I was a college exchange student living in China when I first started learning how to cook Chinese food. It was all new to me—stir-frying, braising, steaming, and all the weird fruits and vegetables and sauces used in Asian cooking, not to mention their incomprehensible Chinese names. I would get on my bike and ride to the market only to realize I had no idea what I was looking for! I quickly learned the pointing method. If I took a picture with me to the market, I found that I could find the ingredient by pointing at the picture and asking, “zhe ge zai nar (where is this thingy)?”
This turned out to be a good way to learn Chinese cooking. Soon I not only knew how to point at the ingredients, I knew their names (in English and Chinese) and understood what they taste like and how to use them in cooking. Navigating the isles of a Asian grocery store, especially in the West, can be daunting. That's why Mary Kate and I are launching a visual ingredient glossary on this site. It's a place where people can actually see what ingredients look like, see different packaging and brands, and see the different Chinese and English names the same ingredient is masquerading under. It's also a great show and point tool! Mary Kate and I have been at this for years and we’re still learning! Chinese cuisine is the most complex cuisine in the world. Our glossary is a work in progress and we will be adding more photos and descriptions as we can. If you have a photo of an ingredient that you think should be included, by all means email it to us here! You can also use the comment section below each glossary entry to add your own thoughts, recipes, or whatever. Visit the Visual Ingredient Glossary here.