When it comes to cooking, I favour a more minimalist approach. I’m not one for filling my kitchen cupboards to bursting with heaps of ingredients I only ever use once. Instead, I tend to favour 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…
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.
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…
My spicy garlic butter linguine uses oyster sauce to bring on the umami.
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.
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.
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.
My homemade Sriracha will keep in the fridge for up to six months.
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.
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!