Must have ingredients for South East Asian Dishes

Isn’t the flavors of South East Asia foods explosive and you often wonder what ingredients they used?

Here are some common ingredients must have in your kitchen.


1. Cilantro

Probably the most known herb in the world that is used in many popular dishes as a garnish and for its earthy flavor. It looks very similar to Italian Parsley. The flavor of Cilantro gives off a nice hint of fresh lemon(citrus).

Garden fresh cilantro by Qfamily, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Qfamily

Cilantro is not only excellent in strong flavourful dishes, but also in dishes that are light in flavor to help heighten the taste. Popular ingredients in pastes, soups, salads and stir fries.

2. Coconut Mik

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Coconut Milk

A very common ingredient in South East Asia dishes is Coconut Milk/Cream, especially in curry dishes. Rich and creamy, you can purchase Coconut milk in cans and also make sure to get the unsweetened kind. Good brands are Mae Ploy, Chaokah or any Thai brands. Before opening give it a good shake and if you have any leftovers to store in the fridge(use within 3 days).

3. Fish Sauce


Yes the smell can be awful for many westerners, but Fish Sauce is an important ingredient. What is great about Fish Sauce is that you do not need to store it in your fridge, as most people would think. It also has health benefits such as protein and vitamins from the preservation of the fish. When used in a dish, the strong fishy flavors is subtle and will help heightens the flavors of the other ingredients. Make sure to purchase Fish Sauce that is free of sugar. The better brands are made by companies from Thailand and Vietnam.

4. Ginger

Ginger by RobotSkirts, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by RobotSkirts

Ginger is popular throughout Asia and is readily available in any supermarket in the world. Always good to purchase fresh gingerroot (last up to 2 weeks in your fridge) but you can also buy in glass jars. Ginger has a unique powerful strong taste, so it is used very lightly depending on the dish. There have been extensive studies on the health benefits of Ginger. Also lookout for Siamese Ginger, which would be better in South East Asian dishes. It has more of a lemony and peppery taste to it.

5. Garlic



Who doesn’t love Garlic? A popular ingredient, and is common in all households that love to cook. Garlic is known to have an extensive amount of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and loaded with Vitamins B,C and D. It is best to purchase whole bulbs.

6. Palm Sugar

palm sugar

Palm sugar is used as a sweetener and can be found in most Asian markets. The sugar originates from the sap of a palmya palm tree. They come in solid cube/crumble or paste forms in plastic containers. Many people not only use palm sugar in dishes, but in Tea and Coffee.