Galangal vs ginger may be an obvious comparison but did you know that turmeric is related to both? Here’s how to get the best from all three and use them to maximum effect in your cooking.
A trio of rhizomes
Galangal, ginger and turmeric all belong to the ginger family. The part of the plant that we use for cooking is known as a rhizome. Although botanically speaking it is different, you can just think of it as a root. Hence the name root ginger, for fresh ginger.
What is galangal?
Let’s begin with the least well known of our trio. There are several varieties of galangal but greater galangal, also known as Thai ginger, is native to Java and used primarily in South East Asian cooking. Particularly associated with Thai food, galangal is also used in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
The fresh rhizomes are often sold alongside ginger and turmeric. It looks pretty similar to ginger but has a thinner skin with noticeable striped rings.
Turmeric and ginger
Ginger, in both its fresh and dried forms, is probably the most familiar. Found all over the world, it is used in a wide range of dishes both savoury and sweet. The fresh root is slightly larger than the other two, and is sold in chunky branches known as a hand. The skin is light brown and thicker than that of galangal and turmeric.
Unless you were aware that turmeric is a root related to ginger you would probably never guess, as we are most familiar with it in its dried form. Turmeric is the smallest and sold as individual fingers rather than branching hands. The skin is also light brown, but the orange beneath is easily discernible. Like galangal, it is noticeably striped. Fresh turmeric is used in the same way as ginger or galangal.
Galangal vs ginger
The difference between ginger and galangal is subtle yet important. The two are not interchangeable and are in fact sometimes used together.
We use ginger, galangal and turmeric together in our South East Asian spice blend and they all play a different role.
What does galangal taste like?
Galangal has an overall lighter aspect than ginger. Sharp on the tongue it is more citrussy and has a hot clean taste.
Ginger can also be citrussy but is sweeter than galangal, with more peppery notes. It is deep, pungent and tangy.
Turmeric is nothing like the other two. It is earthy and bitter, with only a slightly spicy undertone.
Fresh ginger vs dried
The dried forms of all three of these spices, are completely different to the fresh roots. Yet what they lose in terms of bright citrussy top notes they gain in depth of flavour. Most cuisines use both fresh and dried, for different purposes, and they are considered simply different not inferior.
How to use dried galangal
As already noted, dried galangal is not really a fresh galangal substitute but is used in South East Asian food for different purposes. That said, a high quality product such as our organic galangal powder has a surprisingly fresh flavour. Stored well and used wisely you will find a happy compromise.
We use galangal powder in this quick and easy hot and sour soup. The same post features dried ginger in a recipe for quick and easy Singapore black pepper chicken.
Galangal powder is found in many spice blends, including Rendang curry powder and Laksa spice mixes. It is of particular use in seafood dishes where it neutralises those over-fishy flavours. Use in soups, curries and stir fries.
Ginger powder goes surprisingly well with vegetables, in particular squash, pumpkin or carrots. You can also use it to tenderise meat before grilling. Try mixing our organic ginger powder with just salt and pepper before using as a dry rub; make the ginger the star of the show. Ginger is found in most curry powder blends, as well as BBQ rubs and jerk spice.
Turmeric powder is an amalgamating spice which means that not only does it pretty much go with everything but it also brings the other spices together in harmony. A sprinkle of organic turmeric powder over cauliflower before roasting is really good. Turmeric finds its way into so many spice blends because of this harmonising quality.
It is worth noting that turmeric is nothing like saffron. Yes, it can be used to colour things orange but any similarity stops there. You can make delicious yellow rice with turmeric that has lovely earthy tones.
A bonus recipe for fragrant yellow rice
Add to the pan of boiling water, in with the rice, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 cinnamon stick, a few cardamom pods and a bay leaf. Drain when cooked and pick out the whole spices before serving.
Take a look at our range of organic Asian spices. All of our Asian sauces and condiments are available to buy in bulk.
This article was reproduced on this site only with permission from our parent co. operafoods.com.au the “Gourmet Online Wholesale Grocer”. See original article:- Galangal vs ginger…and turmeric
A foodie success story, sriracha has become the hot sauce on everyone’s lips. For those who think maybe they don’t like hot sauce, or have just been doing other things for the past decade, we ask ‘what is sriracha?’.
And more importantly, is it hot?
What is sriracha?
Sriracha is a chili sauce, originally from East Asia. Its exact origin is hotly debated but it is generally accredited to the town of Sri Racha in Thailand. What the world has come to know and love as sriracha actually comes from California, where it was invented by a Vietnamese immigrant. Hence the more familiar term of hot sauce.
Interestingly, sriracha is common in both Thailand and Vietnam but in Thailand it is used as a dipping sauce, where it has a thinner consistency and a sharper flavour with more vinegar. In Vietnam is is used more as a condiment.
It is made from chilies, sugar, salt, garlic and vinegar. Commercial varieties have xanthan gum added as a thickener to make it squeezable like mustard or ketchup. It is this squeezable aspect that is possibly, at least partly, responsible for it becoming a worldwide phenom.
Red jalapenos (which are basically green jalapenos that have ripened in the sun) are mixed with vinegar. This breaks them down and also helps to preserve the final product. Salt is added and the mixture is left to do its thing. Kind of like fermenting, but not strictly fermenting as it contains vinegar.
Once the chili, vinegar, salt combo has worked its magic, sugar and garlic are added. It is this, plus the flavour of the chilies, that gives sriracha its unique flavour profile.
Our sriracha chili sauce is certified organic so is made from 100% organic ingredients.
Is sriracha vegan?
The process of making sriracha does not involve any animal ingredients but the provenance of certain ingredients may be called into question. It depends how much of a hard line you take on veganism. Sugar and vinegar may both include animal by products in their processing.
Is sriracha gluten-free?
Theoretically, sriracha contains no ingredients with gluten. But, unless a product is labelled gluten-free and manufactured according to strict regulation it cannot be certified gluten-free. Vinegar, although made with grains, should be gluten-free but there are no guarantees.
So is sriracha sauce hot?
Sriracha brands will vary in their intensity, but as hot sauces go, sriracha is considered to be on the mild side. It is more about flavour than heat, with a little kick that you miss once its gone. Chili excites the tastebuds, making them more receptive to flavour and waking up the appetite.
The Scoville scale measures the capsaicin content of chillies. Capsaicin irritates mucous membranes which is why chile peppers feel hot in your mouth or hurts like hell when you accidently rub it in your eye.
Jalapeno peppers, like they use in sriracha, register at around 5,000 to 9,000 units. The mild and licorice-y pasilla pepper used in Mexican cooking registers between 1,000 to 1,500. Currently the hottest chili pepper stands at 2 million plus. So, jalapeno is low to mid range hot.
The heat of chili can vary from fruit to fruit, even from the same plant. Factors such as processing time and other ingredients can also affect how hot chili feels in the mouth. Manufacturers will however go to great lengths to ensure their offering is consistent so once you find one you like, stick to it.
How many Scoville units is sriracha?
On average (although there really isn’t such a thing) sriracha comes in at about 2,200 Scoville units. Compared to the 3,750 of Tabasco.
Sriracha vs Tabasco
Tabasco is a Cajun style hot sauce made from vinegar, chile peppers, and salt. All about the interplay between chili and vinegar, it has a thin consistency and a sharp vinegar tang. Sriracha is more friendly, like ketchup with a kick, and is all about the extra dimensions from the sugar and garlic alongside the integral flavour of the peppers. Despite the heat, it is soft and rounded on the palate.
What does sriracha sauce taste like?
It is spicy, garlicky, tangy, salty and sweet. Pretty much flavour enhancer in a bottle. One that doesn’t contain MSG.
What goes with sriracha?
Absolutely everything. Seriously, everything. Not just for Asian food (although it is great with it) it ups the ante of everything you put in your mouth. Straight from the bottle it acts as a condiment, a seasoning, or both. Added to mayo, or cream cheese (or both) it becomes milder, creamy and moreish. You can use it as a marinade, and it makes meat taste awesome. It goes particularly well with eggs and cheese. It makes the best buffalo wings EVER.
Does sriracha go in the fridge?
No. It will keep well out of the fridge, but feel free to err on the side of caution and refrigerate anyway if you wish.
Rice noodles are noodles formed from rice flour. Made with rice and water, they sometimes have tapioca, corn starch, or even wheat added to improve their texture. Common across south, east, and south-east Asia, they are mostly bought dried although fresh are available.
Consumption of noodles can be traced back to ancient China. As the story goes, invaders from the north were forced to adapt their wheat based ways to life in the south. Which is rice growing territory. Rice noodles officially became a thing and popularity spread, particularly to the countries of south-east Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. There they became an essential part of the culture.
Types of rice noodles
Rice noodles come in a huge variety of sizes, and different brands may have just slight variations in their composition. They all have a neutral taste with a gelatinous slightly chewy texture that is perfect as a carrier for other flavours. They tend to be white and slightly see through.
Rice vermicelli are the very fine strands that look like angel hair pasta and are usually packaged as nests or bunches. When cooked they are soft, slippery and slightly chewy. Ideal for broth, or as a spring roll filling.
Thicker and wider noodles are slippery and a little more chewy. More robust, they hold sauce well and absorb bold flavours for the perfect silky noodle dish.
The most popular rice noodles throughout Asia are straight flat noodles known as rice sticks. They come dried and look like packets of linguini. When cooked they are soft and slippery with a moderately firm chewy texture. Also known as pho noodles, or pad thai noodles, they are great for stir fries as they hold together well. Rice stick noodles are not to be confused with ramen noodles, which are made from wheat. Brown rice stick noodles are also available.
Are rice noodles gluten free?
Rice, in itself, is a gluten free grain. Rice noodles do often have other ingredients such as wheat added so it is always best to check the label to be certain.
Are rice noodles healthy?
Rice noodles, when they do not contain any additional wheat, are perfect for a gluten free diet. As with any ingredient, noodles are only as healthy as the rest of the ingredients in your dish. Rice noodles are an excellent source of manganese (for blood sugar regulation), antioxidant selenium, and phosphorus (for helping kidneys filter waste). Brown rice noodles have slightly more nutrient value from fibre and help to lower the net carb value.
How to cook rice noodles
All rice noodles are prepared by soaking in water to soften them. Boiling is too harsh for the delicate structure and will result in soggy claggy noodles. And nobody wants that. Use room temperature water and gently pull them apart with your fingers as they soften. Always follow the instructions on the packet but as a rough guide vermicelli noodles need about 3 minutes, whilst stick noodles need about 10 minutes. Drain well after soaking and toss in a little oil to prevent sticking.
If you want to add rice noodles to hot stock or broth, you do not need to soak them. Drop the noodles into the boiling liquid and serve once soft.
To stir fry rice noodles, add the softened and drained noodles to the pan and stir for a minute before adding sauce.
Thai rice noodles
Rice stick noodles, are perfect for pad thai. Take a shortcut, without compromising on flavour, and use our organic pad thai sauce. Simply stir fry chicken, prawns or tofu with spring onions. Add soaked noodles and then the sauce. Serve with crunchy beansprouts, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.
What to do with leftover rice noodles
If you soak more rice noodles than you need, toss them in a little oil to prevent them from clumping together and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Tossed with a dressing they make a great quick salad, or can be added to soups and stir fries as normal. Tossed with other ingredients they make the ideal filling for a lettuce wrap or spring roll.
Sushi rice vinegar is the vinegar used to make rice for sushi. It can be bought pre-seasoned, branded as sushi vinegar, but as this can contain MSG you may prefer to start from scratch.
It starts, of course, with rice vinegar.
What is rice vinegar?
Rice vinegar is vinegar made from fermented rice. Yeast transforms the sugars in rice to alcohol, and then specific strains of bacteria are added to convert the alcohol to acetic acid. The process is similar to that involved in making kombucha.
Is rice vinegar the same as rice wine vinegar?
Yes, rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same thing and the name can be used interchangeably.
Is rice wine the same as rice wine vinegar?
No, rice wine is the product of yeast fermentation of the sugars in rice to alcohol. Rice wine is made from glutinous rice, and although used in cooking it is produced for drinking. The most well known Chinese rice wine is Shaoxing, whilst in Japan mirin is a sweet rice wine and sake is a dry rice wine. Mirin is primarily a cooking wine. Rice wine is used for adding depth of flavour and sweetness to dishes.
Rice wine vinegar is made from white rice, but there are also red, brown and black versions. Basic white rice vinegar has a cleaner flavour than the others. Brown rice vinegar has the expected nutty flavour, whilst black rice vinegar is prized for its umami qualities. Red rice vinegar is sweet and sour, with a more pronounced fermented flavour.
Rice vinegar is milder and sweeter than other types of vinegar, with less acidity. Use it to lift and brighten flavours, whilst adding a subtle sweetness.
Is mirin rice wine vinegar?
No, mirin is a Japanese rice wine used in cooking to add sweetness and depth.
Does rice vinegar have gluten?
Generally speaking, rice vinegar contains no gluten as it is the product of a non-gluten grain. On occasion, gluten grains may also be used in the processing so always check the label, and those with extreme gluten sensitivity may wish to proceed with caution.
What is rice vinegar used for in cooking?
