This page serves as an ingredient index for all the recipes on this site. Some of the ingredients are common, but others can be more obscure. As more recipes are added, this page will be updated. If you think something is missing or have any questions, please feel free to comment at the end of this page!
Sauces, vinegars, and oils
Soy sauce is a salty liquid seasoning commonly used in Asian cooking. It's made by fermenting soybeans, wheat flour, water, and salt, a process that originated in China over 2000 years ago. The fermentation can last anywhere from three to twelve months, with a longer fermentation resulting in a more complex flavor profile.
Soy sauce is often used as a seasoning in dishes, sauces, and marinades to impart richness and body. Do not confuse soy sauce with dark soy sauce, which is primarily used for adding a rich color to dishes. You can learn more about dark soy sauce below.
Dark soy sauce
Dark soy sauce is darker, thicker, and slightly sweeter than regular soy sauce. It is made through a longer fermentation period, resulting in a more complex flavor profile.
Dark soy sauce is not meant to be used as a general-purpose seasoning in the same way as soy sauce; its primary purpose is to provide a rich, "dark red" color to dishes.
If you cannot find dark soy sauce, you can use regular soy sauce but expect the flavor to be slightly different.
Shaoxing wine is a mildly salty, amber-colored rice wine used in Chinese cooking. It is made by fermenting cooked glutinous rice, yeasts, and water for anywhere from several weeks to several years.
In Chinese cuisine, Shaoxing wine provides a sweet and complex flavor. It also helps eliminate "fishy" or gamey flavors in some meats. The alcohol in the wine helps to break down proteins, and the aromas of the wine help mask unwanted flavors.
Shaoxing wine is the most popular type of Chinese cooking wine and is widely available in Asian grocery stores. If you cannot find Shaoxing wine, dry sherry is a worthy substitute.
Chinkiang vinegar, also known as Chinese black vinegar, is a vinegar made by fermenting black glutinous rice. It has a deep and complex flavor profile that is often described as fruity, sweet, and almost a little smoky.
Use it to add acidity and sweetness to dishes, sauces, and marinades or as a dipping sauce for dumplings and fried foods. If you cannot find Chinkiang vinegar, you can substitute it with unaged balsamic vinegar, which has a similar flavor profile.
Sambal Oelek is a raw chili paste made from ground red chiles, vinegar, and salt. It is widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine and is considered a staple in many households.
Boasting spicy and acidic flavors, Sambal Oelek is often used as a condiment or an ingredient in dishes such as soups, sauces, and stir-fries. It can even be used as a base for other chili sauces.
If you cannot find Sambal Oelek, you can substitute it with another chili sauce like sriracha or gochujang. Alternatively, you can make your own chili sauce by blending fresh red chiles, vinegar, salt, and aromatics like garlic and ginger.
Better than bouillon
Better than bouillon is a concentrated stock seasoning made from cooked vegetables and/or meat. It can be mixed with water to create an instant stock or added directly to foods to add flavor.
The most popular varieties are roasted chicken, roasted beef, and seasoned vegetables. I have all three in my kitchen, and I use them frequently when I don't have time to make my own stock or when I want to add a concentrated dosage of flavor to soups, sauces, gravies, or stews.
Better than bouillon products have a high salt content, so be careful when using them in dishes that already have been seasoned. Start off with a small amount and gradually add more as needed.
White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar is a clear-colored vinegar made by fermenting white wine, a process that takes at least twelve weeks. Unlike other kinds of vinegar, white wine vinegar has a mild and delicate flavor, making it delicious in raw preparations like salads and pickles.
Unlike red wine vinegar, which imparts a pinkish color to anything mixed with it, white wine vinegar does not stain food. This makes it preferable in certain applications, like when making a white bearnaise or hollandaise sauce.
Red wine vinegar
Red wine vinegar is a reddish-colored vinegar made by fermenting red wine, a process that takes at least twelve weeks. Unlike white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar has a bold and strong taste.
Red wine vinegar pairs incredibly well with red meats like beef, lamb, and pork, as they both have rich, bold flavors which complement each other. Red wine vinegar works well when a more assertive, fruity tang is needed to cut through richness or earthiness, for example, a mushroom stir-fry or a steak.
If you do not have red wine vinegar, try substituting it with balsamic or apple cider vinegar.
Toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame oil is a type of oil made by pressing and extracting the oil from toasted sesame seeds. It has a deep amber color.
Toasted sesame oil is commonly used as a finishing oil to add a nutty fragrance to Asian dishes, marinades, and sauces. However, due to its low smoke point, toasted sesame oil should not be used for cooking at high temperatures; instead, it should be used as a finishing oil at the end of the cooking process. Many of the aromatic compounds in toasted sesame oil are volatile in high heat, so you lose much of its fragrance.
