How to Cook Asian Food like a Pro

by Joshua Hampton

asian cookingThere’s nothing like that moment when you taste an Asian dish you prepared and it is just as savory as restaurant bought food. When concocting Asian food, it is not difficult to get that authentic flavor; all you need are the right ingredients. Fully stocking an Asian pantry can seem daunting, but with just 15 essential ingredients, you can make a wide assortment of recipes from Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and anywhere else in Asia. Here are some Asian cooking ingredients to get you started in making Asian food.

Asian Cooking Spices and Ingredients

Oyster sauce: This savory and sweet ingredient adds a dimension to easy vegetable stir-fry recipes. Vegetarian versions of this sauce are created with mushrooms rather than oyster extract.

Rice: No mashed potatoes will be forthcoming in any Asian food menu. This is the basic staple when it comes to carbohydrates for Asian dishes.

Soy sauce and/or tamari: Soy sauce is used in place of salt when seasoning just about everything such as dressing’s, soups, fried rice, meats, or dipping sauces.

Rice vinegar: This is gentle vinegar used for making marinades, vinigarettes, or dips.

Coconut milk: This creamy and rich ingredient comes usually canned and adds a delightful flavor and smooth texture to soups and marinades.

Fish sauce: Thai, Philippine or Vietnamese food use fish sauce liberally, especially in stir-fry sauces, dressings and dipping sauces.

Chili paste: Bottled chili paste is a simple way to add heat and make thing more savory. It works on any dish, from soups to noodle salads.
Toasted sesame oil: With its characteristic nutty taste, sesame completes out dipping sauces, dressings, as well as marinades.

Curry paste: This ingredient has incredible depth, and is indispensable with Thai curries.

Miso paste: All-around miso paste is what give a classic miso soup its main taste. It is used to make Japanese marinades for meat or fish or, or can even be used on other recipes that need a little more dimension. This definitely will give your food that “Asian” taste.

Rice wine: Just like white wine in French cuisine, a little rice wine adds so much character to add taste to marinades, soups, and sauces. It’s an essential ingredient, especially in Japanese cooking.

Cilantro: This is a main flavor in a lot of Asian cuisines.

Noodles: Stock on a couple of types of these that you like and don’t hesitate to substitute or interchange Japanese noodles in Thai or Chinese recipes

Limes: Lime juice is especially significant in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

Fresh ginger: Another key ingredient to almost all Asian recipes.

General Asian Cooking Principles

Here’s a how-to guide to prepare basic staples in Asian cuisine.

Try to use different meats and veggies in a dish, so that there is an interesting mixture of textures, flavors, and colors. Asians think it is vital to find equilibrium and harmony in every facet of life, especially food.

Freshness is always a prerequisite. Sometimes seafood are chosen out of an aquarium at a restaurant and cooked on the spot.

Proper and thorough preparation is the key to easy Asian cooking. Be sure to have everything before you start. Vegetables should have been washed, dried and cut while meats sliced and already marinated and the sauces and spices should also ready.

Asian Cooking Utensils

Almost all Asian cuisine uses a wok. It is the one piece of equipment you may want to buy before you start cooking Asian cuisine.

Vegetables Preparation Basics

Always wash green, leafy vegetables before cooking. This will give them more time to drain so they will not be too damp especially if you will stir-fry. Put all your sliced vegetables on a tray or cooking sheet. This way, you are not likely to forget anything. Just be mindful not to mix them together. Cooking times will vary from one vegetable to another.

How to Stir-Fry Vegetables

Whenever stir-frying veggies, always cook the tougher and thicker ones for a longer time than the softer, leafy vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, and cabbage need to be cooked longer than others, such as snow peas or bean sprouts. If you are unsure in which order to cook vegetables, just simply stir-fry them separately to achieve evenness in the preparation.

Tofu Basic Preparation

When stir-frying or deep-frying tofu, buy the firm or extra-firm tofu variety. Firm tofu will retain its shape and will not break apart in the wok. Make sure to drain the tofu before cooking, as this makes it act like a sponge absorbing other flavors in a dish.

Meat and Fish Preparation Basics

At all times, marinate fresh meat. Whenever a marinade needs cornstarch, add it last as this will function as a binder. Cut beef across the grain always. This technique helps make its softer and tenderer. Always slice the meat into uniform pieces to ensure it will cook more evenly. Whenever cooking meat or poultry, it is essential that the wok is very hot before you put in the food. When cooking stir-fried meat and vegetables, stir-fry the meat ahead and put it aside. More often than not it will be returned to the wok with an added sauce during the concluding stages of cooking a dish.

How to Cook with Oil

Always drizzle the oil down the sides of the wok when adding for stir frying. When deep-frying, to check if the oil is hot enough, simply dip a chopstick in the oil. When the oil sizzles all around the chopstick, that means it is hot enough to begin adding the food.

Seasoning and Sauce Pointers

Fresh ginger is always preferable over ginger powder.

It is permissible to use sugar as an alternate for Monosodium Glutamate.

The standard recipe for mixing cornstarch and water is 1 to 2 or 1 to 4.

Never use more cornstarch than prescribed in any given recipe.

Rice Preparation Tips

For best and consistent results when cooking rice, always make use of long grain varieties. When cooking fried rice, cold cooked rice is preferable, and should be at least one day old. Just make sure it is stored properly and won’t harden. If stored in the refrigerator make sure it is tightly covered.

Nothing is quite as tasty and savory as Asian food. Master the basics of Asian cooking and you can create these delightful recipes right in your own kitchen. Whether it is Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Indonesian or Malaysian, you too can bring the tastes of Asia right in your home.

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