Not just for sushi, rice vinegar is used extensively in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese cooking. Essentially, it is used to enhance flavour. Acidity is a vital part of flavour balance, as is sweetness, so rice vinegar is perfect for helping to balance a dish without overpowering.
Use it to bring Asian greens to life, or to add the requisite sharpness to Asian slaws and salads. In Japanese cooking in particular, simplicity is key. The focus is very much on retaining the integrity of ingredients by enhancing flavour with clever condiments. This simple dressing will transform the most basic of vegetables; raw or cooked. Use a light flavourless oil such as groundnut, or mix in a little sesame oil for a nuttier flavour.
Basic recipe for Japanese rice vinegar dressing
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
5 tbsp oil
How to season rice vinegar for sushi
Sushi seasoning is rice vinegar that has been seasoned with salt and sugar. As mentioned in the introduction, commercially branded sushi vinegar, or sushi seasoning, may contain other ingredients such as MSG. It is pretty simple to season rice vinegar for sushi, so there really is no need to buy it ready made. There are plenty of other uses for rice wine vinegar, so don’t worry that you won’t use it. Once you discover how much difference it can make to your food, it will become as much of a store cupboard staple as soy sauce.
To make the seasoning for sushi rice, add the salt and sugar to the vinegar and heat very gently in a pan until dissolved. This is then gradually folded into the cooked rice, fanning as you go until the rice is shiny, seasoned and cooled.
How much vinegar to add to sushi rice
The ratio of sushi rice to vinegar should be 2 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup uncooked rice. For each 2 tablespoon rice vinegar, add 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt.
They are traditional Japanese noodles made from buckwheat. But are soba noodles gluten free and what are they actually made from?
With their robust flavour, soba noodles are perfect with aromatic Asian sauces but are they good for your health? Let’s find out.
What are soba noodles?
Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat. Soba noodles have been around in Japan since the 17th century, when the aristocracy discovered they had health benefits over white rice and could cure beriberi. Thiamine was not identified until 1897, but we know now that the thiamine content of buckwheat was likely responsible for this. Soba making was a specialist art, confined to those who could afford it, and served in eating houses.
Nowadays everyone eats soba noodles and they are the traditional noodle of Tokyo. Available throughout the world as dried noodles, in Japan or Japanese restaurants they may be fresh and handmade.
Soba noodles are a long thin spaghetti like noodle with a beige brown colour and a slippery texture when cooked. It is considered correct to slurp your noodles as it enhances the flavour as well as cools them down. The flavour is nutty with a pleasing sourness like sourdough bread.
What are soba noodles made from?
Although soba noodles are made with buckwheat, they often contain wheat flour too. The usual percentage is 80% buckwheat to 20% wheat flour. Buckwheat noodles can be fragile and bitter so wheat flour is added to create a better texture. Some soba noodles may contain very little actual buckwheat so it is always best to read the label. They should contain nothing else other than flour and water.
Are soba noodles gluten free?
Because of the added wheat, not all soba noodles are gluten free. The most traditional variety of soba noodle, called juwari soba, are made from 100% buckwheat and are therefore gluten free. The texture is different to standard soba noodles. They are slightly grainy and very fragile, and are also more expensive.
If you tolerate gluten, go for a variety that contain the 80/20 ratio as the texture really is preferable.
Are soba noodles wholegrain?
Buckwheat is not strictly a wholegrain as it is a pseudo-grain not a cereal grain. Nutritionally speaking though, buckwheat is classed as a wholegrain and has all the benefits that go with it.
Are soba noodles healthier than pasta?
In comparison to wholegrain pasta, soba noodles are pretty similar. But who eats wholegrain pasta, right? Compared to dried pasta, made with refined white flour and no egg, soba noodles are certainly the healthy choice. With a lower GI, buckwheat can help to improve blood sugar control. It is also a good source of manganese and Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Full of fibre and also resistant starch, soba noodles can aid digestive health. Easily digestible, they provide a small amount of high quality protein that is rich in the amino acid lysine.
How to cook soba noodles
Cooking times for soba noodles will vary, as the thickness varies. So always follow the manufacturers instructions. Dropped in lightly salted boiling water they take about 3 to 5 minutes. Give them plenty of space and move them around often. Drain and serve hot, or run under cold water until cooled and serve cold.
Soba noodles are great with many of our Asian sauces, and are also particularly good served in broth.
For a great noodle dish, hot or cold, toss noodles in our Japanese dressing and scatter with finely chopped spring onions.
