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Mar 26, 2007 04:18 PM

Indispensable Asian Ingredients?

I love to cook all types of Asian foods. I'm trying to build up my pantry for a few reasons. First, I like to have everything on hand, so I don't have to head out. Second, there aren't any Asian markets nearby for me to frequent (which is upsetting, but I deal).

I ask you...what are your most indispensable ingredients to have around the house for Asian cooking? Spices, sauces, noodles...all that sort of stuff. I cook and enjoy all different varieties of Asian foods, so give me Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Thai, etc...

Right now I have the following (and probably more I'm forgetting)
Soy sauce
Kecap Manis
Oyster sauce
Fish sauce

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  1. just a note about keeping ginger - if you don't find that you're using it up real fast and it's shrivelling up or molding then consider peeling the ginger and keeping chunks of it in rice wine. not quite as nice as fresh but it will keep this way for many weeks.

    3 Replies
    1. re: gordon wing

      Yep, that's how I store it. In white wine in the fridge in a jelly jar. Works great.

      1. re: QueenB

        ginger actually keeps well in the freezer. i would have never thought to do so until i saw it on a cooking show. but it's very easy to grate when it's frozen and it seems, to me, to retain its flavor well.

      2. re: gordon wing

        I take a very large piece of ginger, and put it in my food processor and blend it as fine as possible. Then I simply put it in a zip bag, mash flat and freeze. When I need ginger for a dish, simply break off a chunk and put into your recipe. You can also make a "ginger-garlic" bag the same way, then you have the standard Asian combo that is used in many dishes handy at all times. I do this with parsley, cilantro, etc. and always have what I need for cooking.

      3. coriander, cayenne pepper, turmeric and cumin (for indian)
        Different thai curry pastes and canned coconut milk for thai
        Hot bean paste and dark sesame oil for chinese

        3 Replies
        1. re: Megiac

          Which thai curry pastes would you recommend? I see a bunch of different ones (green, red, penang?, etc...) and don't know the differences between them all.

          1. re: QueenB

            I like to keep green and red around. Yellow if you want to make Massaman.

            1. re: Megiac

              Thanks. I'll get one of each and see which I like the best. I've used the green before in a coconut curry and it almost burned my face off! I think I used too much!

        2. Well, I am straight up American, but some of those I consider basics. Certainly the rice, ginger, garlic and the spices. The soy and fish sauce I use more than salt, which I do consider a speciality spice.

          What I would add, is dried mushrooms, at least shitakes.

          1. Dried northern Chinese style noodles (the Korean brands actually tend to be best)
            rice wine
            rice vinegar
            black vinegar (more of a Taiwanese thing)
            white pepper
            chili oil
            Szechuan peppercorn oil
            dried mushrooms
            dried shrimp

            3 Replies
            1. re: Pei

              I must have shoyu - a lighter japanese style soy sauce. I like the hawaiian style lots of flavor not so salty. I have three types of soy sauce - I never thought I need different strenghths and styles but......sesame oil is a must as megiac mentioned. I really like Sambal. Five spice powder is probably a no no but I use it for lots of things - non-asian marinades, salad dressings. Good hoisin sauce, peppercorns and finish with butter - great steak sauce. I find I throw my asian ingredients in whatever I make...
              I also always have Vietnamese salad roll wrappers and rice sticks on hand ( spring rolls and Pad thai)

              1. re: Pei

                Quick question about the noodles. Do they go by a specific name? What kind of noodles should I be looking for? Rice? Egg?

                1. re: QueenB

                  the type of noodles depends on what you intend to cook. you may want to keep a variety on hand.

              2. Chinese: Hoisin sauce (for stir fries, BBQ/roast marinades, mu shu and duck), rice vinegar, peanut oil, scallions and cilantro, 5-spice powder (the best blend I've had comes from Spice Market


                Japanese: Miso (for soup, salad dressings), mirin (for salad dressings, other dishes)

                Vietnamese: Caramel sauce (make it at home for the catfish and pork claypot dishes)

                Thai and Indonesian: Limes, lemongrass (trim and freeze if you want), shrimp paste, palm sugar, shallots

                4 Replies
                  1. re: QueenB

                    refrigerator for a very long time, can't remember how long I had mine in, but it was months.

                    1. re: justagthing

                      Red or yellow miso?

                      Sorry for all the questions!