A lot of home cooks are intimidated by Asian food. Sure, we order Thai takeout and grab pho when we’re out, but do you ever try to make it yourself? With just a few simple staples, you can add the fresh, bold flavors of your favorite Asian dishes to your everyday meals. Even better, these ingredients are common enough that your neighborhood grocery store probably has them.
Vietnamese Ingredients Vietnamese food is heavily influenced by French cooking, as Vietnam was a French colony until 1945. That’s why banh mi, a kind of Vietnamese sandwich, features crusty French bread. Banh mi sandwiches traditionally include pate made of chicken liver, but you can easily substitute Sriracha beans, pulsed briefly in the food processor, as a spread. It’s got a similar texture and flavor, without the fuss.
Chinese Ingredients Rice vinegar, soy sauce and ginger are fundamental flavors in Chinese cooking. An easy, light way to incorporate these into your meals is in a salad. Add a splash of sesame oil and you have a delicious dressing for a simple lettuce salad or shrimp and black bean salad. Or add honey to that same dressing and toss with broccoli, snow peas, water chestnuts and garbanzo beans for a sweet and salty Asian-inspired Asian bean salad. Mix that same honey-infused dressing with the white bottoms of scallions, sliced, for a delicious marinade for chicken, pork, beef or tofu. Add a little spice with cracked Sichuan peppercorns or chili garlic sauce.
Thai Ingredients Thai food incorporates spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavors. The most famous spicy Thai flavor is, of course, Sriracha (which is of Thai origin but actually produced in Los Angeles!). You can use Sriracha sauce in almost anything. For starters, try it in your favorite noodle dishes, meat and tofu marinades, salad dressings and egg dishes. Simply top scrambled eggs with Sriracha or use the sauce in a spicy breakfast skillet that combines the flavors of Thailand and Mexico (and is sure to wake you up in the morning!). Thai food also utilizes coconut milk, which is great for adding sweetness to curry, brothy soup or even coffee! You can also make your favorite rice pudding recipe with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk for a sweet, slightly coconut-y taste.
It’s easy to incorporate Asian flavors into your cooking. A few extra ingredients in your pantry is all you need to re-create the flavors of your favorite takeout … without having to leave the house!