Meatballs. Praise to the gods of comfort food. Add in a few Asian spices with a hint of Eastern flair and you’ve got a double dose of heaven. We have a few ideas for Asian pork meatballs. Quick and easy to make, using some store cupboard short cuts. And super tasty.
But first, a few meatball basics.
How to make meatballs
From Italy to China, through Sweden and over to Vietnam, most countries of the world have a traditional meatball recipe. A way of stretching meat, they are relatively quick, easy and cost effective to make. Some use egg, some use breadcrumbs, and many use both. Many cover them in sauce whilst others dip them. Some like them completely naked. Others come in the guise of meatloaf or they are often impaled on a stick. All of them spring from one basic recipe. One simple technique.
One thing all these nations can agree on is that a good meatball is soft and tender. If you can arrange for it to be a little juicy in the middle too, then its all good in the hood.
Meatballs are softer when made with lamb and beef, due to a high proportion of fat and a more open textured flesh. Turkey and chicken are leaner and more compact so tend to dry out easily. Pork, if you use a fattier cut like shoulder or belly is ideal. Most of us use shop bought mince to make our meatballs, and standard pork mince sits at around 10 to 20 percent fat. This makes for a rich, soft meatball that takes on Asian flavours particularly well.
What makes meatballs stick together?
Strictly speaking you don’t need a binder as meat, when mixed really well, will stick to itself. The best way to achieve this is by mixing in a food processor to break down the meat fibres. Turkish kofte, for example is made in this way. The usual binder is egg; an egg yolk in your meatball mix will act as a binder and add extra richness.
Breadcrumbs are more of a filler than a binder. They add texture to the meat, and absorb fat, juices and flavour. Often soaked in milk beforehand, breadcrumbs do make a meatball softer and round out the flavours. You can leave them out, but take care not to overcook your meatballs.
A meatball can be as simple as ground meat mixed together with salt and pepper, shaped into balls and cooked. Spices and herbs may be added. As may the aforementioned egg and crumb. They are best mixed gently by hand so as not to overwork the mixture which will make it tough. Pork is quite robust and has a higher fat content so there is a more of a margin for error.
How to cook meatballs
Meatballs can be fried, or baked, or both. They can be cooked and served without sauce or with a dipping sauce. Frying seems to make for a softer meatball, with a browned crust and a juicy tender middle. They can also be finished in a sauce, or a glaze, either in a pan or in the oven.
The best way to cook meatballs is to fry them. Stick to balls of about 1 inch diameter, which is roughly a generous tablespoon of mix. Shallow fry them in a little oil for about 15 minutes, turning regularly. They are ready when the meat is no longer pink in the middle and the juices run clear. They should still feel soft to the touch. If you want to bake the meatballs they will take about 25 minutes at 180C.
If you want to add a glaze, such as teriyaki sauce, add a few tablespoons to the frying pan with the meatballs and cook over a moderately high heat until it has reduced. To finish them in a sauce, fry them for about 10 minutes and before they are completely cooked drop them into a saucepan with the sauce. Heat through for a further 5 minutes or until fully cooked. This keeps the meatballs nice and soft.
If you want to bake meatballs in a sauce in the oven we recommend browning them first. You can then bake them in the sauce at 180C for about 25 minutes or until fully cooked.
Basic meatball recipe
Serves 4 500g minced pork (at least 10% fat) 50g fresh, soft breadcrumbs 3 tbsp milk 1 egg yolk 1/4 tsp salt Freshly ground black pepper
Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for a few minutes.
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, including the wet breadcrumbs, and knead together with your hands until thoroughly mixed.
Divide the mixture into tablespoons and roll into balls. Dipping your hands in water occasionally will help to prevent the mixture sticking.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the meatballs and fry gently for about 15 minutes, turning regularly. You may need to do this in batches as they need at least 2 inches space between them.
Serve with a simple dip such as sweet chilli sauce.
Asian pork meatballs with sweet and sour
Try finishing off the basic meatball mix with a generous glaze of sweet and sour sauce.
Add a few teaspoons of our South East Asian spice blend to your meatball mix, with a handful of chopped fresh coriander. Take it one step further and finish in a fragrant sauce of red curry paste and a can of coconut milk.
Try using 1 tsp of grated ginger, 1/2 cup chopped spring onions, and 3 tbsp of soy sauce in your mix. After browning in the frying pan, cover and turn the heat low. Let them steam through for about 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
Vietnamese pork meatballs
Mix in a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, a tablespoon of fish sauce, and plenty of chopped fresh coriander and mint. Serve in lettuce wraps, or even in baguette with lots of crisp vegetables as a twist on the classic Banh Mi.
