Four Pantry Essentials That Make Asian Cooking A Breeze
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Asian cooking is, more often than not, family-style meals that are meant to be shared. Consisting of lots of fresh and pickled vegetables, flash-grilled meats or fish and aromatic condiments to dip everything into, most Asian cooking – be it Thai, Burmese, or Malaysian see an overlap of ingredients and cross-cultural inspiration. It’s safe to say that most Asian food is ‘wellness’ food that is braised, boiled, stewed or uses very little oil. That being said, the food is always high on flavour and almost never fails to have many layers of spices and aromatics infused into it.

Not always is it possible to pop by your favourite take out place or restaurant to enjoy a supper that packs punch and is also cost-effective. And that’s why, we’ve shortlisted four key ingredients that are easy to keep in your pantry and can be used to whip up or add a boost of flavour to your curries, broths and stir fries.


One of the key ingredients that most Asian cultures favour, noodles are always a good starting point to plan a meal around. With the numerous varieties that flood the market these days, you could buy any of your choice. Take your pick from egg noodles, flat rice noodles or even the fresh hand-pulled variety to form the base of your khao suey, veggie stir fry or simply add to a flavoursome, rich pork broth and slurp away.


Fish Sauce

The wonder ingredient that is the star in most Asian households, fish sauce has a wonderful umami flavour that is hard to replicate. A spoon or two added to Thai curries or a shellfish stew instantly enlivens a curry or soup. The watery, clear consistency of the sauce makes it easy to use as marinades for beef or duck, as a dressing for papaya salads and even for dipping shrimp rolls into.

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Curry Paste

While nothing quite beats the amplified flavour of homemade curry paste, chopping and processing multiple ingredients isn’t always a practical solution while preparing a meal. Store-bought curry paste can of course be used to make curries of various kinds but a tablespoon’s worth added to a big pot of broth can make any bland soup come to life. You could also use a dollop as base for your veggie stir fry and even go a step further to make Asian-style barbecues.

Sesame Oil

The beautiful smoky-nuttiness of toasted sesame oil adds not just flavour but also fragrance to anything you add it into. A few drops while finishing off a hotpot or in a sauce makes a world of a difference to the overall taste of the food. Most Asian cooking doesn’t use sesame oil as a fat base to cook things in but if you enjoy the flavour, you’re most likely going to end up using it in dressings of all kinds.