garnish on steamed dishes or addition to desserts for a bright pop of color and flavor. Try them in our Black Chicken Soup or Prosperity Cake.
Dried Longan (桂圆肉，Guì Yuán Ròu)
These are dried dragon eye fruit (longan or lóngyǎn – 龙眼). Used as an herbal medicine & providing a touch of sweetness in Cantonese soups and tonics, we use them in our Ching Po Leung Cantonese Herb Pork Bone Soup. You can also add them to teas or enjoy them on their own as a snack.
You can taste these in their fresh form too when they’re in season in mid to late summer. They look very similar to lychees, though they’re smaller, with thin, smooth, light brown skin. Their translucent flesh and hard, dark brown pit do look like a dragon eye, which is how they got their name!
Chinese Dried Figs (无花果干，Wúhuāguǒ gān)
Chinese dried figs are smaller and lighter in color than the dried figs you might buy as a snack at a regular grocery store. They’re a pale beige color, and also less sweet. You’ll see them primarily in Chinese herbal soups.
Dried Lotus Seeds (莲子，Lián zǐ)
Dried lotus seeds or lotus nuts are the seeds of the water lotus plant, (where we also get lotus leaves and lotus root). These seeds are used for soups, desserts, and other traditional dishes like some versions of Buddha’s Delight (Lo Han Jai). We use them to make lotus paste for mooncakes, as well as in our Four Gods Herbal Soup. Lotus seeds have a bitter green center that must be removed before using. Doing this with whole lotus seeds is very tedious, so we recommend purchasing lotus seed halves.
Fox Nut Barley (芡实，qiàn shí)
Fox Nut Barley, or qiànshí (芡实), is a white starchy seed, and although the name puts a picture in your mind of what most people think of as barley (i.e. pearl barley), it is quite different. Fox nut barley is the product of a flowering plant in the water lily family. They’re a bit similar in texture to lotus seeds, but are a bit chalkier and whiter inside. We mostly use them in Chinese soups and tonics like in our Ching Po Leung Cantonese Herb Pork Bone Soup and our Four Herbs Soup. You may see it labeled in English with its more scientific name, “dried euryale seed.”
Dried red beans / Adzuki beans (红豆，Hóngdòu)
These small, brick red beans are used most often in sweet applications. They can be made into a sweet red bean paste, sweet red bean dessert soup, and added to baked goods like red bean bread or steamed red bean buns. Make sure to buy fresh dried red beans (vacuum sealed packages are great if you can find them). If the beans are old, they may never soften, even after soaking and cooking! They’re also known as adzuki beans, and are used not only in Chinese desserts, but also Japanese and other Asian sweets.
Dried Mung Beans (绿豆，Lǜdòu)
Mung beans are perhaps best known in the Western world for their sprouts, i.e. bean sprouts! Dried mung beans are green, and a similar size to dried adzuki/red beans. They can also be used to make sweet soups, congees, and desserts, such as our Mung Bean Popsicles and Bao Bing (Shaved Ice). Eating mung beans can cool you from the inside out, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, making foods made with mung bean very popular during the summertime. The fresher these are the better—old beans are more difficult to cook!
Split Mung Beans (绿豆仁，Lǜdòu rén)
Split Mung Beans are simply the aforementioned green mung beans with the outer husk removed and split in half. They’re light yellow, with a creamy texture after cooking, and the same ingredient known in Indian cooking as yellow moong daal. We mostly use these to make zongzi. Check out Bill’s Mom’s Cantonese Zongzi recipe in our cookbook! These split mung beans add a delightfully creamy texture and nutty flavor to those sticky rice bundles!
Dried Lily Flowers (金針，Jīnzhēn)
Dried lily flowers, also known as dried lily buds, are the dried unopened flowers of a certain daylily plant. They are known as jīn zhēn (金針) in Mandarin or “gum zhen” in Cantonese, which translates to “golden needles.”
They have a slight fruity, floral scent and earthy flavor. Used in a variety of traditional Chinese dishes, the most common ingredient they’re paired with are other mushrooms, such as dried shiitakes and wood ears. You’ll see this combination in dishes like our ever-popular Hot and Sour Soup and Steamed Chicken with Mushrooms & Lily Flowers. To use them, rinse them and soak them in water to rehydrate. Then trim away the hard stem tip (the base of the lily flower). Sometimes it can be beneficial to soak these twice, squeezing them dry after soaking for the first 5 minutes and changing the water once. since lily flowers can have a slightly sour, strong taste if only soaked once.
