Thursday, July 22, 2010

Try New Adventures Thursday: Stocking The Pantry For Asian Cuisine

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to have lunch with my long-time friend, Molly, and her sweet baby. Molly is a wonderful cook, and I spent some time perusing her binder full of recipes. Half of them called for ingredients I had never heard of before--fish sauce, lemongrass, shrimp paste, etc. We got to talking about Asian cuisine (did I mention Molly lived in Hong-Kong for a year?) and ended up taking a trip to Molly's local Asian supermarket. So much fun! With her help, I collected some of the vital ingredients for making authentic Asian food.

The spoils are as follows: Sweet rice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, ginger, wasabi, coriander seeds, a bamboo mat for rolling sushi (squeel!!!!), roasted seaweed, ground fresh chili paste, pad Thai sauce, and shrimp paste.

Am I the only one that has never cooked with some of these ingredients? Fish sauce? Shrimp paste!?

So, for the benefit of all involved, I've done a tiny bit of research on my new pantry staples.

Fish Sauce: This sauce is essential to most Thai dishes. It is a clear reddish/brown liquid with a very strong fish odor that is a fermented mixture of fish and salt. The ingredients of my new fish sauce are "water, anchovy extract, salt, and sugar." Fish sauce should be stored at room temperature and keeps indefinitely. I will probably utilize fish sauce for the first time in the Thai Fish Curry recipe Molly gave me. :)

Rice Vinegar: This is for making sushi rice! I am SO EXCITED about this. Half of the dates my husband and I go on are sushi dates. Sushi is my main craving when I'm pregnant. I've never made it at home and can't wait to give it a whirl. Here are some basic instructions for making sushi rice.

Shrimp Paste: This ingredient is made of ground-up, fermented shrimp. Yes, decomposed shrimp. I'm in love already. It is raw, and therefore must be cooked fully before it is eaten (you don't have to tell me twice). Did I mention it has a very strong odor? However, when cooked, supposedly the smell dissipates and it lends rich flavor to the dish.

Ground Fresh Chili Paste: I have a Sambal chili paste--this is used as a condiment in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. At Molly's house, we had it on top of Beef Lettuce Wraps. Yum! It definitely has kick.

Pad Thai Sauce: According to the jar, this is a "Spicy Thai sauce for stir-frying with rice noodles." The ingredients are: palm sugar, shallot, water, fish sauce, soy bean oil, vinegar, tamarind, red chili, salted radish, dried shrimp, and salt. Looking forward to using this! I'm very much a newbie when it comes to Thai food...I haven't even eaten much of it (sadly).

Sweet rice (glutenous rice): Molly served us Mango Sticky Rice as our lunchtime dessert. I had never had it before, and it is delightful. Now I have the right kind of rice for making it--I'm pretty sure my husband will be sold on this dish. *excitement*

Add these ingredients to the soy sauce, coconut milk, and curry powder I already have in my pantry, and I'm ready to go. Decomposed shrimp and all.

What about you? Do you have expertise when it comes to authentic ethnic cuisine? Favorite recipes? Maybe I'll tackle authentic Indian food next...

Now it's your turn to tell me about your adventurous moments. Have you tried or learned something new lately? I hope so! Tell us about it. You can follow on twitter by searching #TryNewAdventures. I'll be passing around some comment and twitter love.

Instructions: Link-up (to your blog post), link back to me, and visit around to encourage others in their new endeavors. If you're not a blogger, join in with the comments section!



  1. Wow, I'm inspired. And I have to say, Thai food ranks EXTREMELY high on my list. YUM. I love Pad Thai, just about any curry I've ever had (the best recently was yellow chicken curry with cauliflower and avocado--A-MAZ-ING).

    And are you planning on using "prepared" (read: "raw") fish in your sushi? You are more brave than I ever supposed! :)

  2. This was very informative! I definitely want to add some of these ingredients to my pantry.

  3. I tried a fe new things recently but the only one I have pics of is the new meme, so there it is.
    Now I have to hurry back to my blog and tell everyone I linked here. thank you.

  4. @Audrey, sure--I'll use raw fish! I just need to figure out where the best place is to buy that. Where do the sushi places get their fish?

  5. I'm a huge fan of Asian food but the only thing I know how to use is soy sauce. And I use the term "use" very lightly. Basically, if I add soy sauce to anything, it become Asian. Your ingredient list is pretty impressive! I'd love to see some recipes!

  6. Haha, you had me laughing, Christine. I will post the recipes as I try them. I'm craving something with coconut milk as we speak...

  7. I love this little party. It's adventurous! I love to hear about people trying new things, and if I were not so busy with a little "house party" with my sister this week, I would have loved to try something new and join you.

    But alas, unless you count finally jumping in to a blog party to which you have had your nose pressed to the window for about a year, I didn't do a single new thing.

    Of course, now you have the mind churning toward adventure.

    I liked learning about your ingredients. I'm very ignorant of a LOT of ethnic spices, etc.
    Beyond oregano and cilantro.... I'm clueless.

  8. I've tried some Asian sauces besides soy and sweet and sour - oyster sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sriacha hot sauce. Love to see the recipes you do! :D

  9. I've never tried hoisin, Sherry! Or oyster sauce (let me guess...fermented oysters?). But we do have some peanut sauce that is TO DIE for. I'll be sure to post the recipes as we do them.

  10. Sounds fun! I've never tried cooking Asian food before. But all of those ingredients looked very interesting. I hope you enjoy cooking with them!

    BTW, I came over from Sherry's blog, A Lamp Unto My Feet. I'm always interested in meeting other Alicias...especially ones that spell their name the same way. It was nice to "meet" you!

  11. We LOVE sushi over here!! Haven't made it in a long time. Yum!!!

  12. Fish sauce is what scares me away from most Thai recipes. I have a strong aversion to fish and wonder how fishy it really tastes.

  13. I am more an expert in eating rather than making Asian cuisine. But I am slowly learning to recreate the flavors we used to be able to enjoy so easily. I really liked the noodle stir fry recipe by Val at Collecting the Moments...The link is

  14. Some of my favorite Asian ingredients are tofu and seaweed sprinkles (I posted some ideas for using these and other odd ingredients) and soba noodles. Once you develop a taste for Asian foods, it becomes easier to figure out how to use them both in Asian-style cooking and in diverse ways that just taste good!

    My experience with shrimp paste is that when the smell dissipates, it dissipates into the air and then settles on surfaces--esp. if you're cooking it with oil, tiny shrimp-scented oil droplets go everywhere--from which it will be reactivated forever. So it's wise to cook with shrimp paste just before you plan to clean the kitchen anyway! :-) If you have an exhaust fan over the stove, all the smell will wind up in there, so take apart the fan and clean it (how often do you get around to that?) or you'll be smelling fermented shrimp every time you run the fan.

  15. Oh... We love chinese food, and I don't know how that compares to Asian Cuisine, but I'm eager to see if you have recipes posted!


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