"Asian" condiments and staples

I’d like to put together a gift basket of “Asian” pantry items as a housewarming present for some good friends. Pretty sure they don’t have most of these. Would love to know your favorite brands. I’ll be able to go to an Asian market so there should be a pretty good selection.

Sesame oil, peanut oil, chili paste, red curry paste, red miso, tamarind concentrate, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, tamari, coconut milk, soba noodles, rice noodles. Any other key items you can think of? Thanks!

  • Posted by: Pegeen
  • February 16, 2015


Meaghan F. February 19, 2015
I can't top the awesome edible suggestions already given, but maybe consider some chopsticks and a couple small condiment bowls if they don't already have them; most Asian markets have inexpensive selections of both.
Healthline February 18, 2015
Hoisin sauce is another Asian condiment that has an intense salty, sweet, but spicy flavor. It's great in this Beef with Soba Noodle dish: http://www.healthline.com/health-recipes/hoisin-glazed-beef-soba-noodles
QueenSashy February 18, 2015
LE BEC FIN, to answer your question, I had the same experience like you – when I first tasted plum vinegar it was very different from what I expected it to be. I do not use it in large quantities, usually a drop of two when I feel like adding a fruity note to a dish. For example, if I am making vinaigrette, I will use rice vinegar and a drop or two of umeboshi, and it will give it a nice fruity finish. I have a bottle of fancy blood orange infused olive oil and like to mix it with umeboshi, it makes for a lovely vinaigrette and also nice glaze for radishes. (This also works with regular olive oil, orange zest and orange juice, without additional $$$.) Sometimes, I toss it over steamed vegetables instead of salt. I make green pea humus with it. Sometimes I add it to broths as a seasoning.
Allyn February 17, 2015
I love Japanese Hon Dashi bonito fish soup stock (and yes… it has MSG), and S&B Nanami Togarashi, which is a great seasoning to have on hand.
AntoniaJames February 17, 2015
Doenjang, a Korean fermented soybean paste that has a rich, strong flavor -- holds it own during cooking, unlike miso, adding great depth not only to Asian dishes, but also to braises, stews, bean dishes, etc. without any Asian ties, especially vegetarian and vegan ones I've tried several brands from our Korean market and all are good. (I get the impression that doenjang is a "commodity" type of ingredient, i.e., there's little if any product differentiation.) ;o)
LeBec F. February 18, 2015
aj, i don't know if you watch foreign films, but there is a really wonderful Korean film (dvd available) of The Recipe about a woman's magical dish, and all the components that went into it, including that fermented bean paste i believe.
QueenSashy February 17, 2015
… forgot to mention, some Szechuan pepper and star anise.
QueenSashy February 17, 2015
Oh Pegeen, can you be my friend :)
Some of my "Asian" favorites include ume plum vinegar, ponzu sauce, mirin and yuzu kosho. And needless to say, a bottle of nice sake (so that they can make black cod miso and then drink the rest).
Pegeen February 17, 2015
It would be my privilege! :-)

This is so interesting to read... people are adding so many great items. But I forbid myself to get into dried spices or fresh ingredients, otherwise I will (well, my credit card will) go to hell in a gift basket.

In many ways it's a selfish gift. We eat together often and they could seriously use some Asian influences in their rotation.
LeBec F. February 18, 2015
sashy, this is an aside, but plse tell me what you like to use that plum vinegar for. I bought it once; it is VERY expensive; and I didn't like the flavor, much to my surprise.Thx.
Pegeen February 17, 2015
Thanks, everyone, for these terrific tips. They're much appreciated. I know my list is a it of a mish-mosh but I was glancing through a few recipes to include in their basket and it seemed to cover at least the basics. I will be printing out your tips and saving them!
Pegeen February 17, 2015
Correction to above: "a BIT of a mish-mosh"
cookbookchick February 17, 2015
Pegeen, here's a link to an article by Eileen Yin-Fei-Lo about buying Chinese ingredients. She names the brands she prefers for some of them. You might find it helpful: http://www.finecooking.com/videos/a-chinese-market-tour.aspx
cookbookchick February 17, 2015
* Eileen Yin-Fei Lo
Panfusine February 17, 2015
I stock up on Maesri brand for all the cans of curry paste,
Panfusine February 17, 2015
Dried Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass

Voted the Best Reply!

