Must have ingredients for Asian cooking

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Evilgrin

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Im near Saint Louis Mo.

There is Thai basil, holy basil and Siam Queen (mainly). All are commonly used in Thailand. I grow Siam Queen and lime basil. Siam is a tad stronger than common Thai basil but otherwise its about the same. It can be swapped for regular Thai basil but not for holy basil. Holy basil is quite a bit different.

Lime/Lemon basil really smells like citrus. Its interesting in some dishes that use lime and basil.
 

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A Thai friend taught me that for quick stir fry, you can batch fry pork strips on a deep fryer, just slightly covered in salt and flour.
Then freeze them in portions and add to the wok for the last minute or two for reheating.
 

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Im near Saint Louis Mo.

There is Thai basil, holy basil and Siam Queen (mainly). All are commonly used in Thailand. I grow Siam Queen and lime basil. Siam is a tad stronger than common Thai basil but otherwise its about the same. It can be swapped for regular Thai basil but not for holy basil. Holy basil is quite a bit different.

Lime/Lemon basil really smells like citrus. Its interesting in some dishes that use lime and basil.
I have the standard Thai basil growing. I may look into getting some Siam Queen for next spring - but the homegrown seems to be a bit more potent than the stuff I can find retail (there's a good sort of farmers market I go to that has it regularly)
I've seen a lot of different basils popping up lately, cinnamon, lemon-lime, spicy and so on. Don't know really how interested I'd be in them - but some might be interesting in homebrew beer...
 
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Evilgrin

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Thai, Thai sweet, Siam Queen, Licorice ect ect are all pretty interchangeable. Holy basil has almost none of the anise flavor. It works fine in Thai curries. It wont work in something like spicy basil chicken if you want it to taste right.

Lime or lemon basil has some of the anise flavor but a strong cent of citrus. I got the Bonnie or Burpee lime and loved it for some stuff. The dried bolts were great added to seasoned vinegar. It was also excellent as a garnish on a bowl of laksa noodles.
 

betarhoalphadelta

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The crew at seriouseats seems to be my first stop these days when trying to make something I'm unfamiliar with.
Yep. My standard answer when I'm trying something new and my girlfriend asks "do you know how to cook that?" is "No, but SeriousEats does."

It's my first stop as well.

-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
I love Sichuan peppercorns, but SWMBO hates them, so I can only use them when I cook for myself
Yeah, I *LOVE* sichuan peppercorn, but sometimes I have to watch it when cooking for my girlfriend or the kids... I have a tendency to "overdo it" on the spice (whether heat or sichuan).
 
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Serious Eats and especially Kenji's articles are great, and my first stop too. My other favorite cooking site is ChefSteps, but they do more of the nerdy "modernist" techniques.
 
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Evilgrin

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I managed to save one of my herbs that is fast becoming a favorite of mine. Its called Laksa, Vietnamese coriander and Rau Ram just to name a few. Flavor is very similar to cilantro but less soapy to me. Its wonderful in chicken or seafood curries or just plain old chicken soup.

The thing that is killer about laksa is its SUPER easy to grow and clone. Every time you take a stem from the plant just put the cut end in some water. Roots form in under a week. Laksa wont bolt like cilantro either. At least not in a sub tropical climate. During the summer you will have a endless supply from just 2 10" planters. The ONLY thing you must do is NOT let the soil dry out. You cant over water it. Ive tried



After just a few days in water really nice roots form.
 
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Since this thread started I have loaded up a couple of shopping carts with the recommended items and they are FANTASTIC.

The Mae Ploy curries especially are incredible, with my favorites being I think panang, green, and yellow. But at like $2.50 each tub there is no reason not to try all of them. The Mae Ploy coconut cream is also tops. You can save $0.50 with a cheaper brand, but don't. One of the Mae Ploy curries lacks the shrimp paste, which makes it vegan, so if I need to bust out an impressive vegan meal at the last minute, can do!

