… Abalone 鲍鱼
The Ferrari of the single-shelled mollusc world, this deep-water treasure is a status ingredient in China. Dried, it can be even more valuable than fresh, and the best examples come from Japan. Yang Guanyi, the 78-year-old master chef of Sanlitun’s Ah Yat Abalone Restaurant, describes it as "uniquely sticky and tender with a smooth, chewy, mushroom-like texture." Yum.
… Anhui 安徽
Huicai, the cuisine from Anhui province, was the only one of China’s eight great cuisines not to appear on the official menu during the 2008 Olympic Games. Not very popular in Beijing, it nevertheless lays claim to the invention of tofu in ancient times.
… Anise 八角
One of the key ingredients in Chinese five-spice and red-braised pork (Mao’s favorite), this remarkable spice usually possesses a lucky eight points, or more rarely nine or ten. The dried fruit of an evergreen tree, it is cultivated almost exclusively in southern China.
… Ao’zi 鏊子
The flat iron hotplate for cooking bing, including jianbing, the ubiquitous egg pancake found on street corners around town.
Photo from artolog of Flickr.