Jing's Chinese Pantry Essentials
Chinese cuisine, and Sichuan food in particular, is all about balance, flavor, fragrance and mouthfeel, working in conjunction to dance across the palate. Its chefs have always been known to do more with less, creating dozens of flavor profiles with limited seasonings, and chopping, dicing and paring any number of ingredients with just a single cleaver. In the same way, the home cook can create much more than they think, with just a few key kitchen and pantry items. Here are Jing's must-haves in a Chinese kitchen.
1. Cast-iron Wok - cast iron maintains heat very well which suits high-heat wok frying. The flat bottom also means you can use it on electric stoves, although it's best on gas
- My favorite cleaver is a hand-made one by artisans in a village outside Chengdu, but with travel being out of reach these days, this one will do.
3. Pixian Doubanjiang
- Often called the ‘soul’ of Sichuan cooking, doubanjiang, or preserved fava bean paste, is at the heart of many of the province’s signature dishes like Mapo Tofu, Twice-Cooked Pork, etc. The longer they are aged, the darker and more complex in flavor they become. Our 3 year doubanjiang is one of the best in existence, with deep umami flavors slowly built over time, completely natural with no additives
4. Soy Sauce
- Light soy sauce
is a bit saltier and used to add savoriness to dishes, a little often goes a long way. I like this round umami flavor of this brand
5. Dark soy sauce
is less salty and more concentrated in color, resulting in a dark amber color that adds nice depth and lustre to long braises.
6. Zhenjiang Black Vinegar
- an indispensable part of Chinese cooking, it's the equivalent of the addition of lemon in every dish in the West. This version is more complex and aged for 6 years, but you can find a more basic version in any Chinese Supermarket
7. Oyster Sauce
- made from
oyster extract, sugar, salt and water, is a thick, umami-rich, brown sauce that is savory with a hint of sweetness, and used in Cantonese-style cooking. Can be used for stirfrys and braises as well as just drizzled on steamed Asian greens.
8. Sesame Oil
- a drizzle of sesame oil is essential for me as a finishing touch on most dishes
9. Eagle Coin Preserved Dace Fish with Black Beans -
this wildcard is by no means a Chinese pantry "must-have", but for Jing, it might as well be. The dried dace fish preserved with black bean in oil is the ultimate congee topper, and in the early days of Fly By Jing, when we were still a pop up dining concept in Shanghai, this was the foundation of the most epic dace fried rice dish. Get it! You will not regret it!
10. Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp
- Duh! Our namesake, and maybe the most literal representation of Jing than anything in the world! Rooted in tradition, but deeply personal, and good on everything.