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Mar 16, 2011 08:15 AM

What are your easy no fail Asian recipes?

I can easily "invent" Italian dishes, or at least pasta dishes without a recipe. But when I am making Asian meals, I need a recipe. How do you just "invent" Asian meals? I want to cook more soups or sauces that are Asian. But when I experiment, the results are lacking. What are the basics that I need and/or convenience items? And what are the techniques?

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  1. Fried rice... I usually do it with spicy shrimp and then save the leftover shrimp for tacos the next day. Can't wait to hear others favs :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: aphayes

      I can't believe you actually ever have left over shrimp.
      Yesterday I emptied the house freezer and tossed a bunch of stuff, it felt good besides now I know the meats I have. 2 packages of shrimp which I'll do tonight.
      Guy Fieri has a spicy shrimp if I'm remembering right and my girlfriend's done EL's recipe for same.
      I'll look it up and go from there.

    2. For "no fail", I start with a basic generic (and totally inauthentic) curry sauce - onion, tomato, garlic, chilli powder (or cayenne), coriander, garam masala.

      At it's simplest, I usually use this as a base for vegetarian curries, cooking the veg in the sauce. But it also works quite well with protein that's been separately cooked. Lends itself to having the spicing adapted to whatever your cooking - for example, if I was using prawns, I'd probably include some fennerl seeds: if chicken perhaps some mango powder. Works across the usual south Asian cuisines (style not authenticity)

      1. I think the key is to separate flavors into basic components: salty, spicy, savory, sweet and sour and balance those flavors in the ratio you want. It's also helpful to think in terms of yin and yang, hot and cooling flavors (chilies versus cilantro; scallions versus cucumbers). So if I feel like a winging a spicy stirfry sauce I'll think of the elements:
        Salty/Savory: Light soy sauce, oyster sauce
        Sweet: Dark soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce
        Sour: Sambal Oelek, rice wine
        Hot: Dried chilies, sambal oelek, scallions, garlic
        Cool: Cilantro, ginger

        For soups you should start with a flavorful stock with basic aromatics like ginger and scallions, with the option for heavier flavors like charred onions, star anise or cilantro. A generous amount of aromatics will create a flavorful soup base. You can add depth with soy sauce and dried goods: mushrooms, shrimp, scallops, fish etc. Alternatively you can rely on umami bombs like kombu to provide the main flavor to your broth. From there you build upwards with the flavors you want: vinegars, sesame oil, shellfish, vegetables, etc.

        7 Replies
        1. re: JungMann

          I cook a lot of Thai inspired dishes, so adding some SE Asian flavors:
          Sour: lime, tamarind
          Salty: Fish sauce
          Hot: Fresh chilies, Curry paste
          Sweet: Palm Sugar, (also Hoisin Sauce, but that is Chinese)
          Cool: Coconut milk

          Also, I think ginger and/or galangal can be more hot than cool..

          For Thai Noodle dishes I balance Sour, Salty, and Sweet. For Thai Curries, I balance cool, sweet, salty, and hot.

          1. re: JungMann

            What I love about this is that I have all this! Thankss, JM.

            1. re: JungMann

              JungMann..separate flavors into basic components...thinking of elements....basic aromatics...all these are building blocks to cooking. Well, I just don't know how to think along the "general" cooking concepts. Are there any books or websites that would teach a novice your concept. Please don't tell me we need to go to culinary school...

              If we knew this method of cooking we could cook any type of food. Sure hope you can direct me to some specific teaching on this subject. Thank you

              1. re: cstout

                Have you checked out your local library yet? That is a fabulous resource for those that want to read about a subject they are unfamiliar with, without the added expense of actually buying the books. Our library has lots of Asian cookbooks that are a delight to browse through. The reference librarian is also a great help. You can pick and choose which country's cuisine, then move on to the next. By the time you are done reading 5 cookbooks, you will have a much better understanding, without having to have someone tell you.

                1. re: wyogal

                  wyogal, I am just looking for recipes in the format that mamachef used to give us a "master recipe" of what goes in a stir fry...surely there are other master recipes out there. I don't know what her method is called, but I think it could easily be applied to Asian cooking or any other type of cooking. One recipe....many variations.

                  Below is a sample of what I am talking about:

                  Asian Salad Master recipe
                  Liquids - list of several options
                  Vegetables - list if several options
                  Spices - list of several options

                  With a recipe like that, someone who has never tasted Asian Salad could pick & choose from all the options based on what they have on hand or just pick & choose to come up with what suits their own tastes. .