Dried Lily Bulb (百合，Bǎihé)
Dried lily bulbs are another Chinese herbal ingredient used in soups (mostly Cantonese-style soups). It is the starchy, edible bulb of a certain flowering lily plant which has petal-like layers. The layers are separated, blanched, and then dried. These can be used in both sweet and savory soups, and should be rinsed before using. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that this ingredient helps with cough and clears internal heat (i.e. inflammation) from the lungs and heart.
Dried Chinese Yam (淮山 ，huái shān / 山药, shān yào)
This is the peeled and dried version of Chinese Yam, which we’ve also covered on our Vegetables & Fungi Glossary Page. They come in long thin strips, and we use them in Chinese soups! Like most of the soup & tonic ingredients we’ve talked about on this page, the Chinese believe this ingredient has medicinal properties. In fact, one of its names, shānyào literally means “mountain medicine.” Try them in our Black Chicken Soup or Four Herbs Soup.
Polygonatum Odoratum (玉竹，yù zhú)
Yu zhu (玉竹), also pronounced in Cantonese as “yook jook,” is only found in dried form—another ingredient for Cantonese tonics and soups. The English translation is usually the scientific name of the shade-loving herbaceous perennial plant it comes from, polygonatum odoratum, more commonly known in English as fragrant Solomon’s Seal. These are the dried slices of the plant’s rhizome, similar in texture to bamboo. It’s no wonder that the literal translation of yuzhu is jade bamboo. We use it in our black chicken soup.
Codonopsis PIlosula (党参，Dǎngshēn)
These are the dried roots of a perennial plant in the bellflower family, thought by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners to aid digestion and decrease blood pressure. In traditional characters, it is written: 黨參. We use these in Chinese soups as an herbal ingredient, like in our black chicken soup. Rinse before adding to soup stocks! You can use these to infuse your broth, but you don’t have to eat them!
Ching Po Leung Soup Mix (清补凉，Qīng bǔ liáng)
Ching Po Leung is a common Cantonese soup that comes in both savory or sweet versions. Generally made with a pork bone stock, it can be easier to make if you can find a pre-packaged bundle of the dried herbal ingredients like this. We generally buy the ingredients individually for freshness/best quality, but if you don’t make these soups often, this is a great shortcut! Check out our Ching Po Leung Cantonese Herb Pork Bone Soup recipe.
Dried Bok choy (白菜干，Báicài gān)
Known as bok choy gon in Cantonese, dried bok choy has a deep flavor that adds a lot of character to Cantonese soups. In fact, Bill’s mom used to grow her own greens and dry them on a clothesline to make soup! Be sure to soak these dehydrated bok choy stems and leaves and thoroughly clean them before use, as they can be quite sandy. While we haven’t used this ingredient much on the blog, we did use it in a delicious Cantonese Lai Tong (or “daily soup”) recipe in our cookbook, available wherever books are sold!
Dried Black Moss (发菜，Fà cài – fat choy)
Known as fà cài in Mandarin and “fatchoy” in Cantonese, this ingredient is a dried black moss or terrestrial algae—not seaweed, as many recipes and articles on the internet suggest. You may also see it translated as “hair moss,” as the word 发菜 literally translates to “hair vegetable,” because of its resemblance to hair! It can be quite expensive, and is meant to be enjoyed mostly around Chinese New Year, because its name sounds like the word 发财, which means “to get rich!” We use it in our traditional Dried Oyster and Black Moss (Ho See Fat Choy) for Chinese New Year.
You may also see it used in the vegetarian dish Buddha’s Delight, or Lo Han Jai, although it is optional and our recipe does not call for it. Bill’s aunt uses it in another Chinese New Year dish—stewed pork trotters with fatchoy—that is simply delicious. We’ll have to get that recipe documented here on the blog!
Dried Kelp (海带，Hǎi dài)
Known in Japanese cuisine as kombu, in Korean cuisine as dasima, and as haidai in Mandarin or hoy doy in Cantonese, this is dried kelp, which is loaded with umami-producing glutamate. The Chinese word 海带 translates to “sea ribbon,” which is an apt name for this thick seaweed! You can find it in large pieces to make soups/stocks, but also pre-shredded pieces, as pictured to the left. You may also be able to find it fresh, but the dried type is shelf stable and lasts a long time.
