Kristina Cho's Must-Haves For Cantonese/Chinese Cooking - Exclusive

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From baked goods to dumplings, Chinese cuisine is full of diverse dishes that range in taste, texture, and style. During an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, food blogger and James Beard Award-winning author Kristina Cho offered an abundance of tips and tricks to making comforting Chinese cuisine at home. Though certain dishes may seem complex, through her book, "Mooncakes and Milk Bread," Cho has managed to make cooking these traditional recipes at home way less intimidating. 

"I think the book has empowered a lot of bakers or just people who are fans of these recipes to make them on their own," Cho said. "I've provided a lot of base recipes and techniques, and I also tried my best to kind of teach them these recipes in a way that they feel confident to take it on their own path." 

Building upon her recipes and putting your own spin on them is something Cho encourages, through both her book and her blog Eat Cho Food. "So you have your basic milk bread [for example], but then you can honestly turn to different forms and use different fillings and make a completely unique bun on your own," she explained. "And I think that is also the spirit of Chinese culture, providing so many options that you can turn to."

And when it comes to options, Cho shared some ingredients that are pantry essentials when cooking Chinese and Cantonese dishes.

Must have sauces and seasonings

"Oyster sauce is a really, I would say, standard ingredient for Chinese or, specifically, Cantonese-style cooking," Cho told Tasting Table. "It has a lot of umami. It's salty, and it's a little sweet. When it comes to oils, sesame is supreme. "Sesame oil is so flavorful that a little bit goes a long way," Cho explained. "And when you add it to different dishes or stir fries or marinades, it's not like you're hit with a very strong sesame or nutty flavor. It's kind of that fine ingredient that adds a little extra something, something, and rounds out the flavors you're developing in your food."

However, toppings, garnishes, and seasonings also go a long way in Chinese cooking. "My mind also goes to the aromatic trifecta of green onions, ginger, and garlic. I always have to have those in my home," Cho said. "They will literally make everything taste better." Though it isn't necessarily traditional, Cho also let us in on a personal favorite of hers. "This last one isn't as classic for Chinese or Cantonese cooking, but I have incorporated it into so many things that I cook with. I love using fish sauce," Cho explained. "It's a little bit more common in Southeast Asian food, but it has a very similar quality to oyster sauce in the sense that it kind of enhances the saltiness and sweetness of other ingredients. I love just always adding a little splash of fish sauce into my food."

Kristina Cho's James Beard Award-winning book "Mooncakes and Milk Bread" is available on Amazon.