I love a variety of foods and you can see that reflected in my recipes. I would say that I love Asian food the most (and not the Chinese take-out kind). My mother lived in Japan for ten years when she was a young kid, so I grew up eating rice and tuna when other families were eating steak and potatoes. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve honed my cooking skills over lots of burned rice and horrific Frankenstein experiments.
When I married my husband, who is from Sri Lanka, I really started experimenting and cooking with ingredients I never have before. I bravely went to the Oriental market and bought random ingredients to try. Slowly, I started developing an eye for what I needed and what region I was looking for. Did I want Thai? Chinese? Japanese? Did I even know what Korean ingredients looked like? Which nori is better?
While I don’t really end up duplicating particular Oriental recipes, I know what flavor I’m craving for and I’m pretty good at creating something that will at least taste good, if not fantastic! The ability to do this means having a good basic supply of Asian ingredients in the pantry.
Don’t know what to get? Here’s a starter list:
- Soy sauce (shoyu in my family) Kikkoman is the best brand
- Korean soy sauce; its a little thick and syrupy and kind of sweet
- Teriyaki sauce (again, Kikkoman is what I use)
- Fish sauce
- Oriental five spice
- Ground or fresh ginger
- Sesame oil and seeds
- Cans of coconut milk (do not get lite, it’s not worth it)
- Thai curry paste, Red and Green
- Curry powder, whichever basic brand if just fine
- my new favorites, Gochujang 고추장 Red pepper paste and Sunchang Ssamjang 순창 쌈장 (sesame and garlic seasoned bean paste).
- Rice! Always have rice on hand. I prefer Jasmin rice but you can use any rice though I would stay away from par-boiled or instant rice.
- Veggies! Really, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for! Instead of trying to figure out how to boil yet another vegetable, there are many other ways to utilize vegetables and I often use them as filler. A little low on protein? No problem! Simply through in some chopped veggies and you’ve got a varied, healthy and delicious meal to go with your sparse protein offerings.