Tiger Tiger


Acacia Leaf

Common in Chinese foods, this is a plant that resembles a fern in appearance but with a very bitter flavor and pungent sulfur-like aroma when freshly picked and eaten. If consumed fresh, the aroma and bitter flavor of the Acacia Leaf is most often reduced by adding a dipping sauce such as shrimp paste sauce. Generally it is cooked to provide mild flavored greens that are added as seasonings to eggs, omelets, stir-fried foods, or served as a vegetable side dish. Asian names or spellings for this type of Asian greens include cha-om, chaom, cha om, sa-um, saum, and sa um.

Adzuki Beans

These are tiny, red-brown beans from Japan and China with a little white thread down one side. Because of their size, adzuki beans make perfect partners to brown rice, to give a good protein balance.


A setting agent derived from seaweed and suitable for vegetarians, it hardens without refrigeration and is used for cakes and desserts. It comes in the form of long strands or powder. The strands, which look like uneven clear noodles, can be melted and used just like ordinary gelatine. 1 teaspoon of powdered agar-agar sets 1-1½ cups liquid. To use, sprinkle the powder over liquid and gently bring it to the boil, stirring until dissolved.


Of the same family as parsley and cumin, the seeds look like parsley or celery seeds, but have the flavor of thyme. It is used in Indian cooking, particularly in lentil dishes that provide the protein in vegetarian diets, both as a flavoring and as a carminative. It is one of the seeds used to flavor the crisp-fried snacks made from lentil flour.


Of the same family as parsley and cumin, the seeds look like parsley or celery seeds, but have the flavor of thyme. It is used in Indian cooking, particularly in lentil dishes that provide the protein in vegetarian diets, both as a flavoring and as a carminative. It is one of the seeds used to flavor the crisp-fried snacks made from lentil flour.

All Spice

This looks like a smooth peppercorn but larger, and it is so called because it is supposed to resemble in flavour a mixture of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. However, it is not really like any one of them but has a unique flavour of its own. It is sometimes called Jamaican pepper or pimento, and is used in marinades and pickles — you’ll see the whole berries used in jars of commercial pickled herrings, and you can catch some of its flavour in the recipe for Tunisian Aubergine Salad.


The almond has long been prized for cakes, confectionery and as a source of cosmetic oil. For many of us it has a strong association with Spain, where we have seen groves of almond trees (smelt them too if we are lucky enough to be abroad in the spring) and seen shops filled with dozens of different almond biscuits and pastries. Turron is another almond speciality: it’s a grown-up version of nougat made in Spain and Italy using toasted almonds.


Dried green mango, usually available in powder form. Used as an acid flavoring ingredient in Indian cooking.


Dried green mango, usually available in powder form. Used as an acid flavoring ingredient in Indian cooking.

Anchovies Dried

A tiny fish used for its salty flavour to season many Malaysian and Indonesian dishes. Anchovy paste is sometimes used as a substitute for dried anchovies and can also be used in place of shrimp pastes.

Anise Seeds

Anise Seed is a graybrown oval seed from Pimpinella anisum, a plant in the parsley family. It is related to caraway, dill, cumin, and fennel.

Anise Seeds

Anise Seed is a graybrown oval seed from Pimpinella anisum, a plant in the parsley family. It is related to caraway, dill, cumin, and fennel.

Annatto Seeds

Also known as achiote, these small red-brown seeds are used in Filipino cooking for their strong color. They come from a small flowering tree native to Central and South America which was introduced into the Philippines by Spanish traders. Annatto seeds are also used by the Chinese to color barbecued pork. Substitute paprika and turmeric in given amounts.


Used for thickening sauces and not for flavoring. Should be used at the very end of cooking, since unlike other thikerners such as cornstarch, it will break down after about 10 minutes.


To prepare the artichoke for cooking, wash the bud thoroughly. Chop off the stem attached to the base to remove some of the hard fibers surrounding the base. To keep the exposed base from turning brown, brush it lightly with vinegar or lemon juice. If the artichoke hearts are to be prepared, chop off the top third of the artichoke to remove the leaves and remove any remaining leaves from around the base. Remove and discard the fibers that make up the “choke“ of the artichoke by scooping them out of the bud with a spoon or melon baller. The small round heart is now ready to be prepared in water mixed with a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar, cooking it for 5 to 10 minutes.


A vegetable with long, tender shoots that may be white, purple or green in color, all belonging to a plant that is a member of the lily family. This vegetable has small leaves that look like scales tightly packed near the tips, which are an especially popular part of the vegetable because of their soft to crunchy texture and mild flavor.


Fine wholemeal flour used in making Indian flat breads. Substitute fine wholemeal sold in health food stores. Can bought from stores specializing in Asian foods.


Avocados can be eaten fresh as an appetizer or served with greens as an ingredient in salads. They can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients, such as crab meat or fish and they are often mashed to be made into a sandwich spread or dip. It is a fruit that goes well as an accompaniment to turkey, chicken, lean game birds, or fish and seafood. The oil in the flesh of this fruit gives it a slightly nutty and rich flavor that goes well when partnered with highly acidic or sweeter fruits such as canteloupes, grapefruits, oranges, papaya, pomelo, or tomatoes. A popular appetizer made with avocados is guacamole, which blends the fruit with other ingredients to be served as a dip for crackers.

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Baby Corn

Baby sweet corn, sliced and added to a stir fry will add bulk and fibre, a good store cupboard standby.

Bamboo Shoots

These are the edible young shoots of certain types of bamboo. Crunchy in texture with a subtle, refreshing taste, they are used fresh, preserved or dried in Asian cookery. If using bamboo shoots from a tin, they should be washed in fresh water and drained before use.

Banana Leaves

The large flexible leaves of the banana plant are used throughout Asia to wrap foods for steaming or baking. They keep the food moist and impart a mild flavor. Remove the thick central stalk, rinse the leaves well and blanch in boiling water to soften. Foil can be used as an alternative.


Three varieties of fresh basil are used in Asian cooking. If any are unavailable, use fresh sweet basil or fresh coriander in its place in cooked dishes, fresh mint for salads. In Indonesia, basil is known as daun selasih or kemangi. The most common variety, known as horapa, is fairly similar to European basil. It has a sweet anise flavour and is used liberally as a seasoning in stir-fries, red and green curries, shredded in salads and as a garnish for soups. “Lemon basil” or manglak is added to soups or salads, and its small green leave have a lemony scent and peppery. Its seeds are used in desserts and drinks. Kaprow, sometimes known as “holy basil” has purple-reddish markings on its narrow leaves, and a pungent, clove-like taste. Its stronger flavour lends itself to be used in stir-fries and more intensely flavoured curries.

Bay Leaves

Bay Leaves come from the sweet bay or laurel tree, known botanically as Laurus nobilis. The elliptical leaves of both trees are green, glossy, and grow up to 3 inches long.

Bean Sprouts

Bean sprouts are germinated mung beans which have been grown in a dark environment for a period of 6-8 days. Tp wash, drop the beans sprouts into a basin of cold water and lift out by the handful into a colander. This is an easy way to separate the whole sprouts from the broken tails and bean casings in the bag. Never soak bean sprouts as they absorb water which will be released upon cooking.

Beancurd (tofu)

Tofu a processed extract of soy bean and is widely used in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Malaysian cuisines. An excellent source of protein, tofu is available fresh or deep-fried.

Bitter Gourd

Also known as bitter melon this bitter fruit can best be described as a warty cucumber shaped vegetable with an undulating, light green surface. A member of the gourd family, grown in tropical and sub tropical countries, it is prized for its bitter taste and natural healing qualities. To prepare, remove the pith and seeds from the central cavity and slice. Salting the fruit prior to cooking sometimes removes some bitterness. In Thai cuisine, bitter melon is used in salads, stir fries and soups.

Black Bean Sauce

A sharp and salty sauce made from fermented soya beans are used throughout Malaysia and other parts of South-East Asia. They can be very thick, filled with crumbled beans or smooth and somewhat thinner.

Black Beans

A popular flavour in southern Chinese cooking, black beans are soy beans that have been cooked and fermented with salt and spices. Soft, with a sharp, salty, they should be washed before use and lightly crushed or chopped to release their aroma. Black beans are available in cans or packets and are a common seasoning for fish and beef.

Black Moss Fungus

A fine, hair-like fungus valued in Chinese cooking. Soak in warm water until pliable before using.


A vegetable consisting of green clusters of buds, known as florets, which grow on a thick leafy stalk. This vegetable is a member of the cabbage family and is one of the most versatile of vegetables grown. It is readily available all year, it is easy to cook and is low in cost. The leaf, stalk and florets can be eaten raw or used in a wide variety of salads, side dishes and main dishes. Several common varieties of broccoli include: sprouting (also called calabrese), baby, asparagus or Italian, Chinese sprouting (also called Chinese Kale or Gaii Lan), purple, Romanesco, and broccoflower. When selecting, buy broccoli that is dark green in color (Romanesco and broccoflower excluded, each being lighter green in color) and very firm.

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Called kemiri in Indonesia and buah keras in Malaysia, these nuts are waxy and cream in colour. It is ground and used in Malay and Nonya dishes to add texture and a faint flavour. Cashew nuts, almonds or macadamia nuts can be used as substitutes.


Called kemiri in Indonesia and buah keras in Malaysia, these nuts are waxy and cream in colour. It is ground and used in Malay and Nonya dishes to add texture and a faint flavour. Cashew nuts, almonds or macadamia nuts can be used as substitutes.


Capers are the pickled, unopened flower buds of the caper plant. Caper plants are small shrubs about 3 feet tall and native to the Mediterranean area. Buds are picked by hand ever day and the smaller the bud, the higher the quality.


A much milder though still flavorful variety of chili with a long pod large enough to stuff with spiced meat or fish mixtures.

Caraway Seed

Caraway seed is actually the fruit of a biennial herb in the parsley family, known as Carum carvi. The seed is about 1/5inch long and tapered at the ends. The hard seed shells have five pale ridges.


Popular in Indian cuisine, cardamom are intensely fragrant seeds. The seeds are enclosed in pods. Several varieties are available including brown-black seeds and small green-coloured pods are often used to flavour curries, rice dishes and Indian-style deserts. Large black cardamom pods, which are at least six times the size of the green, are used in some northern Indian dishes.

Cashew Nut

A sweet, kidney-shaped nut. In countries where the cashew tree is not grown, it is not possible to get the milky sweet fresh cashews. However, it is possible to buy raw cashews from nut shops, health food stores and grocers specializing in Asian ingredients.


Cassia is closely related to cinnamon and is often confused with it. Cassia has a strong, sweet taste and aroma more like cinnamon that cinnamon to American palates. It hails from Burma instead of cinnamon’s birthplace of Sri Lanka. A long used spice and has been used in China for as long ago as 2500 B.C.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper is made from the dried pods of pungent chili peppers. This fiery spice adds flair to dishes from Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East.

Celery Seed

Celery Seed is the dried fruit of Apium graviolens, a biennial in the parsley family. This is the same genus and species used for growing table celery, although there are particular varieties that are used for the vegetable. The seeds are very small (about 1/16th of an inch), ovoid and light brown.