The Kadoya sesame oil is outstanding, so much better than any supermarket bottle I have used so far.

The La Mian Singapore curry noodles are also damn good, amazing they come out of a packet.

I'm going to be making gifts of some of these items this holiday season. If a person likes Thai curry the Mae Ploy products are life-changing.

During my Asian cuisine craze I also got to know Szechuan peppercorns. If you like Szechuan food, you have to get some of these and look up a recipe for chong qing chicken/shrimp.
 

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X2 on the carbon steel Wok , actually you're better off with two of 'em.

Don't forget the peanuts for the Kung Pao Chicken !
 
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Evilgrin

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Since this thread started I have loaded up a couple of shopping carts with the recommended items and they are FANTASTIC.

The Mae Ploy curries especially are incredible, with my favorites being I think panang, green, and yellow. But at like $2.50 each tub there is no reason not to try all of them. The Mae Ploy coconut cream is also tops. You can save $0.50 with a cheaper brand, but don't. One of the Mae Ploy curries lacks the shrimp paste, which makes it vegan, so if I need to bust out an impressive vegan meal at the last minute, can do!

The Kadoya sesame oil is outstanding, so much better than any supermarket bottle I have used so far.

The La Mian Singapore curry noodles are also damn good, amazing they come out of a packet.

I'm going to be making gifts of some of these items this holiday season. If a person likes Thai curry the Mae Ploy products are life-changing.

During my Asian cuisine craze I also got to know Szechuan peppercorns. If you like Szechuan food, you have to get some of these and look up a recipe for chong qing chicken/shrimp.
Really glad you like them. I love the Mae Ploy pastes and coconut milk. The Prima Taste La Mian is by FAR the absolute best "ramen" ive ever tried. I gave my aunt some for Christmas last year and she was floored how good it was. The noodles are spot on perfect and the curry flavor/heat level is insane for an instant.

Mykuali has a really good white curry noodle too but i cant find them locally anymore. Its a tad hotter than the Prima Taste but the noodles are not quite as good...Way cheaper if you can find them.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NKN7CQE/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
https://www.theramenrater.com/2014/04/21/top-ten-2014-re-review-mykuali-penang-white-curry-noodle/

If you have not tried it yet add some fried tofu puffs to the noodles also. In Singapore its called Tau Pok and a pretty common item at Asian markets. Texture is much different than regular tofu. They are almost like little cubes of french toast. :D
 
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Ke_Liren

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Nice thread! Don't know anything about Singaporean noodles, but wanted to chime in with bean pastes of all sorts. My favorite is the Sichuanese spicy bean paste 辣豆瓣酱 La douban jiang - a must have if you're going to try to make some Sichuanese standards like Mapo Tofu (Mother's pockmarked tofu). The best ones will be from a place called Pixian 郫县 which should be on the label; otherwise just try to find the one with the fewest ingredients possible! I put a little in my stir fries all the time and fly through it. It's very salty so I would use it with a low sodium soy sauce and no added salt the first time. Not the same thing, but you'll probably want some fermented black beans 豆豉 *****i while you're at it. In terms of other bean pastes, miso comes in an insane amount of varieties. My favorite is a dark red miso - I use it in soups for some added body.

I also go through an entire jar of homemade chili oil on a bi-weekly basis. It's more of an "after cooking" ingredient, but it really brings everything to life. There are countless variations. Noodles, fried rice, mapo tofu; it all gets a nice spoonful of it. Pretty much required for most Sichuanese dishes, and makes most other dishes taste better! It's much better than the store bought stuff.

Sichuanese peppercorns have been mentioned, but also check out the green ones if available - they may be seasonal depending on how large of an Asian community is near you, but the internet should have them available. Other mandatory spices for any Chinese cooking: bay leaf, star anise, fennel, cloves, Chinese cinnamon (it's different), dried citrus peels (I just stick orange peels or pomelo skin on my windowsill to dry out).

