Banana Leaves - Long green leaves used to wrap food before steaming, frying or grilling, or as a plate decoration. Dip into boiling water for 2 minutes to soften if using for wrapping.
Barbecued Roast Pork (Char Sieu) - Available from Chinese roast meat specialists.
Beancurd Cake, Dried (Tau Kwa) - Bought in squares from Asian food stores.
Beancurd Skins, Dried (Tau Fu Juk) - The skin that forms on heated soybean milk is dried on bamboo mats to form soft, translucent sheets, sold fresh or frozen in Asian food stores. Use for wrapping foods before steaming or frying.
Blachan - Dried shrimp paste with a pungent smell; when cooked it gives a distinctive aromatic tang. To use, either toast or grind and fry with onions. Available in butter-like blocks, it should be stored in a screw-topped jar.
Candlenuts (Buah Keras) - Used to thicken sauces and add creaminess and a nutty flavor. If unobtainable, substitute with macadamia nuts.
Chilies, Dried Red (Cili Kering) - Soak in water for a few hours, then blend or pound with a little of the soaking water to make a reddish paste. If unobtainable, substitute fresh red chilies.
Curry Leaves (Daun Kari) - Small dark green leaves, available fresh or dried, often used in fish curries.
Five-Spice Powder - A popular Chinese seasoning made of ground star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper.
Lemongrass (Serai) - A fresh, tough reed grass with a strong lemon fragrance. Peel back to use only the tender white stalk. Slice and pound before use.
Noodles, Fresh Rice (Kueh Teow) - Flat, glossy white noodles known as pho in Vietnam, kueh teow in Malaysia and hor fun in China. Available from Chinese food stores, cut or uncut.
Palm Sugar (Gula Melaka) - Brownish-black
rolls of tree sap, sold in some Asian food stores. Break off a piece and
dissolve in a little water, with a pandan leaf if you have one. Simmer
until the sugar has melted, then strain. If unobtainable, substitute
brown sugar with a touch of golden syrup.
Pandan Leaf - Long, thin leaves used to add
a fresh, lightly floral flavor to sugar syrups, custards and desserts.
Shrimps, Dried (Udang Kering) - Should be a
bright orange-pink. Soak in a little hot water for 10 minutes before
cooking. Drain and toss into noodle dishes, stir-fries and rice.
Star Anise - Star-shaped rice with a
haunting aniseed flavor.
Tamarind (Assam Jawa) - Tamarind pulp is
the pressed pods of the tamarind tree. To make tamarind water, soak the
required amount in a little boiling water for 5 minutes, then squeeze
until dissolved, and strain. Add to a chicken soup or fish curry for a
tongue-curling lemon-lime sourness.
Water Spinach (Kang Kong) - A spinach-like
green with hollow stems (ong choy in Chinese). Popular in soups and