If you’re looking to cook Asian food and haven’t branched out beyond soy sauce, this post is for you. Think of it as an Asian flavor guide. These ingredients are almost all found in the regular grocery store and cost between 3 and 5 dollars. I have used all of them in my own cooking at some point.
Most of my recipes feature Chinese cooking, but I have also cooked Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian dishes as well. I know there are many countries in Asia whose cuisines I have yet to explore!
I organized the ingredients and recipes by their basic flavors and included substitutions when possible. If you are looking for that particular flavor combination, just skip to that section. This list will hopefully keep expanding as I try more recipes.
- Chili oil: spicy oil made from chilis aged in regular or sesame oil. Substitutions: sesame or regular oil + a few dried red pepper flakes.
- Chili paste (sambal oelek): made from blended, spicy peppers. often combined with garlic. used for adding to spice to almost anything, like a sauce version of red pepper flakes.
- Curry paste: varying levels or spicy, used for Thai curries. I recommend getting the Mae Ploy brand from Amazon. There are 5 flavors available.
- Black pepper beef/chicken
- Curry beef
- Green curry (Thai)
- Hot and sour soup
- Hunan chicken
- Kung pao chicken
- Red curry (Thai)
- Szechuan beef/chicken/shrimp
- Tiny spicy chicken
Sweet and Sour
- Duck sauce: used as a dipping sauce.
- Lemongrass: used in Thai curries, can be found in the produce section in a tube.
- Rice vinegar: milder and sweeter than regular white vinegar, used to flavor sushi rice or mixed with hoisin sauce for dipping. Substitution: 2/3 the amount of white vinegar, plus a little sugar.
- Tamarind: used in Thai curries and pad Thai.
- Chicken with imperial sauce
- Sweet and sour sauce
- Sweet and sour chicken/pork/shrimp
- Hoisin sauce: sweet and tangy, almost like a barbecue sauce, can be used in recipes or as a dipping sauce.
- Mirin: a type of rice wine used for cooking, essential for Japanese dishes.
- BBQ pork
- Black bean sauce: very salty, fermented flavor.
- Fish sauce: pungent fish smell, made from anchovies, used in Thai cooking, doesn’t taste fishy once cooked.
- Miso: several types named by color (white, red, yellow), used in miso soup.
- Oyster sauce: rich, meaty flavor, almost like brown gravy, used in beef and broccoli.
- Sesame oil: dark color, very strong sesame flavor, only used as a flavoring in sauces or stir fries, not usually for cooking due to its low smoke point.
Sweet and Spicy
- Peanut sauce: made from peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, and spices (curry powder or jalapenos, depending on the brand), used in Thai cooking.
- Sweet chili sauce: used in Thai cooking.
Sweet and Salty
- Mandarin sauce: sweet with hints of ginger and garlic.
- Teriyaki sauce: not too sweet, savory undertone.
- Mandarin chicken
- Teriyaki chicken
Hopefully this Asian flavor guide will help you choose what dish you want to cook (or order) next! I love to do both.