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Glossary of Ingredients and Cooking Terms

 

Amaral's Linguica and Chourico are Portuguese style sausages. Linguica is a mild sausage while Chourico is a spicy Portuguese sausage. We found a website that carries them: http://www.amarals.com/shop/.

Curry powder

There is no such thing as curry powder in Indian cooking, as most cooks know. Tinned or bottled curry powders are in fact convenient versions of the spice mixtures that Indian cooks compose daily. Curry powders can be excellent, however, depending on their maker and the product’s freshness. My preferred blend is referred to as and often labeled Madras curry powder, a mixture favored in the southern Indian state of the same name. Most often a blend of curry leaves, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, chili pepper, bay leaves, fenugreek, allspice, and black pepper, it has a mellow balance and is neither too hot nor too mild. Look for brands in which bits of bay leaf are visible, which I find the most flavorful. Like all curry powders, however, it must be used when fresh.
Available in Ming's Pantry
 

Fermented black beans

This pungent ingredient predates soy sauce as a Chinese cooking staple. To prepare it, soy beans are partially decomposed, then dried and sometimes salted. Store the beans, which are usually sold in bags, away from light in a cool place; they will last indefinitely. Always rinse fermented black beans well before using them to remove excess salt.
Available in Ming's Pantry
 

Five-spice powder

This tantalizing spice blend, which consists usually of star anise, Szechwan peppercorns, clove, fennel, and cinnamon, has been used in China since ancient times. Because the number five is significant in Chinese belief, the five-spice blend is said to be beneficial to health. True or not, the mixture is a wonderful addition to a wide range of dishes. As with all spices, buy small quantities, store tightly in a cool, dry place, and check periodically to make sure the blend is still aromatic.
Available in Ming's Pantry
 

Fish sauce

Called nam pla in Thailand and nuoc man in Vietnam, this Southeast Asian staple is a product of salted and fermented anchovies and is used there as the Chinese use soy sauce. I prefer the Thai Three Crab Brand, which has a fresh sea taste and slight sweetness. Though fish sauce will keep on the shelf, it is best stored in the fridge once opened.
Available in Ming's Pantry
 

Galangal

A relative of ginger, this root (actually an underground stem) is a staple of Southeast Asian cooking. Galangal, which is also called blue ginger, is more sourpeppery than ginger and can be distinguished from it by its pink shoots and brown skin. Shred or slice galangal finely and use it to complement dishes that would otherwise benefit from a ginger-like seasoning. Wrapped well, it will remain fresh in the fridge for up to three weeks.
 

Hoisin sauce

A soy bean derivative, this reddish brown sauce is both sweet and spicy. Its composition varies from brand to brand but almost always consists of some combination of soybean paste, sugar, garlic, and vinegar. The Chinese use hoisin sauce as a condiment and glaze for roasted meats, most commonly with Peking duck. I use it often in marinades and with grilled dishes. When adding it to dishes, always cook hoisin in oil for a few minutes to rid it of its raw bean flavor.
Available in Ming's Pantry    
 

Kechap manis

Indonesia’s traditional soy sauce, this flavoring ingredient is thicker and sweeter than its Chinese or Japanese cousins. It excels as a marinade ingredient and may be used in place of Soy Syrup.
 

Mirin

Referred to sometimes as Japanese sweet sake, mirin is rice wine with added sugar. Mirin is an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking and adds a subtle sweetness to many dishes; it is also used, traditionally, to glaze foods. Try to buy hon-mirin, which is naturally brewed and contains natural sugars, as opposed to aji-mirin, which can contain sweeteners.
 

Miso

A savory fermented soybean paste and seasoning, miso is the primary ingredient in the Japanese soup for which it’s named. There are four main types: white miso (shiro miso), made with rice (I use this in my signature Blue Ginger Sea Bass); yellow miso (shinhò miso), tart, fairly salty, and the most commonly available rice type; red miso, made with barley, deeply flavored, and available in sweet and salty versions; and the dark brown bean miso, which is robust, very rich and salty. For the recipes in this book, I specify the lighter misos. Available in cans, jars and plastic tubs, miso should be stored tightly covered in the fridge, where it will last up to three months.
 