Hopefully you are inspired to try some different styles of Asian meatballs. Why not see what you can come up with using our organic Asian sauces and spices? There is also wholesale organic food at our online store.
Mix up a batch of this super easy South East Asian spice blend and keep it in the cupboard for fragrant food in a hurry.
The cuisines of South East Asia are many and varied, encompassing the foods of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Whilst each has its own regional dishes with distinct flavours, and we do like to encourage authenticity, there are times when you want just an idea of a cuisine. A family of flavours that will scratch the itch for something fragrant.
South East Asian herbs and spices
Whilst spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and coriander seed are found in all Asian cuisines, the foods of South East Asia have a strong emphasis on fresh aromatic components. Leafy green herbs such as mint, basil and fresh coriander are used in abundance. Paired with fragrant galangal, lemongrass, or lime leaf, they are usually joined by searingly hot chillies and often rounded out by creamy cooling coconut. Chances are if you have a craving for food that is comforting but not stodgy, these are the flavours you are looking for.
South East Asian spice blend ingredients
The ingredients below are usually used fresh, and ground into a paste. Surprisingly, when freeze dried and ground into powder, they retain much of their aromatic freshness. Native cooks are quite happy to use them. Having such ingredients to hand in the storecupboard means that you have the flavours of the world at your fingertips.
Making your own blend of South East Asian spices makes reaching into the cupboard even easier.
Turmeric is a particular kind of root known as a rhizome, belonging to the ginger family, with deep orange flesh. More familiar in its powder form, turmeric has gained in popularity in recent years because of its health credentials. Hugely versatile, turmeric is an amalgamating spice that brings other spices together. Hence its use as a base in many spice blends. It has a warm earthy flavour and adds a yellow colour to food.
Turmeric pairs particularly well with other elements that fit the South East Asian flavour profile.
Also a root related to ginger, galangal has firmer paler flesh than fibrous yellow ginger. Not interchangeable, ginger and galangal have very different flavours that do complement each other well. Galangal is stronger and sharper than ginger, with a fresher more citrussy flavour.
Ginger is the most familiar of our trio of fragrant rhizomes, with a pale yellow flesh that is slightly sweeter than galangal and a pungent peppery finish.
Lemongrass grows in tight bulb-like stems with a fresh citrussy flavour. Instantly recognisable as lemongrass, the flavours are more herbal, slightly sweeter, and less acidic.
Kaffir lime leaf
Not related to the familiar green citrus fruit, kaffir lime leaves are used extensively in South East Asian cuisines. They have a strong citrus flavour but none of the acidity of lime.
South East Asian spice blend recipe
If you can, make up this spice blend at least a day in advance to allow the flavours to round out
7 teaspoons Kaffir lime leaf powder
7 teaspoons lemongrass powder
5 teaspoons turmeric powder
3 teaspoons ginger powder
2 teaspoons galangal powder
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
- Mix together and store in an airtight container away from light.
- Add a teaspoon or two to taste, to stir fries and curries.
To round out the flavours of your spice blend, use alongside garlic, Thai chili paste, and coconut milk/cream. A good handful of fresh coriander will finish any dish nicely. As will chopped fresh mint or basil.
Soy sauce is salty, sweet, and savoury. With a note of bitterness and a touch of sour it activates all of our taste buds to create a balanced range of sensations.
Used in place of salt, it brings all of these other elements into play. Use to enhance flavours and create a sense of depth. Embrace the unique and complex full-bodied flavour. Start simple, switching it out with salt, and then get creative.
See where the magic of soy sauce will take you.
All about soy sauce
Thousands of years ago, in Ancient China, they used to make a fermented soy bean paste similar to the miso we know today. At some point it was discovered that the liquid from this could be used too, and soy sauce was born. Use spread across the East, where regional variations were developed, and eventually spread to the West. It is now one of the most widely used condiments in the world. But are we getting the most from our soy sauce? Do we liberally splash it on anything we regard as Asian and think no more about it?
In the East, they take soy sauce very seriously indeed. Hundreds of variations exist, each as subtly different as fine wine or olive oil. Only a handful of traditional producers are left, creating complex soy sauce that takes years to perfect. A simple preparation of soy beans, wheat, salt and water, fermented with a starter of micro-organisms, it is time and nature that result in the astonishing depth of flavour in soy sauce.
In Japan and China they both categorise soy sauce as light or dark. Light soy sauce is thinner and saltier, whilst dark soy sauce is thick, rich and sweet. Standard soy sauce is somewhere in between. Japanese soy sauce is lighter and less salty in general.
