Which are the most important ingredients to have in your pantry for good quality far eastern cooking? Now as always cooking is subjective and no matter what I say, there will always be a know it all who disagrees, brilliant for them, this is just what I feel is the most used in my home kitchen, and in all the food out lets we've worked in and owned, again, this doesn't mean you have to agree.
For this list I'm going to leave out basics that most people would have, so no sugar, salt, pepper etc, I'll only be mentioning things that's I would consider specialist, saying that here we go!
1. MSG (monosodium glutamate) - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/monosodium-glutamate-msg-150g
There has never been an ingredient that has been so controversial, it's the most researched ingredient on the planet and been proven safe time and time again over the last 40 years! To the point where they're now psychological studies on why people still believe the myths of MSG when the scientific and medical community all agree its safe, the short answer to the findings in these studies is a deep mistrust of the Chinese or a lack of updated knowledge. So yes, its safe.
MSG is a must in far eastern cooking, its amplifies flavour, so makes the taste of something "louder" in mouth, it can't make bad food taste good, because of the taste is bad, it will only make that bad taste worse, it can lift flavour to level that you can't achieve without it. If you're only going to have one ingredient on this list, MSG is the only one to pick.
2. Light and Dark Soy sauce
Light - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/lee-kum-kee-lkk-premium-light-soy-sauce-500ml
Dark - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/lee-kum-kee-lkk-premium-dark-soy-sauce-500ml
Ok I'll admit this is a bit of a cheat, they should be separate but as there both soy sauce I thought it could count as one thing, so I counted it as one. Light is more salty and has a higher soy content than dark, its used mainly to flavour dishes, where as dark is sweeter than light soy and is used for colour and often as a condiment, although you can use light as a condiment if you want to.
3. Potato Starch/corn flour - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/potato-starch-500g
Starches are key to good far eastern cooking, many people favour corn flour as its cheap and more readily available, we on the other hand always use potato starch as its more chemically stable. Starches are used for many different aspects especially in Chinese takeaway cooking, its used to velvet meat, to thicken sauces and as a batter, one that's stays together and doesn't turn to goo when left in a sauce.
Powder - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/garlic-powder-100g
Granules - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/garlic-granules-1kg
Need I really say more, garlic is in practically everything, why? because its freaking garlic, that's why, one of the best flavours out there, and there are 4 types you need. Firstly there is just normal garlic, then aged garlic puree, which is just blended garlic with oil and salt and rested in the fridge for 48 hours, garlic powder and garlic granules, all very different all very required.
5. Star Anise - https://www.chinandchoo.com/product-page/star-anise-50g
I can guarantee many people will be screaming why no 5 Spice right now, the answer to that is its only used in a hand full of dishes, its used too often thanks to "chefs" in the 70s/80s who didn't really know what they were doing, but because they were Chinese, people believed them, why wouldn't they to be fair. I can say right now its not used often at all, the spice that's is used far more often is star anise, and it can be used a s 5 spice substitute as its one of the main ingredients in 5 spice. Star anise can be used in braising dishes, roasting dishes and even in curry's, that's how widely used it is, ground down into a powder and can flavour dumpling fillings and much much more.
So there you have it, my top 5 ingredients for far eastern cooking, I would like to give a special shout out to rice, you're the real MVP! Rice is the thing that brings most dishes together, without it, this style of cooking wouldn't be so amazing, now the rice you want to use is high grade long grain, but if you're having it plan and not plan on making it into fried rice, you cannot go wrong with Thai fragrant, Thai fragrant isn't great for
I hope this helps, remember this is just my opinion, its not set in stone and you can have your own top ingredients, Sesame oil shouldn't be there before someone starts, its no where near used as much as westerners think, its like 5 spice. Anyway, until the next time!