Cooking is one of my favorite de-stressors. I heard that baking is more effective to blow off steam, but I don’t have an oven yet. We still have lots of pending home construction projects, so for now, I will concentrate on cooking different dishes instead.
Truth be told, I never really knew how to cook before I went to college. Mom did everything for me when I was way younger, so it was super hard to adjust when I lived in another city. Thanks to Youtube videos, Tastemade, and food blogs, I learned to cook food for myself.
Every weekend, I try to whip up something mouthwatering for my family using various Western and Asian cooking ingredients. Most of the time, I create a recipe from scratch, but whenever I taste an interesting dish from a restaurant, I try to recreate it at home.
Fish Sauce/ Fish Paste
I know how not a lot of people are too keen on using fish sauce because of its very strong and distinct scent. But if you are a Filipino like me, you won’t really find it as off-putting. It is quite common to find dishes (especially in Ilocos Region) that use fish sauce (patis) or paste for added flavoring.
It’s one of the most popular Asian cooking ingredients. Also, it’s a staple in Asian cuisine. An example of the most popular dishes that use fish sauce includes Pho, a sumptuous Vietnamese noodle dish that comes with beef or chicken broth and plenty of herbs.
In most Asian countries, they only use the amber liquid that comes from the fermented anchovies and brine solution. In the Philippines, we also use the paste, which we locals refer to as bagoong. It’s commonly mixed with other ingredients such as calamansi or vinegar to make dips for grilled seafood. It is also used to make Filipino viands like pinakbet/pakbet, buridibod, and bulanglang (more on these dishes soon!).
In other parts of the country, they mix the fish paste with chopped tomatoes and shallots and shredded unripe mango as a side dish for tortang talong or grilled fish.
The unripe tamarind is mostly used to make any dish taste sour. In my country, we commonly use it to cook sinigang, especially sinigang na hipon. It’s that brown pod that has a rough and hard fruit shell. Inside the shell, you would find a slightly mushy flesh with brown seeds. To use this ingredient, you need to boil a couple of pods, crack them open and get the mushy stuff inside. The unripe flesh is usually green to light green in color, and it has that strong sour smell. Use as much paste as needed. Use a sift to separate the juice from the pulp. Other than an ingredient used to cook different sour dishes, the ripe tamarind fruit can also be made into candies. Sometimes, it is also used to make ice cream. I personally love the tamarind candy with chilis.
I got used to eating Korean dishes when I stayed in Baguio City for more than 6 years mainly because of the cold weather and the surplus of Korean food stalls there. Korean dishes are known for their strong and spicy flavor. Most of the spiciness of their meals come from Gochujang. It is this red, almost tomato-paste-like condiment that is combined with other spices to make kimchi, tteokbokki, bibimbap, bibim-guksu and other dishes. Compared to other types of chilli sauces, this has a slightly sweet and savory taste.
My mom always asks me to buy pancit bihon or pancit palabok when one of us celebrates birthday. She believes and I think the Chinese also believes that noodles symbolize long and prosperous health. It is fairly simple to prepare rice noodle dishes because you only need proteins, plus veggies like carrots, bell pepper, and cabbage. Then, you must season the dish with soy sauce, salt and pepper. Also, you should use beef or chicken stock for additional flavor.
Coconut milk can be used for various dishes. In my country, we use it to make ginataan. Gataan or ginataan refers to a dish made by cooking meat, fish or vegetables in coconut milk. Other than making creamy viands, coconut milk is also used to make a wide range of popular Filipino desserts such as sorbetes, latik, ube haleya, and kalamay. It is also used to prepare Asian sweet treats like coconut rice pudding, sweet sticky rice, and taro coconut tapioca.
Nowadays, you can find plenty of Asian cooking ingredients in groceries and speciality stores. What’s your favorite Asian ingredients? Comment and Share below!