Basic Knowledge of Seasonings

Chinese cooking skills are an important part of Chinese national culture. With the gradual improvement of people's living standards and the increasing international exchanges, China's cooking technology has been newly developed and improved. Seasoning plays an important role in cooking technology. It is very meaningful to study and summarize the experience of seasoning technology, and actively research and create new seasoning varieties and seasoning methods.

What Can Seasonings Do?

Seasoning is a kind of operation skill which can produce the complex chemical and physical changes in the cooking process, eliminate the undesired flavor, give full play to the delicate flavor of ingredients and make the dishes tastier thru the proper matching of ingredients and condiments.

China has a vast territory and a large population. The taste of cooking varies greatly from region to region. For example, in Shandong, Hebei and the northeastern regions, people like salty food; in Shanxi, Shaanxi and some places, people like more sour tastes; Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, Guangdong and other coastal areas, people's tastes are lighter, and they love sweet and salty food; in Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan, Guizhou and other regions, people's taste is strong and they like more spicy food.

Generally speaking, seasonings have the following functions: 1. flavor the tasteless ingredients;
2. change and define the taste of dishes;
3. remove the fishy or mutton smell and degrease; add color to dishes.

Types of Seasonings

The taste of Chinese food is rich and varied, but there are many changes. However, no matter how complicated the taste of the dishes, they are all changed from the basic taste. In general, the taste of the dishes can be divided into two major categories: basic taste and compound taste.

The Basic Taste

The basic taste refers to the main taste of a single flavor. There are seven main flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy, fragrant, fresh and bitter.

Salty: Salty seasonings mainly include salt, soy sauce, and soybean paste. It is the most basic flavor and the main flavor in seasoning. Any dish (besides sweet food) can't be delicious if it is not salty.

Sweet: Sweet condiments mainly include sugar (such as white sugar, granulated sugar, brown sugar, rock candy), honey and various jams. These sweet seasonings, in addition to sweeten food could also add umami taste, wipe off the raw smell and dispel greasiness.
Sour: Sour seasonings mainly include red vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, vinegar and other liquid seasonings, and also tomato sauce, tomato juice and sour plum. These spices, in addition to giving the dishes a sour taste, could also wipe off the raw smell, dispel greasiness, promote the decomposition of calcium in the dishes and help digestion.

(4) Spicy: Spicy is the most irritating one in basic flavor. Its condiments mainly include fresh pepper, dried chili, chili sauce (including various flavors of chili sauce), chili paste, and chili powder, pepper, ginger and ginger powder, etc. They can strongly stimulate people's appetite, help the body absorb nutrients and help digestion.

(5) Aroma: Aroma is also a kind of pungent odor. There are many kinds of scent. The organic substances such as alcohol, fat and phenol contained in various meat raw materials can emit various aromatic odors when heated. Its condiments mainly include onions, garlic, parsley, sesame, cinnamon, aniseed, pepper, vinasse, osmanthus, rose sauce, coconut milk, allspice and flavors. These flavorings can wipe off the raw smell of the food, dispel greasiness, increase the aroma of food and enhance people's appetite.

Fresh flavor: umami is one of the most popular flavors. It is second only to salty taste in basic flavor. There are two sources of umami: one is that the amino acids contained in the raw materials are emitted by heat; the other is from seasonings. Such as shrimp, shrimp oil, crab, oyster sauce, MSG, etc.

(7) bitterness: bitterness is an irritating taste. It is not preferred by ordinary people. However, when cooking certain dishes, adding some bitter seasonings will make the dishes have a special flavor. It can stimulate people's appetite. The bitter seasonings are mainly Chinese herbal medicines and spices, such as Sanqi, dried tangerine peel, betel nut, almond, white cardamom, Fritillaria, and medlar. Add these bitter seasonings to the dishes could help relieve fever and help drive away the summer heat.

Compound Flavor

When two or more condiments are mixed, the flavor resulted is called the compound flavor. Among the various compound flavors, the common and widely used are as follows:
Sweet and sour taste: it is a mixture of salty, sweet, sour and fragrant flavors (Scent of onions, garlic and oil)such as tomato sauce, tomato juice, sweet and sour sauce, etc.

Sweet and salty taste: it is a mixture of salty, sweet, fresh and fragrant flavors which complement with each other such as sweet bean sauce.
Spicy and salty taste: it is a mixture of salty, hot, fresh and fragrant flavors such as bean paste, pungent sauce.

Fresh and salty taste: as the most basic compound flavor of dishes, it consists of salty and fresh flavors and is the most widely used in almost all kinds of Chinese cuisines.

Aromatic and salty taste: it consists of salty, fresh and fragrant flavors. For example, the marinade of Guangdong and the sauce of Beijing are of aromatic and salty taste. The aromatic-salty condiments are generally made up of herbs.

Aromatic and spicy taste: it is a mixture of salty, hot, fragrant, sour and sweet flavors. This compound flavor can be in various forms. For example, the fish flavor in Sichuan cuisine, curry sauce, garlic sauce, ginger juice etc. belongs to the pungent compound flavor.

Peppery taste: this is a kind of flavor used in some Sichuan dishes. It can be divided into pepper taste and spicy-hot taste. Pepper flavor is a mixture of pepper, soy sauce, scallion, sesame oil and aginomoto while the flavor of pepper is more prominent. Spicy and hot taste is a pungent compound flavor made up of pepper and chili with salty, fresh and fragrant flavors.

Special-flavored: The Special-flavored taste is made up of salty, sweet, spicy, hemp, sour, fresh and fragrant. It is a unique flavor of Sichuan cuisine.

Three-in-one taste: this is mixture of three different spices, namely salty soy sauce, sour vinegar and fragrant sesame oil, together with the aginomoto flavor. It is a sauce commonly used in summer, mostly in cold dishes.