Many thanks to all those of you who purchased my first cookbook!
I thought it would be helpful if I posted the brands of sauces and certain ingredients I normally use to prepare the recipes mentioned in the book. It’s a bit like a make-up artist revealing her preference for certain products, except these go IN your face not ON it!
All these brands are internationally well known and they can be found at the major Chinese supermarket chains (Seewoo, Wing Yip, and Loong Fung) in the UK. If you’ve never been to a Chinese supermarket, have a go. Other than being full of Asians, they don’t bite and honestly, if you are going to attempt cooking Asian food properly, you need to buy products used by other Asians!
BTW, I am not being sponsored by the brand to plug their products…they are just tried and tested brands that deliver the actual flavours I am after and I want to you experience the same results.
Here we go…
Fish Sauce – used in many of the recipes. Go for the Thai “Cock Brand” and look for the fish sauce label with the “fish, crab and prawns” rather the one with the dried cuttlefish on it. The former is a finer product but note that the sauce doesn’t contain any crab or prawns! Also, you can have a chuckle at the “Cock”.
Brown Sugar Pieces – found in the recipe for Day 1: Slow Moo Stew and Day 2: Embert’s Braised Pork Belly. The major brand is “Pearl River Bridge” which has product lines in other condiments that you will see further down…
Thai Red Curry Paste – found is the recipe for Day 1: Slow Moo Stew. There are a lot of brands out there and I have tried most for this recipe but I have always gone back to the “Cock Brand” as the paste is more aromatic and spicier.
Coconut Water – used in Day 2: Embert’s Braised Pork Belly and Day 21: Quack-Quack Curry. Buy the canned version produced in Thailand, as it normally contains pulp and pieces of young coconut flesh and is much sweeter and aromatic than the large cartons of coconut water.
Oyster Sauce – found in the recipes for Day 16: Shakey Wakey Beef and Day 29: Crab Claw Banquet. Another Pearl River Bridge range. Buy the premium version as it has a richer and more refined flavour.
Soy Sauce – in many recipes but especially for Day 2: Embert’s Braised and Day 11: 1 to 5 Super Brine. Remember: “Light” soy is much saltier than “Dark” soy. Don’t confuse the two. Use the light for seasoning and the dark to darken sauces.
Sesame Oil – in many of the recipes throughout the cookbook. The type shown in the above photo is a blended oil – the general all purpose cooking liquid which is milder in flavour and lighter in colour. There is also dark sesame oil, which is the toasted version – the toasting makes the oil very intensely sesame seed flavoured. Don’t be confused: use the blended version for cooking and leave the toasted version as a condiment to add to your food.
Crushed Yellow Bean Sauce – found in the recipe for Day 26: Mama Chang’s Char Siu Pork. This yellow paste is made from soya beans and is quite salty. It is heavily used in Northern Chinese cuisine, normally as a substitute for salt in stir-fried dishes. The Amoy brand is over a century old and produces other traditional Chinese sauces.
Hoisin Sauce -also found in the recipe for Day 26: Mama Chang’s Char Siu Pork. This is a sweet sauce and balances the saltiness of the crushed yellow bean sauce. It can also be eaten as a condiment – i.e.dipping sauce for wontons found in Day 22 of the cookbook. The Lee Kum Kee brand is over 100 years old and is an established brand in Hong Kong – a rival to Amoy.
Roast Red Pork Seasoning – referenced only in one recipe – Day 26: Mama Chang’s Char Siu Pork but a vital ingredient for that recipe! The Lobo brand is a Thai brand and it’s the “Bee’s Knees” for Char Siu seasoning! My grandma and my mum have been using it for longer than I can remember.
Shrimp Paste – used in the recipe for Day 18: Crabby Tomato Noodle Soup and one very pungent paste which gives an umami depth of favour to the soup! This paste is not for the faint hearted and a little goes a very long way. You find this paste used a lot in Southeast Asian cuisine and the brand shown in the photo above is the Cock Brand.
Minced Crab in spices – also a key ingredient in the recipe for Day 18 and another product line under the Cock brand.
Rice Wine – referenced in the recipe on Day 11: 1 to 5 Super Brine. This product is a Brotherhood brand and designed for cooking as it contains salt. I prefer white rice wine to the famous Shaohsing wine (dark amber in colour and has strong sherry aromas) which is considered an essential item in a Chinese kitchen. Personally, I find the aromas of Shaoshing wine a little coarse – it tends to overpower other ingredients.
Potato Starch and Rice Flour – Mentioned in the recipe for Day 5: Granny’s BFF Fish, Day 7: 0% Carrot Cake and Day 19: Palm Greasin’ Prawns. The leading brand is “Foo Lung Ching Kee”, quite a mouthful but the products are top quality so look out for packets with the sun logo and character “正” in the centre (meaning “real” in English).
Rice Noodles – There are two types mentioned in the book. For Day 18: Crabby Tomato Noodle Soup, use the fine noodles on the left under the brand Kong Moon. For Day 15: Ain’t Bovvered Noodle Soup, the flat noodle on the left is traditionally eaten with the Viet style of chicken noodle soup. Look for the packets with the Rose brand on it.
Dried Fungi – there are two types mentioned, one in Day 17: Sticky Rice Memories and Day 13: Old Saigon Spring Rolls. The packet on the left above is dried shitake mushrooms which should be used on Day 17 while the packet on the right is dried sliced wood ear fungus, used in Day 13. Both need to be soaked in hot water for at least 20 minutes before use.
Spring roll wrappers – a key ingredient in Day 13; Old Saigon Spring Rolls. The packet on the left is for the Vietnamese style rice paper discs. Buy the Rose brand as it is the best quality. On the right side is the filo style pastry sheets that many people will recognise as spring rolls. The sheets are found in the frozen food section.
Dried Shrimps – an ingredient in Day 7: 0% Carrot Cake, Day 17: Sticky Rice Memories, and Day 18: Crabby Tomato Soup. Dried shrimps are full of concentrated flavour, unlike the boring fresh ones. Look for larger dried shrimps that are not dark but bright orange in colour. You need to soak them in hot water before use.
Chinese Pork Sausage – one of my childhood favourites and hugely popular with every other Chinese person I know! It’s a hard sausage with high fat content but deliciously sweet and slight smoky when fried. The star ingredient that makes fried rice taste so much better. You will find it used in Day 20: Not So Special Fried Rice and Day 17: Sticky Rice Memories.
The brand shown above is my family’s favourite,”Wing-Wing Co Ltd”- this hundred year old Chinese-Canadian brand produces the highest quality Chinese Sausage among all its rivals. In London, you can only find it at Loong Fung supermarket and the cost is double the price of the lesser brands.
Before I finish, I have to mention Maggi Sauce!
LOVE IT! This is an extremely popular sauce in Asia and German speaking countries. The sauce is similar to soy sauce and I am always running out of it. I don’t know what they put in it but this stuff is so versatile and yummy on rice, soup, congee and fried eggs! In fact it is specially referred to in Day 23: Pate Chaud and Day 27: Damn Me, It’s a Banh Mi. I think if I had to chose one sauce to take to the coffin, it would have to be this one!
Anyway, I hope this blog helps with anyone planning to recreate the recipes. Check back soon for more chit-chat on food.