The addition of one or two Asian pantry condiments will take your cooking in a whole new direction. And yes, this list could be a lot longer but I thought I’d start with the important basics.
Black Bean Garlic Sauce
This salty, but crazy delicious sauce is easily one of my favorite go-to sauces. And with the addition of apricot jam, makes maybe the best salmon ever:
First, don’t be put off by the name because it doesn’t taste a whole lot like oysters. Thick & syrupy and a little sweet & smoky, oyster sauce is also great for stir frying, can be added to a soup or even used alone. Try sautéing some diced onions with garlic & ginger, adding thin slices of beef until cooked – then stir in oyster sauce at the end.
There are a ton of varieties out there, most made from a blend of fresh and dried chilies and vinegar. But the king of them all is the Sriracha brand – a bright red smooth sauce that comes in the green tipped squeeze bottle. And because it’s not overly hot, it can be used anywhere you want a splash of flavor and heat. I like to mix it with ketchup to serve with fries. It’s cousin, also know as chili sauce (also made by the same company that makes Sriracha) has chili seeds and therefore packs much more heat. But regardless of the version, it’ll bring a burst of spicy flavor to anything. Try this recipe for seared scallops with Sriracha butter:
This reddish orange oil comes from infusing dried red chilies in oil. Mixed with a little soy results in a perfect dipping sauce for any kind of dumplings. Or as a last minute add to a stir fry.
Another fav of mine, this hugely aromatic oil is made from toasted sesame seeds. I use it in fried rice, Asian inspired salad dressing and soups. But be warned – it’s very strong so just a little is good. Because a little too much will take over your dish. Try this simple tuna poke:
I think of this as the Asian BBQ sauce. It’s dark, it’s rich and it’s delicious. I used it mixed with soy & sesame oil to bring a stir fry together. Or mixed with a little chili sauce and brushed on grilling chicken. I am never without it. Here it is in a great recipe with tofu & eggplant:
Not sure I need to say much about this important pantry item, other than soy sauce is like olive oil – it’s a very personal thing. There are many brands out there and it may take you a while to find one you really like – but when you do stick with it. There’s light & dark soy – dark having more flavor – and of course low sodium as well. I prefer the dark – I like the flavor. And btw, it makes an excellent substitute for Worcestershire sauce (not to mention it’ a lot easier to say). Here’s my wife’s favorite soy sauce inspired recipe – Egg Drop Soup: