Category: Organic Groceries
Generally, when we talk about Asian cuisine we are referring to the cooking of Southeast Asia. The foods here are vastly different, yet share many similarities that come from shared ingredients and a cultural crossover. India, whilst a huge part of Asia (and just next door), has its own unique differences and tends to be grouped into a different category of foods altogether.
The foods and flavours of this corner of the world have had a huge influence on the food of Australia and in this article we explore some of the cuisines of the area and the ingredients they share.
The food of Southeast Asia is made up of a vast range of regional cuisines. The area stretches from Korea and Japan, through China, and down to Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Nestled in the Pacific Ocean are the islands of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The palette of ingredients changes according to geography, so that the foods of mainland China give way to the fish and fruit of the island nations. Cultural influences change the way that ingredients are prepared, giving rise to a complex tapestry of foods and flavours.
Rice – an Asian food staple
Rice is central to all Asian cuisine. A hugely important crop, it is deeply embedded in all aspects of culture. Rice is not only the staple grain at most meals, but is central to the production of two other very important ingredients. Vinegar, and noodles.
Rice noodles come in all shapes and sizes, from the thin vermicelli style to wide flat ribbons. Somewhere in the middle sits rice stick noodles which are a long flat version that look a bit like linguine. Rice noodles are more popular than wheat noodles in Southern China, as well as Thailand and Vietnam. The Japanese also eat noodles made from rice.
Rice noodles are exceptionally quick and easy to make, as even the thicker ones require no cooking. They are made from already cooked rice so need only soaking to rehydrate and heat.
Rice vinegar is a joy to use and once you discover its subtle sweetness and gentle acidity you may want to use it anywhere that you would use vinegar. Used extensively in both Japanese and Chinese cooking, rice vinegar is fermented slowly so it has great depth of flavour alongside the acidity. Thai cookery also uses rice vinegar.
Soy – an ancient ingredient
Soybeans originated in Southeast Asia and are another hugely important crop to the region. Soy has been around for thousands of years, and as such plays a central role in all of the regional cuisines. Soybeans are used in cooking as whole beans, and are used to make tofu, but their major contribution has to be soy sauce.
Soy sauce is one of the world’s greatest condiments and is now used in cooking all over the world. Used in cooking to impart flavour and after cooking in the form of a dressing or a dip, soy sauce adds sweetness, saltiness and savouriness. There is nothing quite like it for depth of flavour and its ability to bring other ingredients to life.
There are many forms of soy sauce. China and Japan both produce soy sauce, with different flavour profiles, and Indonesia also makes their own version ‘kecap manis’ which is thicker and sweeter than both Chinese and Japanese soy sauce.
Choose lighter varieties for dressing and dipping, sometimes cooking, and keep the dark stuff for adding to slow cook stews, and braises. Pair lighter sauces with chicken, fish and seafood, or vegetables. Dark soy will stand up to and accentuate red meats. Apart from slow braised meat dishes, add soy sauce right at the end of cooking.
Japanese soy sauce
Japanese soy sauce tends to be more subtle than Chinese soy sauce. Known as shoyu, it is brewed for several months at least and is lighter, less salty, and more complex. Like soy sauce in China, it also comes as light and dark soy, but the darker version is more similar to the Chinese light variety.
Chinese soy sauce
Chinese light soy sauce is the first extraction and has a lighter feel and more delicate fragrance. Dark soy sauce in China is matured for longer, and has caramel added that gives it the characteristic dark colour and rich sweet depth. There is also a regular Chinese soy sauce that comes somewhere in between.
Low sodium soy sauce
Low sodium soy sauce is simply standard soy sauce (usually, but not always, Chinese) that has had up to half of its salt content removed.
Spices and aromatics – bringing food to life
Also known as ‘wet spices’, there are many ingredients that are used fresh as the aromatic base to food across the region. Many are also found in powder form which, when the quality is exceptional, can be used as an adequate substitute. Some, like ginger, have different uses for the dried form.
Garlic, ginger and chilies
Garlic, ginger, and chillies are the holy trinity of Southeast Asian cooking. Together, or separately, they find their way into practically every dish, in every region. Some use the heat of chilies more sparingly than others. In Thailand, for example, heat is part of the flavour profile that defines the cuisine. Chinese food, on the other hand, is not something we associate with chili, yet many Chinese dishes come with a blast of chili heat. Japanese food often has a tendency towards the milder side, yet chilies are used. Japanese seven spice (shichimi) includes chili, and Sichuan pepper (known as sancho in Japan).
