A chinoise (sometimes chinois) is a conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh. It is used to strain custards, purees, soups, and sauces, producing a very smooth texture. It can also be used to dust pastry with a fine layer of powdered sugar.
Both names, chinoise and chinois, are loanwords from French. The name chinoise comes from the feminine form of the French adjective meaning Chinese. The alternate name chinois comes from the masculine form and is the name of this utensil in French.
A related but far less expensive utensil, with a related name, is the China cap. It is a conical strainer of perforated metal with much larger holes than a chinoise. A China cap is used to remove seeds and other coarse matter from liquids and soft foods, but does not produce a very smooth texture.
Both the chinoise and the China cap often are used with a matching wooden cone with a handle. With its tip placed in the bottom of the strainer, the cone is moved against the sides of the strainer to work soft food through it. A China cap, used with this dowel, functions similar to a food mill, tamis, or colander used with a muddler. A chinoise generally is too fine for this purpose.