From light-to-dark, soy sauce comes in different intensities and proves to be an integral part of Asian cooking. Combine it with brown sugar and vinegar to make an umami-rich marinade for your weekday dinners. Kikkoman has a pretty great variant.
Made from fermented anchovies, salt and water, fish sauce is one of the key (and indispensable) ingredients used in any Asian kitchen. Essential for seasoning, marinating and flavouring, this pungent (smells fishy, of course) and intensely flavoured sauce should be used in strict moderation.
Chinese counterpart of the good old BBQ sauce, Hoisin sauce, works as a perfect glaze on everything meat. Made from a mix of Asian spices and ground soybean, hoisin sauce is thick, pungent and sweet-and-salty in taste. Kikkoman, again, does it best.
Vegetables & Herbs
Bok Choy (or Pak Choi)
Bird’s Eye Chilli
Galangal (Thai Ginger)
Originally from Indonesia, galangal helps add a whole lot of flavour, aroma and spice to any curry or stir-fry (particularly in Thai cuisine). An estranged cousin of the ginger family, replacing this with ginger in your Asian dishes might not be the best idea, for you will loose that strong citrus scent that comes with this root. But do use it in your Thai pastes, curries or to whip up that warm and delicious bowl of Tom Kha Gai! (Thai galangal and coconut milk soup).
Floral and lemony, kaffir lime leaves are a fabulously fragrant addition to your pantry. Not just Asian, these tough-texture lime leaves can add that zest to just about anything you cook! We recommend you try an Indian style chicken curry infused with lime leaves and bird’s eye chilli and see how it goes.
Condiments & Spices
Also known as fermented soybeans paste, Miso is an integral ingredient in Japanese cooking. Commonly used as a seasoning paste, add Miso to your dishes to get that instant umami-kick! Miso paste usually comes in white (shiro), yellow (shishu) and red (Miso) colours; each of them with different intensities.
Freshly Ground White Pepper
Replace the regular black pepper with freshly ground white pepper in your Asian dishes for more earthy and aromatic flavours.
Rice Wine (Mirin)
The Chinese five-spice powder is an aromatic mix of star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns and cinnamon (dominated by the sweet flavours of cinnamon and star anise). This one can be used an excellent spice-rub for fatty meats such as duck and pork. Originally used in Chinese cooking, five-spice powder is also commonly found in north and south-Indian kitchens.
Elaborately used in Chinese cooking, the higher smoking point of peanut oil makes it ideal for deep-fries and stir-fries. Yum!
Rice is often served as a neutral side along with other stir-fries, curries and dishes. Keep your pantry stocked with long-grain (for Chinese stuff) and short-grain rice (for Japanese sticky rice, sushi etc).