I'd also second sesame oil - I think it's often "that missing ingredient" in a lot of Chinese dishes. Dark soy sauce for color. Shaoxing wine (not the salted one, the unsalted one) for deglazing a wok. Scallions are literally given away for free here when you buy groceries, and that's for a reason: chopped fresh scallions on top of a heavier dish to cut through the flavors. I also use dried seaweed and dried mushrooms a lot to make soup stocks, or to add flavor. Dried and pickled food makes up a big portion of the flavor in a lot of stir fries, too, but may be harder to find and use up if you're not using them often.
 

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I love indonesian sambal as a "hot sauce" instead of the more common ones used in the USA(dutch, so lot of indonesian people living in NL)

sambal goreng(fried) and sambal oelek(sweeter/"raw") are must haves for me.
 
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I made this too! It's very good. That site has some great info.

@Ke_Liren -- can you share your chili oil recipe?

I've now tried all the MyKuali ramen flavors, and they're all very good... Though the white curry is the best. Hard to pay $4 per La Mian pack now though the noodles themselves are a lot better.
 
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Evilgrin

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If you get into sichuan cuisine you will also want this or some of the other "preserved" veggies. I normally get zha cai which is the mustard tuber but for some dishes you need ya cai. Little 100gr packs at my market are about 40 cents. Its dried mustard stems that have been seasoned and salted. (pickled).

Really a must have for dan dan noodles.
 

DeadYetiBrew

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For more traditional Japanese dishes you have to have Kombu and Katsuobushi (dried bonito flake), you use them to not only make Dashi but you'll find they're in just about every umame japanese dish, bases for sauces, etc... Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese 7 Spice) is also awesome in non-asian dishes and great instead of regular salt and pepper on a steak.

Gotta say for soups and other dishes having a nice homemade stock like a straight up beef stock, chicken stock, seafood stock (dashi works) is amazing to have on hand too.

Good noodles are nice to have but sometimes just pre-boiling some ramen without the flavor packet works. Fresh garlic is a must, corn starch is used quite often, mushrooms are a must too.
 
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Evilgrin

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Its not really a soup. The wontons are steamed or boiled then bathed in a heavy dose of chili oil sauce. They are insanely good if you like spicy. Only places that serve authentic Chinese food will offer them.

Make sure to get good black vinegar too. Not the stuff from Taiwan. You want vinegar from Zhenjiang aka Chinkiang vinegar. The older the better but chances are you wont find the really good stuff in the USA. Gold Plum 2yr old will likely be the best you can find. Heng Shun brand 3yr if you can find it is really good stuff.
 
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Evilgrin

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While not a must this is something i like on plain rice or in onigiri. (rice balls)

 
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I've been looking for good black vinegar but all I've found so far is stuff made with vinegar and caramel coloring.

Or...is that what black vinegar is?
 
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Evilgrin

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No thats that cheap one made in Taiwan from Kong Yen or Hong Kong from Koon Chun.

This is the one to look for just because its the most common in the USA and reasonably priced. Only thing i dont like is the added salt.


This is the Heng Shun brand which is also good for the price.


If you cant find either of those there is a vinegar commonly used in sichuan also.
Baoning Vinegar
 

Ke_Liren

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@Ke_Liren -- can you share your chili oil recipe?
I use a recipe similar to this http://thewoksoflife.com/2016/03/homemade-chiu-chow-sauce/

This isn't necessarily a traditional oil as it adds garlic and soy sauce, but I'm a total convert.

I usually grind my own dried chilis and prefer to use a balance of different kinds of chilis. If possible, try to balance a fragrant chili ("authentic" would be the "Facing heaven pepper", which I've also seen called lantern peppers because of their shape https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facing_heaven_pepper ) and a spicy chili (I haven't tried them but I imagine cayenne peppers or Thai bird's eye chilis would both work).

