ASIAN PANTRY RAT STAPLES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAMBO SHOOTS – Crunchy in flavor with a refreshing taste, these are the edible young shoots of certain types of bamboo. Fresh are available in some Asian markets, although they are very hard to find.  The canned shoots are the preferred choice

 

BLACK FUNGUS – Also known as Cloud Ear in China and are usually available dried.  They need to be rehydrated with water for about 30 minutes.  They expand to twice their size.  They have little flavor, so discard the soaking water.  Used typically in Chinese dishes for its crunchy texture – much like we use pickles

 

BLACK BEANS – One of the most popular flavors of Southern Chinese cooking.  They are dried beans that have been fermented and they deliver a sharp, salty taste

 

CANDLENUTS – Very similar in consistency and appearance to macadamia nuts, they are used in Asian cooking to thicken curries and to impart a distinct flavoring.  They should never be eaten raw as the oil is thought to be toxic.  However, they are 100% fine when cooked

 

CHILIES  

Chili Flakes – Dried red chilies that have been crushed usually with the seeds, which is what imparts the most heat

 

Dried Red Chilies – There is a huge variety of dried chilies, all depending on the global region. They have to be rehydrated with water and by removing the seeds, the heat index will diminish

 

Chili powder – Finely ground dried chili and it can vary in hotness from mild to very fiery.  The Mexican variety is mixed with cumin and it is typically fairly mild and used most for flavoring and not chili spiciness

 

Small red chilies (Fresh) – 2” long and as a rule and they pack quite a kick.  Remove the seeds before cooking to reduce the heat index.   These are selected when dried to make chili powder and chili flakes

 

Medium red chilies (Fresh) – 4-6” long and most commonly used in in South East Asia.  There are hot but not too overpowering

 

Large green and red chilies (Fresh) – 6-8” long and are thicker than medium chilies and the mature red ones are very, very spicy

 

COCONUT MILK – Extracted from the flesh of fresh coconuts, after the cream has been pressed out and it is much thinner than coconut cream and optimal for cooking.  Don’t confuse it for the clear liquid that is the coconut juice.  Coconut cream is used in many Asian dishes and curries

 

CORIANDER LEAF – Known as Cilantro in the US and Latin countries

 

DAIKON – Very common in Japanese and Chinese cuisine – it is a white carrot shaped radish and very similar in flavor to regular radish

 

DASHI – Condiment used mostly in Japanese cuisine.  It is a combination of dried kelp and dried bonito flakes

 

DOENJANG – Korean Miso Paste – available red or white.  Both have the same flavor, but color dishes differently when cooking

 

FISH SAUCE – A thin, clear, light brown sauce.  It has various names, depending on the region.  Thai fish sauce is Nam Pla; Vietnamese is Nuoc Nam; Nam Pa in Laos and Cambodia and Shottsuru in Japan.  All have very little variation.  Since it is fermented fish and salt, it can be very salty, so go easy with mixing it with soy sauce

 

FIVE SPICE POWDER – Asian counterpart to the Indian Garam Masala.  The five spices utilized: ground star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon and Szechwan peppercorns.  Should be used sparingly so it doesn’t overpower other flavors

 

GALANGAL – A root similar in appearance to ginger, but it has a pinkish color and a distinct peppery flavor, which diminishes when used in cooking with other ingredients. In the US it can be hard to find fresh and you can purchase it in dried form through Amazon

 

GINGER AND GARLIC – Two of the most common flavors in all Asian cooking.  Garlic/ginger paste is already prepared and readily available in most Indian and Asian markets.  It is a time saver from having to grate the ginger and the garlic to make the paste.  Keeps refrigerated for quite a while,  just like mustard or ketchup

 

GOCHUJANG – A Korean savory, sweet and spicy red chili paste.  A fabulous and very versatile condiment which brings out the Umami in food and has a myriad of uses, ribs, pasta sauces and even roasted veggies – not to be confused with Doenjang

 

GOLDEN MOUNTAIN SAUCE – A thin, salty and spicy sauce used predominantly in Thai cooking.  I use it quite bit in Asian marinades and sometimes in Asian slaw dressing

 

HOISIN SAUCE – This sauce hails from China and the ingredients are fermented soy beans, garlic, sugar and some other Asian spices.  It is a thick, brown-reddish sauce with a sweet-spicy taste and used as a dipping sauce and in cooking

 

KECAP MANIS – Also known as sweet soy sauce.  It’s thick, dark and sweet – mostly used in South East Asian cooking.  It is quite viscous and has the consistency of molasses

 

LEMON GRASS – A long-like thick grass that has a very tough outer exterior.  The outer layers have to be removed to get to the white interior.  The flavor of lemongrass is unmistakable and used in South East Asian cooking, Philipino, Thai and Vietnamese cooking.  It has the most incredible citrus aroma and it has no substitute

 

