8 sweet staples in your pantry for Asian cooking

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8 sweet staples in your pantry for Asian cooking

Coconut sugar, plum sauce and sweet rice wine (mirin) are often used to balance sal and citrus flavours in Asian cooking, which is why, once you start eating that bowl of sweet-and-sour pork, it’s difficult to stop…

Coconut cream and coconut milk

Coconut milk, often used as a dairy substitute, comes from the kernels of mature coconuts. To make it, hot water or milk is pressed through grated coconut. When refrigerated and left to set, the coconut cream will rise to the top and separate from the milk.
Try: Coconut-dressed cauli-rice winter salad

Coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil, a vegan substitute for butter, is produced from coconut milk by controlled heating and removal of the oil from the milk.
Try: Authentic pad thai

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar comes from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It tastes similar to brown sugar but with a slight hint of caramel and can be used for baking.

Coconut water

Coconut water, the sweetish liquid inside the fruit, is a refreshing, rehydrating drink. It is believed to be a natural “energy” drink high in minerals, potassium and antioxidants.
Try: Chicken kerala

Hoisin sauce

Sweet and salty combine in this Chinese sauce often used as a meat glaze, stir-fry ingredient and dipping sauce.
Try: Crispy Peking duck with hoisin


A Japanese rice wine similar to sake but lower in alcohol and higher in sugar. It’s a good complement to fish and sushi and is used in teriyaki sauce.
Try: Duck ramen with tea-stained eggs

Palm sugar

Made from the sap of the palmyra, sugar date, sugar or coconut palm, it’s used in Thai curries, sauces, sweets and desserts.
Try: Thai red coconut chicken curry

Plum sauce

A Chinese sweet-and-sour condiment popular as a dip with spring rolls and other deep-fried foods. A good complement to poultry dishes.
Try: Sticky plum chicken with coriander

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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