A huge variety of herbs and spices, curry pastes and condiments are integral parts of dishes across Asia. Unlike bland Western dining, there is no salt or pepper in sight, and certainly no tomato ketchup! Instead, dishes are intensely flavourful and often accompanied by a sauce specific to each dish… The innate complexity of Asian cooking is at first bewildering…
Bean Sprouts (Phaseolus aureus)
The tender young sprouts of the germinating mung bean are used in Asia as a vegetable and fried in cooked dishes. They are also often used raw in salads.
Asian chili sauces are usually fairly thick and hot, unlike the West’s thinner Tobasco. Chili sauce is prepared from pulped peppers (Capscium frutescens) , flavoured with garlic and vinegar, and thickened with cornstarch. Preservatives may be added to extend the shelf life. Chili sauce is usually eaten as a condiment with Chinese dishies, and always with Thai dishes.
Chinese five-spice powder
A blend of spices consisting of anise-pepper, star anise, cassia, cloves and fennel seed. A licorice flavour predominates. Used in Chinese cuisine for a variety of savory dishes, it is available in powder form.
Chinese Mushroom (Lentinus edodes)
Also called Shiitake mushroom, these are the most widely used mushrooms in oriental cooking and are grown in China and Japan on the wood of dead deciduous trees. Lentinus edodes takes its name from the shii tree (Pasania), but also grows on the oak and hornbeam. The spawn is planted into holes or wedges cut in the logs, and crops last for 3-6 years. Shiitake are fried by sun, or artificial heat. Dried ones should be soaked in warm water for 20 minutes.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
The dried, aromatic bark of an everygreen of the laurel family, native to Ceylon and India. Cinnamon is used in the form of quills, bark and powder. It has keeping qualities. It is usually used for baking, and desserts; also to flavour rice dishes and fish, chicken or ham. Cassia is best suited to spiced meats and curries.
Cloves (Eugenia Aromatica)
The dried, aromatic flower buds of an evergreen of the myrtle family native to Southeast Asia, cloves are normally used whole , but the central “head” of the bud can also be ground into a powder. They are used in sweet and savoury dishes, spiced wines and liqueurs. Available in a whole or powder form.
Coconut (Cocos nucifera)
The fruit of the coconut palm, antive to the Tropics, the form in which it is usually sold is as the outer skin has been removed. It is also availble dried or flaked. Dried coconut in flaked or finely shredded form is often used plain or toasted as a garnish, or it can be included in baking recipes.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
This plant is native to southern Europe and the Middle East, but is now available worldwide. The fresh leaves and the seeds are used. The herb has a fresh taste, similiar to orange, and is an important ingredient in curry.
Chicken Egg: Both brown and white eggs has the same nutritional value and it is a matter of personal taste which you choose to buy. These are the only eggs to be produced on a large commerical scale and are familiar standard by which other eggs are compared, the average weight being about 50g (2oz).
Preserved Egg (1,000-Year-Old): Raw duck eggs preserved in lime , pine ash and salt for 50-100 days, these emerge transulcent blue and green, looking much older than they are. Firm in texture, they are rich with a slightly fishy taste.
Duck Egg: These eggs are oiler-tasting than chickens’ eggs and can acquire a harmful bacteria s they are usually laid in a dirty spot. However, they are still suitable for eating if they are boiled for 15 minutes or used in baking. The white turns bluish and the yolk a reddish-orange after boiling.
Quail Egg: Considered a delicacy, these small eggs are usually eaten hard-boiled or poached and in aspic.
Ostrich Egg: This egg is rarely available, but it is edible provided it hasn’t been left to bake in the sun or been partically hatched. An ostrich egg is twenty times the size of a chicken egg.
Native to Southeast Asia, the spice is derived from the rhizome of the plant. Its uses include baking, confectionery, and liquers; also Oriental dishes and picles. Sold in root, powder or pickled forms.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogan citratus; C. flexuesus, and C. nardus)
This includes several species of grass, all possessing the flavor of grass, all possessing the flavor of lemon due to the presence of citric oils. This aromatic grass is native to Southeast Asia, where in some places the lemon tree is absent. It is useful in flavoring salads, fish dishes and soups. The grass is available powdered as “Sereh Power”. In Thailand, and other parts of Southeast Asia, the leaves of the Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) are also used for fish dishes.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Probably native to the Mediterranean region since ancient times, but now cultivated worldwide, there are three main varities of lettuce : crisphead, which has a tight solid head ; cos or romaine, which has elongated, coarse leaves; and butteredheas or cabbage, which has loose, coarse leaves. All are mainly used raw in salads, though can also be braised in soups. They are available all year round.
Noodles and Pasta
Noodles are defined as a food paste made of flour, water and eggs which may be sold and used either dried or fresh. Most Italian pasta, when made commercially, contains no eggs and is made from durum wheat flour in a variety of tradition shapes.
Chinese Egg Noodles
These vary considerably, but typically they are 1/8in. (6mm)wide, and sold like loosely tangled balls of wool. Noodles are ‘mein’ or mee in Chinese cooking, and features in ‘chow mein’/fried noodles dishes, incorporated with meat and vegetables.