Bamboo Shoots are sold in cans and should be eaten as soon as possible after opening the ca. They will, however, last for up to 6 days in a refrigerator if the water in which they are stored is changed daily. Only about 10 species of bamboo have shoots that are edible.
Banh Pho are short, flat, white Vietnamese rice stick noodle about 1/8 inch wide. They cook in minutes in boiling water or soup and should not be overdone. They are used in soup noodle dishes, particularly the Hanoi soup that goes by the common name of pho.
Banh Trang is the Vietnamese equivalent of ravioli skins. It is round, semi-transparent, thin, hard and dry rice-paper and is used as the wrapping on Vietnamese spring rolls and broiled meats, with salad and herbs. It is made from a dough of finely ground rice, water, and salt, with tapioca (cassava) flour as a binding agent. The dough is passed through rollers and then cut into circles 7-14 inches in diameter. These are then put on bamboo mats to dry in the sun. Once dry, they will keep indefinitely. To use, they must be moistened by covering with a dmp cloth until soft or by dipping quickly into warm water. To get a crisp, golden-brown color, the wrappers can be brushed lightly with a sugar-water solution before frying.
Bean Curd is made from dried soy beans soaked, pureed, and boiled with water. The resulting milky liquid is strained and then mixed with a coagulant or natural solidifier which causes it to form curds. These are then taken to wooden tubs lined with cloth and pressed until they form bean curd.
Bean Thread Vermicelli are noodles resembling strands of clear plastic and are also called "transparent" or "cellophone" vermicelli. Cooked as noodles, they are used in soups, braised dishes, and hotpots.
Black Beans invariably mean fermented black beans, the original shih or darkened, salted soy beans of China. Dried soy beans are cooked, salted and fermented until they become almost black and soft. They can be kept almost indefinitely in airtight jars. They should be washed and dried before use and may be cooked whole, finely chopped or mashed.
Black Vinegar is a dark mild, almost sweet vinegar that has only one equivalent: balsamic vinegar. It is usually made from glutinous rice or sorghum which gives it its distinctive taste.
Chilies exist in many variations, varying in size and shape as well as color and intensity of flavor. Generally, green chilies are milder than the red ones, and seeding them reduces their intensity.
Chinese mushrooms is the common name for the dried black (or rather pale buff or brown) mushrooms. The best are lighter colored with plump caps, but they are very expensive.
Coconut milk was originally made by grating the kernel and mixing it with a little water. The resulting mixture then had to be squeezed through a piece of cloth. There are a number of excellent brands of canned coconut milk available, but it should be remembered that it will keep for only a few hours at room temperature, or two days in a refrigerator.
Cilantro leaves are used extensively in Southeast Asian cooking although they are hardly used in Japan. The flavor is fresh, strong, earthy, and something of an acquired taste.
Cilantro roots are used particularly in Thailand where they are ground together with the stems for curry pastes and sauces. There the leaves are used in salads and as a garnish.
Cumin is Mediterranean in origin and it is pungent and aromatic.
Dried jellyfish has little taste but is valued for its crunchy texture. It is the salted and sundried skin of the mantle of the jellyfish
Five-Spice powder is an aromatic, Chinese spice powder made from peppercorn, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, and star anise. The five spices can be used in a soup or stew which are, tied up in a small cloth bag and put into stews and the like and retrieved before serving.
Galangal is a member of the ginger family and in many countries, is used as a substitute. It has a hot, peppery taste and is used mainly as flavoring.
Ground Chilies are made from dried pods, which are also used whole, broken, or shredded. They can be sprinkled over foods as a condiment.
Ground Coriander is one of the essential ingredients in curry powders. It is made from the seed spice whole and grind it when needed. To get the best out of the coriander seed, it is advisable to toast first in an oven and then grind it finely.
Hoisin Sauce is the barbeque sauce of Vietnam. Made from red rice which is colored with a natural food dye, usually annatto seeds, it is a sweet-tasting, thick, reddish brown sauce best used a s a condiment for roast pork and poultry.
Nuoc Man is a fish sauce which is a powerfully flavored, pungent seasoning sauce. It is used extensively in Southeast Asia. It is made by layering fish and salt into large barrels and allowing the fish to ferment for three or more months before the accumulated liquid is siphoned off, filtered, and bottled. In Vietnam Nuoc Mam is made into different dipping sauces by adding chilies, ground, roasted peanuts, sugar, and other ingredients. It is very much on acquired taste, and substitutes such as soy sauce are sufficiently exotic.
Oyster sauce is one of the most popular bottled sauces in Vietnam. Made from dried oysters, it is thick and richly flavored. The cheaper brands tend to be more salty. The original sauce was much thinner and contained fragments for fermented, dried oysters. Mostly people use it in a stir-fried dishes.
Paprika is also known as capsicum or bell peppers. In Vietnam it is used as a vegetable and as a spice. In its latter guise, it is dried and ground to a powder.
Pomelo is a large fruit that resembles a grapefruit. It tapers slightly at the stem end and has a thick, sweet, slightly rough textured skin, and a dry, semi-sweet flesh.
Rice Vermicelli is a fine, extruded, creamy-colored noodle, made from a dough of finely ground rice and water. It cooks almost instantly, needing only to be dipped in very hot water and drained throughly. Rice vermicelli can be stir-fried and served as soft noodles.
Soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans mixed with a roasted grain, normally wheat. It is infected with a yeast mold and after fermentation begins, salt is added. Yeast is added for further fermentation and the liquid is left in vats for several months and then filtered.
Light soy sauce is thin, salty and light in flavor and is used as a condiment and in cooking where its light color will not spoil the colors of the ingredients, particularly seafood.
Dark soy sauce is thicker with a full-bodied flavor and is used to add color where needed. Generally it is less salty than the soy sauce.
Sweet soy sauce is a dark, sweet sauce made with soy sauce, sugar, and malt sugar. It has a distinctive malty taste.
Star anise is the seed pods of one of the Magnolia trees. The tan-colored, eight pointed pods resemble stars, hence the name. When dried, a shiny, flat, light brown seed is revealed in each point.
Straw mushrooms are grown on paddy-straw, left over from harvested wheat, which gives them a distinctly earthy taste. Generally, they are packed in water and canned.
Sugar cane is reasonably easy to obtain from large grocers. The sugar cane bought for cooking consists of the stem, the leaves being chopped off in the cane fields. The cane should be very carefully peeled with a strong, sharp knife.
Szechwan peppercorns are aromatic, small, red-brown seeds from the prickly ash tree known as fagara. The whole peppercorns can be kept for years without loss of flavor if stored in a tightly sealed jar away.
Turmeric, a native of the Southeast Asia, belongs to the same family as ginger and galangal. It has a bright orange yellow flesh with a strong, earthy smell and a slightly bitter taste. The flesh is responsible for the yellow color we associate with curry powder and it overpowers all other spices.
Wood ear fungus is known under a variety of names. Perhaps the most common is derived from its habitat of decayed wood. It is also called Jew's ear from its botanical name. It is valued for its subtle, delicate flavor and slightly crunchy "bite".
Yellow bean sauce is made according to the ancient recipe for jiang or pickled yellow soy beans in a salty liquid. It is normally bought in cans and jars but it is best transferred to a jar in which it can be stored in a refrigerator almost indefinitely.