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The pantry essentials Marion Grasby can’t live without

Want to know Marion's must-have ingredients for creating all her favourite dishes? From spices to sauces, these pantry essentials are her ultimate kitchen staples.

The pantry essentials Marion Grasby can’t live without

When it comes to cooking, I favour a more minimalist approach. Yes, that goes for recipes: I’ll opt for the delicious dish on my table in minutes than the gourmet, 20-zillion-step piece of edible art. But also I take a less-is-more angle with the components themselves. Because I’m not one for filling my kitchen cupboards to bursting with heaps of ingredients I only ever use once. Instead, I tend to have a select few staples, which I then mix and match to create both old favourites and new classics. So, when it comes to stocking up, where to start? Here are a few of my ultimate pantry essentials to get you on your way…

Soy sauce

I’d suggest investing in three – yes, three! – varieties of soy sauce to ensure you’ve always got the most suitable one to hand. I like to use ‘light soy sauce’ as my everyday variety (use this if ever a recipe of mine calls for soy sauce), dark soy sauce (which adds a more rich colour to dishes), and a dark sweet soy sauce, like Indonesian kecap manis. For more information, read my article about everything you wanted to know about soy sauce.

Fish sauce

I’m half Thai, so fish sauce is an obvious choice for me in my cooking. It’s featured in all my Thai dishes and is awesome at adding seasoning and saltiness to a dish.

Oyster sauce

Amazing for stir-fries and adding savoury, umami goodness to dishes. I even like to use oyster sauce when cooking my fusion pasta dishes – like with my Spicy Garlic Butter Linguine. This garlic butter pasta YouTube video blew up my channel, and if you’ve made it you’ll know why. And for all you doubters? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…

Spicy Garlic Butter Linguini

My spicy garlic butter linguine uses oyster sauce to bring on the umami.

Chinese Shaoxing wine

I cook with this a lot and love the fragrance and almost floral notes it lends to a dish. As a general rule, you can usually substitute apple juice or stock for this if you want to keep your cooking alcohol-free.


If you’re familiar with my recipes, you’ll have noticed I’m slightly addicted to gochujang. It’s a Korean chilli paste made from red chillies, rice and fermented soy beans, and has a deep, dark red colour and a slight smoky flavour. Try it in my Korean Fried Chicken Wings or Gochujang Garlic Bread.

Korean Fried Chicken Wings

Gochujang features heavily in these Korean Fried Chicken Wings.


This is a spicy fermented chilli and broad bean paste from Sichuan province in China. It has a magically spicy umami kinda vibe that just adds serious flavour, punch and depth to a dish. Try it in my Spicy Wonton Noodle Soup and never look back.

Thai (or Chinese) chilli powder

I know a lot of your typical supermarkets will only sell a super-fine, ground powder, but I tend to prefer a mix of chilli flakes, seeds and powder. My top tip? Head to your local Asian supermarket and look for a Thai or Chinese brand, as they’re more likely to offer that winning combo.

A hot chilli sauce

An absolute essential (have you seen my article on the best things to put sriracha on?!)! I love my spicy Coconut Sriracha for that subtle level of creaminess it offers, but any hot sauce will do. I’ve also got a homemade Thai Sriracha sauce recipe if you’re feeling inspired. Eggs, noodles, rice… even ice cream tastes way better with chilli sauce.

Homemade Thai Sriracha Sauce

My homemade Sriracha will keep in the fridge for up to six months.

Miso paste

My preference for miso is the ‘white’ or ‘sweet’ miso, also known as shiro miso. It’s less salty than darker varieties of miso and has a lovely savoury flavour. Find out all about miso here. Bonus: it even goes well in desserts, like with these chocolate, peanut butter and miso cookies and miso cheesecake with caramel sauce.


I generally use your run-of-the-mill white vinegar for all my Asian cooking. But when a recipe calls for that little extra summit summit, I like to use a Chinese black vinegar called chiankiang vinegar. But anytime I specify this black vinegar, feel free to use a regular white vinegar mixed with just a dash of balsamic as a handy substitute.

Other pantry essentials

You’ll never get stumped on what oil to cook with again

I’d also recommend the following extras…

– Sesame oil: For adding a lovely flavour and aroma to dishes.
– Vegetable oil: It’s an ideal oil for deep-frying and general cooking.
Cornflour (cornstarch): For thickening sauces.
– Panko breadcrumbs: Give a lovely texture to anything you’re crumbing.
– Shrimp paste: It’s funky, but fabulous. Try it in my Indonesian Nasi Goreng.
– Palm sugar: I love the flavour of this traditional Thai ingredient, but feel free to use regular white sugar if you can’t get hold of it.
– Star anise: Wonderful for levelling up your soups and stocks.
– Cinnamon sticks: Another of my favourite spices.
– White pepper: Such a classic Thai flavour!

Happy cooking!

Recipes using my pantry essentials

Marion's Kitchen is for everyone who finds joy in flavour and happiness in every bite. Marion's Kitchen is for everyone who finds joy in flavour and happiness in every bite.

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