Top 10 Essentials for Asian Cooking

Looking to whip up a tantalising Asian dish?

Asian cuisine comprises a vibrant blend of flavours and techniques, ranging from the delicate umami flavours of Japan to the loud, bold spices of Southeast Asia. Before you embark on your culinary adventure, it’s important to stock up with some Asian cooking staples in your pantry.

Here’s our list of top 10 essentials to help you get started:

  1. Light & Dark Soy Sauce
    • Light soy sauce adds a touch of saltiness and umami, while dark soy sauce brings a deeper, richer flavour and beautiful colour.
    • Soy Sauce is the most versatile condiment which goes well with Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food as a flavouring agent or dipping sauce.
    • Our recommendations: Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce and Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce for high-quality, consistent flavour and fragrance which does not overpower.


  1. Fish Sauce:
    • Made from fermented fish, fish sauce is the perfect seasoning of choice to spruce up dressings, soups and curries.
    • This pungent condiment adds a salty and savoury depth to Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian dishes.
    • Our recommendation: Megachef Premium Fish Sauce for its rich, wholesome flavour.


  1. Sesame Oil
    • Toasted sesame oil delivers a nutty aroma and is perfect for finishing dishes or adding to dipping sauces.
    • It typically has a dark amber colour and an intense, nutty aroma. Sesame oil has a low smoking point and can’t stand up to high heat, so it’s usually used at the end of cooking or as a dressing/seasoning in soups and dumpling dishes.
    • Our recommendation: Yeo’s Pure Sesame Oil which comes in a variety of sizes and smells divine.


  1. Oyster Sauce
    • Oyster sauce is a dark, thick sauce made from oyster extract. A splash of oyster sauce adds a savoury, umami punch to stir-fries, noodles, and marinades across most Asian cuisine.
    • Best of all – a vegetarian version is available if preferred.
    • Our recommendation: Megachef Premium Oyster Sauce or Healthy Boy Mushroom Vegetarian Sauce.


  1. Japanese Mayonnaise
    • Japanese Mayonnaise differs from American mayonnaise because it is mainly made from egg yolks to create a richer, creamier flavour.
    • This versatile ingredient will add richness and flavour to a myriad of dishes – from sandwiches to salads, rice bowls, Japanese pancakes such as okonomiyaki, sushi or even as a dipping sauce for fried chicken or vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
    • Our recommendation: Crowd favourite Kewpie Mayonnaise from Japan.


  1. White Pepper Powder
    • White pepper and black pepper originate from the same plant. What makes them different? Simply the way they are processed!
    • Black pepper is made from unripe pepper berries, whereas white pepper is made from fully ripened berries.
    • As a result, white pepper has a floral and earthy flavour that is more suited for certain Chinese foods, soups and congee. Meanwhile, black pepper is the perfect ingredient to spice up meat dishes in stir-fries.
    • Our recommendations: Perfect Fine Foods White Pepper and Perfect Fine Foods Black Pepper.


  1. Palm Sugar
    • Compared to regular white sugar, palm sugar is less sweet and has a more complex flavour – delivering hints of caramel, butterscotch and smokiness.
    • It is the ideal sweetness enhancer for Thai and Southeast Asian drinks and desserts – both hot and cold, and pairs beautifully with the creaminess of coconut milk.
    • Our recommendations: Lucky Elephant Palm Sugar, Singlong Gula Malacca or Dapir Desa Concentrated Palm Sugar.


  1. Curry Paste or Powder
    • Get your tastebuds tingling with the quintessential ingredient in Indian food – curry paste or powder.
    • If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, experiment with creating your own spice blends.
    • Our recommendations: Baba's Meat Curry Powder, A popular Malaysian curry powder for making authentic curries.


  1. Cooking Wines
    • Shaoxing wine (Chinese) and mirin made from glutinous rice (Japanese) add a touch of sweetness and complexity without overpowering the dish.
    • Cooking wine has a savoury umami flavour that resembles light soy sauce. Shaoxing wine is the star in recipes such as drunken chicken while Mirin is commonly used to make Teriyaki chicken and added in sushi rice, sauces and marinades.
    • Our recommendations: Obento Rice Wine Vinegar & Obento Mirin Seasoning.


  1. Gochujang or Korean Chilli Paste:
    • Gochujang is a fermented red chilli pepper paste that is a fundamental ingredient in Korean cuisine.
    • It can be used as a marinade for Korean bulgogi, as a dipping sauce or to spice up stews.
    • Our recommendation: CJ Gochujang Red Pepper, The No. 1 Best-Selling Gochujang in Korea - made from red hot chilli peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt and more.


We could go on and on when it comes to Asian cooking essentials – not forgetting many other staples such as dried noodles, coconut milk, lemongrass, and various Asian spices like Szechuan peppercorns and five-spice powder, to name a few!

So, roll up your sleeves, oil your wok, fire up the stove, and you’re all set for an unforgettable trip to Flavour Town!

Tag Asian Pantry when you upload your Asian food photos and videos on Facebook & Instagram. Happy eating!

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