Common Chinese Restaurant Cooking Oils

Written by erica gendler
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Common Chinese Restaurant Cooking Oils
Fried rice traditionally contains peanut oil. (Chinese sticky rice image by green 308 from Fotolia.com)

The number and variety of ingredients in Chinese cuisine can seem dizzying; however, you can now easily find most of them in local grocery stores or Asian markets. Oil is one of the central ingredients in Chinese cuisine. Although home cooks may only use one or two types of oil, restaurant chefs may use an array of oils both for cooking Chinese dishes and to add flavour to the finished food.

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Peanut Oil

Peanut oil, which is ideal for frying, is the most common oil in Chinese restaurants. This oil has a high smoke point, meaning that its flavours do not change when exposed to high heat. As it contains peanuts, people with peanut allergies should be careful to avoid it. Canola and safflower oil, which also have a milder flavour, are common alternatives to peanut oil.

Sesame Oil

Asian sesame oil is the oil pressed from toasted sesame seeds. This toasting process gives the oil a deep, rich colour and flavour. Use only small amounts of Asian sesame oil, as its flavour is very strong. Restaurant chefs always add this oil near the end of cooking or even after cooking, as long exposure to heat destroys its flavour.

Grape Seed Oil

Grape seed oil has a very high smoke point: about 216 degrees Celsius. This makes it perfect for stir-frying, deep-frying and other high-heat Chinese cooking techniques. Grape seed oil is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat, which helps your body produce essential fats.

Grape seed Oil

While olive oil is more common in the Mediterranean, many health-conscious chefs in Chinese restaurants now use it to prepare traditional Chinese dishes like Peking duck and stir-fried noodles. Unlike other oils, olive oil does not readily soak into food. Therefore, using olive oil cuts calories without reducing flavour. Olive oil is ideal for stewing, braising and cooking Chinese dishes in earthen pots.

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