If you can't grind your own chilis, this recipe suggests using ground Sichuan pepper. I have tried these but have always found them rather one dimensional, so would still recommend mixing it with something else (either spicy or fragrant depending on how your Sichuan pepper tastes).
Katsuobushi (dried bonito flake)
This is an ingredient that came late to my pantry, but I like it a lot. Okonomiyaki is one of my favorites, and is almost always a hit when I make it for guests, and for okonomiyaki more bonito = better! :D

If you get into sichuan cuisine you will also want this or some of the other "preserved" veggies. I normally get zha cai which is the mustard tuber but for some dishes you need ya cai. Little 100gr packs at my market are about 40 cents. Its dried mustard stems that have been seasoned and salted. (pickled).
When buying this, be careful of expiration dates! Whenever I went to buy it in the Asian store in the US, I find three or four that are several years old. This is especially true of the canned ones.
 
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Evilgrin

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This isn't necessarily a traditional oil as it adds garlic and soy sauce, but I'm a total convert.
I add Maesri fried garlic to mine also after the oil has cooled enough not to burn it.

I usually grind my own dried chilis and prefer to use a balance of different kinds of chilis.
I like Korean gochugaru but many brands are loaded with salt. I grow my own. Korean pepper flakes have a great flavor and brilliant red color. They are way too mild though for chili oil so you need the addition of some other peppers like Thai peppers. Prik Kee Nu for very spicy or Prik Chee Fah for a bit less heat. Prik Chee Fah is the Thai "Facing Heaven" variety. Prik Kee Nu is the small birds eye type or more accurately "rat/mouse turd chili" with considerable amounts of heat.

I only grow Prik Luang which is a much milder large orange Thai pepper. They are excellent for making a pepper paste that wont light you on fire.
 
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DeadYetiBrew

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This is an ingredient that came late to my pantry, but I like it a lot. Okonomiyaki is one of my favorites, and is almost always a hit when I make it for guests, and for okonomiyaki more bonito = better! :D
I haven't tried making that yet but I made Furikake with the left over Kombu and Bonito from making dashi and I was using it in everything from Meat Marinades to sprinkling it in my spaghetti, lol.
 

Ke_Liren

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I like Korean gochugaru but many brands are loaded with salt. I grow my own. Korean pepper flakes have a great flavor and brilliant red color. They are way too mild though for chili oil so you need the addition of some other peppers like Thai peppers. Prik Kee Nu for very spicy or Prik Chee Fah for a bit less heat. Prik Chee Fah is the Thai "Facing Heaven" variety. Prik Kee Nu is the small birds eye type or more accurately "rat/mouse turd chili" with considerable amounts of heat.
I'd never thought to use gochugaru in my oil! I use it often for quick pickles, but it's so fine I'd worry it would burn right away. Do you buy flakes? I seem to always see it in finely ground form.

I haven't tried making that yet but I made Furikake with the left over Kombu and Bonito from making dashi and I was using it in everything from Meat Marinades to sprinkling it in my spaghetti, lol.
Yum! Sounds good. Might need to try this. I'm always at a loss over what to do with my leftover kombu - feels wasteful to toss it so I usually slice it up and put it in some miso, but it's always a bit too much.

Okonomiyaki is great. Nice way to use leftovers in the house, can throw in half a carrot or some shrimp or squid or whatever. I also like to use the bonito flakes on silky tofu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiyayakko
 

aces-n-eights

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I'm enjoying this discussion immensely - thanks!

One of our standards to pick up when we visit our Asian grocery store is a bag or two of frozen potstickers. So a couple of questions...

Are there brands you would recommend? Avoid?

I'm sure there are hundreds of recipes for making your own - i haven't started that research yet - but could you direct me to some to try?
 

DeadYetiBrew

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I'm enjoying this discussion immensely - thanks!

One of our standards to pick up when we visit our Asian grocery store is a bag or two of frozen potstickers. So a couple of questions...

Are there brands you would recommend? Avoid?

I'm sure there are hundreds of recipes for making your own - i haven't started that research yet - but could you direct me to some to try?
If you like pot stickers, try and find some of these https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baozi... With the right filling they're amazing.
 
