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Herbs and Spices that Spice Up the Chinese Cuisine

by James Ruesch on April 19, 2016

It was one fine morning in China. Good ole Chinese friends tag James Ruesch along with them to their classic marketplace. In most Asian countries, people are known to prepare their own breakfast from raw ingredients. They went and bought seafood, vegetables, and different spices. The video shows lumps of exotic seasonings made by native Chinese folks.

Five Flavors of the Chinese Tongue

Basically, we were taught in school that we have four basic tastes: something sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. Then after further studies and development, umami was added to the list, making it five. On the other hand, when we talk about Chinese cuisine, they also have five basic flavors but the fifth one is different. Instead of umami or a savory taste, people from China love the stimulating flavor or also known as spiciness.

James learned that in China, sweet flavors are extracted from fruits, sourness from leafy vegetables and vinegar, saltiness from soy sauce and sea salt, bitterness from certain herbs, and the indescribable spicy flavor from chili peppers.

Commonly used spices and herbs

China is rich with various herbs and ingredients. Ancient Chinese may had experimented with their native plants and flowers, grinding and mixing them up to produce an original spice.

Chinese ingredients

    The following were the Chinese spices found at the market:
  • Cinnamon (rougui)
  • Cloves (dingxiang)
  • Coriander seed
  • Fennel seeds (xiaohuixiang)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger root
  • Hot mustard
  • Kaffir lime leaf
  • Lemongrass
  • Licorice
  • Sichuan pepper (huajiao)
  • Star anise (bajiao)
  • Turmeric
  • White peppercorns

Most of these are way too spicy for a Ruesch's taste bud but when merged to the right food will surely create an unforgettable dish. Chinese cuisine is one of the most versatile in Asia and it is continually evolving, blending with other dishes from different countries and cultures around the globe.

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