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Common ingredient: Garlic


garlic in Chinese cooking

If you have been reading my recipes here, you have probably already seen so many dishes with garlic. As I mentioned in another post, the taste and smell of garlic is used as one of the main influences in Chinese dishes along with ginger and spring onion.

Garlic in Chinese Cooking

Garlic in Chinese is called “suan (4)’, sometimes “da suan” in northeast China, as ‘big garlic’. It has been one of the most essential components of Chinese dishes — functioning more like a seasoning.

If you walk into any home kitchen in the China, you will always see some garlic prepared for cooking. I remember in the past, most families would buy garlics in a whole branch, which were hung in the kitchen. When garlic was needed for cooking, people would just pick up one, so they were still ‘fresh’. Although nowadays scenes like this are rare to see, I have seen the same thing in Spain – branches of garlic hanging in the shops, restaurants, markets… I just totally lost in the culture, place, time…

Anyway, so since I learned to cook, my dad told me the use of the garlic from the very beginning. In northeast China, we always use fresh garlic for cooking, whereas in the south, dried garlic is often used.

When cooking, garlic is normally sliced, and always needs to be in contact with oil first, to influence the oil, thus also the rest of the ingredients. It is just as most recipes I mentioned – put the wok on the fire, when the wok is very hot and dry (if you just washed it), add the oil into the wok, and when the oil is hot, put sliced garlic into the oil – when the garlic is ‘cooked’, the smell of the garlic comes out, and adds to the rest of the ingredients.

Even when making soup, (garlic is normally used for meat soup), garlic still needs to be ‘cooked’ first, before adding the water.

Northern Chinese people often use the spiciness of garlic to accompany dumplings, or ‘baozi’ – things with fillings, for example the dip I made for the dumplings, sometimes with noodles as well.

It is also common to use the properties of garlic to prevent food poison, for example, when having seafood, it is always recommended to have some garlic with it.

Well, of course it will leave you with some smell, :( one of the knacks is to have some tea or chew some tea leaves. There is another way have garlic is to have ‘pickled’ garlic. It might loose some healthy benefit compare to the fresh one, but still good.

In northeast China, entering the coldest time of the year, it is custom to make ‘la ba suan’, means the garlic on ‘8th December’ in Chinese calendar. Garlics are peeled, and gloves are placed into a sealed bottle, filled in with a bit sugar, salt and lots of rice vinegar. Normally it takes a week or two to get it ready, the garlic will even turn ‘blue’ or ‘greenish’. The garlic will not be as spicy as it was, and not very sour either, but the vinegar will be very ‘garlic spicy’, they both become very good to have dumplings with.

Nowadays, Chinese use garlic as natural anti-biotic as well, isn’t it said that after the whole ‘sars’ thing, the price of garlic has been keeping on increasing.

Chinese cooking with garlic

I probably never appreciated garlic before, but I do now, no matter which way it is prepared. Lately, my favorite way is when my mother-in-law cooks them in the Spanish rice dish. The garlic becomes so soft and ‘mashy’ – the best. Oh, and the Spanish garlic mayonnaise, if I did not know when ‘fat’ it can be, I could just continue eating it with every dish. :)

It is always good to have garlic, no? Especially for its healthy benefits? Oh, also there is a very old saying that hanging garlic and eating garlic can prevent you from ‘weird’ stuff — you know what I mean. :) :) I have just bought a few – to be cooked. :)

Related posts:

Meal idea: Chinese dinner for two at home
Eggs in Chinese Cuisine
Sea kelp (Kombu or Haidai): a healthy Chinese ingredient
Common ingredient: Chinese leaves


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