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the chinese pantry an illustrated guide to the basic ingredients in Chinese cooking  | 1 2 3 4
continued from page 2

spices, condiments + other flavorings

14. star anise | This eight-pointed, star-shaped spice – the fruit of an evergreen tree – has a licorice flavor, although it actually comes from a different family than anise. The Chinese use it in a variety of ways -- ground, broken, or even left whole to flavor dishes.
15. Szechuan peppercorns |
This highly aromatic spice, also sometimes referred to as brown peppercorn, is the dried berry of a prickly ash shrub. You can find it powdered or whole – whole peppercorns should be lightly toasted in a hot dry skillet until fragrant, then ground with a pepper mill, or mortar and pestle. 
16. Chinese 5-spice powder |
A blend of approximately equal parts star anise, clove, fennel, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorn, this spice mixture is used widely in Chinese cooking. You can buy pre-blended bottles and packages of 5-spice at any Asian market.
17. dried shiitake mushrooms | Dried shiitake mushrooms have a deliciously rich, woodsy, mushroom-y flavor. Soak them in warm water before using, then cut off the tough stems (you can either discard them, or use them for soup stock). Store in a cool, dry, place in an airtight container.
18. dried black fungus ("woodear" fungus) | This dried tree fungus is available in whole, curly chips or sliced into strips, both of which should be soaked in warm water before use. Black fungus has a somewhat intriguing crunchy bite to it – it makes a good addition to stir-fries and soups.
19. dried scallops + shrimp | Dried seafood products like shrimp and scallop are a common ingredient in soups, stir-fries, and other dishes. They have a very strong, distinctive flavor that may not appeal to all (personally, I can’t stand dried shrimp, which are commonly used in everything from fried rice to dumplings, although I do like the flavor of dried scallops, which are, alas, costlier.) They should be rehydrated in warm water before use.

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