Red wine vinegar, light & dark soy sauces, sesame oil, rice vinegar, Korean red pepper flakes


Guilin style chili sauce, ground bean sauce, black bean garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar

People often tell me that the hardest part about cooking at home is not the actual cooking itself, but shopping for (and sometimes just merely remembering to shop for) ingredients. Others complain that many recipes call for ingredients and condiments that not only do they not already have in their kitchens/pantries, but can’t justify purchasing for the lack of options or ideas for future use…The idea behind this blog is that most of my recipes can be easily created in any kitchen inexpensively with minimal fuss and time investment. 

(from Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant)

For a number of recipe posts I have published thus far, I have added notes at the end with information about ingredients that some may not be familiar with. This included some tips on how to use these ingredients in other dishes to justify their purchase.

Here is an alphabetized and improved compilation of these notes on ingredients that you may not already have in your pantry, with tips on how you can make them staples in your own kitchen.

Black bean garlic sauce: A fermented black soybean paste with garlic and soy sauce. Incredibly versatile in Chinese stir-fried dishes. It’s perfectly salty and pungent.

  • Stir fry with bell peppers, onions, and any type of protein you want – beef, pork, fish filets, chicken, etc
  • Use to steam catfish (recipe coming soon) 

Dark soy sauce: Used for coloring dishes rather than to add a lot of saltiness. Adds a nice soy fragrance to dishes

Ground bean sauce: A fermented soybean paste that adds an incredible burst of umami to various Chinese stir-fried dishes. Super versatile – I like the Koon Chun brand. This is readily available at Asian grocers.

Guilin-style chili sauce: A chili sauce made with fresh chili, garlic, and fermented soybeans. I like the Lee Kum Kee brand, which I have been able to find easily at Asian grocery stores even out here in Missouri.

  • Sauté vegetables (e.g. broccoli) with some garlic and this chili sauce
  • Use in making mapo tofu
  • Use as a dipping sauce (with Chinese vinegar) for dumplings or potstickers
  • Recipes: Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant, Zhajiangmian

Hoisin sauce: A sweet, soybean-based popular condiment for pho, barbequed pork, mushu pork, etc.

Korean red pepper flakes: This is the stuff responsible for the spicy goodness in kimchee, soondobu jiggae (tofu stew), various banchan (Korean side dishes), etc. I love using this in place of regular red pepper flakes or chili powders. You should be able to find a small container of this chili at most Asian grocery stores. That is, unless you want to buy the 5lb packages marketed to Korean housewives who make their own kimchee (so jealous… another aspiration for another day)

  • Try topping pizza with this instead of regular red pepper flakes
  • Recipes: Hot and Sour Soup

Miso paste: This stuff is beyond versatile and lasts forever in the fridge. Obviously, you can make miso soup but you can add it to endless other recipes. I like using miso as a savory flavoring in lieu of adding additional salt.

  • Use in a marinade for salmon, like ginger-miso salmon, or other meats
  • Use in making salad dressings
  • Add it to flavor ramen broth
  • Recipes: Hot and Sour Soup

Mushroms (Asian varieties): A generous variety of canned mushrooms can be found at Asian markets – including enoki, straw, button, etc.

  • Use in soups, stir-fries, salads, etc
  • See below for notes on shitake mushrooms
  • Recipes: Hot and Sour Soup

Red wine vinegar: An excellent salad dressing ingredient – can be used in place of or in addition to balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, etc.

  • Use it in braising chicken or cooking seafood, etc.
  • Use in making salad dressings
  • Recipes: Hot and Sour Soup

Shitake mushrooms: These come in both fresh and dried varieties. The dried ones can keep in the pantry indefinitely and I like to keep these on hand. These need to be pre-soaked before cooking (see my recipe for Zhajiangmian for a clever microwave trick to save time)

  • Regular soaking method: soak in hot water for 30 minutes, flipping over to the other side halfway through
  • Lazy/Ain’t-Nobody-Got-30-Minutes method: Place mushrooms in a bowl of hot water and microwave for 3 minutes on each side
  • Even lazier pre-soak method: Pre-soak and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (be sure to drain water before storing)
  • Recipes: Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant, Hot and Sour SoupZhajiangmian

One thought on “Ingredients

  1. Pingback: Zhajiangmian (Noodles in Soybean Paste) | Med student kitchen: Eating my way to an MD

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