LIME LEAVES – Also known as Kefir leaves and they are widely used in Thai and South East Asian cuisine, as well as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.  They come from the lime tree and they are used in the same way as bay leaves are used in the West.  They are hard to get in some parts and can be bought dried, but they don’t pack as much lime flavor as fresh

 

MISO PASTE –  The red and white variety are both sold.  Miso is to Asian cooking what mustard is to French cuisine.  It has many uses and its mild, fermented flavor boosts many dishes, from sauces to marinades, glazes and dressings.  It keeps refrigereted for a very long time

 

MUSHROOMS VARIETALS

Chinese Black mushroom – They come in the dried variety, as they are known for their distinct woody and smoky flavor and have to be rehydrated in water and the same applies to all dried mushrooms.  They are hardly ever eaten raw, as they are flavorless that way.  Don’t use the water as it will have a lot of sediment

 

Straw mushrooms – Called such because they are grown in straw and have globe shaped caps.  They are stemless and have a mushy consistency; usually blackish in color and they widely available in cans.  They need to be drained and rinsed well before cooking with them

 

Shiitake mushrooms – By far my favorite mushroom.  Closely related to the black Chinese mushroom, they originate in Japan but now are readily available all over the world.  They grow in the bark of a type of oak tree and they available dried or fresh.  They have a fleshy texture with a rich, smoky flavor and aroma

 

NORI – Most common form of seaweed used in Japanese and Korean cooking.  It comes in paper thin dried sheets and keeps for a long time in an air tight container in the fridge and even longer in the freezer

 

OYSTER SAUCE – This is a silky smooth brown sauce.  It has a slight sweet taste and although it is made from oysters and soy sauce it doesn’t impart any fish flavor when used

 

PLUM SAUCE – This sweet-sour, jam-like sauce, used mostly as a dipping sauce for Peking duck and spring rolls.  Made from plums, sugar, garlic, vinegar, ginger and other spices

 

RICE VINEGAR – Different from Mirin, as it is a delicate, pale yellow, mild vinegar made from fermented rice.  It brings out the Umami flavors in Asian cooking

 

RICE WINE TYPES

Chinese – Normally referred to as Xiao Xing (or Shaosing) and it is amber in color with a rich, sweetish taste.  Almost like a very mild flavored sherry wine.  (It can be substituted with dry sherry wine that is been diluted with water)

 

Mirin – (sometimes called Aji-Mirin) – It is a Japanese rice wine, almost like sweet sherry.  It differs from Rice Vinegar as it is slightly sweet and mildly acidic with very low alcohol content

 

Sake – Made from fermented rice and it comes clear, which is the filtered type or unfiltered and it has a milky appearance

 

SRIRACHA – A Thai chili sauce that packs a punch made with chili peppers, distilled vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic

 

SWEET CHILI SAUCE – Sweet and amazing.  The best brands out there are Mae Ploy and Lingams

 

SAMBAL OELEK – Paste and sauce made from fresh red chilies.  It’s mashed and mixed with salt, garlic and vinegar and it is typically quite spicy

 

SCZCHUAN PEPPERCORNS – Brownish red and they are not hotter than regular black peppercorns.  However they do have a mouth numbing quality around the mouth

 

SESAME OIL – Amber in color and very aromatic, typically comes toasted.  Usually made from white sesame seeds and it has a very strong, rich and nutty flavor, so use sparingly.  It is used widely for flavoring in Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean and South East Asian and it is not used for cooking.  Store in a cool, dark place and not in the fridge as it will turn cloudy

 

SESAME SEEDS

White – Used widely all over Asia for their flavor and high protein content. White are the most common, toasted and crushed and used both savory and sweet and also a variety of pastes (Tahini, widely used in Middle Eastern Food)

Black – Have more earthy taste than the white, they are used more as a garnish

 

SOY SAUCE – Made from fermented soy beans, roasted grains and salt.  There is dark and light soy sauce available

 

SHOYU SOY SAUCE – Japanese Soy and it is much lighter in color, less salty and a tad sweet

 

TAMARIND – An essential flavor in many Asian and Indian dishes.  The tamarind tree has brown pods which is the fruit.  It is pretty tart in flavor and sold in bottles or jars as a concentrate

 

THAI BASIL – It differs from regular Basil because of its sweet, anise-like flavor and it has purple stems

 

TOFU – Also called Bean Curd and it is the processed extract from soy beans.  Excellent source of protein and it is available in the soft kind (called silken tofu) and the hard type, used mainly in stir fry’s.  They come in blocks packed in water.  Once opened, change the water daily and it should be used within a few days

 

WASABI – Also known as Japanese horseradish and it is a pungent and extremely spicy, green paste made from the wasabi root, indigenous to Japan

 

WATER CHESTNUTS – White fleshed roots prized for their semi-sweet and crisp taste, which is retained once cooked.  Available fresh but the canned variety is the most common

 

 

Pantry Rat
Assign a menu in the Left Menu options.