You can soak before use, or add directly to soups/stocks. The shredded variety also rehydrates much faster for quicker preparation. Be sure to rinse throughly after soaking.
Wakame seaweed is more tender than thicker dried kelp, and also more delicate in flavor. We usually use it in soups—a small handful in a bowl of wonton soup adds a lot of flavor. Kaitlin also loves using it to make miso soups. We all keep it in our pantries for a quick flavor blast—even to a bowl of instant noodles! Dried wakame is sold packaged loosely in small pieces, and almost looks a bit like dried wood ears. After wakame is rehydrated, you can see the clear difference between it and hai dai kelp or kombu.
Dried Laver (紫菜, Zǐcài)
This type of dried seaweed is even thinner than wakame, and generally sold in round cakes. Break it off into small pieces, and add it to soups for flavor. It will rehydrate and cook in seconds, making it an easy last-minute addition to any tasty soup or even just a bowl of hot broth. Try it in our Shanghai Street Stall Wonton Soup from our cookbook!
Dried Zongzi Leaves (粽叶, Zòngyè)
These bamboo or reed leaves are collected and dried largely for one purpose—to make zongzi for duānwǔ jié (端午节), known in English as the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar (i.e. late May to mid-June). Zongzi consist of sticky rice (AKA glutinous rice) with sweet and savory fillings, wrapped in these leaves and boiled until gooey. The leaves are long and about 4-5 inches wide. They must be soaked overnight before using, and you’ll usually need to layer a couple of leaves to wrap one zongzi.
Dried Lotus Leaves (荷叶, Hé yè)
Dried lotus leaves are the large round leaves of the lotus plant (the same plant that gives us lotus seeds and lotus roots). They are most often used to wrap foods for steaming, or as a liner for a bamboo steamer for other steamed dishes. Check them out in our Dim Sum Sticky Rice Lotus Leaf Wraps with Chicken (Lo Mai Gai). They add a wonderful fragrance to dishes and keep foods moist during the cooking process. You must soak them before use—get a large basin or clean sink to soak them in; they’re very large!
Dried seafood products are common across Asian cuisines, and there is a wide array across cultures. We’ll be covering the most common dried Chinese seafood types we use in our recipes. As you can see from the picture above of the refrigerated section of our local Asian store, it’s dried shrimp, squid, fish, scallops, anchovies, and oysters galore!
Dried Shrimp (虾米, Xiāmi)
Dried shrimp is the most common dried seafood in Chinese cooking. It adds umami and may even be the star flavor of the dish. They can be quite expensive, and many Chinese markets in Chinatowns sell them loose in bulk, but we recommend buying them packaged from the refrigerated section of the Chinese market. Look for meaty dried shrimps with a pink-orange color. Sometimes we soak these before use. Try them in our recipes for Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go) and Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage & Dried Shrimp.
Dried Shrimp Flakes (虾皮, Xiāpí)
Dried shrimp flakes or mini shrimps, known as xiāpí, are made from tiny shrimp and are almost transparent. These require less cooking than the larger dried shrimp above, and can be used as a flavor agent for soups, stir-fried dishes, and popular Chinese treats like Chinese Chive Boxes. They may be tiny, but they are salted, dried, and packed with flavor. They go well with egg dishes like Steamed Egg, summer squash dishes like Zucchini Pancakes, and clear broth soups like Easy Fish Tofu Soup.
Dried Scallops (干贝, Gānbèi)
Dried scallops, pronounced “gon pui” in Cantonese (which is why it’s sometimes romanized to “conpoy”), have many uses in Chinese cooking. Like dried shrimp, they are often added simply for their umami flavor, and our elders use it quite often to add extra flavor to soups and stews with just 1-2 crushed pieces. Also use them in fried rice dishes, sauces, congee, and stir-fries. They can be expensive—larger scallops are more flavorful and pricey. Use them to make homemade XO Sauce. Soak before use.
Dried Cuttlefish/Squid (鱿鱼干, Yóuyú gàn)
Dried cuttlefish or squid is generally a lesser-known ingredient, though you may see it used in soups, stocks, and Cantonese tonics. It is also used in steamed dishes similar to our Steamed Pork with Salted Fish (咸鱼蒸肉饼). You can also steam it by itself and eat it with congee. (Try our quick 20-minute congee recipe!)
