Must have ingredients for Asian cooking

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Evilgrin

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This was starting to overflow in another thread so i thought i would start a new one.

Soy sauce. Yeah there are tons of them and some are WAY better than the classic Kikkoman. You have dark, thin and tamari just to keep it rather simple. There are Japanese and Chinese (mostly). Naturally brewed and chemically brewed but i only use natural. Tamari is just soy sauce made without wheat or almost no wheat.

My favorites for the money
Lee Kum Kee Double Fermented https://us.lkk.com/en/Products/retail/soysauces/double-fermented-soy-sauce
Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark https://us.lkk.com/en/Products/retail/soysauces/premium-dark-soy-sauce
Kikkoman reduced sodium tamari or the Gluten Free Soy sauce. Both are excellent for the money and contain no wheat. Flavor is stronger than most off the shelf brands. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Kikkoman...Purpose-Seasoning-Soy-Sauce-10-fl-oz/34276996

Vinegar
I use 2 mainly, Korean brown rice vinegar and Chinese black vinegar. You cant make real Kung Pao sauce without good black vinegar. Its also EXCELLENT mixed with soy sauce for dipping.

Look for Zhenjiang vinegar made by Heng Shun. Its the best you will probably find in the USA. Cheaper ones are ok for cooking.

The Korean rice vinegar is good for things like sweet pickled cabbage and radish. That seasoned garbage they sell at large markets plain sucks

Rice Wine
Yeah we can make our own i know i know but good aged Chinese rice wine is not quite the same when making a big pot of 3 cup chicken.

I also use Mirin aka sweet sake. Lotte sells one that is fairly cheap and very good. Most Asian market have this one its made in Korea http://www.myasiangrocer.com.au/lotte-cooking-wine-mirin-500ml/

Fish Sauce
I know lots of people use cheap Squid or 3 Crabs brand but those are really bottom shelf. They are loaded with sugars, artificial stuff and hydrolyzed wheat proteins.

Fish sauce should only have 3 things in it. Anchovies, salt and water. The best by far comes from Vietnam although the MegaChef fish sauce from Thailand isn't too bad.

Red Boat 40n http://redboatfishsauce.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=42
New Town 60n...sorry cant find a good link...just look for 60n on the label
MegaChef Premium 30n http://www.megachefsauce.com/products_detail.aspx?id=3

Rice
Im pretty much a snob when it comes to rice but Botan and Kukuho Rose pink label are pretty good for medium gran rice. Both of those can be found at Walmart and even Costco. Costco has the best price on Kukuho ive seen anywhere. Either would satisfy most people. I keep the pink label on hand myself.

Koshihikari short grain is noticeably better quality even including the US grown stuff. Chances are you wont be able to get Japanese grown and if you can you will pay dearly for it.

This link has a few i find to be exceptional. Ive tried the top 3 and they are just plain excellent for USA grown rice. http://products.wismettacusa.com/categories/rice/

The only other rice i use is Jasmine. There are several good imports from Thailand. Take your pick. Jasmine and curry are made for each other. Basmatti if its an Indian curry but Jasmine works surprisingly well for that too.

Oyster Sauce
Panda and most of the others you see at the larger grocery stores are garbage. Very little oyster in them. They are just sweet with very little umami.

Get the good stuff, LKK Premium, MegaChef and Maekrua Brand all have 30% oyster extract or more. LKK is the original oyster sauce and made in the USA now also but it does have MSG. Gotta have it for real Chinese fried rice. :D

Hoisin sauce
Look for brands that lists sweet potato near the top of the list. That is what gives Hoisin its unmistakable flavor.

Im sure i missed some stuff and i tried to make sure the links were to safe websites. If you need a better link or pic just ask.
 
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Evilgrin

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Korean Pepper flakes (coarse)

I get Assi brand mostly. Great for making kimchi and they are really good for chilli or soups/stews too.

Korean Pepper Paste aka Gochujang.
Pretty much nothing can replace it. Haechandel is a really good brand just pay attention to the heat level. The VERY hot is pretty zippy. Its killer for sweet and spicy pork stirfry.
 
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Sesame oil. I thought I made a pretty good fried rice until I watched someone make a batch using sesame oil instead of peanut oil. MUCH better!
 

MaxStout

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Sesame oil, especially the dark variety. Great for stir-frying, but need to watch its smoke point. Adds a nice, nutty flavor.

Edit: beaten by one minute! (shakes tiny fist)
 
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Evilgrin

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The dark sesame oil from Japan is what i get. The large tins end up costling WAY less than the tiny bottles. These are around $15 at my market.


For frying i use either King or Gamma One rice bran oil. VERY high smoke point and its a healthier oil to use. Riceland sells gallons of it for around $12
 

TheMadKing

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Ginger, powdered and fresh, and +1 to sesame oil

hands down improved all my Asian food more than anything
 
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Evilgrin

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Try ginger paste. Fresh is best of course but the paste is pretty good. They even sell it with garlic.
 

