Fill your food with flavour using our spice rack essentials
Ready to crank up the flavour?
Not sure which spices to add to keep salt and pepper company on the spice rack?
You have come to the right place. The heart of Asian cooking is in its intense flavours and aromas. Having these essential spices and herbs in your spice cabinet will breathe life into your home cooking!
Whether ground to powder, dried to flakes, used as a paste, or chopped fresh, chilli peppers are heavily used in Asian cooking. Chilli is believed to have originated from Mexico. Once chillies arrived in Asia, they quickly spread and then became an integral ingredient in its cuisine.
Varieties of chillies are often used alongside garlic to season and add a kick to various dishes like Thailand’s Sweet Chilli Chicken or Asian Chilli Garlic Prawns. In Chinese cooking chilli is commonly used in stir-frying, sautéing, smoking and steaming. It is also a popular dipping sauce and used in table sauces to add heat.
Chilli peppers are particularly popular in Sichuan, Hunan, Korean, Indian and Thai cuisines.
Chillies are rich in vitamin C, have anti-inflammatory properties, support cardiovascular health, and are known to improve digestive health and metabolism.
This native southeast Asian spice (also known as a herb) is another star-player to have on your spice rack! Ginger, whether powdered, pickled or fresh, is well-liked thanks to its fragrance and flavour and widely used in Asian cuisine. In China, it is often used in stir-fries with garlic while the Japanese like it pickled with sushi. In India, ginger is found in curries and almost all vegetable and pulse dishes.
Ginger also has powerful medicinal properties and is a real contender in fighting nausea and improving immunity.
This Asian seasoning is a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns. It encompasses the five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. In Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, it is used when stewing poultry or meat, added to marinades, and rubbed on roasted foods, like Cantonese Roasted Duck.
Of course, its individual spices are equally in demand. The most unknown to Westerners yet frequently used in Asian cooking is the slightly smoky, liquorice-like flavour of star anise, which complements poultry, pork and beef dishes, and adds depth to soups.
This curry essential is native to southeast Asia and India, dating back nearly 4,000 years.
Turmeric brings warm flavours and a distinct yellow hue to various Indian dishes such as curries, rice dishes, satay sauces and chicken. Also, as a rule of thumb, turmeric is excellent with orange-coloured vegetables!
With scientifically proven health benefits, turmeric is recommended as a dietary supplement to combat several health conditions and ailments.
To make home cooking a little simpler, curry powder is a great way to cut a few corners when making mouth-watering curries; you can choose your heat from mild, medium or hot. Alternatively, if you want a sweeter taste without the turmeric, Garam Masala is equally popular in Indian cuisine and used as a meat and fish seasoning.
You can’t get away from having this kitchen staple on your spice rack! The pungent and well-known flavour of garlic is integral in Asian cooking and used from stir-fries to dumplings. Keep this antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antiviral herb well-stocked in your cupboard!
Cumin is your go-to ingredient when slow-cooking meat, preparing marinades and rubs for meat, and when adding flavour and aroma to soups. Cumin originates from the Mediterranean region but has taken a worthy supporting-role in a wide range of Asian dishes.
Put its slightly spicy and nutty flavour to work in dishes such as Xinjiang Cumin Lamb or Chinese Tofu Cumin Skewers.
Still room on the spice rack?
To add lemony flavour and a citrus scent, try lime leaves. They suit seafood, pork, chicken, rice, and vegetable dishes - and are commonly removed before eating.
Also, best not forget about those versatile sesame seeds for your stir-fries, salads and desserts!
With your spice rack freshly stocked, bring on the flavour!