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Evilgrin

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I'd never thought to use gochugaru in my oil! I use it often for quick pickles, but it's so fine I'd worry it would burn right away. Do you buy flakes? I seem to always see it in finely ground form.
There are 2 types of gochugaru, fine and coarse. The coarse usually has a picture of kimchi on the package and its also usually milder than the fine powder. Fine is hotter and used for making gochujang. I use the coarse for everything including American/Mexican dishes like chilli.

I find it to be way too mild to use alone for hot chili oil unless you use about equal parts oil and pepper flakes. Even then its rather mild. I ordered some Sichuan pepper plants this year to test out. I dont have any more room to start more plants from seeds.

The gochu plants i grew last year were hotter than the coarse flakes i normally buy but its very labor intensive to deseed and sun dry them. I could have bought over a pound of good hot gochu flakes from Korea for what it cost me. Korean grown gochugaru cost WAY more than the Chinese grown. Plus to grow enough to make a pound of powder requires a LOT of garden space.

I buy Assi brand coarse flakes for making kimchi. It only cost be about $8 for over 2lbs and i simply cant grow enough peppers to keep me supplied in kimchi. The flavor is excellent for Chinese grown gochugaru but they are rather high in sodium.

This is the Assi brand. This 1 pound bag was under $5.


These are the Korean hot flakes. They cost me almost $18/500grams but they have no added salt. I would guess they are twice as hot as the Assi.
 
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DemonsRun

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Oh yeah! Steamed buns. We had those years ago when we lived in Hawaii. Gotta try again!
Thanks.
Love Steamed Buns, Frankly it's the only thing I make that both Kids will eat. Still haven't got the pinching around till closed thing down, one day I'll get them looking nice But will settle for yummy.

Low-protein flour was key in getting them fluffy, White Lily All-Purpose is actually in the 9% range and works great.
 
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Evilgrin

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Went to the market today to get Gai Choy and a few other items. Most pickled mustard i find is loaded with artificial garbage and also has vinegar added. Its time to make some Suan Cai from scratch. https://www.chinasichuanfood.com/pickled-mustard-green-recipe/

This stuff is great in soup and some stirfries.

While i prefer homemade to avoid all the garbage added to prepared sauces/condiments. There are a few that standout, spicy fermented bean sauce/paste and Lao Gan Ma chili oils. The Spicy Chili Crisp one is addictive. The addition of peanuts and fermented soybeans give it a unusual flavor. I would suggest the original or the chili crisp version unless you love extra fermented black beans. Lao Gan Ma offers a few varieties. One version adds double the fermented black soy beans,


The good spicy chili bean paste is a bit harder to find. Most places carry the LKK brand which is not that great. To get the good stuff you will probably need to find a market in "China town". I was too lazy today to drive the extra 10 miles.
 
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For ~20+ years, I've been craving the chile sauce from a restaurant in Hong Kong.

I've tried many from the Asian markets, but haven't come close.

I finally think I know what it is: chiu chow sauce

Not quite Sichuan Chile oil, not quite the garlic sambal.......by golly, I think this might be it.

Time to make some...
 
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Evilgrin

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Try the LoaGanMa if you have not. Its by far the best tasting commercially available one from China ive tried. My only complaint is the Chili Crisp is a bit salty for my tastes. I need to check the original version sometime.

Im growing Sichuan peppers this year. My Super Chiles and Thai Dragons are just too hot for chili oil. The Thai Giant Orange is about right but of course the color is wrong.
 

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I can speak on behalf of steppe cuisine, so here goes (if anyone likes that stuff...).

Good salt is a must. Don’t forget about grain flours of many kinds to make those succulent fruit, meat, or vegetable-filled dumplings. Sauerkraut and other forms of sour cabbage is also important, as it probably originated in China anyways. Shashlik sticks (think kabobs) cannot be forgotten, either. Having some pepper doesn’t hurt.

It’s not quite like Eastern or Southern Asian cuisine.

I’ll add more another time.
 
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