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Apr 18, 2011 05:22 PM

Cooking Asian Food

I’m looking for some easy recipes and basic ingredients needed to learn how to cook Thai, Chinese and Japanese food. Asian dishes are by far my favorite, but I’ve never tried making anything other than stir fry.

If you could share some tips, your favorite no-fail recipes, a basic pantry shopping list or even your own learning experiences, I would greatly appreciate it.

In our household, nearly every dish contains meat in some form, so please no recipes I can’t at least modify to include chicken, steak or fish. :)

I look forward to any and all replies!

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  1. Welcome to Chowhound!

    The search function can be finicky, so let me point you to some terrific Asian cooking threads:

    The wonderful thing about these three books is that the Chow community cooked together from them, so you can read lots of reviews and tips.


    6 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      Thank you for those resources! I’m always shy about buying cookbooks unless I know others have tried and enjoyed the recipes, I’ve have many bad experiences.

      I did a quick search and didn’t find much, but I’m new here and still learning how navigate the site. Thanks for the warm welcome!

      1. re: SerenasKitchen

        Anything homemade always tastes better. Start with basic recipes that call for few ingredients. A simple teriyaki sauce with chicken tastes great with nicely cooked short grain rice. If you live in a city with an Asian grocery store that carries some Japanese products, you should be able to find bonito flakes (dried flaked tuna), kobu (kelp), wakame (another type of seaweed) and a white or light yellow miso paste. These four ingredients, plus your choice of tofu, mushrooms and green onions can produce a wonderful bowl of miso soup that kicks the butt of any instant packet. Having these ingredients on hand is also helpful for making other Japanese dishes.

        There are many simple Chinese recipes that are easy and quick to master. I find the trick with Chinese cuisine is temperature. Make sure your wok or pan is fiery hot and you'll be able to attain the right tastes and textures for meats and veggies. The rest is timing and practice.

        Thai is probably the biggest challenge, mostly due to the fact that some ingredients are tough to find. The curry and seasoning pastes/blends taste best when made from scratch, but some ingredients are simply impossible to find, unless you live in a city with a sizeable Thai community. Fortunately, there are some high quality pre-made pastes that you can use to at least get your feet wet. At an absolute minimum, find a high quality fish sauce. I could go on and on, but I'll stop here. Good luck!

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          I’ve been using a big bag of mid-quality short grain rice I purchased from Costco, but it always comes out a bit dry. Do you have any suggestions? Just buy new rice maybe? I use a rice cooker, but with a quick search on Amazon, I get the feeling I need a bamboo steamer for great rice.

          Chicken is my favorite meat, so I’ll certainly pull up a teriyaki sauce recipe for starters. I use to find most of my stuff, but if anyone has a favorite, I’d love to try it :)

          Thank you for the tips, I’ve added all of that to my shopping list! I might end up ordering some of it off the web since my only resource is Whole Foods right now. I hope they at least have fish sauce.

          Thanks once again!

          1. re: SerenasKitchen

            If it's dry, add more water to it. It's possible that the rice you have is a bit old which I find tends to need a bit more water than "new crop" rice.

            Also, I would recommend trying out one cusine at a time. Chinese is easiest to cook, then start adapting vietnamese/thai recipes, then Japanese/Korean, etc.

            1. re: SerenasKitchen


              This site and cooking show has pretty easy and good Japanese recipe. She also shows an easy way to make short-grain rice on the stove.

              What kind of rice cooker do you have? Maybe it's not a very good one if the rice is coming out dry. Is the short grain rice a Japanese brand? You can always add a little bit of more water to it, but be careful that it doesn't get mushy. I have a Zojirushi Induction Rice Cooker that makes great rice! It's expensive, but if you use it all the time it's worth the price. You can make rice porridge, beans, steel cut oatmeal and a lot of other stuff in it too.

              One of my favorite ways of serving Teriyaki Chicken is in a bowl on top of rice with nori dipped in soy sauce between the layers of rice :



              1. re: SerenasKitchen

                If the rice comes out dry, use a bit more water. The markings on the pot are just a guide line; you can deviate from them as needed. A simple rice cooker just cooks the rice on high until most of the water is absorbed. At that point the temperature in pot starts to rise and trips the thermostat, switching to the resting period.

        2. yes, nice to have a new 'hound here! Do you have an Asian grocery store nearby? I see you live in Colorado but your profile doesn't say where...those stores usually will have better products you might need for recipes. Looks like you enjoy Thai's a recipe for Spicy Thai Basil Chicken...I've made it a number of times and it's really great! The kaffir lime leaves are sometimes in the freezer section of any Asian food store, just in case this recipe looks good to you...have FUN cooking Asian foods...I love them too!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Val

            Mmm, that recipe looks great! Thanks for sharing :) I don’t live near an Asian grocer, I was hoping I could find all I need at the Whole Foods across the street though. I’ll have to check and see if they have the lime leaves **fingers crossed**, though I kind of doubt they will. I don't own a car right now, so I can't really drive to an Asian market anywhere. :(

            I’m heading out for a shopping trip in two days and hope to pick up what I need for my first attempt at Asian cooking. I'll be making this one if they happen to have the lime leaves...

            1. re: SerenasKitchen

              I'd be pretty amazed if Whole Foods didn't have everything you need. Our nearest is 40 minutes away and I can't decided if I'd like one closer or not. If it were closer I'd be food-poor. One thing, though, I DO live relatively near several Asian markets and they are most definitely much more price-friendly than Whole Foods.

          2. I really love Japanese food. If you like meet you should definately try oyakodon. One thing I really love (though meatless) is miso soup. It's not very traditional, but I like to add a tbsp of tahini to my soup. I usually use 1 tbsp of tahini, 1 heaping tbsp of sweet white miso, and 1 cup homemade dashi. Remember not to boil the miso! For veggies is miso soup, I like cubes sweet potatoes and wakame.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MarleneDietrich

              I’ve never made miso soup, but I do love it! Thanks for your tips :)
              Oyakodon looks amazing, and simple enough, thanks for the recommendation! I’ve added the ingredients you mentioned to a general shopping list, do you have a favorite Dashi recipe you wouldn’t mind sharing?

              1. re: SerenasKitchen

                I always use instant Dashi, which can be found in some supermarkets & all Asian markets. It's quite flavorful & allows me to whip up a good Miso soup in moments. I always have it in the pantry (& miso & tofu in the fridge) for that reason. Just make sure what you buy is just the instant "dashi", & NOT instant miso soup. Big difference. :)

                1. re: SerenasKitchen

                  If you want to make your own Dashi, it is super simple and can be done in less than 30 minutes (if need be). All you need is kombu, ginger, and bonito flakes (and you can omit the bonito flakes if you want to make it vegetarian). All of these can be found at WF, but if you have an Asian Market near by, definitely go there for them. You'll get twice as much for half the price!

                  Just put a piece of kombu about the size of a playing card in a saucepan with 4 cups water, a knob of ginger sliced, and turn the heat on to medium. (Alternatively you could soak the kombu in the water overnight which some people say gives a better flavor). When the water starts to simmer, remove the kombu (it can be chopped up and used for salads at this point.) Bring the water to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat and put in a handful of bonito flakes. Allow them to steep until they sink (around 15 minutes), then strain and you have fresh Dashi.

                  It can all be done in under 30 minutes and the first time I made miso soup from homemade dashi it was a revelation. I know most people use instant but tasting both side by side is like the difference between campbell chicken soup and homemade chicken soup with homemade broth. Plus dashi doesn't take nearly as long as chicken stock!

                  What's nice about Japanese food is you don't need to keep around too many pantry staples to whip things up. Some miso, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, and dashi ingredients and you're set.

              2. Did you know that a popular Japanese dish (esp. at home) is a beef and potato stew?


                Cooking with Dog has a number of other good Japanese cooking demos.

                9 Replies
                1. re: paulj


                  Do you know of any other cooking demos for Korean food?


                  1. re: lilmomma

                    lilmomma, you might check out:
                    She has loads of great videos on youtube also. Hope you'll forgive me for butting in to paulj's response....<tiptoeing away>............ ^o^

                    1. re: Val

                      I love maangchi too! I especially like her easy Kimchi recipe.

                    2. re: lilmomma

                      I like Maangchi too. Aeri's Kitchen is another good one - I think she's especially nice for cooks new to Korean food b/c her site is not as encyclopedic (i.e., not as overwhelming as some of the other sites can be for a novice).

                        1. re: BombayUpWithaTwist

                          yes, will check it out also! thanks!

                          1. re: Val

                            you're both welcome :-) I've tried a lot of her recipes and we've liked almost everything - can't really think of onethat we didn't enjoy. I did have trouble making the fried anchovy side-dish, but I need to give it another go. Aeri's recipes for haddock soup, tteok galbi, and fish jeon are now staples at our house. I also like all the veggie side-dishes - come in handy during veggies CSA season!

                    3. re: paulj

                      Thank you! I didn’t think of looking on YouTube **face palm** She has some great videos!

                      1. re: paulj

                        Paul, I just linked Cooking with Dog too. I think the name is hilarious!

                      2. Your best bet is to get yourself to your local chinese supermarket. There are loads dotted all around the UK, just a matter of googling it or asking someone. Once you find one, get yourself down there & be adventurous! & dont be afraid to ask the staff. Get yourself the basics to start... rice wine vinegar, light & dark soy sauce, chinese rice vinegar, sesame oil, shaoxing rice wine, a wok, bamboo steamer & the rest you can get as you go along. Herbs & spices will come in larger packs & will be lots cheaper than supermarkets. Frozen raw prawns & gambas are ridiculousely cheap compared supermarkets too. Get yourself some chinese pork dumplings. Very nice, just boil for 15 mins but be careful, they stick easily. Then place under a hot grill in a heatproof oiled dish to brown. You can get whole crispy aromatic duck's (I get the bone in one) which cook from frozen in the oven in 45 mins exactly the same as your take away for approx £12 (my local charges £7 just for a 1/4) & then get you frozen pancakes for your duck & the hoisin sauce. Some sauces are a thick concentrate which you will need to water down a little so taste first. Frozen packs of very finely sliced season beef are great for stir fries & curries, the chinese curry pastes are excellent, you just add hot water to get the consistency you want. Fry off chunky cut onions, mushrooms & whatever meat or seafood you want, add the sauce & some frozen peas & your done. Get some spring roll wrappers & make your own spring rolls, just google an authentic recipe. There are places like Wing Yip, Wai Yee Hong, Hoo Hing, Oriental Mart, The Asian Cookshop & Pat's Chung Ying. Just google them & find out where they are.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: psycho_fluff

                          You’re right, I should just find my way down to an Asian market. I live in the US, but there’s plenty around here too. I just moved down to the city from the Mountains a year or so ago, so I haven’t checked them out yet. Whole Foods isn’t likely to have everything I need to get started.

                          I think with your list, I just finished off my shopping list. Now to sit down and spend today looking up authentic recipes :) I just ordered a few recommended cookbooks from Amazon, I’ll make do ‘till they get here. I can’t wait to get started!

                          My only fear is that I’m cooking for two, and my fiancé is a critic when it comes to food… Wish me luck!

                          1. re: SerenasKitchen

                            Im sure you will do fine. Do you have any Asian friends who could give you a few lessons or pointers? Or maybe look up lessons in your area. If they are a bit out of your price range, then ask for money towards it for a birthday gift.