Traditionally there are two main kinds of sesame oils in Chinese cooking. These are toasted black sesame oil (黑麻油) and white sesame oil (白麻油或是香油).
Sesame oil contains many health benefits and this is why sesame oil is also know as “The Queen of Oils”.
In ancient India, sesame oil is a natural antibacterial for common skin pathogens. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Because of these factors, sesame oil is known in India as “healing oil”.
Recent experiments and research have shown sesame oil is also very useful for unblocking arteries and lowering bad cholesterol. It’s also good for your skin and can reduce the risk of colon cancer. But as I say with many of my articles and recipes, be sure to eat any foods in moderation.
Black sesame oil or toasted sesame oil:
Toasted black sesame oil is also known as toasted sesame oil.
Toasted black sesame oil is usually deep and dark reddish brown colour.
Toasted black sesame oil is very strong in flavour so it’s not recommend to use toasted black sesame oil as your normal daily cooking oil.
Toast the black sesame to 70%-80% cooked then mould the sesame seed into chunks and press into oil. The flavour and taste is much darker and stronger than white sesame oil. Chinese people usually use toasted black sesame oil for food therapy or food that is supposed to enrich our bodies. Two famous dishes that use black sesame are sesame oil chicken soup and three cup chicken (sanbeiji).
It’s not recommended that pregnant ladies consume toasted black sesame oil though as it’s believed toasted black sesame oil can cause contractions and induce an early labour.
White sesame oil:
Obviously use only white sesame seed to make this oil and it should only be 10-20% cooked. The process for white sesame oil is usually to process the white sesame into liquid then boil water and separate out the oil.
The colour is usually lighter and amber stone or honey in colour.
The flavour of the white sesame oil is lighter than toasted black sesame oil as well. So white sesame oil is suitable for seasoning most of the food, make salad dressing and sauce.
Other kinds of sesame oil products in the market:
There are other kind of sesame oil products which you can often see in Chinese or regular supermarkets that are very often used for Chinese cooking.
Cold-press sesame oil:
Cold press sesame oil differs from black and white sesame oils in that it’s crushed at room temperature in an impeller and not cooked. This cold-press sesame oil has been popular in Taiwan for a few years as people would traditionally cook food with toasted sesame oil for ladies that had just given birth the toasted sesame oil is an extremely “Yang” food in Chinese cuisine and can cause some irritations. These include high blood pressure, skin rashes and hot flashes. Cold-press sesame oil however doesn’t really cause this kind of body irritation so it’s very popular in Taiwanese food markets nowadays.
Blended sesame oil:
Blended sesame oil is toasted black sesame oil diluted with cooking oil or vegetable oil. This oil is cheaper, tastes less strong than toasted black sesame oil but not as good as white sesame oil.
You can use this blended sesame oil for seasoning many foods as well as making dressing and sauces. I use this blended sesame oil quite often because I never seem to be able to find any Chinese supermarkets in Edinburgh that sell white sesame oil. So I use this blended sesame oil instead.
Nowadays apart from the local Chinese supermarkets, Amazon is another good place to purchase any kinds of Chinese food ingredients. Otherwise you can check different large sized Chinese supermarket websites, many of which have online shops and a delivery service.