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Before I moved to Hong Kong, I admittedly didn’t do much cooking, let alone cooking Asian cuisine. It seemed intimidating. Time consuming. But what I’ve learned about Asian dishes is that many of them (especially wok-cooked dishes) are far from this. My Asian pantry staples were once nonexistent. I would never imagine cooking with the Asian pantry essentials on this list and my knowledge of must haves for Asian cooking didn’t extend far beyond soy sauce.
Sound familiar? Luckily, once you begin cooking more Asian dishes regularly, you’ll learn so much about the flavors and ingredients. With these essential Asian sauces and ingredients you’ll soon find it easy enough to combine sauces and spices for a simple stir fry or a bold marinade.
Stock up on these basic Asian pantry ingredients and you’ll always be able to whip up something delicious to eat or serve – even without a recipe!
Ready to get shopping? Download your free Asian Pantry Essentials Shopping List with these items + extra recommendations!
Asian Pantry Essentials
1. Chili oil
No explanation really needed. Make your own or buy ready made, with or without chili flakes still soaking. Perfect for adding spice to Asian dishes. Don’t let the stoic face deceive you. Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp Sauce is so good it has a cult following amongst spice lovers.
2. Fish Sauce
5 years ago, my answer would be completely different, but if you ask me now what my favorite sauce or condiment is, it’s fish sauce. The smell may take you some getting used to but trust me when I say the flavor is incredible. Peter and I are both huge fans of it’s pungent salty goodness.
Spicy Korean chili paste. Spice levels range from mild to very, very hot so taste with caution!
A Japanese sweet rice wine for sauces and marinades
5. Miso Paste
For soups, sauces, glazes and marinades. Available in white, red, or yellow – each with a different flavor base. If you’re looking to purchase just one type, start with white for the most versatility.
6. Oyster Sauce
Not fishy (or oyster-y) just salty and sweet. Great for stir fries.
7. Rice Vinegar
Mild vinegar for sauces, marinades, pickles.
8. Sesame Oil
Adds a final, deep flavor to finished dishes or marinades/sauces. Not meant for frying.
9. Shaoxing Wine
Chinese rice wine. Used in many of my favorite Sichuan recipes. Similar to dry sherry.
10. Soy Sauce
Available in light, dark or gluten free (tamari). I prefer to skip the low sodium version and don’t add any additional salt to my Asian cooking, fish sauce or soy sauce will usually have you covered instead.