Dried Oysters (蠔豉, Háo shì)
Dried oysters, or “ho see” in Cantonese, can be found in well-stocked Chinese and Asian grocery stores. They are expensive and come in different grades, depending upon their size, origin, and if they are fresh dried, or if they have been cooked (blanched) before drying. Dried oysters are most popular in Hong Kong and Guangdong province, and are relatively rare in Northern parts of China or even as far South as Shanghai. Our Chinese New Year Dried Oyster and Black Moss (Ho See Fat Choy) recipe uses this precious Cantonese ingredient.
Bill’s great great grandfather used to produce dried oysters and oyster sauce in Southern China, which is how we know that cooked dried oysters are a bit chewier after cooking, and raw dried oysters retain more of their color and texture. This is why they’re generally more expensive.
Dried Conch (干海螺, Gàn hǎiluó)
Dried Conch is another relatively obscure ingredient that may be used in soups and Cantonese tonics. It’s no wonder, as there is generally no English on most packaging, and even in Chinese, the large print simply says “ocean flavor” and does not specify the type of shellfish. Dried conch can sometimes be conflated with dried whelk (xiǎng luó – 响螺), which is a different type of shellfish. If you happen to have some, try tossing a piece into a pork based soup or Pork Bone Congee to kick it up a notch!
Salted Fish (咸鱼, Xián yú)
Salted fish, pronounced xián yú in Mandarin and “hom yee” in Cantonese, is a common ingredient in Southern Chinese and Hong Kong cooking. People serve congee with salted fish steamed with ginger, scallion and some rice wine, or pan-fried until crisp and aromatic. It’s definitely an acquired taste. Younger generations don’t seem to have the taste for it, as it’s become less ubiquitous than it once was. Nevertheless, we love salted fish! Our favorite is the fermented salted fish made with a soft white fish, such as yellow croakers.
Fermented salted fish, also called méi xiāng xián yú in Mandarin and “mui heung hom yee” in Cantonese (霉香咸鱼), is salted and dried. During the drying process, it ferments and takes on a flavor similar to Malaysian shrimp paste or belacan. Try it in a classic Cantonese Chicken & Salted Fish Fried Rice. There’s also Steamed Pork with Salted Fish (咸鱼蒸肉饼), a family favorite. Salted fish is usually sold by the pound. Some stores stock it by the meat counter—others in the refrigerated section near the other dried seafood. Here’s a guide to buying salted fish:
First, a good quality fermented fish will be costly, so if the fish is selling for less than $12/pound, and you’re not in Hong Kong, then it’s probably not the right kind, or you’d be better off spending your money on something else.
Second, employ the nose test. Give the fish a good sniff, because, generally, the whole fish is not vacuum-packed, and you’ll be able to detect a strong, fermented, salted fishy aroma. It should smell a little like shrimp paste, but if you’re not familiar with either of these aromas, then move on to the pinch test.
Third, the pinch test. Pick up the fish, and give it a good pinch on various parts of the body. The meat should give when pinched—a bit soft, but still somewhat firm. If it’s hard as a rock, move on.
Last but definitely not least, ask a store clerk. Better to find one who speaks English (and maybe is a bit older than some whippersnapper restocking the shelves). You can ask which fish used in salted fish fried rice. If the person speaks or understand Cantonese, and you’re brave, you can also ask if it is “muy heung hom yee,” or point to our Salted Fish Steamed Pork Cake recipe on your phone, also know in Cantonese as “hom yee jing yook baeng.” If this person is Cantonese, they’ll recognize the dish!
We recently found this vacuum packed threadfish, pictured below, left. When I asked the store clerk, he said it was different from Cantonese salted fish, but is a very good copycat from Vietnam. I took a chance and bought some. It was a good gamble, because it tastes pretty authentic! The moral of the story? You may have to engage in some trial and error!
In the photo below to the right, these dried fish are also croakers, but they are small and do not pass any of the tests mentioned above, except for the nose test maybe. They are rock hard and much less expensive than the types of fermented fish mentioned above.
Dried Shrimp Chips (虾片, Xiā piàn)
These Shrimp flavored chips, also known as prawn crackers in English, show up around Chinese New Year, and on Chinese banquet dishes like Crispy Garlic Chicken. They often come in multiple colors, and when they’re freshly fried, they’re a real treat for kids and adults alike. They are actually made with shrimp and rice flour, cooked, then sliced very thinly and dried. When you add them to hot frying oil, they immediately expand and puff up—a delight to watch! See our Chinese New Year post on how to fry these Shrimp Chips.
