Tips : Never soak dried ingredients in the same bowl
Dried Bamboo Shoots – these long, thin strips have a tangy, slightly medicinal flavor that is very attractive. Soak for 12 hours in warm water, then rinse thoroughly, put into boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Change to fresh boiling water, boil for 2 hours and drain.
Dried Chestnuts – look like small, wizened peeled chestnuts. Soak in cold water for 24 hours, then simmer in fresh water for 20 minutes.
Dried Chilis - Often included in western Chinese cooking, do not require soaking. They easily become acrid if cooked at too high a temperature.
Dried Lotus Petals – are small, creamy-colored flakes. Soak in hot water for 30 minutes.
Dried Mushrooms – the commonest dried Chinese mushrooms, they have a slightly crazed skin on the cap tops. Rinse well, then soak in hot water for at least 30 minutes. The soaking water can be strained and used to add flavor to a stock. Read more about other mushrooms used in Chinese cooking.
Dried Sour Plums are the dried fruit from the Japanese apricot. They have shriveled, whitish appearance and a dry, sour flavor. They can also be bought preserved in brine.
Dried Tangerine Peel - These sun dried peels are used to flavor master sauces and give orangey flavor to dishes. To dry your own, place tangerine peels on a flat baking pan in a slow oven (200º F) until dry. They do not require soaking.
Dried Water Chestnuts are dried in slices. Surprisingly crunchy, they have little flavor. Soak for up to 24 hours.
Hair Seaweed – Also known as black moss or black hair, these costly fine threads of black dried vegetable resemble hair and is tasteless. Soak the hair seaweed in warm water for 30 minutes and rinse before use. Hair seaweed can be found in Asian supermarkets and Chinese markets.
Lotus Nuts or seeds, usually broken in halves, require soaking for 24 hours, during which their size will double. If the nuts still have on their brown inner skins, these should be rubbed off.
Red Dates are the dried fruit of the Chinese jujube tree, not a palm date, and have a bright red crinkly skin. It tastes sweet and often used in soups in Chinese cooking. Either soak for 3 hours or cook very slowly. Read more on other types of Chinese dates and their medicinal values.
Snow Fungus, also known as white tree ear fungus, silver cloud fungus, white tree ear, and silver ear is quite similar to wood ear but it is white in color and almost transparent. Good-quality snow fungus has a pale and yellowish-white color. Soak in hot water for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and cut off any discolored stalk ends. Read more about mushrooms used in Chinese cooking.
Tiger Lily Buds – also known as golden needles or lily flowers, they have a mild, pleasant, slightly acrid flavor. Usually tied into a knot for cooking to enhance texture. Soak for 30 minutes in hot water before use.