                  Again, one recipe with all kinds of variables. Isn't that better than looking through several cookbooks to see all the ways to make this dish? Or, searching the network & ploughing through dozens of recipes?

                  After seeing this one "master recipe", then you get a feel as to what ingredients are compatabile & then you can perhaps add something else.

                  Am I searching for the Holy Grail or what?????

                2. re: cstout

                  You don't need to go to culinary school. Cooking is a little chemistry experiment, but one where it's safe to taste the contents of your beaker. I think if you have a few solid recipes that you know by heart, maybe a stir fried chicken, noodles and a basic vegetable dish, it is useful to start experimenting with your ingredients and tasting what a tablespoon of oyster sauce does to your noodles or how stir fried chicken tastes with fish sauce instead of soy sauce. What you're aiming for is intimacy with your ingredients through experience. I grew up in an Asian kitchen so I'm not the best resource for cookbook recommendations. mamachef's primer, however, is a very good place to springboard into experimentation with ingredients.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    Intimacy with your ingredients through experience....such beautiful esoteric words. This is something I have very much noticed from people of other countries/nationalities...they seem to be more in tune to all aspects of their food...yes chemistry/alchemy/magic...all of that comes into play for a simple meal. Nourishing the body as well as the soul.

                    Your method of approaching a new combination of flavors is great...go into it one tablespoon at a time. So simple, yet grasping the flavor right there, one flavor at a time.

                    I am grateful to you for teaching me to experience food on a higher level.

              2. Its a skill that is developed over time after you have repeated a dish several times-just like with pasta or pancakes!

                With Chinese style stir fries, you just need to become familiar with the basic ingredients used to add flavor and create the sauce-ginger, garlic, chilis, scallions, soy, garlic or bean paste, vinegars etc. Then you can stir fry just about anything and "invent" the flavor profile you like.

                Our go to dish would probably be miso marinated fish. Miso, sugar, mirin, sake and soy. Marinate as long as two days. Cooked quickly under the broiler. Great with any type of fish in addition to the famous black cod. And that same marinade works great with chicken or pork as well.

                Think of something you would like to make, get a good recipe, and repeat it until you get a feel for the ingredients.

                3 Replies
                1. re: AdamD

                  AdamD, with all these generous explanations, it is beginning to sink in. I have no problem doing these things with American foods, but as soon as I see these foreign things like bean paste, mirin, miso & whatnot, I think, NO way can I fix something like that. In the end, it is just liquids, spices, protein, & veggies....whatever culture it is. YES, I can make Asian dishes...only after 50 million have pounded my head to bring home the point of "what is your problem with it?"

                  Well, boys & girls, Asians & otherwise, "This is not so hard to think through after all !!!".

                  Did I just hear a BIG sigh of relief from everyone out there, or was it just my big fat ol dog whizzing??

                  1. re: cstout

                    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Whew!
                    and a bit of technique, that takes practice. Which gets easier the hungrier you get.
                    (I should tell you the about the time it took me 48, yes 48 eggs, in cooking school to flip an over easy..... of course I was left with a huge pan to use, on purpose, oh well, that's another story)

                    1. re: cstout

                      I think what you are dealing with here is an unfamiliarity with ingredients, and you can't get a familiarity with them until you use them.

                      I'm no saying go to culinary school, but are there any demo classes or short classes you can take to observe?

                      I learned to cook Chinese because I had chinese roomates- sometimes you have to have someone introduce you to the foods. I would bet that youtube could serve a similar function.

                  2. I'm curious why you want to "invent"? Asian or anything. If you're winging it on, say, Italian, it's likely that you have a solid background of cooking those dishes so it's not really inventing but just tweaking recipes. After decades of eating Asian food, I've only just starting cooking. The seasonings are myriad and often subtle. One of those sum of the parts things. I don't have the sophistication of palate that I could even begin to distinguish all the components. As an example, here's Andrea Nguyen's pho bo recipe:


                    I followed it 100% and it made the best soup OR pho that I'd ever had. If you don't want to buy Asian cookbooks maybe you live somewhere that has a decent library and you can check out a bunch. Regarding techniques, basics or convenience items, you can probably do some searching here.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: c oliver

                      pho bo recipe....that sounds easy to make. The recipe got sent to my Chow recipe hidey hole...thanks. Yes, I need to get the basic techniques down..much to study about that. Thanks for the recipe.