At the heart of Asian cooking are the spices that pack flavor and bring depth to your dishes. Here is our list of 5 essential Asian spices to have on hand that can help breathe new life into your family meals. Then you will be surprised to know how many different spices there are, all with their unique taste, characteristics, flavors, and aromas.
Top 1 - Star Aniseed
When sipping from a steaming bowl of Vietnamese pho, you’ll find a delicate broth that possesses a wonderfully aromatic flavor profile comparable to licorice or fennel. Star anise is the most likely culprit for that flavor. A secret ingredient in traditional Asian dishes, this warming, sweet spice can be simmered in broths and braises to add extra depth of flavor.
Top 2 - Kaffir Lime Leaves
In Vietnam, Kaffir Leaves are used in chicken dishes to add fragrance and also to cover up the smell when steaming snails. Besides, Kaffir Lime Leaves are a signature flavor of many Thai curries, salads, soups and stir-fries.
Like many spices, the dried leaves and the dried rind are not near as fragrant as the fresh. The rind is bitter with bold citrus notes, while the leaves have a strong, floral and pungent aroma with hints of both lemon and lime. The flavor is somewhat gentle yet bold and tends to stick around for a while.
Similar to bay leaves, whole Kaffir leaves are generally removed from the dish prior to serving. If you are going to leave them in a dish you should shred them very, very thin. They do retain their flavor when cooked so it is okay to add these early in the cooking process. But be careful with these, as the longer they are in a dish the more flavor they provide.
Top 3 - Galangal
The galangal root is slightly bigger than ginger and paler in color. It also has a more peppery taste. It’s a staple in Thai cooking, along with the all-time favorite lemongrass. Try using them to create a refreshing lemongrass-galangal tea or the popular “Tom Kha Gai”, otherwise known as Thai Coconut Galangal Chicken Soup.
Top 4 - Lemongrass
As a spice, fresh lemon grass is preferred for its vibrant flavor. The fresh stalks and leaves have a clean lemon-like odor because they contain an essential oil, which is also present in lemon peel.
Lemongrass features in Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Indian cooking and is widely used in savory dishes and meat, poultry, seafood and vegetable curries. It harmonizes well with coconut milk, especially with chicken or seafood, and there are countless Thai and Vietnam recipes exploiting this combination. The stems are also used in teas or used in pickles and in flavoring marinades.
Top 5 - Ginger
Found in all kinds of dishes, from Teriyaki Salmon to fish curries, ginger is another key ingredient you should have in your kitchen. It can be purchased in both root and powdered form. The Japanese even pickle it to accompany their sushi.
Ginger has some medicinal value, so you should try including it in your dishes whenever possible. We’ve seen some really interesting ginger-infused dishes created by chefs, including Pumpkin Ginger Nut Muffins, Ginger Pineapple Fried Rice, Pork Chop with Ginger Pear Sauce, and even in cookies! Ginger’s unique scent and taste make it especially good for sweet snacks.
On the whole, if you are ready to try your hand at preparing Asian cuisine, it’s time to stock up on the right kind of herbs and spices. Different cuisines use different herbs and spices – easily found at Longdan Supermarket.