Preserved food

Preserved food

Though Cantonese cooks pay much attention to the freshness of their cooking ingredients, Cantonese cooking also uses a long list of preserved food items. This may be an influence from Hakka cuisine. Some items gain very intense flavors during the drying/aging/preservation/oxidation process, similar to Italian style sun-dried tomatoes’ intensified flavor from drying. Some chefs combine both dried and fresh variety of the same items in a dish to create a contrast in the taste and texture. Dried items are usually soaked in water to rehydrate them before cooking, such as mushrooms. Or they are cooked with water over long hours until they are tender and juicy. For example, dried abalone and dried scallop have much stronger flavors than the fresh one without the undesirable strong fishy odor. Not only do preserved foods have a longer shelf life, sometimes the dried foods are preferred over the fresh ones because of their uniquely intense flavor or texture. Some favorite dried/preserved food products include:
Dried bird nest (燕窩)
Dried Bok Choy (菜乾) – a kind of Chinese green vegetable
Pickled Bok Choy (鹹酸菜 or 梅菜 or 霉菜)
Pickled raddish (菜脯)
Fu Yu (腐乳) – Salted and fermented tofu
Salted preserved fish (鹹魚)
Salted preserved duck (臘鴨)
Salted preserved pork (臘肉)
Dried Shiitake mushroom (冬菇)
Dried abalone (鮑魚)
Dried scallop (瑤柱)
Dried sea cucumber (海參)
Dried air bladder from various fishes (花膠)
Dried shrimp (蝦乾 or 蝦米)
Dried shark fin (魚翅)
Salted egg (鹹蛋) – preserved in brine until the egg white turned watery and the yolk turned solid
Thousand year old egg – preserved in lime until the egg white turned gelatinous and dark brown, the yolk dark green
various dried fruits, herbs and flowers, etc.

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