Tag: Asian food

Guide to the ingredients of Southeast Asian cuisine

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 ingredients that the foods of Southeast Asia share.

Asian cuisine

Map of Asia

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 in Asian cuisine

Rice 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.

Try our organic rice noodles

Find out more about rice stick noodles in this article…

Rice vinegar

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.

Try our organic rice vinegar

Read our article ‘what is 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

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.

Try our organic Japanese style soy sauce

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.

Try our organic Chinese style soy sauce

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.

Try our organic low sodium soy sauce

Find out why soy sauce might just be the greatest seasoning ever…

Asian spices and aromatics – bringing food to life

Aromatics

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

galangal vs ginger

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.

Try our organic ginger powder

Try our organic galangal powder

Turmeric

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.

Try our organic turmeric powder

Read our article about using galangal, ginger and turmeric in Asian cooking…

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.

Try our organic lime leaf powder

Try our organic lemongrass powder

Make our super easy Southeast Asian spice blend…

Tamarind

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.

Fresh herbs

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.

Spices

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

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.

Try our organic chili paste

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.

Try our organic red curry paste

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.

Try our organic yellow curry paste

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.

Try our organic tom yum paste

Asian sauces

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

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.

Try our organic sriracha sauce

Read our article – what is sriracha and is it hot? 

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.

Try our organic sesame soy Japanese dressing

Chili sauce

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.

Try our organic chili sauce

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.

Try our organic sweet chili sauce

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.

Try our organic black pepper sauce

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.

Try our organic holy basil sauce

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.

Try our organic sweet and sour sauce

Teriyaki sauce

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.

Try our organic teriyaki sauce

Find out how to make teriyaki chicken like a Japanese restaurant…

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.

Try our organic pad thai sauce 

 

Check out our full range of Asian groceries


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

Are soba noodles gluten free and what are they made from?

are soba noodles gluten free

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?

what are soba noodles

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.

 

Choose from our range of organic Asian sauces, or head on over to our online bulk food store.

Why soy sauce just might be the greatest seasoning. Ever.

All about soy sauce

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

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.

Prepare pickles

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.

Find out more about the ingredients used in Asian cuisine

We have a range of high quality Asian sauces and wholesale prices on Asian groceries at our online store at Opera Foods.


This Article was reproduced with permission from an Opera Foods article:- “Why soy sauce just might be the greatest seasoning. Ever.

Asian greens. What they are and how to get the best out of them.

Guide to Asian greens

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.

 

Guide to Asian greens

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.

Bok choy

Bok choi asian greens

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.

Try this…

Add halved bok choy to fragrant noodle broth for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender

 

Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli asian greens

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.

Try this…

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.

 

Chinese leaf

Chinese leaf asian greens

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.

Try this…

Use as a crunchy fresh base for this Thai Beef Salad.

 

Choi sum

Choi sum asian greens

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.

Try this…

Stir fry with strips of fresh ginger and season with a splash of Japanese soy sauce.

 

Mustard greens

Mustard greens asian greens

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.

Try this…

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.

Snake beans

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.

 

We have all your organic Asian sauces right here, or why not head straight to our store for Asian groceries at wholesale prices?

Want a great Singapore noodle recipe? Creamy, spicy, fragrant AND it uses up leftovers.

singapore noodles recipe

There are a few things that define a great Singapore noodle recipe. One is curry paste or powder. That’s the kicker. Then there is the addition of eggs. More of a scrambled scenario than a sliced omelette.

And then there is the question of leftovers. Yes, Singapore noodles are great for throwing the contents of your fridge at, but there are a few ground rules. The meat should really be pork. And preferably a bit sweet/salty. And there should be prawns. So you have that pork and prawn combo thing going on.

How to make Singapore noodles

singapore noodle recipe

Versions of Singapore noodle recipes abound. Strictly speaking it is more of way of using up your leftovers than a strict recipe, so perhaps the best way forwards is to get the detail right. Stir frying is all about fast cooking over a high high heat. That somehow manages to result in deep deep flavour, whilst keeping the integral personality of the ingredients intact. In terms of taste and texture.

It is very very clever and completely underestimated.

Essentially, Singapore noodles are made of the following components…

The noodles

Usually made with rice noodles, but they can be (especially the fine ones) really hard to toss with the other ingredients and end up in a tangle. Use whichever noodles you prefer – cook and cool them before stir frying.