A brief lesson in flavour
Soy sauce delivers the full range of taste sensations. In technical terms taste is the broad physical sensations of salt, sweet, umami, bitter and sour. Flavour is all of the aromas that add the detailed nuances.
Used to draw out and enhance complex flavours, soy sauce is a masterclass in seasoning by itself. Not only does it trigger all of the taste sensations, but has a complex flavour profile of its own. The aim of all carefully considered dishes is to balance the tastes and enhance the flavours of the ingredients.
Soy sauce is salty, sweet, savoury, bitter, and sour, in varying degrees. Saltiness magnifies flavour, working in tandem with umami that makes the mouth water and makes food feel fuller, richer and more satisfying. Sourness brightens the palate, clarifying and defining flavours, whilst sweetness rounds everything out. Bitter flavours add a little interest. A sense of intrigue. Together, they create balance. A satisfying sense of completeness.
10 things you can do with soy sauce
Make a marinade
Marinade chicken, fish, vegetables or tofu. Anything you like really. Keep it Asian inspired with aromatics such as garlic and ginger, or just use the soy sauce in place of salt.
Mix a dressing
Mix up a dressing for salad or roasted vegetables. Try 3 parts oil, 2 parts low sodium soy sauce, to 1 part vinegar.
Reduce a glaze
Mix 200ml soy sauce, with 100ml red wine, and 1 tbsp honey. Place in a small saucepan over a medium heat and simmer to reduce by half.
Add to desserts
Use instead of salt in a salted caramel sauce, or add an extra dimension to your chocolate brownies. Try adding a dash of sauce sauce to your affogato.
Enhance poaching liquid
Add a quarter cup to your poaching liquid for depth of flavour.
Mix soy with rice vinegar and sugar to create a simple pickling liquid for cucumber, carrot, onion or even hard boiled eggs.
Deepen your braise
Add to your beef stew or braised short ribs for deep meaty flavour. A tiny piece of star anise won’t be detected but will bring out even more meaty flavour.
Super savoury your sauce
Add a tablespoon to your homemade tomato sauce for sweetness and savoury depth
Brush onto ingredients
Brush onto simple grilled meats or vegetables, yakitori style.
Give guts to your gravy
Add a splash to your gravy for rich body and colour.
This Article was reproduced with permission from an Opera Foods article:- “Why soy sauce just might be the greatest seasoning. Ever.”
Let’s face it, who always has the time or energy to cook full-on Asian recipes? Many of our favourite Asian sauces and spice pastes have a long list of ingredients that involve much grinding, crushing or both.
But nothing else will do. You want fragrant heat. Something sharp and spicy with creamy coconut. The thought of lemongrass and lime leaf just will not let go.
That’s when you need a shortcut to fast food.
Quick and easy recipes with organic Asian sauces
Quick and easy hot and sour soup
The organic Thai chili paste is hot, sweet and sharp with palm sugar, garlic, shallots and tamarind. So all the work has been done for you. Don’t be put off by the dried lime leaf, lemongrass or galangal. These organic powders retain their sharp fresh qualities and there is nothing there that a Thai cook would not use.
1 tbsp coconut oil 1 tbsp organic Thai chili paste 1/4 tsp organic lime leaf powder 1/4 tsp organic galangal powder 1/2 tsp organic lemongrass powder 2 cups chicken stock 3 tbsp fish sauce 10 king prawns, shelled and deveined Juice of 2 limes To garnish Fresh coriander, chopped
- Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan. Add the Thai chili paste and the spice powders.
- Cook for 1 minute, and add the chicken stock with the fish sauce.
- Simmer for about 3 minutes to allow the flavours to combine.
- Drop in the prawns and cook for about 1 minute until they are opaque.
- Squeeze in the lime juice and serve into bowls.
- Garnish with fresh coriander.
Quick and easy Singapore black pepper chicken
A simple stir fry supper to serve with rice or noodles. The flavours are already in the sauce for you, but you can add a pinch of our organic ginger powder for an extra kick.
1 tbsp vegetable oil 2 chicken breasts, chopped 1 red pepper, sliced 4 spring onions, sliced 200g fine green beans, topped and tailed, and cut into 2 1 tsp organic ginger powder 200g jar of organic black pepper sauce
- Heat the oil in a wok.
- Add the chicken, pepper, onions and green beans.
- Stir fry until the chicken is golden and the beans are tender crisp.
- Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the black pepper sauce, stir to combine, and cook for a few minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.