On the other hand, raw sesame oil, made from untoasted sesame seeds, has a much higher smoke point, so it can be used as cooking oil, but it does not offer the same aroma as toasted sesame oil.
Rice vinegar, also known as rice wine vinegar, is a vinegar made from fermented rice. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and is commonly used in East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) cooking. It is commonly used to add acidity and sweetness to sauces and marinades but can also be used in salad dressings and dipping sauces.
Rice vinegar comes in a variety of colors, including red, black, and brown, depending on the type of rice used. White rice vinegar is the most common, and it comes in a plain or seasoned version. Most recipes use the plain version as it allows cooks to control the amount of salt and sugar better.
Fish sauce is a liquid seasoning made by salting and fermenting fish or krill for several months to several years. It is often used in Southeast Asian and East Asian cuisine to add saltiness and umami to dishes. It can also be used as a condiment or added to dipping sauces and marinades.
Fish sauce has a very intense aroma so some people may not like it, but adding just a touch of it can enhance the flavors of a dish without being overpowering.
Mirin is a sweet Japanese cooking wine made by fermenting a combination of cooked rice, koji, and shochu.
Mirin is similar to sake but has a sweeter taste and lower alcohol content, usually around 14%, compared to 18-20% for sake. The difference is due to the length of fermentation; mirin is fermented for a much shorter time, so less sugar is converted to alcohol.
Japanese cooks use mirin to add sweetness and depth of flavor to dishes. It is a key ingredient in many Japanese sauces such as teriyaki or yakitori.
Oyster sauce is a thick, viscous liquid seasoning made by boiling oysters in water and reducing the mixture with salt, sugar, and often caramel for color. The result is a thick, brown sauce with a slightly sweet, salty, and umami flavor.
Oyster sauce is widely used in Chinese cooking, especially in Cantonese-style dishes, and is considered a staple in many Chinese households. It is commonly used in stir-fries, marinades, and sauces.
Oyster sauce is widely available in western and Asian grocery stores. Unfortunately, most manufactured brands of oyster sauce contain artificial flavorings rather than real oyster extract. I use the premium Lee Kum Kee brand, which is made from real oyster extract. It costs about $3 more, but the flavor is much better.
Japanese mayo is a type of mayonnaise that originated from Japan and is known for its silky texture and creamy flavor.
Japanese mayo differs from American mayo (Hellman's, Miracle, etc..) in that it is made with only egg yolks, not the whole egg. Using only egg yolks results in a richer flavor and a distinctly silkier mouthfeel. In addition, Japanese mayo brands, like Kewpie, use rice wine vinegar instead of white vinegar for a more subdued taste, and they add a little MSG to amplify the richness.
Japanese mayo is widely available in Asian grocery stores and is popping up more frequently in western supermarkets.
Mirin is a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting cooked rice, koji, yeast, and water. It can be used for cooking or consumed as a beverage.
Sake is similar to mirin but has a higher alcohol content (around 18-20%) and is less sweet. Because of its higher alcohol content, sake is typically added at the beginning of cooking to allow more time for its alcohol to evaporate.
Sake can be purchased from most liquor stores.
Spices and condiments
Kosher salt is a non-iodized, coarse-grained salt. It is popular amongst chefs and home cooks due to its large grain size, making it easier to pick up and sprinkle over food. In addition, because of its grain size, kosher salt is less likely to over-salt food as there is less salt per pinch.
If you only have a fine salt like table salt, make sure you reduce the amount by half, otherwise, you run the risk of oversalting your food. All recipes on this website are prepared using kosher salt.
White pepper is a type of pepper made from the berries (peppercorns) of the pepper plant, Piper Nigrum, a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae. The berries are picked at peak ripeness and their outer skins are removed before being dried. This gives them a milder flavor compared to the black peppercorns, which are picked unripe and dried with their outer skins still on.
In western cooking, white pepper is mainly used for aesthetic reasons. It is typically used in lighter-colored dishes where black pepper might negatively impact the appearance of a dish. For example, scrambled eggs.
In Chinese cooking, white pepper is mainly used for its distinctly earthy flavor.
Sichuan peppercorns are a type of peppercorn harvested from the berries of the prickly ash bush native to China and Taiwan. They have a unique aroma and are most well-known for the tingly and numbing sensation they provide when they are eaten.
In Chinese cooking, Sichuan peppercorns are usually sizzled in oil alongside dried chiles to create a "mala" or "numbing-spicy" flavor for stir-fries, hot pot, and other dishes.
One of my favorite ways to use Sichuan pepper is as a seasoning on Chinese scallion pancakes.
MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer commonly used in Asian cuisine. It can be added to dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and stews to add savoriness and umami. Typically, only a small amount is needed to enhance the flavor of a dish - around ¼ of a teaspoon for a recipe that serves 6-8 people.
