Salty Flavorings. Salt is the basis of taste. No matter what the taste is, salt can enhance the umami, thus is regarded as the base of all flavors. The main functions of salt are as follows: enhance flavor, remove foreign flavor and keep fresh. Salt is generally added at last to make the dishes more fresh and tender. If it is added too early, the dishes can go tough.
Sweet Flavorings. Sugar is one of the main condiments which can produce sweetness. It can also produce delicious the compound flavor with other condiments like salt and vinegar. The main functions of sugar are as follows: enhance flavor; render color to make the dishes look bright rather than dark; invigorate Qi and strengthen the spleen. In cooking, sugar should be added after salt and before vinegar. If the sugar is added too early, it may stick to the wok.
Sour Flavorings. Vinegar is the main condiment of sour flavor. The functions of vinegar are as follows: remove the fishy smell, so fish dishes are often made with vinegar; enhance fragrance and render the color of dishes; degrease. Vinegar should be added when the dishes are heated, or the aroma of vinegar will lose and only the sour flavor is left. If a little thickening is added before serving, the flavor can be enhanced to prevent the loss of aroma
Spicy Flavorings. Scallion, ginger and garlic are the important spicy flavorings in traditional Chinese cooking and following points are to be observed when cooking: 1. fry scallion and ginger a little bit raw to get the strongest flavor; 2. heat the ginger together with the ingredients to remove the fishy and mutton smell effectively; 3. pepper is the best ingredient for soup but should be added when the soup is cooked to prevent the loss of aroma; 4. chili pepper can inhibit bitter taste, so it is used to stir-fry bitter gourd.
Mastering the knowledge of the above condiments helps to decide when to add and when to subtract the seasonings.
First of all, don't add too much flavorings if the original flavor is good, so as to keep the original taste. For example, chicken is fragrant and it's better to be steamed or stewed with at most a little cooking wine which can enhance the flavor other than adding excessive spices. Even if the ingredients are tasteless, such as sea cucumber and tofu, the use of seasonings is not a must; instead, the delicious meat, shrimp, mushroom or other ingredients can be used to enhance the flavor. Secondly, the ingredients in bright color can be cooked without spices. For example, water can be added when stir-frying the lotus root, which can prevent the color from turning dark. Finally, water boiling or stir-frying with a little water, stewing and steaming are suggested; scallion, ginger and pepper can be used to make up for the taste.
The ancient Chinese emphasized the philosophy of ''Simplify It'', which also works in cooking. The light rather than strong diet is recommended as the latter is harmful to health. If one condiment is enough, do not add another one because many condiments are more or less poisoning while the sauces contain additives. The best way is to cook dishes with as less condiments as possible.
Another way to simplify is to use more ingredients and fewer spices to complement. For example, by cooking three coarse cereals together, such as millet, corn and rice or soybean, oat and rice, the proteins can complement with each other. The mixture of peanut, soybean and rapeseed oils can complement each other with fat. Another example is that fresh fish, meat and chicken can be stewed together to get the three-delicacy soup which is tasty and protein complementary. Such ingredients can be cooked without condiments other than scallion and ginger which can remove the fishy smell.