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Best Indian/Asian Prepared Cooking Sauces?

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It's tough to keep fresh spices and herbs around to do things up the right way, but are some prepared cooking sauces better than others? I'm a condiment junkie and my basement is full of jars (even though I can rarely use them because most are too funky/exotic for the family) but I don't know what the best or most authentic tasting products are. For example, I used to use Patak's Indian cooking sauces but many are surprisingly bland and many taste pretty much the same. Some of the Chinese black bean sauces are so salty that you have to add so little to a dish, that you don't get enough flavor. A tin of Thai Green Curry paste with coconut milk and your choice of ingredients tastes about as good as I've had in any restaurant.

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  1. I am a big fan of the brand Asian Home Gourmet. They make delicious spice paste packs in many flavors. They have a website, but they are based in Singapore and the shipping might be really steep. I have found their spice pastes at HT Market and maybe at 99 Ranch.

    1. Sounds like we have basically the same tastes. I use maesri brand red/green curry pastes, but add a few fresh ingredients, and some extra stuff to doctor up the product. For Indian, I haven't really found any jarred stuff ( also dislike patak's) What I will offer you is this: maybe give a try to "Shan" brand dry masalas? I use their Chicken Handi masala a lot. Use about half of what the box recipe calls for (high sodium) and boost with fresh ingredients ( curry leaf, ginger, garlic, chile, galangal, lime juice, etc.) I also use their other masalas with the same approach.

      1. Recently I've been trying these "ready to cook" spice packets. They're better than most of the jar sauces I've tried. I don't know how authentic tasting they are, but the Goan Fish Curry sauce tasted very similar to a dish I had in a restaurant.

        http://www.paramparamix.com/cooknew/p...

        Also, some of the Indofood packets, especially the Rendang, are pretty good.

        1. With some of the Chinese sauces, I'm told by Chinese cooks that they are meant to be treated like bouillon cubes and watered down. I, too, found them unbearably salty when I didn't know better. For Thai food, I use only Maesri brand curry pastes and soup mixes. For Indian, certain Patak's pastes are okay (i.e. tikka, vindaloo with extra vinegar), but you are right. They often taste the same. Try Shan masalas for pre-mixed spices, though you will not get out of having to chop/grate onions, ginger and garlic.

          1. Swad brand (I know, such an unappetizing name) coriander chutney is absolutely fabulous. Very strong, spicy, bright, fresh,acidic flavor. A must have for samosas and works well for any Indian recipe calling for fresh coriander (I think).

            2 Replies
            1. re: squabbit

              Their prepared food in general is very good. I usually keep a few boxes of their sarson ka saag, kadhi pakoda or malai kofta for when I don't feel like cooking.

              1. re: squabbit

                Oh YEAH - love that stuff. LOVE it.
                I usually use a spoonful of that, plus some garam masala, plus a tiny bit of chili pickle, and lime juice, blend it with sour cream/yogurt, for an interestingly delicious raita of sorts. Lessen the amt of yogurt, and it makes the most killer dip for potato chips.

              2. If or when you can't get some of the original Asian brands, some of the Trader Joe's simmer sauces are very good. One of the things I really like about them is that the ingredients list reads like a recipe--just the things you'd put in yourself homemade. So the flavors are bright and fresh tasting.