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Pantry Basics

Must-Have Sauces and Spices for Any Asian Dish
January 25, 2013 • Posted by Christina Fong

It’s a Saturday night and you suddenly find yourself in the mood to whip up an Asian-styled meal, so you check your pantry only to find you’re missing key ingredients! If you want to incorporate a lot more Asian flavors into your cooking, a well-stocked pantry is an important first step.

Where should you start? With this list:

Soy Sauce is one of the oldest condiments in the world that comes in light, dark and low sodium. It’s commonly used for marinades, stir-fries and dipping.

Sesame Oil is very flavorful and best used as a seasoning rather than cooking oil. A few drops of it are typically all a dish needs.

Ginger is an absolute must when it comes to Asian cuisine. Its spicy and zesty flavor gives many dishes their fresh taste.

Hoisin Sauce is a deliciously sweet, thick sauce with a subtle spiciness to it and works great as a marinade or dipping sauce in Chinese dishes.

Black Bean Sauce is another thick Chinese sauce that is salty rather than sweet but also has very bold flavors best used in stir-fries.

Teriyaki Sauce is different in Japan than it is in the U.S. As a result, people usually prefer one over the other due to differing tastes. Store-bought or homemade, the main ingredient in both is soy sauce.

Cumin is a very popular spice used in South and Southeast Asian dishes and is the main ingredient in curry powder. It’s used in curry pastes as well as marinades.

Cardamom has a distinct taste with a strong lemony flavored mixed with spicy, bitter, and sweet tastes. It’s a common ingredient in various curries.

Turmeric is a yellow spice that’s also used in many curries such as yellow curry and curry rice. Its fragrance has hints of orange and ginger.

Mirin is a mildly sweet rice wine that is used mainly in Japanese dishes. It’s particularly good at hiding the pungent smell of certain fishes.

Dashi is a Japanese stock that’s used in many soups and sauces. There are various versions made from ingredients such as kelp, dried bonito flakes, shiitake mushrooms, and more.

Ponzu is similar to vinaigrettes, made up of citrus juices and soy sauce. While they’re available bottled and ready-made, many recommend making it from scratch.

This is of course only a sampling of commonly used spices and sauces. There are many more left to explore and add to your pantry. What else would you add to our list?

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