Japanese Honeysuckle

Ingredient Name: Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera Japonica, Suikazura, Er hu, Shuang hua

Traditional Chinese Name: (Jīnyín huā) literal translation of “gold silver flower”

What is this?

  • A species of invasive vine native to Eastern Asia (Japan, Korea, China)
  • The raw flower is between white and yellow in color and the vines can grow up to 10m tall
  • Extremely common in Chinese medicinal uses
  • Considered cold (helps cool the body and detoxify)
  • It is an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredient
  • Used as a dried ingredient in drinks and Chinese medicine
  • Western countries see this plant as a pest or weed

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse in warm water prior to use

Where can I buy this?

  • This is available in most Asian supermarkets
  • Also available in Chinese herbals stores

What is the cost

  • 10 g cost around $2-3 HKD
  • Extremely affordable

Any benefits?

  • Is a cooling food
  • Excellent in dispelling heat and toxins in the body
  • Used to treat conditions such as fevers, skin rash, sore throat and other heaty conditions

Any precautions?

  • Not be consumed by women who are pregnant – especially in first trimester as it’s a cooling food
  • Consume with caution for people with pre-existing cold conditions

References:

Black Glutinous Rice

Ingredient Name:  Black glutinous rice, glutinous rice, black sticky rice, wax rice, sweet rice, pearl rice

Traditional Chinese Name: 黑糯米 (Hēi nuòmǐ)

What is this?

  • A type of short-grained Asian rice that becomes sticky when cooked
  • It is relatively dense compared to other varieties of rice
  • This rice has a long history with the Chinese (as far back as 2,000 year) and has many usages in Asia
  • The black colour is either a different strain of glutinous rice or is the rice that still contains its bran
  • Its usage is in desserts, with dim sum, as a meal with meats and vegetables or in soups (although not so commonly)

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse in warm water and use

Where can I buy this?

  • In most supermarkets, health food stores or speciality stores
  • Available at wetmarts in Hong Kong
  • You can buy them prepackaged or in the volume you want from the vendors

What is the cost?

  • It is very affordable with a few dollars for a few grams

Any benefits?

  • Gluten free rice that is ideal for gluten-free diets

Any precautions?

  • As with all starches, consume in moderation

Additional Information:

  • Store in a dry, cool container away from open air and moisture
  • You can store cooked glutinous rice in the fridge for up to 5 days and frozen in your freezer for up to 6 months

References:

Fat Choy or Black Moss

Fat Choy or Black Moss

Ingredient Name:

Fat choy, black moss, hair moss or hair weed

Traditional Chinese Name:

髮菜  (fa cai)

Black moss is neutral in nature and tasteless.

 

This is one of those mysterious ingredients I’ve seen growing up as a child and consumer of Chinese cuisine, but it was more commonly seen in banquet dishes (as well as New Year’s) and was paired with black mushrooms. 

Black moss in Chinese culture is a popular ingredient to use to bring you luck because of the sound of the name, although it literally translates to “hair vegetable”.  The translation to bring you wealth is really “explode wealth”, meaning the sound of the name of this ingredient sounds like that phrase.  

My mom has also told me that “the more you eat it, it’ll help you keep your hair black”.  I’ve only made it a few times in both soups and stews and it’s not that difficult once you have figured out your flavour profile.  They go super tasty with oyster sauce, but if you wanted to go vegetarian, you can use hoisin sauce instead!

It’s actually a type of bacteria that is dried to give the appearance of hair.  It’s grown and harvested primarily in China.  There have been some controversy around the authenticity of black moss because it’s been known to that some can be fake, especially when the prices go up during New Year’s.  Just be sure you’re buying from a reputable source.

How do I prepare it?

To use hair moss, you rinse in cool water, drain, and let it soak for at least 30 minutes.  It doesn’t get particularly soft over time in the water and will soften in heat.  Use directly in soups or stews, as this what they are best used for.

To store, keep them in a dry, cool place.  They have a very long shelf life so long as they are kept dried.

 

Where can I buy it and cost?

      • Black moss is available in most Asian supermarkets and wet mart at the dried food vendors
      • They come prepackaged in a plastic bag (to keep them dry)
      • The cost for black moss has a pretty wide range.  

Some known precautions:

      • Be sure to buy from a reputable source as there are cases where they is fake black moss (the color also runs off)
      • There is also not a lot of known nutritional value in black moss
      • It is not an easily digest-able product.  Try it!  A lot of passes through the same way it went in 🙂

Some tips for using black moss:

      • I tend to let it soak a little bit longer (just to check its authenticity)

      • Black moss doesn’t have flavour itself, but does absorb the flavour of your soup or sauce, so let it bubble a bit to soak in those flavours

Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?

Check it out in my video to learn more!

 

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Blue Dates

Blue Dates

Ingredient Name:

dried blue dates, blue jujubes, blue jujube dates, black dates

Traditional Chinese Name:

藍枣 (lán zǎo)

This ingredient is warming in nature and sweet to taste.

 

Looking to start your Chinese soup pantry?  Watch this video on “The 7 basic Chinese soup pantry ingredients“.