Chili Oil

Dried chillies or chilli powder steeped in oil. It is orange in colour and small amounts can be added during cooking to intensify flavour. Chilli oil is used to enliven some Sichuan dishes.

Chili Padi (Bird’s eye chilies)

Very small and very hot chilies. Used mainly in pickles, though in some cases added to food when a very hot flavor is required as in some Thai food. Treat with extreme caution. Available fresh, dried or pickled in brine.


Asian cooking uses many different varieties of chilli. Fresh and dried chillies differ in flavour and intensity so be sure to use the type specified in recipes. Red chillies are simply ripe green chillies. Fresh chillies are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and iron. The cooking of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia mainly use the finger-length red or green chilli; bird’s eye chillies are fiery hot (red, green or yellowy-orange in colour); and dried red chillies are also used. In India, fresh chilies are only used in their green unripe state. Ripe red chillies are mainly ground to make chilli powder. To reduce the heat without losing the flavour of chillies, discard some or all of the seeds.

Chilli Bean Sauce (“Toban Sauce”)

A reddish-brown, very hot and spicy sauce made of soya beans, red chilies and other seasonings, often used in the cooking of Western China.

Chilli Flakes

They are dried red chilies that have been crushed, usually with the seeds (leaving in the seeds increases the hotness). Store in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.

Chilli Paste

Chillies are pounded and sometimes mixed with vinegar then sold in jars. Thai chilli paste (nam pril pow) is made by frying shallots and chillies together and then combining them with sugar and tamarind until the seasonings have the consistency of a thick jam.

Chilli Powder

Made by finely grinding dried red chilies and can vary in hotness from mild to fiery. Chili flakes can be substituted but not Mexican chili powder, which is mixed with cumin.

Chinese Cabbage

There are several types of Chinese cabbage, but the three most common are white cabbage (bai cai in Mandarin Chinese, or in Cantonese bak choi), which has white stems and green leaves, often sold in immature form; long white or “celery” cabbage has long pale green leaves and white celery-like stems; and round cabbage. Kimchee (Korean cabbage pickle) can be made from Chinese cabbage.

Chinese Celery

This resembles Italian flat-leafed parsley, but is larger and coarser and its thin stalks have a distinctive celery flavour.

Chinese Chives

The leaves of Chinese chives are flat and have a pronounced garlic-like flavour. Ordinary chives can be used as a substitute.

Chinese Eggplant

A variety of the Asian eggplant characterized by their long, thin shape and purple coloring. Providing the most delicate flavor of all eggplant varieties, Chinese Eggplant has a deliciously sweet and meaty flesh that is seedless. Since it is surrounded by a tender skin, this Eggplant is highly desirable for numerous stir-fry and sauté recipes. Chinese Eggplant is similar to a Japanese eggplant except that it is a bit longer and lighter in color. Chinese Eggplants range in color from white to lavender, while Japanese Eggplants are purple to purple-black in color. In recipes, either variety can be substituted for the other.

Chinese Leaf

A type of Chinese cabbage also known as bai cai or bak choi (see Chinese cabbage).

Chinese Mustard Greens

Sold only in Asian groceries, these greens have thick smooth stems with crisp swirling leaves and a strong, pungent, slightly bitter mustard flavour. They are delicious in soups or stir fried with meat.

Choy Sum

Also known as Chinese flowering cabbage. It is slimmer than bok choy and has a smooth green leaves and pale green stems with clusters of tiny yellow flowers on the tips of the inner s hoots. The leaves and flowers cook quickly and have a light, sweet mustard flavor. The stems are crunchy and juicy.


A fragrant and warm spice obtained from the fragrant bark of a tree native to Sri Lanka. Cassia bark is darker in colour, thicker and generally more expensive than cinnamon, but has a stronger flavour.

Cloud Ear Fungus

Small, delicate tree mushrooms that need to be cleaned carefully before use. Do not add the soaking liquid to food as it may contain grit. Clean well and discard the woody stem.


Cloves are the dried flower buds of an evergreen tropical tree native to South East Asia. They were used in China more than 2,000 years ago and were also used by the Romans. Oil of cloves contains phenol, a powerful antiseptic that discourages putrefaction and the clove is hence one of the spices that helps preserve food.


Widely used in many Asian cuisines including South Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian cooking. When buying a fresh coconut look for one that shows no sign of mould and is free from cracks. Shake the coconut. If it has a lot of water in it, it has a better chance of being good. As a substitute for grated fresh coconut you can use unsweetened desiccated coconut, to get the equivalent of 2oz (50g) of grated fresh coconut, soak 1oz (25g) of desiccated coconut in 4 tablespoons of water for 1 hour.

Coconut Cream

A rich ingredient, coconut cream has a thick, almost spreadable consistency. It is extracted from the flesh of fresh coconuts.

Coconut Milk

This is extracted from fresh coconut flesh after the cream has been pressed out. Once opened, freeze any leftovers as no coconut milk of any kind keeps well.


Sometimes known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. Widely used in Asian cooking, all parts of the coriander plant can be eaten. The fragrant green leaves add an earthy, peppery flavour. In Thai curries the white root is ground and used and in China the stems are dried and put into sauces. The stems and roots are ground for curry pastes. Store fresh coriander in a glass of water, cover it with a plastic bag and refrigerate.

Coriander Seeds

Round, beige seeds of the coriander plant. They are sold either whole or ground. Coriander seeds are roasted and ground for spice blends.


Fragrant seeds which resemble caraway in appearance. Strong spicy-sweet smell with an earthy and slightly pungent flavour. Cumin in its ground form is an essential component of curry pastes and many spice mixes.

Curry Leaves

These highly aromatic leaves are used in many areas of South-East Asia and have a spicy fragrance. In Indonesia, where they are known as daun salaam, they are always used in their fresh form. The cooking of southern India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia use the leaves to impart a distinctive flavour to curries and vegetable dishes. Fresh curry leaves may be frozen flat in a polythene bag or plastic box.

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Daun Salam

An aromatic leaf used in Indonesian cooking, it is larger than the curry leaf used in India and Sri Lanka, but has a similar flavor. Substitute curry leaves.

Dill Seed / Weed

Dill is a tall, feathery annual, Anethum graveolens, in the parsley family. Both Dill Seed and Weed (dried leaves) come from the same plant.

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Eggplant (Aubergine)

Native to Asia, eggplants come in variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Tiny pea eggplants are small fat green balls which grow in clusters and can be bitter in flavor. They are used whole in Thai curries or raw in salads.

Enoki Mushroom

A native Asian mushroom commonly found growing on tree trunks or tree roots. Also known as the Snow Puff, Velvet Foot and Enokitaki mushroom, the Enoki grows in long clusters of string-like stems that sprout small white caps. The mushrooms provide a mild flavor with a somewhat crunchy texture. It is a good addition to salads, soups, meat dishes, and as a garnish. The spongy base should be removed before using. To store, keep refrigerated loosely wrapped in their original container or a paper bag at 34°F to 38°F where they can be kept for 14 days. Do not store in plastic which can increase their exposure to humidity causing more rapid deterioration.

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Fennel Seeds

These seeds look and taste like aniseed but they are larger and plumper. Used to add a sweet fragrance to Malay and Indian dishes.


Strongly flavoured seeds generally used whole in southern Indian dishes and frequently in pickles and fish curries. Available whole and dried, or in ground form as a dull yellow powder. Fenugreek leaves are eaten as a vegetable but combined with other greens or potatoes because of their rather bitter taste. Spinach is an adequate substitute if fenugreek leaves are unavailable. Methi, the dried leaves, are sometimes used as a seasoning.

Fish Sauce

Known as nam pla in Thailand, nuoc mam in Vietnam and patis in the Philippines, fish sauce is what soy sauce is to Chinese cooking. A thin, salty, brown liquid made from salted, fermented shrimp or fish. It has a salty, pungent flavour, and a distinctive “fishy” smell which, luckily, fades with cooking. It is used in Thai and Vietnamese marinades, dressings and dipping sauces.

Five-Spice Powder

This strong seasoning contains star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns.

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Gai Lan

The Chinese name for a member of the cabbage family with edible leaves, tasty stems and small flowers. Deep green in colour it is close in taste to broccoli but has no head.


A member of the ginger family known as laos and lengkuas in Indonesia in Malaysia and kha in Thailand, this ginger like rhizome has a very distinct earthy aroma of its own. When young, galangal is at its best and most tender, imparting the best flavour. It is used in Thai, Malay and Nonya dishes.

Garam Masala

This is a mixture of ground spices which usually includes cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves and mace or nutmeg, although it can sometimes be made with mostly hot spices or with just the more fragrant spices. Commercially made mixtures are available, but garam masala is best freshly made. Unlike other spice mixtures, it is often added close to the end of the cooking time.


A widely used ingredient for its flavour and also for its medicinal properties. Garlic cloves can be smaller in southeast Asia than in western countries, so adjust to taste.


Clarified butter with a nutty, buttery taste.


An indispensable ingredient in every Asian cuisine. This pale, creamy yellow root has a sharp, spicy, cleansing taste and is a digestive to boot. Its brown skin is generally peeled, though in Chinese cookery it is often left on.

Green Mung Beans

A source of good dietry fibre, mung beans are more easily identified in their germinated state; bean sprouts.Countries from all over Asia use these beans, in whole or sprouted form, in many sweet and savoury dishes. These beans are also ground to make soft and slippery cellophane or glass noodles. In many Asian countries boiled mung beans are added to frozen ice lollies.

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Hoisin Sauce

A thick, smooth, red-brown sauce made from soy beans, garlic, sugar and spices. It can be used in cooking and as a dipping sauce, usually with meat or poultry.

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Kaffir Lime

Kaffir lime is a dark green lime whose peel and leaves are used in South East Asian cookery. Its skin is intensely fragrant but this citrus fruit has virtually no juice. Grated rind is added to food, while whole leaves are used in soups and curries, or finely shredded and added to salads. In Indonesia and Malaysia, round yellow-skinned limes (jeruk nipis) and small, dark green limes (jeruk limau) are used for their juice.


Asian Kale is very similar to the western Collards. Thicker stems are peeled and cleaned like asparagus. Both leaves and stems are used in Thai cooking. Kale is very high in Vitamin C and Calcium. If not available, stems of broccoli can be substituted in the recipes given.


This green, calcium rich, dried kelp used for making stock (dashi) in Japan is sometimes sold as dashi-konbu. It resembles large long leaves and is available either folded up or cut into small pieces. Konbu (sometimes called kombu) should never be washed as its flavour resides near the surface. It should be wiped with a damp cloth just before use.


These dried wafers are also known as prawn crackers and are made from tapioca flour, prawns or fish. Popular as a snack or garnish, they should be deep-fried in oil until they puff up and become crisp.

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Lemon Grass

Known as sreh in Indonesia, serai in Malaysia and takrai in Thailand, this lemon-scented grass is often used in southeast Asian dishes for its aroma and flavour. Usually only the bottom 5-10cm (2-4in) portion and discard the straw-like top. Available in fresh, frozen, dried and powdered form.