The vegetables

Use whatever you have to hand. Spring onion is good for flavour, and Asian vegetables such as bamboo or water chestnuts add great crunch. Add those that need the longest cooking time first.

The protein

Again, use whatever you like or need to use up. The prawn/pork combo works particularly well, especially leftover sticky pork belly.

The seasonings

Curry powder gives the classic Singapore noodle taste. Ginger, garlic and chili round it out with fresh aromatic heat.

The sauce

Soy sauce added at the end brings the requisite salty element whilst coconut milk makes it a little creamier. Using the creamy part of tinned coconut milk makes for a thicker sauce that won’t overcook the noodles.

The garnish

Keeping it old school with fresh coriander and a few slices of fresh red chili. Add an extra flourish with handful of peanuts or sesame seeds.

Singapore noodle recipe

Gather all of your ingredients together before cooking

  • Serves 4

Ingredients

The noodles

225g noodles, cooked as per packet instructions, and cooled

The vegetables

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 spring onions, sliced

100g frozen peas

6 water chestnuts, sliced

1/2 cup bamboo shoots

The protein

100g cooked ham or leftover pork, shredded

100g cooked prawns

4 eggs, beaten

The seasonings

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tbsp Madras curry powder

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch ginger, grated

1 tsp red chili paste

The sauce

1 tbsp coconut cream

2 tbsp soy sauce

The garnish

Fresh coriander, chopped

Red chili, finely sliced
  1. Heat the wok until smoking and add the oils.
  2. Add the mushrooms and spring onions. Stir fry for 1 minute.
  3. Add the rest of the veg and the meat.
  4. Add the seasonings and stir fry for 1 minute.
  5. Push the ingredients to the side of the wok, and pour the beaten egg into the space. Stir the eggs until cooked.
  6. Add the noodles to the wok and stir everything to combine.
  7. Add the sauce ingredients. Stir to combine.
  8. Serve and garnish.

Check out our range of certified organic Asian groceries or head over to our Asian groceries wholesale store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai beef salad recipe. Fast fun and vibrant food in under 30 minutes.

thai beef salad recipe title

Full of the punchy flavours that characterise Thai food, this vibrant Thai beef salad recipe can be made in under 30 minutes. The steaks are quick and easy to cook and although there is a bit of vegetable prep to do the dish is more about assembly rather than preparation.

For best results use the freshest produce available and bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.

 

Recipe for Thai beef salad

thai beef salad recipe

2 x sirloin steaks of about 250g each

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp flaked sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp ground coriander 

For the salad

1/4 head Chinese leaf, shredded

1 cup beansprouts

1 carrot, shredded

8 radishes, sliced

1/2 shallot, finely sliced

4 spring onions, sliced

1/2 cucumber, peeled and shaved into ribbons

1 small bunch mint, chopped

For the dressing

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 teaspoon chili paste

2 tsp brown sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

3 limes, juice

1 tbsp sesame oil

To garnish

75g salted peanuts, chopped

1/2 red chilli, finely sliced

coriander leaves

 

1. Take the steaks from the fridge, remove any packaging, and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Steak for thai beef salad recipe

2. Rub the steaks with the oil and seasonings. Set aside to come up to room temperature whilst you make the salad.

Salad 2 for thai beef salad recipe

3. Begin to layer your salad ingredients on a large platter.

Salad for thai beef salad recipe

4. Note the size and shape of the carrots. It takes a little more effort to julienne them rather than grate them, but the texture will make a big difference to the eating quality of your salad.

Salad 3 for thai beef salad recipe

5. Finish the salad layers with the chopped mint.

6. Heat a grill pan or frying pan over a medium high heat. When really hot, add the steaks seasoning side down and sear for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

7. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside to rest for a few minutes whilst you make the dressing.

8. Stir all of the dressing ingredients together.

9. Thinly slice the steaks.

Salad 5 for thai beef salad recipe

10. Layer the sliced steaks onto the salad.

Salad 4 for thai beef salad recipe

11. Finish with the dressing and a scatter of peanuts.

12. Serve the Thai beef salad whilst the steak is still hot.

 

You can buy our organic chili paste and other amazing organic Asian groceries at our Asian grocery store online online.