Garlic can be pungent and garlic can be sweet. The longer it is cooked, the sweeter it becomes. It also burns easily, and then it becomes bitter. In Chinese cooking, garlic forms a base with ginger and spring onion. Korean cooking, heavily influenced by China, uses more garlic than Japanese food. Garlic is used a lot in the food of Vietnam, and is also found in Thai food; particularly in Thai curries. Use raw garlic to add pungent heat to a cool cucumber salad, alongside ginger in the base for a stir-fry, or add an uncrushed clove to the cooking oil for a few minutes to add just a hint of flavour.
Ginger is pungent, sharp and citrussy. It is used widely in Chinese cooking. Used raw, it is hot and sharp. During cooking, it mellows, losing the citrus top notes and its sharp corners. Cooks in Thailand and Vietnam prefer galangal, the less robust cousin of ginger. In Japan they use young ginger, which is tender and mild. Japanese pickled ginger is used to refresh the palate. Of all the wet spices, fresh ginger is the hardest to replicate using dried powder. However good grade dried ginger does retain a lot of those pungent top notes provided by fresh ginger.
Turmeric is a grounding spice. Like coriander it forms the base of many spice blends, tying all the other flavours together with its earthy depth. Cooks in the West are only just becoming familiar with the fresh form of turmeric, which is a root like ginger or galangal. Dried turmeric finds its way into most curry powders across the region. Fresh turmeric is used as a base in curry pastes.
Lime leaves and lemongrass
Thai food and Vietnamese food are well known for their love of lemongrass, yet it also finds its way into Chinese food too. Lemongrass provides a hit of clean citrus flavour but without the acidity of lemon. It also has a slight pungency similar to ginger. Lemongrass powder is widely used as a perfectly acceptable substitute for fresh.
Kaffir lime leaves are pretty much the taste of Thailand, and found in Vietnamese cooking too. The leaves are deeply aromatic, with the sharp scent of spicy lime but with none of the acidity. Kaffir lime leaf powder is also a perfectly acceptable substitute for fresh. A good quality powder will retain more of the flavour than a low quality and badly stored dried leaf.
Tamarind is a souring agent, used to enliven a dish by bringing acidity to the palette. Popular in Chinese and Thai cooking, it often comes in block form and looks a little like dates. Sour and tangy, it is also fruity. Tamarind is a really complex and interesting alternative to the more common ways of bring acidity to a dish.
The foods of Thailand and Vietnam are notably packed with fresh fragrant herbs such as mint, basil and coriander. You might occasionally come across basil in Japanese cooking, but are more likely to find shiso, wasabi leaf, or mizuna. Chinese cooks may use coriander leaf sometimes.
Mint is a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. Fresh mint is sweet and cooling, and also finds its way into Thai food.
Basil comes in many forms, and Asian basil is different to European basil. Although Japanese cooks may use basil occasionally, it is found mostly in Thai cooking. Vietnamese food also features basil. They use a form of sweet basil, which is closest to the standard flavour we know as basil yet slightly more anise. Thai basil, and holy basil, are more pungent and peppery, and Thai cooks also favour a lemony variety of basil.
Coriander is used widely in Thai cooking, where they use the leaf and the root as well as the seeds. A divisive herb, that you either love or hate, fresh coriander is almost invariably added at the end of cooking.
Curry leaves are associated with Indian food, yet are also used in Thailand. Dried curry leaves have a savoury, toasted aroma. Fresh, they are sweetly citrus with a herbal, peppery edge.
Shiso is found in Japanese food and Korean food. It has a pungent flavour, similar to mint.
Unlike the food of India, Southeast Asian cuisines keep their spice palette relatively simple preferring to rely on fresh herbs and aromatics. There is of course always an exception to the rule. Chinese cooks use spices more regularly than Thai cooks, but even some Thai curries come with complex blends of dry spices. Chinese five spice is a blend of star anise, fennel, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon.
Some of the fresh aromatics come in dried powder form, and these we have mentioned above. Turmeric powder, for example, is used as often, if not more, than its fresh form. Lemongrass powder is more of a convenience, and would be used fresh wherever available.
Coriander seed is a mild, earthy spice with lemony top notes. Often used alongside cumin, it is a base spice that lends a subtle depth to food.
Cumin has a far more pungent flavour than coriander and is more associated with Indian and Middle Eastern food. It is however used, sparingly, by Chinese, Japanese and Thai cooks.
Star anise is a familiar flavour in Chinese food yet is also used by Thai cooks. It has an unmistakeable licorice taste and used wisely (ie sparingly) can bring life to your dish.
Cloves are found in the foods of Japan and Thailand, as well as China. They are used to add a savoury warmth, and like star anise must be used sparingly to avoid tasting medicinal.
Cinnamon and cassia have similar flavours, but cassia is more pungent and less sweet than cinnamon. Chinese cooks favour cassia, whilst cinnamon is found in Thai food.
Green Cardamom is sweet and aromatic, adding warmth and citrus notes to a dish. You might find cardamom in some Japanese food, and Thai spice blends.
Fennel seed also has a licorice flavour but is more green and herbal than the woody star anise. It is used widely in Chinese cooking.
Peppercorns are widely used for their abilities to awaken the palette and enhance the other flavours in a dish. It is used as a spice, and as a seasoning, by cooks across the world. Chinese food favours white and black peppercorns, whilst in Thai food you might find fresh green peppercorns.
Spice pastes and Asian sauces – shortcuts to success
Asian sauces and spice pastes are more than just shortcuts. They form the basis of many dishes, and are great examples of the alchemy of cooking. Sauces and spice pastes become more than just the sum of their parts. All sorts of reactions occur between the ingredients themselves and the aroma molecules on the tongue to create a complex experience of flavours.
Many of the classic dishes of Asian cuisine begin with a spice blend, paste or sauce. Savvy cooks understand that simply adding the ingredients one by one will not have the same result. A homemade spice paste made from scratch is a beautiful thing, but even a native cook will reach for a jar as often as not.
Chili paste and curry paste
Pastes are mixtures of wet spices (aromatics such as garlic, ginger, or lemongrass, as well as onion, and chilies) and sometimes dry spices added in. They generally form the base of the dish and require frying (cooking out) at the beginning of the cooking process. More often than not, unless the dish is a dry dish, you will need to add some form of liquid for the final simmer such as stock or coconut milk.
Chili paste is a handy form of chilies that can be added to pretty much anything, and can also be used as a condiment in much the same way as, say, mustard. The ingredients in chili paste vary, yet they often introduce more depth of flavour than simply chilies, by way of additional aromatics such as onions, garlic or sugar. Tamarind is often added to add a sour edge to the flavour profile.
Red curry paste
Red curry paste is the base of Thai red curry, which is the hotter of the Thai curries. Thai red curry is sharper than its yellow curry cousin, with the inclusion of lime leaf in the paste and a squeeze of fresh lime to finish the dish. Red curry is bold and robust, so as well as chicken it makes the perfect salmon curry. Finish with a flourish of fresh coriander leaf.
Yellow curry paste
Yellow curry paste is the base of Thai yellow curry, which is the medium spiced one between the three Thai curries of red, yellow and green. Slightly sweet, without the sharp edge of lime, yellow curry is full of earthy turmeric that ties all the other flavours together as one aromatic whole. Made with most of the same ingredients as red curry paste, yet in different quantities, it is a blend of shallots, lemongrass, garlic, galangal and ginger, coriander seed, chili, cumin, and turmeric.
Makes a great chicken or vegetable curry, or try adding a smaller amount to infuse a fish stew.
Tom yum paste
Tom yum paste is the base for a Thai hot and sour soup of the same name. An aromatic blend of chilies, lemongrass, galangal, sugar, and shallots, the paste is simmered in stock with mushrooms (straw or oyster) and prawns. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime and a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaf. you could add a touch of fish sauce if you like. There is also a creamy version that has coconut milk added.
Sauces can be grouped into condiments and cooking sauces. Condiments are used as they are, either to add a dimension of flavour when cooking or as an extra element added before or during eating. Most ready made cooking sauces are already cooked and are added towards the end of cooking.
Sriracha is a hot sauce that is now popular across the world and has become the essential source of heat for everything from chicken wings to popcorn. It is made from chilies, sugar, garlic and vinegar. Commercial sriracha is thicker than the thinner, sharper, Thai condiment.
Japanese soy dressing
Used widely in Japanese cuisine, Japanese soy dressing is the equivalent of the western vinaigrette dressing. Used to enliven simple dishes such as noodles and vegetable salads (hot and cold) it is a deeply savoury dressing of soy sauce, sesame, vinegar, mirin and ginger. The presiding flavour is the umami of soy, with added sharpness from vinegar that is tempered by the sweetness of mirin. Ginger forms a warm aromatic background to many Japanese flavour profiles and sesame adds a nutty toasted depth.
Japanese soy dressing is great tossed into an Asian style slaw or simple steamed greens.
Chili sauce appears all over Southeast Asia as a bottled condiment. It varies in strength and thickness. The general flavour profile may also differ, yet generally it is a hot thick blend of chillies, sugar, vinegar and garlic. It can be used anywhere you would use fresh chilli, or require a bit of heat with an additional dimension of flavour.
Sweet chili sauce
Sweet chili sauce is a popular Thai dipping sauce, used as a condiment rather than a cooking sauce. Made from chilies, sugar, garlic, and vinegar, it is more sweet than sour.
Stir fry sauces
Black pepper sauce
A Chinese restaurant favourite, black pepper sauce is the base of a popular chicken or beef stir fry. We like it with beef, as the meat stands up so well to the bold black pepper which seems to deepen the flavour of the meat. The sauce is made with soy, sugar or honey, and plenty of black pepper. The main aromatic is garlic and a touch of sesame adds an extra savoury edge. Stir fry chunky onions and pepper, with lean beef, and add the sauce near the end.
Holy basil sauce
Holy basil grows across Southeast Asia but is often used medicinally rather than in food. It is however used widely in Thai food, and is a main ingredient in one of the most popular street food stir-fry dishes known as pad kra pao. The star of the dish is of course the holy basil. Not sweet Italian basil, or even aniseed-y Thai basil, but the distinct citrus pepper notes of holy basil.
The aim is something sweet, hot and salty. Hot with chilies; aromatic with garlic, and of course the holy basil that underlines it all. Stir fry with minced chicken or pork, and serve with rice and perhaps a fried egg on top.
Sweet and sour sauce
Sweet and sour sauce has long been part of the Chinese repertoire, with many regional variations of the sauce itself and also what to do with it. Essentially, sweet and sour sauce is a slightly syrupy, somewhat glutinous blend of sugar and vinegar with a spicy note such as ginger.
The sweet and sour that we are most familiar with has its roots in Cantonese cuisine, in the much loved sweet and sour pork stir-fry dish. The battered style of sweet and sour is a popular Korean crossover dish, and sweet and sauce is actually the secret to the best Korean fried chicken.
Teriyaki is a Japanese dish of grilled meat or fish with a glossy sauce. Teriyaki sauce is a blend of soy sauce and mirin (or sugar) with a hint of ginger. The ingredients are grilled without marinade and the sauce is added at the end.
Pad thai sauce
Pad thai is a classic stir-fried Thai noodle dish. Variations abound but the essential ingredients are rice noodles, beaten egg, beansprouts, and a protein such as prawns or chicken. Crushed peanuts to garnish are also non-negotiable. The flavour profile is sweet, salty and sour. A squeeze of lime juice to serve adds fresh sour notes.
This article was reproduced on this site with permission from operafoods.com.au the “Online Asian Wholesale Grocer”.
See original article:- Guide to Southeast Asian cuisine and ingredients
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.
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.”
Problems with a lot of Conventional Foods.
A Range of chemicals are involved in the production and processing of what are now conventional food products.
Conventional agriculture often uses pesticides that leads to the compromising of local, regional or even global ecosystems.
Often fortified with vitamins and nutrients using various artificial processes.
The residues of these chemicals and additives in food products have suspicious effects on human health and there are risks associated with exposure to pesticides.
Organic foods rely on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of foreign inputs that have adverse effects.
The entire production from planting to post harvest follows strict protocols and standards.
Organic food production considers what is good for our environment, our safety as food product consumers, and the workers’ welfare.
Food Products without artificial additives retain more of the rich natural nutritional content from the organic produce.