The following Asian Cooking Ingredients'
Glossary entries cover basic recipes and key Southeast Asian ingredients
called for throughout this website. All of the ingredients can be found
in Asian markets or in the Asian section of well-stocked food stores.
Annatto Seeds - The Spanish
introduced these triangular seeds of a Latin American tree to the
Philippines. They impart a reddish brown color and fragrant flavor to
Bamboo Shoots - The ivory to white
shoots of the bamboo plant are sold sliced, chopped, shredded, or whole
in cans. Some Asian markets sell the same processed shoots in bulk,
usually displayed immersed in water in large plastic buckets. Fresh
shoots, only rarely seen outside of Asia, are toxic if not properly
pre-boiled, a lengthy process. Drain and rinse the canned shoots well
Bean Sauce - Made from crushed soy beans,
barley, sesame oil, sugar and salt. Do not confuse with ground bean
sauce or chili bean paste which are sometimes labeled as bean sauce -
read the ingredients list to make sure you are buying the right thing.
Black Beans - A type of soy bean,
available dried, fermented, salted and canned in brine. Do not confuse
with turtle beans used in South American cooking, which can also be
called black beans.
Chile Paste - Cooks in Southeast Asia make
use of pastes that combine roasted fresh or dried chiles with a variety
of other seasonings. Various commercial chile pastes are sold, but a
good chile paste is also easy to make at home.
How to make and prepare Thai Roaste Chile Paste
Chinese Broccoli (gai larn) - A green
vegetable with slightly leathery leaves and thick, green stalks. Both
the leaves and stalks are used.
Chinese Five Spice - A common seasoning
used in Chinese cooking, containing star anise, fennel, cinnamon, cloves
and Sichuan pepper.
Chinese Rice Wine or Cooking Wine (Shao
Hsing) - Made from glutinous rice in Shao Hsing in southern China. This
amber-colored liquid has a rich sweetish taste. Use dry sherry if
Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk - Extracted from
the flesh of fresh coconuts. The cream is thick and almost spreadable.
The milk is extracted after the cream has been pressed out and is
thinner. Good-quality unsweetened canned coconut milk, with an excellent
ratio of cream to milk, is a welcome shortcut when time is at a premium.
Do not shake the can before opening. Once open, first scrape off the
thick mass on top, which is the cream. The next layer is an opaque white
liquid, which is coconut milk, and finally there is a clear liquid,
which is thin coconut milk.
Crisp Fried Shallots - Deep-fried red
Asian shallot flakes used as a garnish in South-east Asia. Available
from Asian food stores in packets or tubs. Store in the freezer.
Dashi - A basic Japanese stock made with
dried kelp and dried bonito (a fish). Available in flakes or granules.
Add hot water to make a stock.
Dried Mushrooms - One of the most popular
dried mushrooms is shiitake. Dried Chinese mushrooms are also popular
(whole or sliced).
Enoki Mushrooms - Tiny white Japanese
mushrooms on long, thin stalks growing in clumps. Do not cook for long.
Fish Sauce - A brown, salty sauce with a
'fishy' smell. Small fish are salted and fermented - the run off is fish
Galangal - A rhizome available fresh,
sliced in brine, dried slices in packets, and powdered. Soak the dried
slices in warm water for 30 minutes before use.
Hoisin Sauce - A sweet, thick sauce made
from fermented soy beans flavored with garlic and five-spice powder.
Kaffir Lime Leaves - Fragrant leaves from
the kaffir lime tree. The dark green, double leaves are available fresh
Kecap Manis - A thick, sweet soy sauce
used in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines. If unavailable, use soy sauce
sweetened with a little soft brown sugar.
Lap Choong (Chinese sausage) - Dried
sausages with a sweetish smoky flavor. Made of pork meat, they are not
to be confused with a similar sausage, gum gun yuen, which contains duck
and pork liver. Do not eat raw: stir-fry or steam. Keeps for 3 weeks in
plastic wrap in the fridge. Can be frozen.
Mirin - A mild, low-alcohol form of sake,
this rice cooking wine lends a sweetness to sauces, grilled dishes and
glazes. Often used in Japanese cuisine.
Miso - A protein-rich paste made from
cooked, mashed, salted, fermented soy beans and grains, usually barley
or rice. It varies in color, texture and saltiness. The color can range
from brown, light brown, yellow and white. The darker pastes have been
matured longer and are saltier and more pungent than the lighter ones.
Mizuna - A Japanese, leafy vegetable with
juicy well-flavored leaves. Suitable for salads and stir-fries.
