Light soy sauce, simply known as soy sauce is essential in the Malaysian Chinese kitchen. It is the most common seasoning used in many dishes as well as a dip for all kinds of food.
Dark soy sauce is thicker than light soy sauce and is used mainly in cooking. A little goes a long way.
Sweet soy sauce a.k.a. thick soy sauce has sugar or molasses added to it. It has a thick syrupy consistency and is often used in braised dishes to provide color and flavor. Sweet soy sauce is also frequently used as a marinade and dipping sauce.
Hoisin sauce has a sweet salty taste and is often used as a dip, marinade, or glaze for meat dishes. It is made of a combination of soy beans, sweet potato, garlic, vinegar, spices, and sugar. It has a thick consistency and is dark in color.
Rice vinegar is the most common kind of vinegar. It is used for pickling and flavoring foods.
Plum sauce is made of plum puree or extract, sugar, and spices. It is brighter than hoisin sauce and is often used as a dip or glaze for meats.
Sweet chili sauce is a very popular condiment. It is used as a dip as well as flavoring for noodle dishes. Malaysian chili sauce has a smooth texture like ketchup.
Asam Jawa (tamarind paste and concentrate) is made from the edible pulp of reddish brown pod-like fruits. It has a sweet and sour taste and is often used as an ingredient to give a little tanginess to savory dishes like curries. Tamarind paste should be rinsed, soaked in water, and strained for its juice. The concentrate can be used directly from the container.
Cincaluk (fermented small shrimps) is made of small shrimps or krill, salt, and rice. These ingredients are thoroughly mixed and allowed to ferment for several days, after which it is ready for use. Cincaluk can be served as a condiment together with chilies, shallots, lime juice, and sugar. It is more often used as an ingredient to add an umami flavor to stir fry dishes.
Pressure tends to build up in the bottles during fermentation. Care should be take when opening bottles. Always keep refrigerated once bottle is opened.
Hei ko (srimp paste) is a thick black shrimp paste with a molasses-like consistency. It has a sweet taste and can be eaten right out of the jar. Heiko is often mixed into sauces and dressings for dishes like Rojak and Chee Cheong Fun. It is also used as a condiment and flavor enhancer in Asam Laksa.
Fermented red beancurd (nam yee) is a type of preserved tofu with salt, red rice in wine. It is used mainly as a flavoring for meats and vegetables. Sometimes it is eaten like a condiment with congee. You can buy them in small jars at most Asian grocery stores.
Fermented red beancurd is usually mashed with a spatula during cooking as part of the sauce for the dish. It can also be mashed and combined with other ingredients to make a marinade.
Mak nga tong (maltose) is malt sugar produced from starch by hydrolysis in the presence of an enzyme. It is less sweet than table sugar and looks very much like caramel but is thicker and stiffer. Maltose is often used as a sweetener for barbecue meats like Char Siu to give it a shiny lacquered glaze.
Marmite is a sticky, salty, dark brown paste with a distinctive flavor. It is a concentrated yeast extract eaten as a savory spread on bread or toast. It can also be made into a savory hot drink by diluting it in hot water. In Malaysia, Marmite is sometimes mixed into congee or used as an ingredient to flavor meats and seafood.
Shao Hsing cooking wine is the preferred cooking wine in Chinese cuisine. Made of fermented rice, it is amber in color and quite aromatic. It is often used as an ingredient in sauces and a marinade for meats. It adds an unmistakable flavor and fragrance to stir fries and roasted meats.
Tau cheow (fermented soy beans) is popularly used in Chinese cuisine. It is made of yellow soy beans, salt, wheat flour, and water. They come in two varieties – whole or ground. Whole fermented soy beans are often drained and mashed before use in meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes.
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