Preserved Meats & Eggs
Every culture has their own cured meats, and the Chinese are no different. Various regions of China have their own curing methods and favored cuts, but most Chinese cured meats found in the U.S. are from southern China (due to early Chinese immigrants mostly hailing from Guangdong Province).
Usually eaten during the fall and winter months, you can find them vacuum packed in the refrigerated section of Chinese markets. In China and some busy markets in larger U.S. Chinatowns, you may also see cured meats hanging behind the butcher counter, similar to hanging jamón in Spain or prosciutto in Italy.
The most common ingredient is probably Chinese cured sausage (lap cheong), but we like a good cured pork belly (lap yuk), and occasionally dried duck (lap opp). They are all really good cut into small pieces and thrown into a pot of rice! The meats cook alongside the rice and flavor it—just add a leafy green for an easy weeknight meal! Let’s talk about some of these preserved meats (and don’t forget eggs!) in detail.
Chinese Cured Pork Sausage (腊肠 / 香肠, Làcháng / xiāngcháng)
Pronounced lap cheong or lop cheung in Cantonese, lop means “preserved” and cheung means “sausage.” It is pronounced là cháng in Mandarin, but most Mandarin-speaking people refer to preserved sausages as xiāng cháng (香肠) or “fragrant sausage.” These thin, reddish, cured sausages look kind of like long, miniature salamis. Look for them hanging from cotton twine in the Chinese grocery or vacuum-packed in the refrigerated section.
These sausages are slightly sweet, with a subtle flavor of wine/Chinese liquor. They make for a great addition to stir-fries, rice dishes, steamed buns, and more. A “lazy” dinner we made often was steamed Chinese sausage with rice in the rice cooker. You can also try it in a more refined Hong Kong Clay Pot Rice or our treasured family recipe for Roasted Chicken with Sticky Rice. Another one of our favorite things to do with Chinese sausage is to make these Chinese Sausage Buns – lop cheung bao!
Chinese Liver Sausage
If you like liver, you have to try a good Chinese liver sausage. Chinese liver sausages are traditionally made with duck liver in addition to pork, and they have a rich taste due to the high fat content of the duck liver. The best way to eat these sausages are in a clay pot rice dish or steamed and sliced as an appetizer. I have only seen a Chinese sausage plate appetizer offered in restaurants in China, so if you have the opportunity to order one, you must order it!
Chinese Cured Pork Belly (腊肉, Làròu)
Chinese cured pork belly, pronounced làròu in Mandarin and lop yuk in Cantonese, can be bought in vacuum-packed packages at most Chinese grocery stores. Some old-school Chinatown markets may even still have them hanging over the butcher counter. Bill’s grandmother would make a homemade version, and our own recipe for Homemade Chinese Cured Pork belly is delicious—we make a big batch every winter! Steam it and slice it before enjoying, or add it to stir-fries!
Chinese Salt Cured Duck (腊鸭, Là yā)
Cured salted duck, pronounced là yā in Mandarin and “lop opp” in Cantonese, is another favorite that was also made at home in Bill’s family during the fall and winter months, although not as often as the cured pork belly, since ducks cost more and the process takes longer. Nowadays, you can find cured ducks in vacuum-packed form, in quartered pieces. This way, you can keep the pieces individually fresh for several meals. Cured duck is usually steamed and cooked with rice.
Chinese Cured Ham (火腿, Huǒtuǐ)
Several regions in China are known for their dry cured hams, including Yunnan, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang. One of the most famous types is Jinhua ham or jīn huá huǒtuǐ (金华火腿) in Mandarin and “gum wah foh tui” in Cantonese. It is named after the city of Jinhua in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. This cured ham is used in steamed dishes, soups, stocks, and sauces like Kaitlin’s XO sauce recipe. In China, you can buy individual pieces in specialty butcher shops, as well as grocery stores.
You may be able to find Jinhua ham or other Chinese cured hams in vacuum sealed packages at your local Chinese grocery or Chinatown butcher shop. If you can’t find it, you can substitute an American dry-cured country ham, or other Spanish/Italian dry cured hams. Don’t substitute the type of ham you’d use for luncheon meat, though!
Salted Duck Eggs (咸鸭蛋, Xián yādàn)
Salted duck eggs, or xián yādàn in Mandarin and “hom op don” or simply “hom don” in Cantonese, are a traditional food often eaten with congee and porridge during fall and winter. Duck eggs are prized over chicken eggs due to their high fat content and larger yolks. Try making your own with Judy’s Chinese salted duck egg recipe. These are usually sold pre-cooked, and are shelf-stable. However, if you’re lucky, you may be able to find raw salted duck eggs, which can be used to make dishes like our Steamed Pork Patty with Salted Duck Eggs.
Ever since we got a flock of backyard ducks to lay eggs, we have been making them regularly, and extended family members fight over them!
Salted Duck Egg Yolks (咸鸭蛋黄, Xián yādàn huáng)
Chinese salted duck eggs are often prized mainly for their yolks. Rather than buying whole salted duck eggs, you can also buy packages of just the cooked salted duck egg yolks! Our Cantonese-style Zongzi recipe calls for these, as well as mooncake recipes like our Lotus Mooncakes with Salted Egg Yolks. We also use them in our Salted Egg Yolk Sauce, which is gaining popularity across Asia as a condiment for fried foods and sweet desserts!
Thousand Year Old Eggs / Millennium eggs / century eggs (皮蛋, Pídàn)
We watched a Fear Factor episode in which one woman was literally crying while trying to choke one of those babies down. Puh-lease. We say just give us a couple a soy sauce packets—no problem! Seriously, though, they’re really quite good when prepared properly. In case you’re training yourself to blend in at the dinner table with your Chinese significant other, eating one or two of these will give you major brownie points with the in-laws!
We’re down to the final section of the page—pickled and preserved vegetables. Some of these are region-specific, while others are commonly used across China. We’ll cover pickled, salted, and otherwise preserved vegetable ingredients that you might encounter in our recipes!
Sui mi ya cai (碎米芽菜, Suì mǐ yá cài)
Sui mi ya cai is a type of preserved vegetable from Sichuan Province. Made with mustard greens, it is dried, seasoned, and fermented, resulting in a salty, savory product that we use in our Dan Dan Noodles and Sichuan Dry Fried Green Beans. You can also try it in our Sichuan Fried Rice. Find it in these little 100g (3.5 ounce) vacuum sealed packets in Chinese grocery stores. If you love it, you can buy it in larger 8 ounce packets as well! That said, we suggest using it within a week or two of opening.
Preserved Mustard Stem (榨菜, Zhàcài)
Zha Cai is made from the stalks of meaty mustard plants, which are then salted and pickled. It’s salty and crunchy, making it a perfect addition to stir-fries, soups, or just a bowl of rice porridge at the end of a long day. Try it in Sarah’s Noodle Soup with Pork and Zha Cai.
Preserved Mustard Greens (梅干菜, Méigān cài)
Dried preserved mustard greens, or mei gan cai in Mandarin and simply “moi choy” in Cantonese ((梅干菜) has a unique and rich flavor that pairs especially well with meats. They’re the star in Mei Cai Kou Rou (Steamed Pork Belly w/ Preserved Mustard Greens), also known as moi choy kow yook in Cantonese. It’s a classic Hakka recipe, but has become popular in other parts of China as well. To prepare these dried vegetables for any dish, soak them in a large basin to rehydrate, and then wash them several times.
These tend to be quite sandy, as the greens are harvested and dried right away. Washing them in a colander under running water won’t be enough.
Pickled Mustard Greens (酸菜, Suān cài)
Pickled mustard greens are made with meaty head mustard or large petiole mustard plants. Suān cài (酸菜) in Mandarin, or literally “sour vegetable,” is also referred to in the Cantonese dialect as “hom choy” or “salted vegetable.” These pickled/salted mustard greens are commonly used in stir-fried dishes like Squid with Pickled Mustard, Chicken with Pickled Mustard, and Beef with Pickled Mustard. You can buy these in Chinese grocery stores or make them yourself with Bill’s grandma’s Homemade Haam Choy recipe.
Pickled Chinese Cabbage (酸白菜, Suān Báicài)
The cabbage you see in this package is pickled napa cabbage— not to be confused with pickled mustard greens, above. You can find it at well-stocked Chinese grocery stores in vacuum-sealed packages. The closest substitute would actually be sauerkraut, believe it or not, which is made with regular green cabbage. Try it in our Northern Chinese Sour Cabbage Stew with Pork Belly—definitely a family favorite around here!
