Monday, January 30, 2012

My Top 5 Essential Asian Condiments

Asians are very brand loyal.

A lot of the Asian condiments I have in my cupboards and pantry are items that my mom have been using since I was a wee-little kid. I'm sure I can try other fish sauces and soy sauces, but I like what I like and it's kind of hard to change what you've known for so long. I'll pick up some new brands here and there, but my mainstays are usually the same ones I end up throwing into my cart at the Asian market.

Here are a list of some of the Asian condiments I always have on hand and I will usually have an extra bottle of it in my pantry! At least I'm not like my mom, who buys fish sauce by the box! I'm not there...yet.

1. Nuoc Mam (Fish Sauce): I like to have two different kinds of fish sauce on hand. The Squid Brand for making diluted dipping sauces and the Viet Huong brand for last touches (like adding it to a bowl of pho or for eating straight with pigs feet). It's basically like an everday olive oil and a special olive oil for dipping. Same thing for fish sauce. The Viet Huong brand is smooth and pungent, but really well balanced.

L: Squid Brand, R: Viet Huong Three Crabs

2. Soy Seasoning Sauce: I think there are two camps when it comes to soy seasoning sauce. I think a lot of Viet families like Maggi and its ubiquitous yellow label, but everyone in my family uses the Golden Mountain brand with the man on the label. Best way to use this stuff? I love splattering this stuff on a fried egg with hot sauce and eating it with french bread. YUM! It's also a go to soy sauce to mix with chili sauce as a dipping sauce for veggies, etc. Warning: DO NOT EAT THIS STUFF WITH SUSHI. Not the same.

3. Regular Soy Sauce: There are tons of brands, so pick the one you like, but I like the low sodium soy. The Kikkoman brand works just fine and I just buy in the big bottle and then I pour it into the smaller containers for ease of use.

4. Hoisin Sauce: This is basically my ketchup. I use it to make dipping sauces for spring rolls and to marinade meat in. I have to two types of hoisin sauce on hand. The glass jar one is for making dipping sauces since it's a pure form of the hoisin sauce. The plastic bottle is for eating with pho - it has a slightly different flavor than the glass container (tad bit sweeter).

L: Koon Chun hoisin, R: Lee Kum Kee hoisin for pho

5. Chili garlic sauce & Sriracha (tuong ot pho): In the past 5 years, Sriracha has popped up everywhere! I still mainly use sriracha for pho, but I sometimes squirt into a stir fry. The chili garlic sauce is the one I use the most of in my kitchen. Both items are made by Huy Fong Foods. I use the chili sauce mainly with soy sauce as a dipping sauce and I also add it to all nuoc mam dipping sauces. I also like to put it on my sunny-side up eggs with the soy sauce from (above). I've even made the sauce with leftover chilis from this blog. Any time I feel a dish needs a little spice, I reach for that stubby guy.

L: Chili Garlic Sauce, R: Sriracha

Notable mentions that I always have around, but don't use as often:

1. Rice Vinegar: great for sauces (mix with soy sauce for a dumpling dipping sauce)

2. Sesame Oil: I just love the smell of this stuff! I like to dress up my noodle dishes with some oil as well as add it to certain stirfry dishes.

3. Oyster Sauce: Great in meat marinades and in stirfry dishes! Great umami flavor.

What is your favorite go-to condiment (besides ketchup or mayo!)? Are you brand loyal?