Although the quest to explore Asian cooking can begin with buying a few essential pantry ingredients, you may be hard-pressed to complete an authentic meal with just the purchase of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. While ingredients such as these are definitely the starting point for many Asian dishes, the world of Asian cooking is full of exotic and mysterious ingredients. No matter how many bottles of soy sauce you buy, there’s always going to be another unique and interesting ingredient around the corner for you to try.
No one is more of a believer in this than Steven Devereaux Greene, executive chef at An New World Cuisine in Cary, S.C. For chef Greene, exploring the many facets of Asian cuisine is what propels his work at the restaurant today, and he is determined to introduce new ingredients to home cooks. At An New World Cuisine, Greene blends his sophisticated style with the down-home cooking comforts of the South to create exciting dishes that showcase alternative Asian ingredients. To help us spruce things up a bit in our own kitchens, he shared with us five alternative ingredients for Asian cooking.
Chef Greene describes kanzuri as a cousin to miso because of its thick texture and musky flavor. A combination of red chiles, rice malt, salt, and yuzu, it is made from the fermentation of red peppers with rice malt, and is a great addition to broths, stocks, and vinaigrettes. Greene loves using kanzuri as frozen granite on oysters at his restaurant, but when he's at home, he's usually creating an innovative barbecue sauce recipe with it.
Similar to kanzuri, yuzu miromi is another thick paste that is a blend of fermented barley, wood ear mushrooms, and yuzu skin and its juices. It’s great in broths, stocks, and vinaigrettes as well but is also a favorite of chef Greene’s when it's served by itself alongside sashimi or a fish tartare dish.
Chef Greene likens black cardamom to the Indian spice green cardamom, but rather than it being used for desserts, he likes using the black variety for adding a depth of flavor to pho and Szechuan hot pot broths. Dried over open flames, the spice has a unique, smoky flavor that also works well in marinades, including ones used for lamb.
Chef Greene describes this wine as the sherry cooking wine of China, often used for adding that unmistakable sweetness as a base to many dishes. Made from fermented rice, it’s a well-known ingredient used throughout China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. He uses it in the sauce for his beef fillet and espresso potatoes dish served at his restaurant, but it’s also great to use as a substitute for sherry wine in any dish you’re making.
Kombu is China’s version of nori, and is an edible type of seaweed that is a staple in many Chinese pantries. It’s great to use as a base for stock or dashi broth, but chef Greene likes to infuse it with a touch of butter to create the scallop dish he offers at his restaurant. He also likes wrapping the seaweed around a piece of sashimi so that it cures the fish with its natural sugars.
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce