Tips for Cooking Authentic Asian Food
Always wanted to cook authentic Asian cuisine but aren’t sure where to start? Discover the secrets of traditional Asian ingredients and make your next meal a success. Simply stock your pantry with the ingredients listed below and you’ll be on your way to cooking Asian culinary delights in no time. If you’re looking for more inspiration we’ve also included some delicious recipes at the end of the article. Read on to discover the secrets of Asian flavour and cuisine.
9 essential ingredients for Asian cooking
Here are 9 essential ingredients that should always be kept on hand for when you feel like cooking authentic, Asian cuisine.
1. Lard (Chinese: zhū yóu)
Lard, or rendered pork fat, is a staple in many traditional Chinese dishes. Clarified for cooking, it resembles coconut oil and is used by chefs for its potential to add a richness of flavour to stir fries or braised meat dishes. Think of it as an authentic alternative to canola or vegetable oil.
2. Five Spice Powder (Chinese: wǔ xiāng fěn)
The secret 'ingredient’ to many Chinese dishes, five spice powder can include more than five spices, in fact it can contain a myriad of seasonings, including:
- Star anise
- Sichuan Peppercorns
- Fennel seeds
The five actually refers to spicy, sweet, bitter, salty and sour. Use five spice powder as a rub for meat dishes and add flavour and punchiness to your next Asian meal.
3. Chili Oil (Chinese: là jiāo yóu)
Served with everything from dumplings to noodles and meat dishes, chilli oil is a staple in every Chinese home. The oil itself is made by infusing peanut oil with dried red pepper. Add a few drops to a soy sauce next time you’re dipping dumplings. If you’re feeling ambitious, try ‘Red Oil Wontons’ or ‘Saliva Chicken’ – for true heatseekers only.
4. Garam Masala
A North indian curry powder that combines a mixture of cardamom, coriander and black pepper. It’s frequently used in curries and may also include cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
5. Fermented Bean Curd (Chinese: dòu bàn jiàng)
Some say that bean curd is as important to the Chinese as Vegemite is to Australians. Both feature a strong, salty flavour and look like sticky brown pastes. Fermented Bean Curd is mostly commonly used in cooking savoury dishes and stir fries.
6. Ajowan Seeds
A spice frequently used in savoury pastries, breads, biscuits and bean dishes. It has a flavour similar to thyme and is most commonly used in South Indian cuisine.
7. Sesame Oil (Chinese: zhī ma yóu)
Nutty and rich, a dash of sesame oil packs a ton of flavour. Chinese rice porridge (congee) often features a few drops of sesame oil. It's also believed to help keep your skin clear and your hair shiny and smooth.
8. Ginger (Thai: khing)
When it comes to Asian cooking there’s few ingredients more popular and complementary than ginger. Used in everything from fish and vegetable dishes to adobo chicken, sushi and Chinese beef Stirfrys, there’s always something new to discover with fresh ginger.
9: Soy sauce (Japanese: shoyu)
Soy sauce is one of the oldest condiments in the world, and has continued to develop across different regions of Asia to match and compliment cultural dishes. Japanese soy sauce typically comes in light (shoyu usu kuchi) and dark (shoyu koi kuchi) variants. Japanese soy sauce is typically thinner than Chinese soy sauce (jiangyou).
Braised Chicken with Port and Soy Sauce
A delicious and versatile Chinese chicken dish that’s a breeze to make and suitable for just about any taste. Pop down to Mani Asian Supermarket at Marketplace Gungahlin for the best fresh, Asian ingredients.
Serves 3-4 people
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
- 900g of chicken fillets
- 5 slices ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 5g red chili, cut into small pieces
- 75g onion, sliced and diced
- 50g green chili, cut into small pieces
- 50g chinese celery, cut into sections
- 100ml soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 100ml port
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp water
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and saute the green chilli, red chilli and Chinese celery until they are fragrant. Remove with a slotted spatula, drain and set aside.
- Saute the shallot, garlic, onion and ginger slices in the same saucepan.
- Add chicken pieces and pan fry until golden yellow.
- Add seasoning mix. Cover, cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until chicken is tender.
- Remove ingredients from the pan and let them cool. Chop the chicken and arrange on plate.
- Add thickening ingredients to sauce left in pan and cook until sauce thickens.
- Stir in chilli and Chinese celery. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.
These baked versions of the classic Indian samosa can be whipped up in less than an hour and make a great light dinner or lunch treat. Serve with a spicy honey dipping sauce for delicious flavour. You can find a range of subcontinental groceries at Monga Asian Supermarket located in Marketplace Gungahlin.
Makes: 16 samosas
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1small onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups cooked diced potatoes
- 1 cup cooked diced carrot
- 1/2 cup canned sweet peas
- 5 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 dash red pepper flakes
- 1 tbs water
- 2 packages of crescent rolls
Honey Dipping Sauce
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs water
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- Heat oven to 190C
- Make the dipping sauce by mixing the sauce ingredients into a bowl.
- Saute onion and garlic in oil 5 minutes until onion is soft.
- Add all other ingredients except crescent rolls.
- Stir gently over medium heat for several minutes until well mixed and set aside.
- Open cans of crescent rolls and unroll the dough.
- Separate into 4 rectangles and pinch the triangular perforations to seal.
- Cut each rectangle in half crosswise to make squares. You should have 8 squares per can.
- Spoon a heaping spoonful of filling in the center of each square and fold over to make a triangle. Pinch the edges to seal.
- Bake on cookie sheets sprayed with coconut oil 12-15 minutes until golden.
- Cool slightly on rack.
- Serve warm with the honey dipping sauce.
It's not hard to get authentic flavour when cooking Asian cuisine, all it takes are the right ingredients. By having a fully stocked Asian pantry you can rest assured that your next dinner party will be a success, and your guests will leave feeling both impressed and satisfied.