Oyster sauce

This Cantonese ingredient and condiment is made from oysters, water, and salt (and sometimes cornstarch). Misuse and inferior brands have given the sauce a poor reputation, but it can be a delicious addition to a wide range of dishes. Sold usually in bottles, the best brands have more rich oyster flavor and less cornstarch. Look for oyster sauce that does not contain MSG or other additives-I recommend Amoy or Lee Kum Kee brands. Stored in the fridge, oyster sauce will last indefinitely.
Available in Ming's Pantry 
 

Ponzu

A much-favored Japanese dipping sauce, made with a blend of citrus juices and usually, rice vinegar and soy sauce, among other ingredients. It can be purchased in Japanese markets or you may substitute a blend of equal quantities of lime and lemon juices.
 

Rock sugar

The Chinese have used sugar in savory dishes since ancient times and have developed a repertoire of this sweetener. Among these is rock (or yellow) sugar, which adds subtle, mellow flavor, as well as a translucent finish, to Chinese braised or “red roasted” dishes. For savory cooking I prefer rock sugar to its white, granulated counterpart and urge you to buy this large-crystal sweetener.
Available in Ming's Pantry
 

Sea salt

I’m often told that salt is salt— not true!  Sea salt, which is available in fine or coarse grains (the very large-grain variety, known commonly as gros sel, requires a table mill) has a clean tastiness other salts lack. Its relatively large flakes also make it a pleasure to use. Of all sea salts, the French fleur de sel is considered the finest. Taken from the crust of salt-pond evaporation, it is delicate but also intensely flavored. It is used most often to season cooked dishes or crudites, but I like to prepare food with it, too.
 

Shaoxing wine

This drinking and cooking staple originated in the Zhejiang province. Known also as Chinese rice wine, it is aged eighteen months to one hundred years-these venerable bottles are much prized. Shaoxing, which is made with millet and yeast in addition to rice and water, has a flavor similar to dry sherry, which is a suitable substitute for it. Avoid bottles labeled “Shaoxing cooking wine.” Don’t mistake Shaoxing for Chinese rice wine vinegar.
 

Soy sauce

Sometimes referred to as light or thin soy sauce to distinguished it from dark and mushroom-flavored varieties, this essential Asian cooking ingredient has been used for more than three thousand years. Soy sauce is made from a soybean, flour, and water mixture that is naturally fermented and allowed to age. Soy sauces vary in richness of flavor, saltiness, and viscosity depending on the place of their manufacture and the care with which they’re produced. I prefer Japanese Kikkoman Soy Sauce, Chinese Pearl River Bridge Superior Soy Sauce (not to be confused with “soy superior sauce,” a descriptive term for some dark soy sauce, see below, or Koon Chun’s Thin Soy Sauce.
Available in Ming's Pantry 
 

Soy sauce, dark

Aged for much longer periods than regular or light soy sauce, and sometimes containing molasses for flavor depth, dark soy sauce is used in dishes (never as a condiment) for hearty flavor. It is actually less salty than light soy sauce. This sauce is often labeled “black soy sauce” or “soy superior sauce.” Brands I prefer include Koon Chun Black soy Sauce and Amoy’s.
 

Szechwan (Sichuan) peppercorns

The berries of a shrub from the prickly ash family, these budlike peppercorns have been favored by Szechwan cooks for millenia. Before trying them, people expect the peppercorns to have a pungent taste, but their flavor is subtle-clean, somewhat woody and slightly numbing to the tongue. Often combined with salt or other peppers for seasoning, the peppercorns should always be toasted before grinding them in a pepper mill, clean coffee grinder, or with a mortar and pestle.

To toast the peppercorns, heat a wok or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the peppercorns in a single layer and toast them, stirring, until they’re fragrant and on the point of smoking, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool before grinding.

 

Turmeric, fresh

Most people are familiar with the dried and powdered form of this ancient seasoning, which comes from the root of a tropical plant related to ginger. The fresh root, which does indeed resemble ginger, is available in Asian markets and is used chopped or sliced. I like fresh turmeric for its pungent taste and the beautiful color it adds to dishes. Store the root as you would ginger, well wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. If fresh turmeric isn’t available, substitute the pungent, yellow-colored powdered turmeric in the proportion of one part powder to every two parts fresh.

 

 

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