Limes of various kinds are plentiful in east Asia and have a tart flavour similar to lemons. Small, green kalamansi limes have a less acidic, more fragrant juice which is preferred for squeezing over noodle dishes and into sambals. See also kaffir lime.

Lime Leaf

A small to large oblong leaf, pale green to dark green in color (larger leaves are darker green), that are grown on fruit trees producing limes. Trees that grow the Kaffir lime are commonly used for harvesting lime leaves. The lime leaf is often used as a seasoning to provide a fresh citrus overtone in a variety of food dishes especially in Cambodian, Indonesian and Thai cooking for soups and curries. The leaves are also used to produce beverages such as tea and wine.

Lo Bak

A crisp Oriental radish that is large and oval-shaped with a very thin white skin covering a crisp and juicy white-colored inner flesh. It provides a mild, somewhat sweet flavor when eaten raw. This radish is a member of the Daikon radish family and is often considered to be the same as a Daikon radish, which looks more like a carrot in shape, rather than the oval shape of Lo bak.

Long Beans

Also known as asparagus beans, snake beans or yard-long beans. This legume grows wild in tropical Africa and has a crunchy texture with a taste similar to green beans. They are available in two varieties: pale green with slightly fibrous flesh, and darker green with firmer flesh. To use, snip off the ends and cut into smaller lengths. If unavailable, stringless green beans can be used instead.


A small round tropical fruit, native to Asia and related to the lychee nut, that grows in bunches ranging in size from slightly less to slightly more than one inch in diameter. It has a thin tanish brown outer skin that covers a white almost translucent meat surrounding a single dark brown stone or seed. The meat of this fruit is juicy and sweet flavored, with an appearance and taste similar to a grape. It is a fruit that is also known as “lumyai“ in Thailand or “longyan“ in Mandarin. They are often served fresh in salads or as snacks. They are also used to make a fruit soup, logan tea and logan wine.

Lotus Leaves

Similar in size to water lily leaves, dried lotus leaves are used to encase food for steaming. Steaming glutinous rice in lotus leaves is a common way to prepare this dish as it imparts a distinct flavour to the rice whilst it cooks. The leaves are inedible and have to be discarded.

Lotus Nuts

Regarded as a delicacy, lotus nuts are used as a sweet filling for Chinese and Japanese cakes and snacks. Sometimes the nut is boiled and added to sweet soups, often served up as an afternoon snack. Care must be taken to remove the little bitter shoot within the nut before serving.

Lotus Root

An unusual vegetable, these tubers are the sausage shaped root of the lotus plant. The root, with its pretty cross section, is sliced and added to soups and broths. A little fibrous in texture it is also rather bland but soaks up the flavours of the stock it is cooked in.


A small fruit from Asia that has been sun-dried, turning the bright red, leathery outer shell to a brown color and drying the white grape-like flesh inside into a crisp texture, similar to a raisin. Although the white succulent fruit covers a small to large seed, do not confuse the seed for a nut. This seed contains a toxin and is not to be consumed. If it is consumed fresh, peel the thin sturdy shell away from the fruit and remove the inner seed. If the white fruit is allowed to ripen and dry, it is then considered to be a “Lychee Nut“ and is served like a dried fruit snack or nut eaten out of hand. This fruit is also known as litchi nut, lichi nut, lichee nut, and lechee nut. When referred to simply as lichi, leechee, lechia, lychee, litchi, or lichee, it usually means the fresh fruit. Select bright red-fleshed outer shells that are not green. The fresh fruit is perishable and should not be stored for more than several days in the refrigerator. Canned lychee fruit with the seed removed and packed in a thick syrup is often available in food stores.

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Marjoram is the graygreen leaf of Majorana hortensis, a low growing member of the mint family. It is often mistaken for oregano, although they are not the same plant.


Peppermint and spearmint are often used in the salads of southeast Asian cooking, and also as flavour accents.


A sweetened rice wine used in Japanese cooking. A reasonable substitute can be made by combining equal parts of sake and, simmering gently until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is reduced by half.


A protein-rich Japanese paste made from made from fermented soya beans, salty in flavour and the mainstay of Japanese soups. Different types vary in taste, texture, colour and fragrance. Most common are red miso which has an emphatic flavour and is reddish-brown in colour; and white miso which is lighter in flavour and less salty than its red counterpart, with a golden-yellow appearance.


A thin whispy salad green, related to Chinese cabbage, with a mild mustard flavor. Native to Japan, this vegetable averages 14“ to 16“ in height with leaves that are green and yellow, smooth in texture and somewhat feathery in shape. It is available as a mature green or as a baby version that is smaller in size and more tender in texture.

Mung Bean

A tiny, round dried bean (about 1/8 inch in diameter) with a thick outer skin that may be green, brown or black in color. When peeled, the inside of the bean provides a golden yellow or mustard-colored, soft-textured meat that is somewhat sweet in flavor, tender when cooked and easily digested. Originating in India, the bean is referred to as Yellow Mung, Yellow Split Mung or Moong Dal, where it is often used to make curries and a food dish referred to as “Dal.” Mung beans are prepared as whole, peeled, or split for use in pilafs, soups, stews, and bean dishes. They are also ground for use in flours and as an ingredient for various food mixtures.

Mushroom, Shiitake

Closely related to the Chinese black mushroom and are the most commonly used mushrooms in Japan, They have a rich smoky flavor, are grown on the bark of a type of oak tree, and are used fresh or dried. The fresh mushroom has a fleshy, golden-brown cap and a woody stem. Only buy shiitake mushrooms as you need them. They tend to become slimy when stored in the refrigerator.

Mushroom, straw

They are named for their growing environment — straw. They are cultivated throughout Asian and have globe shaped caps, are stemless and have a musty flavor. they are available in cans but need to be drained and rinsed before use.

Mushrooms, dried

Black shiitake mushrooms are valued in Chinese and Japanese cooking for their flavour and texture. Fresh shiitake are increasingly available outside Asia. Soak dried shiitake in warm water for 15-20 minutes before use and discard the fibrous stems. Straw mushrooms are excellent in soups and vegetable dishes. Button mushrooms are good for stir-frying, as are the blander Oyster mushrooms. Golden mushrooms (enokitaki) have slender cream-coloured stalks with tiny caps and grow in clusters. These are available fresh and tinned- before use, discard the tough ends. Nameko mushrooms are reddish-brown and have a slippery texture.

Mustard Seeds, Black and Yellow

Black mustard seeds are used in curry pastes in some parts of South East Asia. Both yellow and brownish-black mustard seeds are used in Indian cuisine. They are not interchangeable.

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Nigella seeds

Also known as black onion seeds. These tiny, angular, deep black seeds have a nutty, peppery flavor. Used in India and the Middle East as a seasoning for vegetables. Sometimes, it is erroneously referred to as the black cumin which is an entirely different species.


A staple of much far-eastern cookery, noodles vary in width but are usually served long and uncut- in Chinese tradition, noodles are a symbol of long life. Noodles can be enjoyed stir-fried, deep-fried, boiled or served in a soup. Dried and fresh noodles are made from either rice flour, wheat flour or mung bean flour. Hokkien noodles (fresh yellow noodles) are fine long strands made from flour and egg; dried wheat-flour noodles are softened by plunging into boiling water; fresh rice-flour noodles are flat ribbons about 1cm wide and used in soups or stir-fries; dried rice-flour vermicelli, sometimes called rice stick noodles; fresh laksa noodles look like white spaghetti; cellophane or glass or transparent noodles are made from ground mung bean paste. In Japan, the wheat noodle, udon, is either flat or round, dried or fresh and comes in various widths. Somen are very fine, white in colour and also made from wheat. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat.


This is the most common form of dried seaweed used in Japanese and Korean cooking. It comes in paper thin sheets, plain or roasted. Before use, it can be toasted lightly over a naked flame to freshen and produce a nutty flavor. keep in an airtight container or in the freezer.


Nutmeg is the seed of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree native to the Molucca Islands. Interestingly, the tree produces both Nutmeg and mace, and grows up to 60 feet tall. Although the tree takes seven years to bear fruit, it may produce until the 90th year. Both spices come from the tree’s fruit, which splits into a scarlet outer membrane, mace, and an inner brown seed, Nutmeg.

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Chinese cooks favour blended vegetable oils for frying. Peanut oil is sometimes specified in some recipes for its distinctive flavour.


Also known as ladies finger, this vegetable of African origin is a narrow, 5 sided seed pod, pointed at one end and containing small white seeds; it has a gelatinous quality when it is cooked. It si much used in Indian cooking where it is added to curries and stir-fries, stuffed with spices and deep-fried, or pickled.


A vegetable, which belongs to the lily family of plants, that is grown for its edible bulb, which most often serves to flavor a variety of foods. Onions are categorized as being either green or dry onions. When selecting onions, choose those that have unblemished bulbs with thin skins and crisp leaves. Avoid any that are sprouting. Onions, which are available throughout the year, should be stored in a cool dry location and may be stored uncut for a month or longer.

Oyster Sauce

A thick sauce often used in Chinese cooking. Made from ground oysters, water, salt, cornflour and caramel colouring, oyster sauce has a savoury flavour with a hint of sweetness, and is used mainly in vegetable and meat stir-fries.

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Palm Sugar

This honey-coloured sugar is used in many parts of southeast Asia. Made by boiling down the sap of various palm trees it is usually sold in solid cakes or cylinders. If unavailable, substitute with soft brown sugar or a mixture of brown sugar and maple syrup.

Panko (dehydrated bread crumbs)

Japanese dehydrated bread crumbs with a coarser texture than regular bread crumbs. Available at most supermarkets or oriental groceries. To make panko, use white bread and make coarse crumbs in the blender. Then dry crumbs slightly in the oven.


As it is widely known, is a paper-thin wafer made of lentil flour. They should be fried in hot oil for a few seconds until they swell up and become crisp and golden.


Paprika is a spice which comes from a mild red pepper in the family Capsicum annum. It is a brilliant red powder and often used as a garnish.

Paw Paw, green

Green paw paw is an under ripe paw paw. It is commonly used in Asian salads and some soups or as a snack with sugar and chili. To shred green paw paw, peel and slice finely. Sometimes lightly blanched before shredding.


Because of its mild nutty flavour it is popular in stir fries. Peanuts cooked in a pork or chicken broth are soft, sweet and a family favourite in some Chinese households. A vital ingredient in satay sauce it is sometimes added to stir fries for added crunch. Made into brittle with caramelized sugar it is a popular snack.

Peanut Oil

Asian peanut oil is not highly refined it therefore imparts a mild, nutty flavour to the food. Heated with garlic or ginger it is perfect drizzled over chicken, fish or vegetables. This oil can be heated to a high temperature without burning and is found to absorb very little taste or odour, excellent for stir frying.


A term that is used to refer to a group of spices used for seasonings or a group of vegetables that may be sweet, bland or spicy. When used to refer to spices, the term pepper can apply to peppercorns, long peppers, or chile peppers. The peppercorns and long peppers provide white, red, pink, green, and black pepper that may be ground into a coarse, medium or fine grind for use to season foods before, during and after being prepared. Peppercorns and long peppers provide flavors that may range from spicy and fruity to piney or earthy in taste.