Homercidal

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What about Lo Mien noodles? I love some good pork Lo Mien, and I've been thinking about trying to make it at home. We have been making stir fry a lot lately, and some noodles would be great with it!

What's the recommended noodle and cooking process for traditional noodles.
 
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Evilgrin

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Sauce for lo mein is typically just soy, sesame oil and a tiny bit of sugar. Real Chinese lo mein is a bit different. Fried sauce noodles is more authentic but its somewhat of an acquired taste. It uses a bean paste and sometimes oyster sauce.

This one looks pretty close to authentic. My favorite is with cabbage and pork with little heat to it. A little oyster sauce is nice too. http://thewoksoflife.com/2014/09/vegetable-lo-mein/

Lo mein noodles are just wheat noodles at the take out places. Boil them first and drain. Toss them with a little oil so they dont stick while they cool. Stirfry meat and veggies first. Then add the noodles. Its a little bit of a trick using enough oil without it turning out like a grease bomb or sticking to the pan.

A interesting twist is Kung Pao noodles. Just get the LKK Kung Pao sauce in place of some of the soy sauce. It adds a little zip but not much.
 

GilaMinumBeer

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Must haves for asian cooking are really dependent on the specific cuisine.

Soy sauce, Sweet Soy Sauce, Sambal, Red chilis, Hoisin, Rice Vinegar, Coconut Milk, Lime Leaf, Curry Leaf, Galangal, Lemon Grass, Black Mushroom, Pandan Leaf, Turmeric, sesame seed, sesame oil, Curry powder (red, yellow, and green), Rice (jasmin, basmati, glutinous), Rice flour, Cardamom, raw peanuts, and star Anise are all staples in our asian house for cooking.
 

z-bob

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What about Lo Mien noodles? I love some good pork Lo Mien, and I've been thinking about trying to make it at home. We have been making stir fry a lot lately, and some noodles would be great with it!

What's the recommended noodle and cooking process for traditional noodles.
Leftover spaghetti noodles or linguine comes pretty close. Stirfry your meat and vegetables with a little extra oil, then add the cold noodles and a little oyster sauce or whatever you like.
 

slym2none

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Soy (of course), then nam pla, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, rice wine for cooking, all the misos, and then I like the more exotic XO sauce, tiánmiànjiàng, and then some other more exotic stuff you can find at your local Chinese mart. Ask them, they can help you lots.
 
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Not mentioned, yet, i don't think: White pepper. A must have for Asian cooking.

A proper wok and burner, too. Can't get the "wok hei" without it.


Also, for Thai, Khao Kahu (toasted rice powder) is a must. In my opinion, store bought is fine.

Fresh citrus juices are always better than bottled (lime, lemon, etc...).
 

slym2none

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I don't consider a wok as an ingredient. It's a cooking utensil. I know it's favoured, but it still is NOT an ingredient.
 

Miraculix

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Beware of tricky labels....if I wanted sesame and soybean oil, I would've expected it to be titled that way....
Sneaky!

Yes, better read all the ingredients lists of the stuff you buy. The Asian guys also really like to sneak in large amounts of chemicals.
 
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Evilgrin

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I've taken a preference to lemon grass paste as well. Much easier to work with than actual lemon grass.
I grow my own lemon grass. Its simple to grow and freezes well. 5-6 fresh stalks at the market is enough to grow at least 40-50 stalks at home. Cut a small amount off the bottom. Top off most of the green top.

Put the bottom end in about an inch of water in a jar. In about 7-10 days you well see a new shoot come out the top and roots forming. Plant and pretty much forget until they are large enough to harvest.
 
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Evilgrin

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Sneaky!

Yes, better read all the ingredients lists of the stuff you buy. The Asian guys also really like to sneak in large amounts of chemicals.
Stick with Japanese, Malaysian, Korean and Thai brands when possible. Mainland Chinese and Vietnamese are the ones you have to pay close attention to. Quite a few products from Asian owned companies are now made here too. Even Chinese brands like LKK have products made here.

The absolute best ramen ive tried comes from Singapore. Its STELLAR if you like curry noodles. You could sell this stuff at a restaurant and i doubt anyone would know its a $3 pack of ramen. Its available in a whole grain noodle too which is also top shelf. Laksa, Singapore Curry and Chilli Crab flavors.

Prima Taste Singapore Curry LaMian. Add fried tofu puffs, precooked chicken thigh meat and some laksa leaf or cilantro. Its insanely good.

 
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Evilgrin

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For curry lovers

Mae Ploy or Maesri curry paste. Red and Panaeng are my favorites. Red is a bit hotter than Panaeng but not brutal. The tubs run about $5 at the markets and cans are under $2. The tub will last a long time in the fridge. They keep well. Neither have MSG or anything artificial in them.

Maesri is slightly less salty, sweeter and has no shrimp paste. Mae Ploy is saltier, contains no sugar but does have shrimp paste.

All you need is good coconut milk to prepare it. The "fat" floats to the top of the can. You use that fat to carefully "fry" the paste. Mae Ploy coconut milk is VERY good. It has no sugar or emulsifiers added. Those need to be avoided.

