Articles by Ken Hom

Ken Hom OBE is an American-born Chinese chef, author and television-show presenter for the BBC. In 2009 he was appointed honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire for "services to culinary arts". You can find him online at

Chillies, fresh (capsicum frutescens)

Archaeological records suggest that peppers were eaten in Mexico 9,000 years ago and were cultivated 2,000 years later. They were introduced to Asia around 100-150 years ago from the Americas.

Chillies, dried red

Dried red chillies are used extensively in some regions of China. Drying is done for practical purposes so that chilli is always available.

Chilli oil, chilli dipping sauce

Chilli oil is used extensively in Chinese cooking, to impart a sharp, hot flavour. It is sometimes served as a dipping condiment as well as being used as a seasoning.

Caul fat

Caul fat is the lacy membrane that surrounds the organs in the abdominal cavity of the pig. It's used by Chinese cooks to encase stuffings and to keep food moist while cooking.

Chilli bean paste or sauce (chilli paste with garlic, Sichuan chilli sauce)

Chilli peppers, both sweet and hot, were introduced into China scarcely 100 years ago. Their popularity was immediate and, along with the tomato, they transformed Chinese cooking.

Black rice vinegar

Black rice vinegar is very dark in colour with a rich but mild taste and an appealing depth of flavour, similar to Italian balsamic vinegar.

Black beans (fermented black beans, salted beans, preserved beans)

These small black soybeans are preserved by being cooked and fermented with salt and spices. They have a distinctive, salty taste and pleasantly rich aroma and are often used as a seasoning, usually in conjunction with garlic, fresh ginger, or chillies. They are among the most popular flavours of southern China, but are used

Bitter melon (momordica charantia)

This unusual vegetable is very much an acquired taste. It has as many detractors as it has fans, even among the Chinese, but those who love it insist it is worth the effort to appreciate its taste.