Chinese Cooking Herbs and Spices

Cooking - Chinese Cooking Herbs and Spices

Chinese herbs and spices may seem intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with them, but these essential components are necessary for anyone wanting to create authentic Chinese dishes.

Chinese cooking herbs and spices are often used whole to flavor oil for stir-fries or meat stews like hong shao rou (red braised pork belly). They add subtle flavor, depth, and sometimes an unique kick that cannot be replicated with other ingredients.


Ginger is one of the most widely used Chinese herbs and spices in cooking and baking. This herb comes in various forms and has numerous health benefits to offer.

Fresh ginger root can be found in the produce section of many grocery stores and is ideal for using in recipes. Look for smooth skin with a fragrant fragrance when selecting this ingredient.

A mature rhizome will have a thicker texture and feel heavier in your hand. Additionally, avoid tubers that show signs of shriveling or mold on them, which indicate that the ginger has reached its peak.

Dried ground ginger is another convenient option that can be added to many recipes. It has been finely ground and tends to be less spicy than fresh ginger.

Preserved, crystallized or candied ginger can be found in Asian and specialty markets. This form has been coated with granulated sugar for added sweetness to desserts.

Studies have indicated that ginger may support the immune system, combat colds and flu, reduce inflammation in the body, relieve indigestion and nausea, as well as being beneficial for those with diabetes and high blood pressure.


Garlic is a staple ingredient in Chinese cooking and also used as a medicinal herb. It’s believed to have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antibacterial, antioxidant and immunity-boosting effects.

Crushed garlic contains sulfur-containing compounds which when crushed transform into allicin, an active compound with strong antimicrobial and antiviral effects. Furthermore, allicin acts as a powerful detox agent by aiding the liver in eliminating harmful toxins.

Additionally, it has anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits as well as a protective effect on kidneys, digestive tract, lungs, and heart. Furthermore, it provides an abundant natural source of vitamin C – an essential nutrient in supporting immunity.

Chinese cooking often incorporates onions into stir-fry dishes, soups, and sauces. They may also be roasted and served as a spread or condiment. Eggplant comes in various forms like flakes, powder and granules for convenience in busy chefs’ lives; additionally it can be infused into oils as a seasoning or marinade.

Chili Pepper

Chinese Herbs and Spices play a pivotal role in Chinese cuisine. They’re commonly used to season soups, stews, and other dishes with aromatic flavors.

They can also be dried and ground into powder form, flakes or paste to add extra flavour to dishes. These items can be found in international grocery stores and make a great addition to any Chinese kitchen.

Chili peppers, also known as gan hong la jiao (Gan Hong La Jiao), are an integral component of Sichuan and Hunan cuisines. They add a fiery kick to dishes like kung pao chicken or Sichuan fried rice, making them popular dishes among foodies everywhere.

These small red or yellow chilies possess a hot and spicy heat. They can be eaten sliced or crushed, as well as used in recipes to create sauces and dips.

This ancient spice was widely used in China’s past and can still be found dried and stored in spice sections of Chinese markets today.

High in Yin and Yang, this herb helps restore your body’s natural energy balance. Additionally, it opens clogged blood vessels and has anti-inflammatory effects, making it especially beneficial for people prone to heart disease or circulation issues.

Star Anise

Star anise (also known as ba jiao or fennel seed) is an essential Chinese herb and spice used in cooking and baking. This fragrant spice can be employed in both savory and sweet dishes alike, serving as the basis of the popular five-spice powder blend.

Star anise, commonly sold whole, is a dark-brown fruit with an eight-pointed star shape and pea-sized seeds. It has a strong, licorice-like flavor and is highly sought-after culinary ingredient.

Asian marinades and stewed fruit recipes often feature ginger. It also plays an integral role in many Oriental recipes, particularly those featuring duck.

Star anise’s sweet, licorice-like flavor is believed to have a warming effect on the body, aiding digestion, supporting respiratory health, stimulating circulation and improving sleep quality.

When using star anise, be sure to use fresh pods instead of dried, as these can lose flavor over time. Furthermore, store star anise in an airtight container away from heat and light to preserve its freshness.

Sichuan Peppercorn

Sichuan peppercorn (hua jiao in Mandarin) is an essential herb and spice in Chinese cooking. It has a unique aroma and flavor that’s not quite as hot or pungent as black, white or chili peppers but still packs quite a numbing kick.

Peppercorn, commonly referred to by its English name of “peppercorn,” is actually a misnomer since it’s actually just the dried husk of dried berries from a prickly ash shrub. They play an integral role in Sichuan cuisine’s famous five spice powder and can be used to delicately enhance strong meat or fish flavors.

Citrus fruits have a distinctive citrusy taste that makes them ideal for enhancing the flavors of green vegetables such as bok choy, radishes and broccoli. Just adding a small handful to oil before simmering for a few minutes in your dish will give it extra zest!

Another way to use them is to mix a few tablespoons of the powder with water and stir into homemade chili oil for an effortless marinade for grilling steak or other proteins. You could also sprinkle it on braised meats or kung pao tofu for some added flavor!

Sichuan peppercorn has an intense heat, plus significant amounts of potassium which helps lower blood pressure and protect against high cholesterol. These properties make it a must-have ingredient in many spicy dishes – particularly those from Sichuan province in China where it’s known as “the king of spices”.

Amomum Tsaoko

Amomum tsaoko (also known as black cardamom or Chinese black cardamom) is an aromatic spice widely used in Sichuan and Yunnan cuisines. It has a smoky, menthol-like flavor that pairs perfectly with braised beef or pho. Furthermore, this aromatic spice can also be found in traditional Chinese soups and hot pots.

Chinese black cardamom is grown at high elevations in the shady provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in South-Central China’s south-central regions. Compared to Indian and Nepalese varieties of cardamom, which tend to be smaller and less aromatic, Chinese black cardamom has more substance and flavor.

Black cardamom is popularly used in Indian and Pakistani cooking, as well as Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. You can find this spice at most grocery stores as well as specialty Asian markets.

Studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity in LPS-induced RAW 264.7 macrophages. Additionally, this compound may possess potential anti-tumor and anti-cancer effects (Hong et al. 2015).

It has also been reported to be effective in treating diarrhea, malaria, stomach ache and nausea. The herb was included in several ancient medicinal books and the Chinese Pharmacopoeia (Chen 2007; Gao and Wang 2007; He et al. 2020d).


Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a widely used Chinese herb and spice used in cooking and baking. With its citrusy, earthy taste, and mildly spicy kick, cilantro pairs perfectly with mushrooms, potatoes, lentils, quinoa or couscous dishes.

It is an essential ingredient in many Mexican, Indian and Asian dishes. It makes a popular garnish for salsa as well as chicken tikka masala, chutney, chermoula, pad thai and zhug dishes.

Cilantro, often distinguished by its vibrant green color, can be easily identified at the grocery store. When selecting cilantro for your culinary creations, make sure you pick bunches with thick stems and vibrant leaves for maximum freshness.

Cilantro is an herb rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals beneficial for health. It helps reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels, lowers the risk of heart disease and infections alike.

7 Essential Spices For Chinese Cooking
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