Asian ingredients

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
  • Garlic
  • 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.



Ssamjang Beef Stew

So this dish was created from my imagination of what I’ve seen of Korean soups on TV and what Korean ingredients I had in the pantry. The soup base came out very delicious, so I am hurriedly jotting down my recipe before I forget! Here are the ingredients:

About 1 Tbsp Gochujang 고추장 (Red pepper paste)

again, around 1 Tbsp Sunchang Ssamjang 순창 쌈장 (sesame and garlic seasoned bean paste)

1 pkg Chicken bouillion powder (salt-free)

1 Tsp Chinese five-spice powder

1/4 cup Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce (if you have any, sweet Korean soy sauce will work well too)

2 Tbsp Sesame Oil

1 Tbsp Garlic or garlic powder

1 Tbsp Onion powder

 1 tsp Salt and Pepper

2 Tbsp Cooking oil (not olive oil) with a high smoke point

In whatever quantity you crave; Beef

1 lb Sm Yellow Potatoes

Now here’s what you do:

Prep the beef by giving it a good rub with some salt and pepper, garlic and onion powder. Next, cut the beef however you like. Then, in a skillet, quickly sear the beef in oil (not olive oil); I used Safflower oil because of the high smoke point. Sear the meat quickly, but not all the way through and you will get the yummy crust.

For quick cooking, microwave the potatoes till they are semi-cooked.

In your favorite soup pot, bring 3-4 cups of water to a simmering boil. Add the Gochujang, Sunchang Ssamjang, teriyaki sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, Chinese five spice powder, chicken bouillon, salt and pepper and sesame oil. Stir till well blended and bring to a boil. After a few minutes, the flavors blend together and you can add the main ingredients. Add the potatoes and continue boiling till they are soft. Last, but not least, add the beef at the very end so it doesn’t get overcooked.

Serve over or with rice on the side. I don’t have a photo because, frankly, I ate it all, lol. There’s just enough spicy-ness to make your mouth tingle, not too hot you can’t slurp with gusto. This can be a great simple, filling and hearty soup anytime. I hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear any feedback on how it comes out for you!