When it comes to Asian recipes, all you need is a few essentials pantry items and a few produce items that readily available when those Asian take out craving hits. In this post, you’ll find those essential items to start your Asian cooking journey.
Most of these ingredients are available at Asian/international supermarkets or Amazon.
Side note: I’m no expert here but these are items I used on a regular basis and I found them to be helpful.
- Soy sauce: number one ingredient for any Asian food lover. Use soy sauce when seasoning, dipping, best in stir fry dishes. Picture below is my favorite fish sauce brand and soy sauce for seasoning.
- Sesame Oil: a flavor enhancer to add finishing touches to dishes. Delivers deeper, rich flavor to marinades and dressings. Used as a seasoning agent, not cooking.
- Oyster Sauce: dark, salty and sweet. Oyster sauce is used in stir fry dishes as well as in flavoring soups.
- Rice Vinegar: a milder, sweeter vinegar comparing to rice wine. Use this as a helper for dressing or to flavor sauces for marinades.
- Hoisin sauce: think of it as an Asian barbecue sauce. Thicker, made of soy beans sauce that has rich, sweet flavor. Great as dipping sauce or stir frying.
- Noodles: start small with rice noodles and experience with a wide variety: from ramen to vermicelli to soba noodles. You can read more about noodles on this post here.
- Sriracha sauce: Spicy, hot sauce. Use it on top of any dipping sauce for a spicy, hot flavor.
- Fish sauce: intensely pungent flavors of anchovies, salt, water. Fish sauce delivers big flavors from marinades to dressing. Also used in flavoring soups.
- Coconut milk / coconut cream: use in any recipes for Asian curries. The difference between coconut milk and coconut cream is its concentration. Coconut milk has a liquid, less thick and use in most Asian curries. Coconut cream is thicker, richer and use mostly in desserts.
- Rice wine or shaoxing wine: use in meat marinades to bring out more flavors and acts as a meat tenderizer.
- Rice: A totally pantry must have for any Asian food lovers. You can start with jasmine rice or brown rice (for healthier choice)
- Gochujang: a sweet, spicy paste, popular in Korean dishes. Gochujang is made up of chili paste, fermented soy beans. Very thick and pungent in flavors. Use it in bibimbap, in sauces, stews, soups and salads.
- Curry paste: thick mixture of herbs, spices and ready to use in curry dishes. Often go hand in hand with coconut milk and lemongrass.
- Sesame seeds: adds a crunchy, nutty taste to Asian dishes. Use sesame seeds in marinades, dressing or as garnish.
Other fresh ingredients
Garlic: almost always, no exceptions!
Fresh ginger: hot, zesty, warm taste but delivers incredible flavor. Ginger is used in sauces, or as flavor enhancer.
Green onion: sometimes called scallions: to garnish and top off in soups, stir fry, etc.
Cilantro: as a garnish in soups and stir fry dishes. Also best to use as dressing.
Shallots: a deeper, add more flavor to any dishes. They have an acidic taste, but milder than yellow onion.
Lemongrass: citrus flavors, use in soups, marinades, curries.
Bird Eye Chili: very spicy and mostly used in dressing for salads.
With these Asian essential items, you can make any Asian take out dishes right at home. Start small with a few items and stock them up as you go. I hope you find this post helpful.