6 salty staples for Asian cooking

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6 salty staples for Asian cooking

When cooking Asian, step away from that box of Maldon. Intensely salty ingredients such as fish sauce, miso, shrimp paste and soya sauce are used as seasoning and to add depth of flavour.

And for best results, saltiness needs to balanced with sweet and sour notes. See our tips on sweet, sour and spicy staples.

Fish sauce

A sauce made from fermented anchovies, salt and water and used widely in southeast Asian food.
Try: Coconut-and-ginger pork mince with sriracha and noodles


A Japanese paste made from fermented soya beans, salt, the fungus aspergillus oryzae and sometimes rice or another grain.
Try: Miso caramel chocolate cups

Oyster sauce

Traditionally, oyster sauce was made in China by slowly simmering oysters in water until the juices caramelised into a thick, brown, flavourful sauce. Today, it’s often made with a base of sugar and salt, thickened with corn flour and seasoned with oyster extract or essence.
Try: Chinese beef stir fry

Shrimp paste

A salty paste made from fermented ground shrimp and salt used in Korean kimchi, dipping sauces and curries, as well as in southern Chinese and southeast Asian dishes.
Try: Seafood laksa

Soya sauce

Made from the fermented paste of boiled soya beans, roasted wheat, salt and water, it’s used in eastern and southeast Asian cooking and as a condiment.
Try: Chinese-poached chicken in aromatics

Teriyaki sauce

Originally from Japan, this thick mixture of soya sauce, mirin and sugar is used in the teriyaki cooking technique in which fish or meat is glazed with the sauce and broiled or grilled. It also makes a great marinade for red meat.Try: Easy to wok veggies with seared Asian prawn skewers

Back to Asian pantry staples

TASTE Article by: TASTE

The TASTE team is a happy bunch of keen cooks and writers, always on the look out for the next food trend or the next piece of cake.

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