 

Look Ma!  They’re blue!  And yes they are.  Definitely more common in Asia, they are also sometimes called black dates.  Some black or blue dates are made by simply smoking their red counterparts.  And you can definitely taste that smokey-ness when you soak them in teas or use them more pure.  They taste slightly charred, bur fragrant, and are a more deep sweet versus the dried red dates.  Sometimes, blue and black dates are used together with the red dates in teas and soups, or you can use blue dates as they are.

How do I prepare it?

    You can use directly from its packaging and drop directly into soup or teas.  Be sure to remove the seeds of the dates, as the seeds are super fiery and heaty, creating excess yang in the body.  The dates themselves are already slightly warm, so we want to keep the heat in check.

Where can I buy it?

      • In most wet marts in Hong Kong

      • Available in your Chinese herbalist or Chinese medicine store
      • I’ve also seen this readily available in bulk packages as Chinese supermarkets

What is the cost?

      • A package of around 30 dates cost $40-$50 HKD
      • There are varying prices of blue dates depending on its rarity and quality
      • Blue and black dates are more expensive than their red counterparts

Any benefits?

      • Dates are known to assist in maintaining healthy blood pressure and assist the stomach and spleen in poor appetites
        It is also commonly used to address stress in drinks and teas
      • Due to its sweetness, it is soothing to the throat and used to treat sore throats
      • Dates are an excellent source of Vitamin C
      • Dates are slightly warming and ideal for soups and teas where you want to create more warmth
      • Dates help with blood circulation, tonify blood and Qi

Any precautions?

      • Be sure you are buying this ingredient from a reputable source

      • Store in a dry, cool place in a seal container to prevent mold or spoilage

Herbal teas is an amazing category of Chinese drinks that are more purposeful and intentional in its creation and consumption.  They aren’t always medicinal and have some more common ingredients that we always drink because they taste so good!

Explore all our herbal drinks here! 

 

 

Looking to start your Chinese soup pantry?  Watch this video on “The 7 basic Chinese soup pantry ingredients“.

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Lotus Seeds

Lotus Seeds

Lotus Seeds

Ingredient Name:

Lotus Seeds, Lotus nuts, Indian Lotus, Sacred Lotus, Water lily

Traditional Chinese Name:

蓮子 (lián zi)

Nature:  Neutral

Taste:  Sweet and slightly sour

 Targets:  Heart, kidneys, and spleen

You can get started on your Chinese Soup Kitchen Pantry from this video!  While I don’t mention this ingredient as a basic pantry one, it is quite a common one that the Chinese do store in the dried pantry.  I know my mom does!  They can be used in both soups and desserts.

 

 

The lotus seeds are the little round seeds you can find embedded in the flower of the lotus plant.  The seeds are traditionally harvested when the lotus plant has matured, although interestingly enough, in some countries, this is considered a food waste product.

Lotus plants are found mainly in Asian and some parts of Australia and North America.  It represents a major food source and crop in China, where the leaves, stems, roots, and seeds are used for various dishes and food sources.

The seeds can be found both dried or fresh when used in soups, stews, and desserts.  You’ll typically find them with their brown skins on if dried and skinless and white and pale if fresh.

How do I prepare it?

      • For dried lotus seeds, you can presoak them in cool water to eliminate any chemicals during the curing and drying process
      • For fresh lotus seeds, I’ll rinse under cool water and set it aside to be used in the soup

What is the cost & where to buy?

      • You can buy fresh lotus seeds at Asian supermarkets, normally found in the refrigerated sections (where the mushrooms are!).  They’ll come in vacuum sealed packs, but do have shorter shelve lives and must be kept in the fridge.

      • These fresh lotus seed packs cost around $2-3 CAD per pack (or 14 oz for example)
      • You can buy dried lotus seeds from Asian supermarkets in the dried herb sections, but also at your local herbalist, who typically sell them in bulk by weight.
      • You don’t need to store dried lotus seeds in the fridge and can be kept in an air tight jar in your dry pantry.

Any benefits?

      • There are many health benefits [source 1] to consuming lotus seeds (in its various forms, such as powdered, whole, fresh, dried), this includes:
      • Anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory functions
      • being a high source of anti-oxidants (which reduce free radicals in the skin and body)
      • supporting gastrointestinal health and digestive functions
      • Lotus seeds also nourish the mind and calms the spirit (which makes them nicely paired with red dates in desserts)
      • Lotus seeds are rich in protein, vitamins (primarily vitamin C), lipids, and minerals

Any precautions?

      • Be sure to buy lotus seeds from a reputable source

      • Also be sure to remove the bitter tasting germ inside the middle of the seed (pictured above you can see that the lotus seeds are cored)

Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?

 

 

      • References:
    1. Author links open overlay panelSneh Punia Bangar a et al. (2022) A comprehensive review on Lotus Seeds (nelumbo nucifera gaertn.): Nutritional composition, health-related bioactive properties, and industrial applications, Journal of Functional Foods. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S175646462200007X (Accessed: 28 November 2023).

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