When I first came to Australia, I THOUGHT I was a pretty decent cook but quickly realised that that was not the case...even simple dishes like rice porridge with century egg stumped me...so I started my journey with exploring forums like Makansutra and cooking websites (mainly Allrecipes;thanks Ann for the introduction!)...but the most help and inspiration, I have found are still from cooking blogs...which is one of the main reasons why this blog was birthed...
In my first year, I wanted to know what condiments to buy..but wasn't really sure...
after 2.5 years of trial and error...here are my essentials...
For Asian cooking:
light soy sauce
dark soy sauce
rice wine (hua diao/ shao xing)
thai sweet chilli sauce
dried shitake mushroom (can be used in so many dishes....and the soaking water can be used as stock too..)
nice to have:
'Western' cuisine: (means most of the recipes i get from Aussie magazines/ All Recipes which is US based)
olive oil (extra virgin for drizzling over salads, 'regular' for cooking)
dried mixed herbs
dried parsley (good as garnish on most everything and helps with garlic breath too!)
nice to have:
dried dill (great with tuna and salmon dishes)
sliced black olives
my messy side cupboard..herbs and spices on the top 2 racks..flours and nuts on the bottom.
for desserts and baking: (my regular stash)
Sugar: brown, white, icing + rock sugar
flour: regular + self-raising
vanilla essence (i use the imitation type; find the flavour good enough...)
dried black dates
stuff that feature regularly in the fridge/ freezer/ pantry:
greek style yogurt
chicken thigh fillets
crumbed fish (great as backups when unexpected guests arrive, just bake and drizzle thai chilli sauce on top)
bean sprouts (just learnt that they can be FROZEN! I have been wanting to cook lasksa for the longest time...that's why they r in the freezer..)
mixed frozen vegetables
crabsticks! (chawan mushi, stir frys, noodles, all-rounder filler)
rice (Jasmine/ long grain best for chinese/ thai/ indian cooking, short grain good for korean/jap/rissotos)
coconut cream (Please note distinction between coconut cream and coconut milk. 'Cream' is from the first pressing and much richer, ie: higher in fat!!! Most recipes call for coconut milk. To make coconut milk from coconut cream, just add water to 3 tbsp of coconut cream to make up a cup. Coconut cream, unlike dairy cream, can be stored in the freezer.)
my new dried chinese foodstuffs collection for chinese desserts and soups:
nan xing/bei xing (sweet n bitter almonds)
dried red dates
mandarin peel (home-made, just leave 'regular' mandarin peel out til they are dry and crispy.)
These are just essentials??? Seems like alot of ingredients right....hmmm.....
So what are your cooking essentials??? :)