Of all of the wonderful cuisines and culinary delights out there, the advantages of East Asian cuisine can often seem to outrival others. Few cuisines opt for such a rich and dazzling array of seasonings, while the culinary methods involved in even the simplest dishes can bring your meal to life like nothing you have ever tasted before.
Of course, the world of East Asian cuisine, or more specifically Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food (for the purposes of this piece only), is a true smorgasbord of flavors and experiences. If you are new to these cuisines, you might be looking for some pointers. Fortunately, cooking Asian dinners has never been easier.
Ingredients for all different Asian recipes are now abundantly available in most local supermarkets. Meanwhile, the means to cook them easily and quickly are now accessible and affordable. If you’re looking to open your world and your taste buds to the very best of Asian cuisine, here are some essential culinary tips that will ensure every dish you prepare is a true knockout.
1. Have Your Base Ingredients, Always
Whether you’re making chicken and broccoli or a complex spicy stew or noodle broth, you will be pleasantly surprised at just how many dishes use different combinations of the same handful of ingredients.
It might seem like you need to buy a lot of ingredients at first, but you will quickly realize that once you have your base items, you are set for almost anything. This is not the place to provide a truly exhaustive list, but the key Asian dinner ingredients that appear in many of the most popular dishes and types of sauces are:
- Soy sauce
- Chili sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Spring onions
- Rice vinegar
- Rice wine
- Miso paste
- Sesame oil
Once you have these, you already have the majority of ingredients for most of the popular dishes.
2. Know Your Substitutions
Of course, Asian dishes of all stripes use a variety of ingredients that you might not always have to hand. That’s why it is important to learn what ingredients you can use as substitutes, for when you can’t find your preferred item. For example, if you can’t find rice wine, you can use a dry sherry for a similar effect.
Tamari can be used to replace soy sauce, while you can make your own ponzu at home by mixing soy sauce and lime. Simply remembering the most common substitutes will help save you stress, time, and money on your Asian food journey.
3. Get to Grips with Your Brands
For the best experience, you should know which brands to pick. After all, there is a huge range of providers for some of the Asia-specific ingredients out there, not all of which are created equal.
For example, if you want authentic and reliable soy sauce, you should choose a brand such as Lee Kum Kee, which is a staple in any Chinese kitchen. Meanwhile, if you are looking for some high-quality xiao long bao and are wondering what are dumplings that you can trust, then opt for a trusted brand like Xiao Chi Jie.
4. Simple Tools for Cooking Chinese Dinners
Your ingredients are the first step in your journey. In order to make your cooking and daily meal plan processes as straightforward as possible, you should invest in classic Asian culinary tools.
Granted, you can create the most popular dishes with the chopping board and pans you have at home, but this is honestly not an ideal way to approach it, especially if you care about authentic flavors and textures. For a start, a high-quality wok is absolutely essential, as is a bamboo steamer. A meat cleaver is also best suited to chopping your herbs, while a chopping block is also recommended. And of course, don’t forget your chopsticks!
5. The Art of the Stir Fry
For making the majority of noodle, rice, and vegetable dishes in a pinch, you need to learn how to stir fry. This is pretty much a non-negotiable if you want to create some truly authentic and delicious Asian dishes. First, you need a large wok that can accommodate all of your ingredients in one go.
You need to use the correct oils (never, ever use olive oil in a stir fry). You should always heat the wok up to an extremely high temperature. Never cook ice-cold meat and always throw in your vegetables after your meat. These simple tips will ensure a quality stir fry.
6. Start Simple and Go From There
One of the best things about so much of Asian cuisine is just how intuitive it is. You do not need to be a culinary expert to create truly show-stopping dishes in just a few minutes. In addition, you rarely need to spend your entire cooking process squinting at a recipe and double-checking every single step.
The important thing when you are just starting out is to keep it simple. You should always build your knowledge, pantry, and skill set with the most simple and popular dishes. Once you have mastered some of these, everything else will very quickly fall into place. That’s because the more niche and complicated dishes seem easy once you have the basics under wraps. Try some staple beginner dishes such as:
- Chicken and broccoli
- King Pao chicken
- Dan Dan Noodles
- Spring rolls
- Salt and pepper tofu
- Mei Fun
- Garlic and ginger teriyaki chicken
- Chicken Katsu curry
- Bokumbap (kimchi fried rice)
Once you have these mastered, everything else is a piece of cake.
7. Your Oil Always Matters
Finally, do not forget the importance of your oil. Asian dishes tend to use a large amount of oil and you need to be very particular about the oil you use for certain dishes. As mentioned, olive oil does not really have many purposes in any mainstream Asian dish and should be avoided.
Remember to distinguish between when to use vegetable oil and when to use sesame oil, for instance. Always use a thermometer for deep frying as oil temperature should always be exact. Remember to pat any oily dishes dry before serving.
Explore the Very Best Asian Recipes
Now that you know everything you need to know about cooking Asian dinners, it’s time for some inspiration. For this, you have come to the right place. On our site, you can find the very best in simple and delicious Asian recipes that the whole family will adore.