MSG is undoubtedly the most controversial ingredient in Chinese cooking. Its controversy began in the 1970s when a paper identified MSG as causing "Chinese restaurant syndrome," an ailment where people experienced side effects such as headaches after eating Chinese food. The controversies surrounding MSG have since been debunked by many scientific papers but it still has a negative connotation. You can click here to learn more about how MSG got its bad rap.
Citric acid powder
Citric acid powder is a powdered food additive derived from citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges. It can be added to foods to give them an immediate boost in acidity.
Aside from being acidic, citric acid powder is otherwise flavorless, so it can be used in a variety of applications. I prefer to use it over liquid acids when I want to add acidity to a dish without adding additional moisture. For example, adding brightness to a sauce that already has the desired consistency.
I also like to use it in sourdough bread and fish n chips batter. I always keep a jar of citric acid powder in my pantry. It's a lifesaver when you accidentally run out of lemons!
Gochugaru is a type of dried chili flake that is used in Korean cooking. It has a moderate heat level and comes in a coarse or fine flake size.
Gochugaru is commonly used in kimchi, soups, stews, and in various spicy side dishes. Gochugaru has a strong chili flavor but is not too spicy, so it's perfect when you want to add the flavor of chilis without adding too much heat.
Gochugaru is widely available in Asian and Korean grocery stores.
Chicken bouillon powder
Chicken bouillon powder is a seasoning powder that is salty, rich, and has a concentrated chicken broth flavor. Asian brands of chicken bouillon powder usually contain MSG and do not have flavors typical of western broths like carrots and celery.
In my kitchen, I use the Lee Kum Kee brand of chicken bouillon powder. It has a salty chicken flavor that kind of reminds me of instant noodle seasoning. I use it in Asian recipes.
For western recipes, you are better off using a western stock seasoning like Better than Bouillon which uses typical french mirepoix ingredients.
Flours and starches
Rice flour is a gluten-free flour made from finely milled long-grain rice. It is typically used as an ingredient in batters, as a thickener in soups and stews, or as a gluten-free replacement for wheat flour in baking.
Rice flour has a high starch content, so it can be used with a similar effect as pure starches like corn or potato. When used in fried foods, it helps create a crispier coating.
Rice flour is not the same as glutinous rice flour which has a much chewier texture when cooked. You can learn more about glutinous rice flour below.
Glutinous rice flour
Glutinous rice flour (also known as sweet rice flour or mochiko flour) is a gluten-free flour made from finely milled short-grain rice.
Despite its name, glutinous rice flour contains zero gluten. The term glutinous refers to its sticky and chewy texture when cooked. Glutinous rice flour's chewy texture is prized in Asian desserts and is an essential ingredient in recipes like sesame balls, mochis, or tang yuan.
Corn starch is a flavorless starch derived from the endosperm of corn kernels. It is commonly used to thicken sauces, make fried foods crispier, and create lighter and fluffier baked goods.
In baking and frying, cornstarch is commonly used to replace some of a recipe's flour content to lower the gluten content, producing a moister and lighter crumb.
In Chinese cooking, cornstarch is preferred over flour-based roux for thickening sauces because it is flavorless and provides a silkier texture. When used for thickening, corn starch should be diluted with a small amount of water, so it does not clump up when mixed.
Potato flour is a type of flour made from cooked, whole potatoes that have been dried and ground into a fine powder. It is gluten-free and has a strong potato flavor.
Potato flour absorbs and holds water extremely well, so it is commonly added to baked goods to produce a moister crumb. It can also be used for thickening sauces, soups, and gravies.
One of my favorite, unconventional ways to use potato flour is as a binder for meatballs or veggie balls - potato flour gets really sticky when wet, so it helps meatballs and veggie balls keep their shape better.
Potato starch is a starch made from the washed-out starch of whole-cooked potatoes. Unlike potato flour, potato starch is flavorless.
Potato starch has similar properties as cornstarch, so it is used in many of the same applications - thickening sauce, soups, and gravies, making fried foods crispier, etc…
When substituting for cornstarch, make sure to use about half the amount, as potato starch has more thickening power.
Other dried ingredients
Panko bread crumbs
Panko bread crumbs are Japanese-style dried bread crumbs made from crustless, white bread. They are commonly used in Japanese cuisine to add a crunchy texture to deep-fried foods, including katsu and tonkatsu.
Panko comes in a fine or coarse crumb size, which can be used interchangeably, but a coarse crumb size offers a more enjoyable texture when fried.
In western cuisine, panko can be used as a crispy topping for baked goods such as macaroni and cheese or as a binder for meat/vegetable mixtures like meatballs.