Condiments are to food as accessories are to women. Imagine Xishi (a legendary beauty in ancient China) dressed in rags. It would spoil her splendor even with her natural beauty and fine makeup.
An experienced cook would use soy sauce fermented in the summer for its sweetness. Choose raw or roasted fragrant oils discreetly. Select only the wined rice that’s free of bran. Cook with rice vinegar that’s clear.
Note the nuanced differences between the following:
light and thick soy sauce; animal fat and vegetable oil; sweet and sour cooking wine; aged and new vinegar. All of these differences are not to be looked over.
For other familiar condiments, such as green onions, chili peppers, ginger, cinnamon, sugar and salt, although used in small amounts, quality ones are still worth looking for. In searching for quality condiments I found some famous and good ones. Yet to my surprise, one famous vinegar, Zhenjiang, which has a beautiful color, was too mild to be even called a “vinegar”.
- Zhenjiang Vinegar-鎮江醋，至今仍是大家廣用的名牌，竟被袁枚評為連做「醋」的資格都沒有，頗令人詫異。