LeBec F. February 17, 2015
Sesame oil- Maruhon
chili paste- Yank Sing
red curry paste- fresh, not canned. Found in clear plastic pouch in refrig section of market,
tamarind concentrate- found in Indian stores, opaque plastic jar with red lid. Thick tamarind paste- like tar. A hard tamarind block is difficulat to work with, and Indonesian Tamarind in jar- is a whole other thing- consistency of jam.
rice wine vinegar- Marukan superior
soy sauce- Japanese- Kikkoman low sodium; Chinese- Superior Soy.
tamari-San J gluten free
coconut milk-Chaukoh
Sriracha- bottle w/ Red Rooster on it, Huy Fong
curry powder- Sun Brand Madras curry powder

in case you wish to research further, Serious Eats has done many tasting panels that include some of your items.

Also, your list is mostly Chinese, SE Asia centric, so i couldn't tell if you wanted to cover Japanese (you do mention soba and miso and rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.)
For Japanese, you might want to find white miso instead of aka/red as a more useful miso, but i may be completely wrong about that. You would, however, want to add ramen, and Mirin, Instant Dashi (i don't use the ones w/ MSG; i use the tea bag-like packets that steep in the water.) and Noodle Dipping Sauce (for cold noodle Summer dishes), and Furokake- which comes in many different combos-for sprinkling on rice, noodles, etc to up the flavor. I like it w/ sesame seeds and nori primarily.

Just to warn you, though I am only speaking from experience here in Boston: Japanese stores are usually the only place i find most japanese items; sometimes they are in Korean markets, but rarely in Chinese markets.

What a lovely gift. Won't they be delighted! If you include a card, you might mention the 1000's of recipes on 52 that they can easily access.
scruz February 16, 2015
some good dried mushrooms and maybe some pickled vegetables. maybe some chinese sausages. rock sugar. i would definitely pick up a small fine mesh strainer for scooping up the scum on top of soups (this is one of my favorite tools). either 5 spice herb mix or the individual ingredients and some cut down coffee filters to fill them with the 5 spices for adding into soups and making their retrieval easy. what a fun present.
nancy E. February 16, 2015
Mirin, Gochujang hot pepper paste, chili oil
sexyLAMBCHOPx February 16, 2015
My Asian pantry staples include: Red Boat Fish Sauce, Huy Fong Foods Sambal Oelek, Lan Chi Chili Paste with Garlic, Huy Fong Sriacha Sauce.
sexyLAMBCHOPx February 16, 2015
Also, Thai Jasmine rice but and put it in a canister so I don't know the brand.
Summer O. February 16, 2015
Kombu, nori, bonito flakes, gochujang, black vinegar, more assorted noodles - various rice, soba and ramen, shrimp paste (maybe?), if you have access to good premade curries those are great for a weeknight meal.
TobiT February 16, 2015
Rice paper for making spring rolls.
Greenstuff February 16, 2015
I've had a lot of luck following Kasma Loha-unchit's recommendations for ingredients used in Thai cooking http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/brands.html
Nancy February 16, 2015
Pretty complete list. Optional additions...coconut butter and/or ghee, basmati rice, garam Masala, rose water, orange blossom water, pomegranate molasses, saffron.
Pegeen February 16, 2015
Thanks, Nancy. I'm going to omit Indian and Middle Eastern items or I'm afraid the list will never end! :-) Do you have any favorite brands for the "Asian" items?
Nancy February 16, 2015
Sorry about the brands...I tend to choose by visual label in Korean, conese or indan stores And don't always know or remember brands. For sesame oil, I like dark or cold pressed (more flavor), red curry paste without shrimp as an ingredient as many are allergic to it. If you have time and can find it (online, bookstore) Linda bladholme wrioe a fine book, Asian grocery store demystified, where she guides reader around store, explains foods & recommends brands. Very helpful.
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