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Home > Cooking Tips > Glossary > Glossary E - L

Glossary E - L

Chinese Cooking Glossary

Chinese Cooking Glossary



[Back to Glossary Index]


Eggplant - While there are many varieties grown in Asian, the term Chinese eggplant refers to the narrow, purple variety that can be streaked with white (it looks somewhat like a purple zucchini). Interestingly, Asian recipes don't normally call for eggplant to be salted and degorged, as is the custom in western and European cooking. 



Fennel Seed - Aromatic anis-scented seeds. Fennel seed is the dried fruit of the Foeniculum vulgare, which has numerous variants. The vegetable called fennel, or finnochio, comes from the plant known as Florence fennel, which develops bulbous stalks that are eaten like celery. There also is a bitter fennel, the seeds of which sometimes are used in liqueurs. However, the spice fennel seed comes from sweet, or garden, fennel, and is identified easily by its anise-like flavor and aroma. Buy Fennel Seed

Fish Sauce
- Fish sauce is a thin, salty liquid that is used in place of salt as a seasoning in many Asian recipes.  Although associated primarily with Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, it is also used in parts of southern China and occasionally in Cantonese cooking.  Made from salted fish, it is rich in Vitamin B and protein.

Fish sauce is used both in cooking and as a dipping sauce. Depending on where it was made, you'll find it sold under a number of names. Chinese brands are often labeled "fish gravy" or "fish sauce," while it is called "nuoc mam" in Vietnam and "nam pla" in Thailand. However, they are all basically the same product, although the Thai and Vietnamese brands are considered superior.  Fish sauce can be stored indefinitely without refrigeration in a dry place.

Five Spice Powder - A common ingredient in Chinese cooking, this delicious mixture of five ground spices usually consists of equal parts of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, start anise and Szechwan peppercorns. Prepackaged five-spice powder is available in Asian markets and most supermarkets. Buy Five Spice Powder

Foo Gwa - See Bitter Melon

Fuzzy Melon - Not to be confused with the drink, fuzzy melon or mo gwa looks like a zucchini covered with fuzz.  However, while zucchini is a type of squash, fuzzy melon is a gourd, related to winter melon.  Fuzzy melon is used in a number of dishes such as soups and stir-fries. It can also be filled and steamed. Peel off the skin or scrub well to remove the "fuzz" before using. 



Garlic  - The pungent aroma of fresh garlic - Allium Sativum to use its scientific name - probably comes second only to ginger in its importance to Chinese cooking.  Used in China since ancient times, it is particularly important to northern Chinese cooking, where harsh winters and a short growing season mean residents rely on members of the onion family (such as garlic and spring onions) to season their food.  However, you'll also find garlic used in highly spiced Szechuan dishes and in Cantonese cuisine.  In addition, along with ginger, it's regularly used to flavor oil before frying. 

Garlic has long claimed our fascination.  Ancient cultures valued its medicinal qualities; the Egyptians fed the slaves garlic to give them enough energy to continue building the pyramids.  Despite the smell, garlic was reputed to be an aphrodisiac.  Interestingly, despite its widespread use in China, ancient Buddhist doctrine forbids the eating of garlic.  Along with leeks, it is one of the five strong-flavored foods that Buddhists must avoid, or else "in their present life they will find foul sores breaking out on their bodies, and in the next life they will fall into the hell of incessant suffering" (Source:  "Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man," on the Soka Gakkai International-USA site).  

When shopping for garlic, look for firm bulbs without any dampness and no dark or broken spots on the skin. Store in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator).  When it comes time to cook, use the side of a knife or cleaver to smash the garlic - this will make it easier to peel.

Gin - Gin is a flavored white spirit made by distilling grains such as barley, corn or rye. It's flavored using Juniper berries, coriander, angelica, herbs and spices and a variety of other natural ingredients which are added to the grain mash during distillation.

Production of Gin dates back further than the 17th century and like many modern day essentials was originally used for medicinal purposes.

Gin is a staple ingredient in various modern day cocktails and recipes, including the world famous Martini and Gin and Tonic.

Buy Gin online.

Popular Brands:

Bombay Sapphire®

Old Tom®


Alcohol (ABV): 40.0% (80 proof)

Ginger  - The roots of the ginger plant, or Zingiber officinale to use its scientific name, are an indispensable ingredient in both Chinese and Indian cuisine. Thought to have originated in South-east Asia, the plant's name, "zingiber" means horn-shaped, after the irregular shapes on the rhizomes or roots. Valued for its clean, sharp flavor, ginger is used in soups, stir-fries, and marinades.  It is especially good with seafood, as it can cover up strong fish odors.

