A Food Writer’s 5 Favorite Latinx and Asian Ingredients
As someone who loves to cook, it’s important to me that I can put the ingredients I use on my table and in my cooking into three categories: those that are tasty, those that are nutritious, and those that are both tasty and nutritious. That’s why I always try to find new ingredients that fit both bills, and why I try to work Latinx and Asian ingredients into my diet whenever possible—both of these cultural groups produce culinary traditions that feature mouthwatering food you can feel good about eating. Here are five of my favorite (and most frequently used) Latinx and Asian ingredients!
Mole is a thick, rich sauce made from a variety of chili peppers, nuts, seeds, and chocolate. It’s commonly used in Mexican cuisine, but it can also be found in dishes from other Latin American countries. I love mole because it has a deep, complex flavor that can be used in so many different ways.
If you can’t find mole at your local market, it is also easy to make homemade. Follow these steps for a simple recipe to get started: Place six dried ancho chili peppers in a saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes, drain and discard water. Re-cover with fresh water. Bring back to a boil then remove from heat again. Let stand 15 minutes, drain and discard liquid.
Sriracha is a chili sauce that originated in Thailand. It’s made from sun-ripened chilies, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Sriracha has a bright, vinegary flavor with just the right amount of heat. I like to use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or as a way to add some spice to my stir-fries.
In Mexico, it’s called ají, in Korea it’s gochujang, and in Indonesia, it’s sambal oelek. But no matter what you call it, sriracha is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. It adds just enough heat to give food a little kick while also adding layers of flavor. My favorite use is on spring rolls or as a dipping sauce for raw vegetables during a night in when I don’t feel like cooking much but still want something filling to munch on.
3) Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is a staple in many Asian cuisines, and I love using it to add flavor to stir-fries, marinades, and sauces. It has a nutty taste that really enhances the flavor of food.
Sesame oil is usually used for cooking, but it can also be drizzled over your favorite foods. I love adding a few drops to brown rice as it cooks to create a deliciously nutty flavor. You can also add sesame oil to salad dressings, glazes, marinades or rubs for grilled meat, poultry or seafood. The possibilities are endless.
I absolutely love cilantro! I grew up eating it in tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and just about everything else. Now, as an adult, I find myself adding it to soups, salads, grain bowls, and more. Not only does it add a delicious flavor to dishes, but it’s also packed with nutrients like vitamins A and C.
A staple in Mexican, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and many other cuisines around the world, cilantro is a delicious addition to any dish. But be careful—it’s easy to go overboard! If you’re not sure how much of it you should add to your recipe, start with a small amount then adjust from there until you get it just right. Also keep in mind that like many herbs, cilantro doesn’t freeze well so it’s best to store some fresh in your fridge instead of dry or frozen. You can even make your own blend of herbs for easy access on nights when cooking takes too long.
5) Fish Sauce
I love fish sauce. I grew up eating it, and my mom always had a bottle in the fridge. Fish sauce is a great way to add flavor to food. It’s salty, umami, and a little bit sweet. I use it in marinades, stir-fries, soups, and even as a dipping sauce.
Fish sauce is made by fermenting small fish like anchovies, sardines, or mackerel. The sauce is then filtered to remove bones and skin. Not only does it add a rich saltiness to food, but also has a unique flavor that some describe as being similar to cheese, Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce. You can purchase fish sauce in most grocery stores for about $4 for an 8-ounce bottle. But if you have time, you can also make your own! To do so, check out our recipe for