Tag: Asian groceries
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
2. Rub the steaks with the oil and seasonings. Set aside to come up to room temperature whilst you make the salad.
3. Begin to layer your salad ingredients on a large platter.
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.
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.
10. Layer the sliced steaks onto the salad.
11. Finish with the dressing and a scatter of peanuts.
12. Serve the Thai beef salad whilst the steak is still hot.