Nori - Dried seaweed that comes in sheets
or soft shreds, plain or roasted. Quick toasting over a naked flame
freshens the nori and produces a nutty flavor. The sheets are usually
used for making sushi rolls.
Palm Sugar - A rich, aromatic sugar from
the boiled down sap of several kinds of palm tree. Thai palm sugar is
lighter in color and more refined than the Indonesian or Malay versions.
If unavailable, use soft brown sugar.
Polygonum Leaves - Known also as
Vietnamese mint and in Malaysia as laksa leaves or daun kesom,
these slender green and purple leaves have an exotic, herbaceous flavor.
They are added fresh to noodle dishes in Malaysia and to salads in Laos,
Thailand and Vietnam, where they are called rau ram.
Pickled Ginger - Fresh, thin, pink slices
of ginger preserved in brine. Used in Japanese rice dishes and as a
garnish. A good palate cleanser with a very sharp flavor.
Rice Paper Wrappers - These round or
square thin sheets made from rice flour, water and salt are bought dried
in sealed packets and will keep indefinitely, but handle with care as
they are very brittle. Briefly soak them in warm water before use.
Dried Rice Papers (Banh Trang)
Rice Vinegar - A clear, pale yellow, mild
and sweet-tasting vinegar made from rice.
Sake - A Japanese wine made by fermenting
cooked ground rice mash, used for cooking and drinking, depending on the
Sambal Oelek - A hot paste made from fresh
red chilies, mashed and mixed with salt and vinegar or tamarind.
Sesame Oil - A concentrated oil from
toasted white sesame seeds used sparingly for flavor. Keep in a cool,
Shrimp Paste - A pungent paste made from
fermented prawns. It can be pink and soft or dark and hard. Keep wrapped
in plastic and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container to
reduce the smell. Always fry or roast before using.
Sichuan Peppercorns - A Chinese spice made
from the red berries of the prickly ash tree and sold whole or ground.
The flavor is woody and it has a strong, hot, numbing aftertaste. Often
the powder is dry-fried to bring out the flavors.
Star Anise - A star-shaped Chinese fruit
made up of eight segments. They are sun-dried until hard and brown and
have a pronounced aniseed aroma and sweet aniseed flavor.
Straw Mushrooms - These small, unopened,
button-shaped mushrooms are very high in protein. They are most commonly
found canned - drain and rinse them well before using.
Tamarind - A large, brown, bean-like pod
with a fruity, tart flavor. Available as a dried shelled fruit, a block
of compressed pulp (usually with seeds), or as a puree or concentrate.
It is often added to curries.
Thai Basil - The leaves of Thai basil are
smaller and darker than regular basil and are used extensively in Asian
cooking. The stems and younger leaves have a purplish tinge and the
flowers are pink. The flavor of the leaves is a blend of aniseed and
Tofu - Once opened, tofu will keep for up
to 5 days in the refrigerator covered in water which should be changed
every 2 days.
Fried tofu puffs - Tofu cubes which are
deep-fried until puffed and golden. Can be frozen.
Silken firm Tofu - It has a smooth,
custard-like texture and is quite firm. When blended, the texture is
similar to a heavy cream or yoghurt. Can be deep-fried and used in
Silken Tofu - With a custard-like texture,
when blended the texture is similar to cream and typically acts as a
substitute for milk, cream, mayonnaise and eggs. Due to its delicate
consistency, silken tofu does not stir-fry well as it breaks down easily
when handled. Often used cubed in soups.
Sriracha Sauce - Named for the
seaside Thai town in which it originated, this bottled, hot or mild,
sweet-tart all-purpose sauce is made from red chiles and resembles a
light-colored ketchup. Keep in mind that even the so-called mild
Sriracha saue is quite hot.
Firm Tofu - holds its shape when cooking.
Suitable for stir-frying, pan-frying and baking. Can be crumbled, sliced
and cubed. Often used as a meat substitute. Blending is not recommended.
Wasabi Paste - A pungent paste often used
as an accompaniment in Japanese food. Most often, wasabi paste is made
from horseradish powder, mustard powder and other ingredients for color.
It is extremely hot, so use sparingly. Also available as a powder.
Water Chestnuts - Small, rounded, crisp
vegetables, usually sold canned. They give a crunchy texture to many
Asian ditches. Any unused water chestnuts will keep fresh for four days
if immersed in water in the fridge: change the water daily.
Water Spinach - A leafy vegetable with
long, pointed leaves and pale, hollow stems.