My essential ‘Asian’ pantry is really my everyday pantry. Whether we realise it or not, we are already using many of the ingredients that are important to cooking everyday Asian meals. Some of my essentials are:


Miso is an essential source of salty, earthy and funky flavour. Made of fermented soybeans and koji (a mould that’s also used to make sake), there are many varieties of miso - white (shiro) miso is mellow in flavour and is usually the type I choose; and red (aka) miso, which has a much more intense taste. 

Rice vinegar 

Rice vinegar is an essential ingredient in Asian salad dressings. It is less acidic than white vinegar and has a mild, delicate flavour with just a hint of sweetness. 

Sesame oil 

A drop of sesame oil makes just about every dish better, imparting an umami-rich deliciousness. Toasted sesame oil has a rich, intense flavour, and is used to add flavour in the final stages of cooking or when serving. 

Soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos and coconut aminos 

I use soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos and coconuts aminos interchangeably. Nowadays I tend to stick with tamari, liquid aminos and coconut aminos, which are all gluten free. 


I use tahini as a substitute for Chinese sesame paste (zhi ma jiang), a thick paste made from roasted sesame seeds.

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Photo credit Maria Midoes