Ingredients in this page are what I consider essentials to cook authentic Asian recipes, with a special focus on Chinese cuisine and Japanese cuisine. Please also visit my Indonesian pantry guide if you need it.
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A staple in many Chinese recipes. My Mom has been using this particular brand since forever, and this is the brand I use most of the time.
Dark soy sauce will give a signature dark color to many Chinese dishes and should not be confused with light/regular soy sauce.
Oyster sauce is another key ingredient in many Chinese dishes. A Chinese pantry is not complete without a bottle of good quality oyster sauce.
Use mushroom sauce, which is the vegetarian version of oyster sauce, when you need to prepare vegetarian/vegan-friendly dishes.
The cooking version of Shaoxing wine has salt. I highly suggest getting a bottle of drinking/regular Shaoxing wine that has no salt if your Asian market sells it.
This Pagoda brand Hua Diao Shaoxing has no salt and is the one I use whenever a recipe calls for Shaoxing wine. Try finding it in your local Asian market for under $10 per bottle.
Kadoya sesame oil is slightly pricier compared to other brands of sesame oil, but after trying so many different ones, this is still my favorite sesame oil.
This soy sauce from Japan is more expensive compared to the US version, but trust me, it tastes so much better and has lower sodium compared to the US version.
Mirin is an essential ingredient in many Japanese recipes. I love Eden compared to Kikkoman since it’s free of artificial sweetener.
Unlike regular/drinking sake, cooking sake contains salt. This is the next best thing when you can’t find regular/drinking sake to prepare Japanese dishes.
A cheap sake like this one from Gekkeikan will make your dishes taste better compared to using a cooking sake. Your Asian market should have it for under $10 per bottle.
Always get the unseasoned version of rice vinegar since it is more versatile to use in recipes. Rice vinegar is essential in sushi, pickle, and salad dressing.
White miso paste, or shiro miso, has the sweetest and lightest flavor compared to other varieties of miso. I use this mainly for miso soup and salad dressing.
Red miso, or aka miso, has a darker color and a stronger taste compared to white miso. I love using red miso in grilled dishes, but you can use it for miso soup too.
Awase miso is a combination of white and red miso paste. If you want to stock only one type of miso, I highly suggest getting awase miso since it can stand in for both white and red miso.
Another key ingredient when preparing authentic dashi (Japanese stock). This dried kelp is the ingredient that gives a satisfying umami flavor to dashi (Japanese stock).
I love adding wakame to miso soup or Japanese salad. I can serve my family with nutrient-rich vegetables just by making sure I always have some wakame in my pantry.
Every time a Japanese recipe calls for mayonnaise, you should try using Kewpie mayonnaise for the most authentic experience since this is de facto mayonnaise in Japan.
I often cook Japanese katsu at home, and we go through a bottle of this tonkatsu sauce in no time at all. You will need this sauce for your okonomiyaki and takoyaki too.
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