Pickled Long Beans (酸豆角, Suān dòujiǎo)
Chinese pickled long beans are sour, salty, and clearly for those who enjoy pickled foods. Chinese long beans or jiāng dòu (豇豆) in Chinese, are denser and crunchier than your normal everyday green beans, so they hold up much better to pickling and retain their crunchy texture. We were first introduced to them in at a local, very authentic Hunan restaurant. Buy them vacuum-packed at your local well-stocked Chinese grocery. Try Kaitlin’s Chinese Pickled Long Beans with Pork stir-fry, or if you’re into noodles, our Chinese Pickled Long Bean Noodle Soup.
Tianjin Preserved Vegetables (冬菜, Dōngcài)
Tianjin preserved vegetables are a type of preserved cabbage from Northern China. Tianjin is the fourth largest city in China an hour south of Beijing. Dōngcài translates to “winter vegetable.” It’s made from a smaller variety of napa cabbage sometimes referred to as Tianjin cabbage. Chopped cabbages are salted, dried in the sun, and placed into earthenware pots to ferment. Use it in soups, stir-fries, steamed dishes, and stews. Find it in earthenware jars, and try it in our steamed Ground Pork Patty with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables.
Salted radish (萝卜干, luóbo gān)
Salted Bamboo Shoots
Salted bamboo shoots are (usually spring) bamboo shoots preserved in salt. We use them in soups to add flavor and a lovely crunchy texture! They may be used in place of fresh bamboo shoots in a soup like our Shanghainese Yan Du Xian.
Olive Vegetable (橄榄菜, Gǎnlǎn cài)
Chinese Olive Vegetable is a condiment made with a combination of minced green olives and Chinese mustard greens. This unique ingredient originated in Chaozhou (潮州)—part of Teochew or Chiu-chow cuisine. In addition to the preserved vegetable, you’ll find quite a bit of flavorful oil in the jar, along with olive pieces and pits, so be sure to pick them out before use or as you’re eating. Try this ingredient in Judy’s incredibly tasty Stir-Fried Green Beans with Pork and Chinese Olive Vegetable.
Fermented black Beans (豆豉, Dòuchǐ)
Fermented black beans, or dòu chǐ in Mandarin and dau see in Cantonese, are fermented black soybeans with salt and spices. Before use, you can rinse them in water to remove excess salt, though this is an optional step. They’ll keep forever in an airtight container in your fridge. You may find brands that have ginger as added flavoring, though we prefer the plain version. Find them in these cardboard canisters (left) or clear plastic bags. They’re quite inexpensive if you can get them at your local Chinese grocery!
Pickled Plum (苏梅子, Sū méizi)
Pickled plums are sour, salted Chinese plums jarred in liquid. We use Koon Chun pickled plums. They’re different from umeboshi, or Japanese salted plums, though somewhat similar. In Chinese, pickled plums are called sū méi zi (苏梅子 in simplified characters and 蘇梅子 in traditional characters). Koon Chun is an old brand that still uses traditional Chinese characters in their labeling, which is why we’re including both forms of Chinese writing here. We use it in our Sour Plum Roasted Duck and our homemade duck sauce.
Grass Jelly (仙草, Xiān cǎo)
Grass jelly is used in Asian desserts and drinks. It is made from a particular plant in the mint family, by boiling the plant with an alkaline solution of potassium carbonate and some starch. The resulting liquid is then cooled into a smooth, glossy black jelly. It comes in a can and can be removed from the can much like canned cranberry sauce. It is then usually diced and added to desserts, like our Grass Jelly Dessert recipe.
our hand-picked pantry essentials—in one place!
We worked with Pearl River Mart, a family-owned Manhattan Chinatown institution in business since 1971, to collect our hand-picked pantry essentials (and some extras!) into this incredible Pantry Essential Friendship Box. These are the ingredients we use in our own kitchen. Get it shipped directly to you, and start cooking!
Wrap it up along with a copy of our cookbook for a unique wedding/wedding shower, holiday, birthday, or anytime gift! If you want to beef up the gift basket even more, Pearl River Mart sells woks, wok spatulas, and a plethora of other Chinese kitchen equipment! Check out our Chinese cooking tools page for ideas.