Plum Sauce

This sweet-sour, jam like sauce is used in Chinese cooking and as a dip with fried meats and snacks. It is made from plumps, garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar and spices.

Preserved Yellow Beans

Different from black beans which can be bought loose in packets, fermented yellow beans are sold in jars. The jars contain the beans which have been fermented in salt, sugar and flour together with the preserving liquor. Yellow beans can be added to hotpot, sauces and stir fries.

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Radish, giant white

Also known as mooli, this vegetable is about 15-25cm long and widely used in Japanese cooking. Daikon is shredded and used raw as a garnish, sliced for stews and stir-fries, and pickled.


An oval fruit, which is native to Malaysia, the Rambutan is a relative of the lychee and is often referred to as a hairy lychee. Growing in clusters of 10 or 12, this fruit ranges in size from 3 to 4 inches long, ripening into a crimson red colored skin covered with soft hairy spines. Inside is a juicy and translucent flesh with a slightly acidic flavor, similar to a grape.


An annual plant, related to the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and turnip families, which grows as a tall and spindly stem topped with green leaves and bright yellow flowers. It is a plant that is grown for processing its oil and seeds. The oil of the rapeseed is typically referred to as canola oil but is also called coleseed or colza. Rapeseed is also known as rape or summer turnip.

Red Aduki Beans

These beans are used in Chinese and Japanese sweets and snacks, in their whole or sweet pureed form. This sweet paste is used as a filling in buns, pancakes, pastries and Japanese moochi, a glutinous ball. It is often served as an afternoon snack, cooked in rock sugar and flavoured with pandanus leaves, available in paste forms in cans.


Many types of rice are eaten throughout Asia. Popular for daily meals, long-grain jasmine rice is known for its fragrance. Basmati rice with its nutty flavour is used in some Indian recipes. White and brownish-black glutinous rice are used in sweet and savoury dishes. In Japan, short-grained rice with a slightly sticky texture is used.

Rice Flour (Asian)

Asian rice flour is ground from short-grain rice. it has a fine, light texture and is used in noodles, pastries and sweets. It gives a crunch to fried foods if used in a batter or as a coating.

Rice Flour (Atta)

Also known as chapatti flour, is a finely milled, low gluten, soft textured, wholemeal wheat flour used for making Indian flatbreads, especially parathas and chapattis. plain wholemeal flour can be used instead — sift first and discard the bran but may result in heavier, coarser bread.

Rice Flour (Besan)

It is a pale yellow, finely milled flour mamde from dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Used in Indian cooking to make batters, dough, dumplings and pastries. It has a slightly nutty aroma and taste. It is unleavened, so produces a heavy texture.

Rice Paper, Vietnamese

Translucent wrapper made from a batter of rice flour, water and salt, then steamed and dried in the sun on bamboo racks. Rice paper needs to be moistened with tepid water before using to make Vietnamese rolls.

Rice Vinegar

This clear, pale yellow, mild and sweet-tasting vinegar is made from fermented rice. Diluted white wine vinegar or cider vinegar can be substituted.

Rice Wine, Chinese

Cooking wine made from fermented rice. Several rice wines are used in Chinese cookery, but wine from Shaoxing is generally considered to be the best. A reasonable substitute is dry sherry.


Rosemary is an herb in the mint family. It is a small evergreen shrub, Rosmarinus officinalis, whose 1inch leaves resemble curved pine needles.

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The whole stigma of the autumn crocus is known as the world’s most expensive spice, which is available dried and has a threadlike appearance. Saffron should be infused in milk before adding to rice and dessert dishes.


Sage is an herb from an evergreen shrub, Salvia officinalis, in the mint family. Its long, grayishgreen leaves take on a velvety, cottonlike texture when rubbed (meaning ground lightly and passed through a coarse sieve).


Japanese rice wine which is popular as a drink, but is also an important cooking ingredient. Sake is almost always heated to get rid of the alcohol for Japanese cuisine and is available in different qualities. If red sake is not available, use regular sake.


A peppery powder made from the seeds of the prickly ash. Dried Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper is an exact substitute.

Sesame Oil

Oriental sesame oil is made from toasted white sesame seeds. It has a golden colour and a delicious, strong nutty taste and aroma. It is not used for frying, but small amounts are used as a seasoning for fragrance and flavour.

Sesame Paste

Chinese and Japanese sesame pastes are made from crushed, toasted sesame seeds and have a darker colour than Middle Eastern sesame paste (tahini).

Sesame seed (black)

Black sesame seeds have a more earthy taste. They are used in sesame and seaweed sprinkle, a Japanese condiment and in some Chinese desserts.

Sesame seed (black)

Black sesame seeds have a more earthy taste. They are used in sesame and seaweed sprinkle, a Japanese condiment and in some Chinese desserts.

Sesame seed (white)

The tiny, oval, oil-rich seeds of an annual herb, sesame seeds are used throughout Asia for their flavor and their high protein content. The white sesame seeds are the most commonly used. They are toasted and crushed and are an essential ingredient in Japanese and Korean dressings, dipping sauces and marinades. Whole seeds are used as a garnish for both savory and sweet dishes and breads. Pressed seeds are made into a variety of pastes. Japanese sesame seeds are plumper and have a nuttier flavor than other sesame seeds.

Sesame Seeds

In Japanese cooking, both black and white sesame seeds are used. (see also Sesame paste).


The sweet onion of southeast Asia, shallots are ground into curry pastes, sliced into salads and fried into crisp flakes to be used both as a garnish and as a wonderful flavouring for dishes such as sambals and curries. Indonesian shallots are smaller and milder than those found in many Western countries.