- Serve hot with rice or noodles.
Quick and easy Thai red fish curry
Thai red curry is more spicy and robust than Thai green curry and is perfect for the firm flesh of monkfish or the richness of salmon. Serve with steamed rice and some Asian greens.
1 tbsp coconut oil 3 tbsp organic Thai red curry paste 400g monkfish fillet, cubed 300g coconut milk Juice of lime To garnish Fresh coriander, chopped
- Heat the coconut oil in a wok or saucepan.
- Add the curry paste and cook for 2 mins, stirring.
- Now add the fish and stir to coat with the curry paste.
- Pour in the coconut milk, bring to the boil, and then simmer for about 3 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.
- Add the lime juice and serve.
- Garnish with the fresh coriander.
This Article was reproduced with permission from Opera Foods article:- “Using organic Asian sauces and spice pastes. Shortcuts to superb Asian dishes.”
Asian greens are quick and easy to cook, super good for you, and take on all those vibrant, Asian flavours really well.
If you feel like some light and healthy food that still packs a punch in the flavour department, then getting to grips with Asian greens is a good place to start. From soft and tender bok choy in fragrant noodle soup, to the garlic tones of Chinese chives in your chicken dishes, you are sure to discover your new favourite thing.
Top 5 Asian greens
There are many different types of Asian greens available at Asian grocers, but the ones below are the most widely accessible and some may be found at the supermarket or greengrocer. Whilst they are largely related and play very similar roles, each is unique and brings a different dimension to your dish.
Also known as pak choi, bok choy is a member of the brassica family, related to broccoli and cabbage. It has the iron rich green flavour of spinach or kale and is sold when small, young and tender as well as larger, mature, and more fibrous. The smaller bok choy can be cut into halves or quarters before cooking. When bigger, the stem is best cooked separately from the leaf. Not typically eaten raw, bok choy is best for stir frying or braising.
Add halved bok choy to fragrant noodle broth for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender
Chinese broccoli is very similar to the long stemmed varieties of broccoli such as purple sprouting or Tenderstem. Drop into boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes until a knife inserted into the stem has just a little resistance. You could then simply dress it and serve, or stir fry for a minute with some garlic and ginger.
Blanch in salted water for 3 minutes and stir fry with a few tablespoons of our organic black pepper sauce for a fragrant, spicy side dish.
Somewhere between a lettuce and a cabbage, Chinese leaf is also a member of the brassica family. Used both cooked and raw, it has a sweet nutty flavour and remains surprisingly crisp when cooked. Blanched in stock before stir frying, Chinese leaf soaks up all the flavour of the stock but without going soggy.
Use as a crunchy fresh base for this Thai Beef Salad.
Choi sum is somewhere between bok choy and Chinese broccoli. It has the soft leaves of bok choy, with long tender stems. The flavour is mild and the texture like spinach. Eaten cooked, it can chopped and stir fried. or added to broth for a few minutes before serving.
Stir fry with strips of fresh ginger and season with a splash of Japanese soy sauce.
Related to choi sum, mustard greens are shaped like a romaine lettuce but has frilly edges like kale. You can use mustard greens pretty much like kale. Slice or shred and drop into fragrant soup, or blanch in boiling water for a few minutes before stir frying.
Blanch or stir fry until tender and drizzle with dressing made from 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp rice vinegar, and 1 tsp sugar. You could add a dash of chili sauce to turn up the heat.
Some useful additions to Asian greens
Whilst not really greens, these green vegetables can add colour, texture and flavour to your Asian food and offer more ways of bringing a bit of green to your plate.
Found in Asian grocery stores, these are long green beans. Similar to french beans (aka green beans), they can be cooked in the same way. Drop into a pan of boiling salted water and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Serve simply tossed in soy sauce, or stir fry with aromatics such as ginger or chili. Conversely, if you find snake beans in a recipe, you can switch them out for green beans.
Sugar snap peas and mangetout
Essentially varieties of peas that are eaten with the pod, sugar snap peas and mangetout are great for stir fries as they cook so quickly whilst retaining their crunch. They have a lovely sweet flavour, with a slightly bitter edge of green.
Chinese chives and spring onions
Chinese chives are more robust than your average chive, and have a strong flavour of garlic and leek. Used as an ingredient rather than a herb, they will stand up to heat and can be blanched for a few minutes before adding to a stir fry. Often served alone simply as a vegetable, but also tossed liberally into scrambled eggs. You could add Chinese chives as a milder alternative to garlic.