10 Things to Know About Asian Home-Cooking
Every day in the news, you read about another hip Asian food truck or restaurant opening. We’ve come a long way from the greasy Chinese takeout most of us grew up on, and now it’s time to incorporate these flavors into your home cooking. Below are the 10 things you need to know about how to cook great Asian food at home.
- Shopping for Asian ingredients is easier than you think. As demand grows for authentic Asian food, more and more markets are offering hard-to-find dry goods and exotic produce. The easiest way is to shop for all of the ingredients you’ll need online.
- You do have time to cook Asian food on weeknights. Aim for one-dish meals that are loaded with vegetables or great cuts of meat and seafood, like a light Thai curry.
- You won’t need any expensive equipment to get started. The most common (and simple) techniques require only a heavy-bottom sauté pan and a pasta pot with a steamer insert. Every kitchen should have a well-sharpened knife and a mini food processor to help with mincing, dressings, curry pastes, and sauces.
- Asian dishes prepared at home taste better, and are much better for you, than typical Chinese takeout meals. In Asia, the vibrant flavors come from fresh herbs and spices. Braising, stir-frying, and steaming are the most common techniques.
- Asian recipes are easy to prepare. I always encourage home chefs to prepare dishes that use different cooking techniques, so you can do everything in 30 minutes or less. Try braising a dish in the oven while you quickly stir-fry a vegetable on the stove as you steam your rice. If you’re really pressed for time, you can always buy pre-chopped vegetables at the store.
- Asian food has many health benefits. Authentic Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese dishes are prepared using the healthiest techniques available, with a light steam or quick stir-fry. Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables, and rice make up the majority of the plate, with high-fat proteins as a garnish instead of the main event.
- Authentic Asian food is never made with MSG. Authentic Asian cuisine relies on the natural flavors of fresh produce and meat, aromatics for seasoning, and light sauces to enhance the fresh flavors of a dish.
- There are no rules about blending cuisines. Keep things simple to create a menu of straightforward recipes from a blend of Asian cuisines. One of my favorite combinations is fresh Cantonese steamed fish with a Malay-inspired stir-fry of seasonal greens, chiles, and sweet soy sauces.
- Asian food is perfect for entertaining. Place all the components of the meal in the middle of the table and let your guests do the work for you. Don’t forget to include tons of fresh herbs.
- To get started, you need a few staples for your Asian pantry. I keep light and dark soy sauces, fish sauce, rice vinegar, chile sauce, and sesame oil on hand. I also always have noodles and jasmine rice. The best part is, most of these ingredients have a long shelf life and can be used in other types of cuisines to enhance the flavor of soups, salads, and marinades.
Farina Kingsley is a chef, cookbook author, and the creator of Farina's Asian Pantry products. Visit her website to download her app and learn more about Asian cooking.