I dont care much for the curry powders unless i make them from scratch. Spice Island Red powder is ok but it is pretty hot and expensive. If you want to try making some from scratch look here. http://www.spice-mixes.com/curry-powder.html

Another option for mild Japanese/Korean curry is S&B (Japanese) or Ottogi (Korean). S&B is a roux brick and Ottogi is a powder with a thickener added. Both are super simple to prepare. The medium heat is pretty mild. The Vermont versions are mild and very slightly sweet.

Heat as well as flavor are GREATLY toned down compared to Indian and Thai curries. I am rather found of them occasionally with just a little Korean pepper flakes added to them. I grew up on the S&B Golden medium heat. Its available at most grocery stores. Even Walmart stocks it.
 
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Lemon grass paste?! I gotta have this.

I recently made peace with fresh ginger: store it in the freezer and then use your cheese grater. Easy perfect ginger shavings! Game changer.

EDIT: this is my new favorite thread, I am going to have to take a list of these recommended products to Uwajimaya.
 
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Evilgrin

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I few thing i make from scratch go in ice cube trays then frozen. When they are solid put in a bag. Now you have portions ready for later use.

Im lucky to have a massive Asian/International market not far from me. So i get things like fresh galangal, ginger and shallots pretty cheap. Indian markets have a better price on the shallots but oh well. Some stuff though is really hard to find so i have to drive down to China town.

Im heading down there tomorrow actually for some hard to find items. Its the only place in the entire city that stocks the Prima Taste LaMian, good black vinegar and Chu Hou paste. Killer restaurants too with authentic hot pots of flaming soups!!!

All those little side dishes (banchans) come with the meal. There are atleast a dozen and free refills.
 
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@Evilgrin , are one of those evil grins in that picture you? I'd say the one on the right........or it's in reference to the one behind. The one holding the fork in such a way that would make people nervous. :D
 
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Evilgrin

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Im not any of them. :D

BUT that is exactly what you would see in that restaurant. The food is great and you will see many Asians eating there. A block down the road is authentic Chinese food. Only place ive seen with real dan dan noodles and sichuan beef noodle soup.

I laughed when the waitress warned me it was spicy. They also have a dim sum brunch on the weekends that is top shelf.
 
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I dont care much for the curry powders unless i make them from scratch. Spice Island Red powder is ok but it is pretty hot and expensive. If you want to try making some from scratch look here. http://www.spice-mixes.com/curry-powder.html
Thanks for that site.

I'm not completely happy with my Singapore noodles recipe, and I know it's the curry powder. Time to make my own!
 
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Would you be willing to post what you have so far for Singapore noodles? It's a recent favorite at my neighborhood Chinese joint.

I am a super serious nerdy cook, but I have barely begun to study Chinese cuisine.
 
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gratus fermentatio

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http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/05/singapore-curry-noodles-stir-fry-recipe.html

The crew at seriouseats seems to be my first stop these days when trying to make something I'm unfamiliar with.
Thanks for the link! I've been looking for a decent Singapore Noodles recipe for a long time & there are several different versions, this looks very close to what I've been trying to reproduce from a particular restaurant's version. I will definitely be making this soon!
Regards, GF.
 
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Evilgrin

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Singapore noodles are a Chinese dish actually. Its Mei Fun with curry powder more or less. Real Singapore curry and laksa noodles are more like a soup. Even those styles have their roots in Chinese merchants.

The curry flavor is far more intense than the Chinese variety and often have coconut milk in them. Flavor is more similar to Thai curry.
 

Kharnynb

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-Sichuan pepper, I use it a lot just as flavour in meat dishes, even have started to add just a bit to brisket and pulled pork

-sodium glutamate, no matter what some health-freaks say, it isn't all that dangerous when used in small amounts, and is just plain needed for certain dishes.
 
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Evilgrin

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5 Spice powder

Ive tried many and they all had too much cinnamon and/or star anise for me. Most ive seen didn't even have sichuan peppercorns. They used black instead. Make your own, its simple.

At one time imports of sichuan peppercorns were banned in the USA. You can get them now but they are a little pricey. They are a MUST have for things like dan dan noodles and many sichuan dishes. Really good in pickled veggie brines too. I add them to sweet pickled radish and nappa.
 

jrgtr42

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Whereabouts are you located? That looks / sounds like a place not far from me, in Quincy Massachusetts.

I love Sichuan peppercorns, but SWMBO hates them, so I can only use them when I cook for myself; if she's out with her friends or something. Though I usually also have to cook for the little guy, so I can't make things too spicy.
Thai basil is a big one for us. We had a recipe for Pad Thai that was decent, but nothing special, until we got a bunch of that and put a few leaves in. NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE!!!! Now I grow it alongside sweet basil, (that goes on my homemade pizzas and sauces) cilantro / coriander and dill, and mint. All of those other than the sweet basil go into the Asian dishes we cook, (not all at once, depends on the dish.)
 
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