In our home, the refrigerator’s top shelf on the door is called “Chinatown,” because it contains nothing other than the Asian ingredients we currently have on hand, and they are a lot of fun to experiment with.
We are not Asian but pretty much nose around approvingly at some of the seemingly never-ending delicious dipping sauces, which, we found, are not only delicious with spring rolls and other Asian foods but with plain, blanched vegetables, fruits or fish.
We are fully aware we are not capably endowed with inborn sensitivities to the yin-and-yan of flavors, or what they call, the “balancing of opposites.” However, it’s a fun challenge to do our best to balance or contrast the venerable sweets-sours-salties-hots we find.
We also are mindful we are not making a lot of effort to delineate between food customs of the many Asian cultures — Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and many others. If you wish to track these further, there’s a wonderful geographical chart of the Asian pantry.
(One non-Asian tip is you can save money on buying broth for ingredient for any recipe by mixing your own to taste. For instance, combine water, soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil and a bit of chili garlic sauce, and you are on your way!)
Below is a random list of popular Asian condiments. Many serve approximately the same taste function (salty, sweet, hot, sour).
- Black bean sauce
Chili garlic oil
Curry paste, red/green
Five spice powder
Fresh lime juice
Pad Thai sauce
Raw ginger root
Red pepper flakes
Roasted sesame seed oil
Roasted sesame seeds
Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine)
Tamari (gluten-free, soy-type)
These condiments are in addition to basic food items such as rice, noodles, wonton wrappers, rice paper, cornstarch, dried mushrooms, dried shrimp, tofu, other protein or and fresh produce.
Below are foodsites with dipping sauce recipes. However, feel free to concoct your own. Invite others to take part, too.