Culinary Dictionary of Ingredients and Cooking Terms - A
Abalone - A mollusk that is popular ingredient in Chinese and Japanese
dishes. In China it is featured in Cantonese cooking. Abalone is a member of the
genus Haliotis, which means sea ear, referring to the flat shell. It is available
fresh, dried, or canned. In dried form it must be soaked for several days before
Alum - Crystals of potassium aluminum sulfate, commonly used in canning before it was discovered that it can cause gastic distress in some individuals. Although still considered safe in small quantities, depending on individual tolerance, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) no longer reccommends its use for home canning. Alum is also sometimes used as a home remedy; treating canker sores for example. In Chinese cooking, it is one of the ingredients used to make deep-fried crullers.
Recipe: Deep-fried Crullers
Amaranth - A beautiful name for a group of plants that are found
primarily in tropical areas. While some are grown for their seed which is used as a grain,
and others are treated as weeds, there are several varieties which are grown as a leaf
vegetable. These fall into two groups: those with green leaves and those whose leaves are
tinged with beautiful red and purple colors. Amaranthus Tricolor, a red-leafed species, is
also known as Chinese spinach.
Angles or Angled Luffa - A great name for a gourd that is vaguely related to the luffa brush in your shower. It also goes by the rather unattractive name of "dishwater gourd," as well as silk squash and Chinese okra (it bears some similarity to okra in taste and texture). Like tofu, angled luffa absorbs the flavors of the foods it is cooked with. It is used in stir-fries and deep-fried dishes.
(See also Silk Squash)
Aubergine - The North American word for aubergine is eggplant. While
there are many varieties grown in Asian, the term Chinese eggplant refers to the narrow,
purple variety that can be streaked with white (it looks somewhat like a purple zucchini).
Interestingly, Asian recipes don't normally call for eggplant to be salted and degorged,
as is the custom in western and European cooking.
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An ever-growing index of Asian ingredients and cooking terms, from Abalone to Wood Ears.