Top Secrets to Shopping at an Asian Food Market | HiYou
Everyone wants to cook authentic Asian at home these days. Of course they do – the incredible variety offered by the many cuisines of Asia offers you the promise of healthy, flavourful meals that can be made from scratch incredibly quickly. What could be more perfect for our busy, time squeezed lifestyles in the West. Aspiration is all very well though, good intentions will only take you so far – if you are going to cook authentic Asian food in your kitchen you need authentic Asian ingredients and perhaps even authentic Asian kitchenware. So where can you go to get the ingredients and equipment that you need?
If you want to get the best, most authentic Asian ingredients you really need to find a real Asian Food Market. Yes, your regular supermarket probably has an aisle marked “Asian Cooking” or “Taste of Asia”, but if you want the real, authentic groceries you need to find a real Asian grocery store. If you are lucky you will be living in an area that has a large Asian population which will likely mean that your area will be served by an excellent Asian food market that is within easy travelling distance. However, if you happen to live somewhere which is not blessed by the presence of such a store, then you will need to source that Asian food online.
Once you have found the online food store that can supply you with the authentic tastes of Asia, shop wisely. It is a good idea to take the time to understand exactly what ingredients you need for each dish. It is important to make sure that you do not settle for “best fit” ingredients when the real, authentic ingredient is available at your chosen online Asian food market. Many Western cooks, new to Asian cooking make the mistake of assuming that they will not be able to get the products they need and so their starting position is trying to work out what they can substitute for what. In days gone by that might have been the case, but we live in a much more global world now and you should have no problem sourcing the precise and authentic ingredients you need for your dish – especially if you shop from us.
Another error that is often made by home cooks in The West is not understanding the right techniques for preparing the ingredients when they have them. Preparation is the key secret to many Asian cuisines so we advise you to find yourself some good recipes – either in books or online - and have a look for some “how to” videos that can show you how real home cooks from across the whole of Asia work in their kitchens. That is just about as authentic as it gets, and you will pick up some very important tricks of the trade.
It also helps to have a few key bits of equipment. Some dishes really do require the rice or the vegetables to be steamed. You can do this by putting things in a sieve over a pan of simmering water, but the process is made significantly easier if you have a proper steamer. You can chop your meat and vegetables with a standard Western kitchen knife, but if you really want to make Asian food regularly you would do well to discover the versatility of a really good cleaver. And of course, you can eat your meal with a knife and fork if you want to, but for a truly authentic experience you really do need to learn how to use chopsticks. A quick visit to our kitchenware section will go a long way towards equipping your kitchen with everything you need.
Perhaps the most important secret of the Asian food store is “attention to detail”. For a start many Western cooks seriously underestimate the importance of rice selection. There is a tendency here in the UK to think that “rice is rice”, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Getting the right rice for the right dish in Asian cuisine is as important as getting the right potato for the right dish in British cooking. Just as you would never use Jersey Royals to make chips, no Asian cook would use Basmati rice for Sushi or Sasanishiki rice to accompany a Thai Green Curry. The truth is that rice is not simply rice. It is the foundation of most Asian cooking and is crucial to the way a dish is served. An inappropriate rice choice can lead to a dish simply not working, so check your recipe and make sure you know what style of rice is called for.
You need to take the same care when you are buying your noodles. If it is the case that “rice is not simply rice” it is even more true that “noodles are never just noodles”. Even more than rice, noodles vary greatly in size, flavour and texture. Each style of noodle brings something different and unique to a dish. Egg noodles are used in very different dishes to rice noodles, which are used very differently to Ramen noodles which are used very differently to Udon noodles etcetera etcetera. Using inappropriate varieties of rice or noodles risks ruining what could have been a deliciously authentic Asian dish. Fortunately here at HiYou we can supply you with every kind of rice and noodle you could possibly need. These stalwart store cupboard staples form the heart of most Asian cuisines, so take some time to explore the different flavours and textures that they provide.
The final, and perhaps most important secret is not to confuse “authentic cuisine” with “making everything from scratch”. The people of Asia shop in supermarkets too. Just as you might make mayonnaise from scratch for a particularly special occasion but would simply open a jar when making a mid-week sandwich, a home cook in Thailand might occasionally make their own curry paste. But for the most part your average Thai home cook has a favourite brand of curry paste that they buy from their local supermarket, just as you will pick up your mayonnaise with your weekly shop. There is absolutely no reason why you should not buy your sauces and curry pastes ready made – and here at HiYou we have all of the major Asian brands in store, so that you too can find your favourite as you develop your Asian cookery skills. We can even sell you authentically Asian beverages to accompany your meals.
The most important secret to keep in mind when shopping at an Asian food market is to learn the things you need to know, either from books, from the internet or by asking advice in store. Then get the authentic ingredients into your kitchen and start developing your skills. We learn best by doing, and if the side effect is that you produce some great meals that is a pretty good bonus. So come and join us – a whole new world of textures and flavours awaits and it is huge fun to go exploring!