Buying Asian ingredients can be a challenging experience. You have to negotiate foreign languages, poor and/or awkward English translations, labels that look nearly identical to find something that will work for your cooking needs. Between my family and friends, we’re always discussing what to buy. My parents often send oddball stories from Vietnam about dishonest food product manufacturing. Skepticism abounds but I always manage to keep moving forward.
A couple weeks ago on the Chinese beef and black pepper stir-fry recipe, Biki wrote,“I'd like to have your opinion on the safety of food items from China please. One hears so many contradictory information that I'm afraid to buy any food with a Made in China label.” Funny Biki should ask because I was thinking about that topic and discussing it with a friend.
Biki got me looking through my pantry to inventory all the “Made in China” ingredients. Most of what I have are condiments and rice wine, canned food products (bamboo shoots and water chestnuts), dried foodstuffs (shiitake mushroom, wood ear/fungus, tofu sticks, and bamboo leaves), and pickled or fermented items (tofu, turnip, and the like.) What I use most frequently are the condiments.
Below is a closeup of the labels from the condiments at top of this article. They are all made in China. They include my favorite every day, Chinese-style soy sauce made by Pearl River Bridge. Sure, you can use Kikkoman but when PRB’s Golden Label is deployed, the flavor is spot on. As for the Maggi, the one made in China is least expensive and devoid of MSG (if that’s a concern).
The Pagoda brand of Shaoxing rice wine is great for creating Chinese flavors; I buy it at Chinese markets. And, there’s the Gold Plum brand of Chinkiang vinegar that I use for kung pao and dumpling dipping sauce. I have never suffered adverse effects from these ingredients and while there are substitute workarounds, they are not completely similar.