Shrimp Paste

Also known as kapi, trasi, and belacan. Shrimp paste is made from fermented, ground shrimp and is used extensively throughout southeast Asia. There are many different types, with colours ranging from pink (good for curry pastes) to blackish-brown (used in dipping sauces). Shrimp paste should be cooked before eating. Some recipes call for it to be fried together with other ingredients; or grill or dry-fry the shrimp paste before pounding. Wrap a piece of the paste in foil and toast under a grill or dry-fry in a pan for about 2 minutes on each side.

Sichuan Pepper

Highly aromatic in fragrance and flavour, it is used primarily in Sichuan cooking and as an ingredient in five-spice powder. Sichuan pepper is a round, reddish-brown berry bearing some resemblance to black peppercorns, but not actually a member of the pepper family. It is also known as prickly ash, or fagara, or sold in powdered form under the Japanese name sansho.

Sichuan Vegetable

The knobby bulb of a radish preserved in chili pepper and salt. Rinse before using. Store airtight in jar. Refrigerate indefinitely. No substitutes.

Snow Peas

Unlike peas that are shelled, these peas have thin, edible pods. They are delicious blanched or stir fried. Although thought to be Chinese in origin, there is some evidence that snow peas were first cultivated in Europe. The Cantonese name for them is ho man dow, or “Holland bean.”

Soy Sauce

Several soy sauces are used in east Asian cooking for flavour and colour. Soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans, roasted grain (usually wheat, sometimes barley or rice) and salt. Chinese cooking uses two types of soy sauce: dark soy is brewed for longer and gives a deeper colour to dishes, whereas light soy is thinner and lighter in colour. Japanese soy sauce (shoshoyu) is naturally brewed and should be refrigerated after opening. It is less salty and much lighter that standard soy sauces. In Indonesia, kecap manis is a thick, sweet soy sauce most frequently used as a condiment. The thinner and saltier kecap asin is a light soy sauce. If kecap manis is not available, sweeten dark Chinese soy sauce with brown sugar.


Fresh soybeans are green in color while the dried soybeans are either yellowish-tan or black in color. They can range in size from as small as a pea to almost ½ inch in diameter. Soybeans are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Black soybeans, common in Asian cooking, have a slightly sweeter flavor than yellow soybeans which have a bland bean flavor. The dried or mature bean is used to make a variety of products, such as tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, and snack foods. Although it is not a popular cooking bean, because of its bland flavor, it can be presoaked and then used as an ingredient for soups, stews and casseroles. Soaking the mature bean improves the flavor and decreases the amount of time required for cooking.

Spring onions

Also called green onions and scallions, these are immature onions which are pulled before the bulb has started to form and sold in bunches with the roots intact. Discard the roots and base of the stem, and wash the stem leaves well before use. Spring onions add color and a mild onion flavor and they need little cooking.

Star Anise

A flower-shaped seed pod with a distinctive aniseed flavour which lends itself well to slow-cook meat and poultry. Star anise is one of the components of five-spice powder. Available whole or ground.

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The brown bean-like fruit of the tropical tamarind tree is tart in taste and has a fibrous flesh and a flat stone at the centre. Tamarind is used in many Asian dishes and is available in bottles as tamarind concentrate (also tamarind puree), a rich brown liquid, and as blocks of compressed pulp which have to be soaked, kneaded and seeded.

Tangerine Peel

Often found strung up to dry in Chinese kitchens, tangerine peel is used to add a slightly bitter citrus flavour to food. It is often combined with star anise and Szechuan peppercorns to give the balance of bitter, sweet, hot and aromatic flavours that is a feature of Szechuan food.

Taro Root

A starchy tuber, taro is often deep fried or cooked with duck because it absorbs the fat and flavour without becoming greasy. Shredded, it can be deep fried into the shape of a basket. It is dark brown, nappy, and barrel shaped with a faint chestnut-like flavour. Peel before using.


Tarragon is a small, shrubby herb, Artemisia dracunculus, in the sunflower family. Two species are cultivated, Russian and French. Leaves of the French variety are glossier and more pungent. Most commercial Tarragon comes from dried leaves of the French Tarragon plant.



Dried golden brown tiger lily flowers; about 5cm (2 in) long. Soak in warm water about 15 min and rise before use. Keeps indefinitely on shelf when dry.


Related to ginger but smaller in size and more delicate in appearance, turmeric is bitter in taste and used for its intense, bright yellow-orange colour. Ground turmeric is the main ingredient in many curry powders. Use the fresh root in the same manner as fresh ginger root. Even though the ground turmeric available in most supermarkets is adequate, use fresh turmeric if possible. A 2.5cm piece of fresh turmeric is roughly equal to ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric.

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Chinese black, red and white vinegars are all made from rice and vary in flavour. Red vinegar has a sharp, distinctive tang. Black vinegar (also Tientsin vinegar) is full-bodied and has a faint flavour similar to balsamic vinegar. Use sparingly as a seasoning or dip.

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Indispensable Japanese cuisine ingredient sometimes referred to as Japanese horseradish. Wasabi is a very pungent Japanese condiment, green in colour, and made from the root of the herb Eutrema wasabi. Its hotness differs to that of chilli peppers which burn the tongue; wasabi produces vapours whose heat affects the sinuses instead.

Water Chestnuts

Peel away the dark brown skin to reveal deliciously crisp flesh of white colour and sweet flavour, making them an ideal ingredient in salads and stir-fried vegetable dishes.

Winter Melon

A member of the squash family, this large melon has a hard outer light green skin that is coated with a chalky white powder. It is usually cooked in soup. The flesh becomes transparent and soft when cooked and has a subtle taste that is enriched with the flavour of chicken broth. It is found in Asian markets and sold by the pound in wedges. Store loosely wrapped in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.