List of Essential knowledge::Condiments
The condiments used by a cook for seasoning is like the clothing and jewelry on a woman. Even a beautiful woman in ragged and worn clothing would look unattractive. Even the renowned Xi-Shi (西施)  cannot look beautiful under such arrangements. When someone well versed in cuisine chooses soy sauce, they will buy only that which was made in heat of summer, and prior to using it will taste it for sweetness. When they flavour dishes with oil, they will use sesame oil , checking whether it has been roasted or is still raw. When seasoning with wine , they will use wine that has been freshly filtered from the fermenting mash. When seasoning with vinegar, they will use rice vinegar, demanding a product with high clarity. One must also understand that soy sauce has its light and dark varieties, oils may come from animal or plant sources, that wines have sweet and dry varieties, and vinegars may either be young or well aged. One must make these distinctions and not be careless in their choice of seasonings ingredients. Other condiments such as green onion, pepper , cinnamon, sugar, and salt are used in lesser quantities. Even then, one should choose only the best that one can get. Note too the premium soy sauce sold in Suzhou, known as “Autumn Sauce”  is available in different grades: top, middle and low. Finally, although Zhen-Jiang vinegar has excellent colour, its taste is so mild that it has lost its identity as a vinegar. In this regard, the vinegar of Ban-Pu is the best, with that from Pu-Ko in second place.
: Xi-Shi was a woman from the Spring-Autumn period of Chinese history, renowned for her beauty. Referred often in Chinese culture to indicate an incredibly-beautiful well-pampered woman.
: The term 香油 is in many Chinese spoken languages refers to sesame oil and I’ve decided to use it. But I feel that in this case there is much ambiguity since the term can also be translated to “flavourful oil” or “fragrant oil”. Also in one of the following line Yuan Mei says “oil can come from plant or animal sources” which possibly hints that the term doesn’t refer to that from sesame. You decide.
: Some people don’t think Chinese wine should be called “wine” since it’s brewed from grain and should thus be technically be called “beer”. For reasons of esthetics, I’m calling it wine.
: The word 椒 is ambiguous. Meaning “pepper” in this context it may be used to refer to either black/white pepper, Sichuan pepper, or chili peppers. I’m leaving it as pepper since he may be also referring to all pepper in this regard.
: “Autumn oil/soysauce” according to baidu, this post, and this post, is a rather special type of soy sauce made through limited exposure of the brewing soy sauce mash to full sun in hot weather and only pressing it in late autumn. The process supposedly enhances its taste and gives it great clarity and deep red colour not found in regular soy sauce. One can think of this as “premium soy sauce” but I’m leaving it as “autumn sauce” for now since Yuan Mei explicitly defined it here in this sentence and in the previous one about choosing a soy sauce made in hot weather. Actually this whole topic of soy sauce being written in Chinese as “sauce oil” (醬油), “clear sauce” (清醬), “sauce clear” (醬清), “drawn old/raw” (老/生 抽), “fermented-soy oil” (豉油), “bean oil” (豆油), and now, “Autumn oil” (秋油)， probably deserves a discussion in a different post. I’ll do it when I get there.