Cooking authentic Chinese food at home is a great and tasty way to immerse in the local culture. And with the right tools, ingredients and recipes, and maybe some hands-on instructions, Chinese cooking is not difficult.

  • jiang yóu 酱油 lǎo chōu 老抽
  • Chinkiang black vinegar – chén cù 陈醋
  • Oyster sauce – háo yóu 蚝油
  • Shaoxing rice wine – liào jiǔ
  • Rice vinegar – bái cù 白醋
  • Sesame oil – xiāng yóu 香油
  • Dried wood ear mushrooms – mù’ěr 木耳
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms – xiāng gū 香菇

Additional sauces, paste and spices to have in you kitchen cabinet or fridge that are used in many Chinese dishes:

  • Chili oil – là jiāo yóu 辣椒油
  • Chili oil with chili flakes – lǎo gān mā 老干妈
  • Sesame paste – zhī ma jiàng 芝麻酱
  • Sichuan chili bean paste – dòu bàn jiàng 豆瓣酱
  • Sichuan peppercorns – huā jiāo  花 椒
  • Fermented black beans – dòu chǐ – 豆豉
  • Dried hot chiles – gān là jiāo 干辣椒
  • Sweet bean paste – tián miàn jiàng 甜面酱
  • Flour (if you plan to make your own noodles or dumplings) miàn fěn面粉
  • Star anise – bā jiǎo 八角
  • Cassia bark – guì pí 桂皮
  • Five-spice powder – wǔ xiāng fěn 五香粉
  • Rock sugar – bīng táng 冰糖
  • Dried shrimp – xiā gān 虾干

Good Authentic Chinese Recipes

We found great authentic Chinese recipes in Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbooks. We prepared many recipes from her book Land of Plenty and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. My sister loves her latest book Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, which I gave to her when she tried to recreate some authentic Chinese dishes back home after visiting us in Beijing.

Learning the Basics in a Chinese Cooking Class

Do you rather have someone show you how to cook Chinese food than try it by yourself? Beijing has a couple of cooking schools for foreigners, targeting both expats and travelers. Classes are offered during the week and on weekends.

The cooking classes can vary in how hands-on they are. In some, you will learn some knife skills and, for example, making and shaping noodle dough but the actual cooking is only demonstrated by a chef. In other classes, you will have more opportunities to stir the wok yourself. When signing up for a class, make sure you understand if you will actually be able to do some cooking yourself if that is what you are after. Check out the Resources page with links to cooking schools.

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