Setting Up Your Southeast Asian Pantry

If you have everything listed below, you can cook a majority of the recipes in this book. Most have a long shelf life (more than six months). Of course, you will need to buy the meat, fish, and produce as needed. Having these staples on hand will enable you to create Asian flavors on the fly. Then, as you try other items, you can bolster the pantry with specialized ingredients like fenugreek seeds, which are used to make curry powders, and other esoteric things.

Recommended brands follow each item in parentheses. When applicable, other quality indicators to look for are listed in the section heading or by each entry.
  • Dried goods
    • Neutral-flavored oil, such as soy, peanut, canola, or vegetable
    • Coconut milk (Chaokoh, Maeploy, or 1st Oriental Food New Formula)
    • Soy bean sauces
      • Soy sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
      • Dark soy sauce or mushroom dark soy sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
      • Thick soy sauce (Koon Chun)
      • Brown/ground bean sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
      • Hoisin sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
  • Other condiments
    • Oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
    • Fish sauce (Squid or Golden Boy)
    • Rice vinegar (unseasoned)
    • Distilled white vinegar
  • Chili sauces
  • Tamarind paste
  • Sweetened condensed milk (Longevity or Nestlé)—avoid “filled” milk. Look at the ingredient list to ensure there is no oil or other fillers added. It should list only milk and sugar.
  • Dried shrimp
  • Dried red chilies
  • Raw peanuts
  • Dried Chinese black mushrooms (shiitake)
  • Dried spices
    • Coriander seeds
    • Cumin seeds
    • Black and white peppercorns
    • Star anise
    • Cassia (cinnamon)
  • Rice
    • Jasmine (Elephant/Erawan or Rice King)
    • Long-grain sticky rice
  • Rice flour (Elephant/Erawan)
  • Cornstarch
  • Rice noodles
    • Vermicelli
      • ¼ inch wide
      • ½ inch wide
    • Cellophane noodles (mung bean)
  • Frozen things (some bought fresh and stored for later use)
    • Banana leaves
    • Pandan leaves—bought fresh when available or frozen when fresh is not available
    • Cilantro root—to mince later into curry pastes
    • Kaffir limes—to grate directly from the freezer for an intense burst of flavor
    • Galangal—to grate frozen from the freezer for rempahs (spice pastes)
    • Lemongrass—for things like iced tea or grill brushes.
    ,