When purchasing
ginger, look for a firm, smooth body and a nice tan color, without any darkening or wrinkled skin. At home, wrap the ginger in a paper towel and store it in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator.  If a portion becomes discolored, simply slice that part off. It should keep for several weeks. A more long-term storage method is to peel, slice, and then store the ginger in a sealed glass jar filled with rice wine or dry sherry in the refrigerator. It will last for up to a year.
Buy Ginger

Green Onion - Also called "spring onion", "
scallion". A green onion is an immature onion with a white base (not yet a bulb) and long green leaves. Both parts of the scallion are edible. Available in Asian market.

Grenadine - A non-alcoholic red syrup often used for colouring in cocktails. Also adds a bit of sugar in harsh drinks.

Groundnut Oil -
Peanut oil. (Groundnut is another word for peanut).



Hoisin Sauce  - A thick sauce valued for its unique combination of sweet and spicy flavors, hoisin sauce is made from soybean paste and flavored with garlic, sugar, chilies, and other spices and ingredients.  It is used in cooking, as a dipping sauce, and is a key ingredient in many Chinese barbecue sauce recipes. In addition, it is also used to glaze roasted meat. Hoisin sauce is available in both jars and cans.  If purchased in a can, transfer to a closed container and refrigerate.  If purchased in a jar, refrigerate after opening. Buy hoisin sauce

Hot Mustard -  A popular condiment served with Chinese appetizers; you'll also often find it added to sauces in Japanese dishes. It is made by mixing dry mustard powder with water, causing a chemical reaction that produces a sharp, hot taste. Some recipes call for the addition of cooking or vegetable oil, which reduces the effect somewhat. Sesame oil and rice vinegar may also be added.



Irish Cream - A cream and chocolate based Irish whiskey liqueur. Buy Irish Cream.




Jamaica Rum - A dark rum made from molasses.

Jose Cuervo 1800 - A brand of tequila made from 100% blue agave and aged in French oak casks.
Buy Jose Cuervo 1800 online.

Julienne - This is a type of cut, where the ingredient to be julienned is cut into very thin, "matchstick" strips usually 2 - 3 inches long, and about 1/8 inch thick. Recipes may call for the ingredient to be julienned or into matchsticks.




Kecap Manis - Kecap manis is a sweetish, thick soy sauce made with palm sugar and seasoned with star anise and garlic.  A popular tool of Indonesian cooks, it can be used as a dip, and some people like to substitute it for dark soy sauce in recipes.

Kirschwasser - A cherry flavored liqueur made from the distillation of cherries. Alcohol (ABV): 45.0% (90 proof).
Buy Kirschwasser online.



Light Rum - A dry light-bodied rum, usually with no or almost no color. A blend of the lightest rums is filtered through charcoal before and after aging in oak casks to make light rum. Light rum is, with its light flavor, probably the most mixable of all rums.

Lo Bak -
See Chinese White Radish

Lo Mein - In this dish, boiled and drained noodles are added to the other ingredients and stir-fried briefly during the final stages of cooking. This gives the noodles more flavor than is the case with chow mein, where the meat and vegetables are served over noodles that have been cooked separately. Italian pastas such as fettucine work well in lo mein recipes. 

Lop Cheong - See Chinese sausages.

Lychee - Also called Litchi, Lichee, Lichi, Leechee and Laichee. This popular Chinese fruit is about the size of a walnut, with a bumpy red shell encasing white translucent pulp that's similar in texture to a grape. The flavor is sweet, exotic, and very juicy. Don't eat the shell or the seed. Fresh litchis are available from May to July. If you can't find them, canned litchis are a good substitute. Don't confuse fresh litchis with
lychee nuts, which are sun-dried litchis that have a much different texture. Buy Lychee.

Lychee Nuts - Also called litchi nut, lichee nut, lichi nut and leechee nut. These are sun-dried litchis. The outer shells are brown and the meat inside looks like a large raisin.  Look for them in Asian markets.
Buy Lychee

Chinese Cooking Glossary: Lychee Nuts


Lychee Wine - Alcohol (ABV): 12.0% (24 proof).


Back to Glossary Index]

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