Everything You Need to Know About Essential Chinese Ingredients

When it comes to popular cuisines, it’s safe to say that Chinese cuisine is most certainly high up there on most people’s lists. When you consider the fact that Chinese cuisine utilizes such fresh, fragrant, and delicious ingredients as well, it’s easy to see why that is.

If like most people, you find yourself inspired to cook up delicious Chinese food in the comfort of your own kitchen, but, aren’t quite sure where to begin in terms of ingredients, we’re here to help.

From Ginger to Soy Sauce, we’ll be providing a detailed list of some of the most essential spices used in Chinese cooking, and, will be looking at the various characteristics of each one, along with their health benefits and potential health risks.

So, without any further ado, here’s a look at several essential Chinese spices for cooking.


Garlic is one of the most popular culinary ingredients in the entire world, not just in the Far East.

You will find that most savoury Chinese dishes contain garlic, in pretty generous amounts too may we add.

Often used in Wok cooking in stir fries, and in soups and broths, it can be used as a stand-alone ingredient, or it can be used alongside ginger to give a delicious finish to any dish.

Benefits of garlic

Garlic is what is known as a ‘High Yang’ herb, which means that it is great for restoring the body’s qi and increasing energy levels.

Garlic is loaded full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which make it great for the immune system. It also possesses many anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties too, making it great for preventing illness.

Health risks of garlic

In terms of any health risks, the only potential side effects MAY be experienced by people that take HIV medications.


Ginger is garlic’s best friend, and consequently in Chinese cooking, when you find one, you will usually find the other as well.

Ginger root is a very common herb used for seasoning and flavouring all manner of dishes in Chinese cuisine, especially soups, stir fries, and curries.

Health benefits of ginger

Ginger, like garlic, is a high yang ingredient and as a result it has been used as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for a number of centuries now.

Ginger is a very powerful anti-inflammatory food that is renowned for its pain-relieving effects.

Health risks of ginger

Consumed in moderation, there are no known health risks or side effects associated with ginger.

Oyster sauce

If you enjoy Chinese food, you will no doubt be familiar with the delight that is Oyster sauce.

Oyster sauce is indeed obtained from cooking oysters and using the extracts to create all manner of different rich, salty, slightly fishy, and highly delicious sauces.

Oyster sauce has a wonderful umami flavour, which is one of the lesser known five basic tastes, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

Oyster sauce can be added to all manner of savoury Chinese dishes, though a little goes a long way as it adds a wonderful salty, slightly sour taste to a variety of different dishes, and it pairs very well with garlic.

A very popular dish in Chinese cuisine is beef in oyster sauce, which goes great with boiled rice.

Health benefits of oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is rich in minerals such as zinc, sodium, and iron, and is a great energy food.

Health risks of oyster sauce

In terms of health risks, consuming too much could potentially be bad for the kidneys and heart, due to the high sodium content, but as mentioned, a little goes a long way.

Star Anise

Star Anise gets its name from its distinct star-shape.

It is another staple ingredient used in Chinese cooking and it provides a pungent aniseed taste to dishes it is added to.

Health benefits of star anise

Star Anise is a very potent antibacterial ingredient that is used by the Chinese in virtually any dish that requires boiling, be it a broth, soup, or vegetable dish.

It also possesses impressive amounts of antioxidants, despite its small size, making it great for the immune system and our health in general.

Health risks of star anise

There are no known health risks associated with safe consumption of Star Anise.

5 Spice

Now we’re going to look at the aforementioned 5 Spice.

Known as Chinese 5 Spice in the Western world, 5 spice is arguably the most common spice mix used in Chinese cuisine.

Used for braising, marinating, baking, and seasoning, the spice mix is as versatile as it is delicious.

Furthermore, it can be used in both savoury, and sweet dishes.

Now, controversially, not all 5 spice mixes are the same. Generally, they all contain: Star Anise, Fennel, Clove, Cinnamon, and Sichuan Pepper. Though some also contain additional ingredients such as cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and even turmeric.

Health benefits of 5 spice

5 spice is another ingredient packed full of antibacterial properties, though it is also renowned for its antifungal benefits, making it great for fighting off and preventing infection.

Health risks of 5 spice

There are no known health risks associated with 5 spice powder, providing it is consumed in moderation.

Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce is as common in Chinese cooking as salt and pepper are in Western cooking.

Soy Sauce is a condiment used in Chinese cooking before, during, and after a lot of dishes.

Soy Sauce is made from fermented soya beans which have been fermented naturally over the course of a prolonged period of time to alter their taste.

There are three different types of soy sauce used in Chinese cooking:

• Light soy sauce
• Dark soy sauce
• Concentrated soy sauce

Light is generally used in the cooking process because it contains more sodium and is saltier. Dark is often added for more of a subtle taste and dark colour. Concentrated is used mainly in dipping sauces and goes very well with steamed dumplings.

Health benefits of soy sauce

Soy sauce helps to promote the production of healthy HDL cholesterol, whilst also boosting the metabolism and increasing energy levels.

Health risks of soy sauce

As far as health risks are concerned, because of the high sodium content, there are cardiovascular risks and risks to the kidneys, so those that deal with those types of issues such as hypertension, should opt for low sodium versions.



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