Have you ever attempted to define Asian cuisine’s complex flavours? Without doubt the dishes are delicious, but what sets this cuisine apart from the rest is the signature taste that each dish carries. Asian gourmet food offer tastes that go beyond sweet, salty, sour or bitter. A true Asian food lover or even someone who’s just discovering the magnificent world of Asian cuisine, would know that there’s a certain ‘zing’ present in all the dishes. The rich flavours of Asian food rely on three things: spices, herbs, and condiments. Let us discover some of the most important condiments used in Asian cuisine.
A prized cooking ingredient in every Asian household, Vinegar is mainly used as a flavourful, acidic cooking ingredient. It gives dishes a sharper taste with hints of sour or sweet depending on your choice of vinegar. Rice vinegar and Balsamic vinegar are popular varieties of this condiment used widely in Asian culinary arts.
- Soy Sauce
Prominently used in Japanese cuisine, soy sauce is utilised as seasoning, marinade or condiment in Asian cooking techniques. This thin, dark brown sauce is made from a fermented paste of soybeans. The modern process to make soy sauce involves a number of procedures including soaking and cooking, growing, brewing, pressing and pasteurizing.
- Lime Juice
Citrus fruit and its juice have for centuries been a significant component of almost every culinary tradition. While Western cuisines have lemon, Asian dishes have lime and calamondin. Unlike vinegar, which is pungent, citrus juice is quite aromatic and adds a different level of tartness to any recipe. Juice is added not only for seasoning but for many warm and cold drinks, also as dipping sauce and as an ingredient.
- Fish Sauce
Nothing can notch up your dish than fish sauce referred to as ‘liquid umami’. This reddish-brown sauce is made of fermented salt and fish. It is a popular ingredient in marinades as well as a condiment. Many may seem intimidated with its powerful smell, but a few drops of the sauce will hit you right. It gives every dish a separate salty and fishy flavour.
- Chilli Flakes
Red Chilli flakes are a special and essential condiment in South and North Asian cooking. The use of dried chilies is not only used for its spiciness but also for its added flavour. A pinch of Sriracha or Sambal in a savoury dish raises the flavour to an entirely new level!
Before you can cook up any Asian dish, it is better that you stock up on these important condiments and then some more like Tamarind Sauce and Miso. Filling your pantry with Asian herbs and spices, dry ingredients and condiments will facilitate the creation of vibrant and unique flavours that make Asian cuisines so exclusive.