Issue 1 - Ingredient Glossary


Bean curd, fermented: This is bean curd, aka tofu, that has been brined and inoculated with yeasted. It comes in a glass jar. Either the light-colored or the red variety can be used in the recipes in our first issue.

Belacan: This Malaysian version of shrimp paste is drier and more crumbly than the Thai version is a dense, scoopable paste. Use it in the Asam Laksa recipe in the first issue. Since belacan is harder to find in the United States, substitute with Thai shrimp paste if you cannot find belacan.

Candlenut: This nut is used in Indonesian curry pastes. Substitute with macadamia nuts, if you cannot find it.

Emping: These Indonesian chips are made of melinjo or belinjo (Gnetum gnemon) seeds. Use plain emping in the recipes in our first issue. If you cannot find emping, use plain potato chips.

Heh ko: Heh ko or hae ko is a dark fermented prawn paste that is used in Malaysia to flavor soups. Some large Asian grocery stores with products from Southeast Asia have it.

Jin hua ham: This is a dry-cured ham made in the tradition of the city of Jin Hua. It’s used in our first issue to make Cantonese-style stock. If you cannot find it, use Smithfield ham.

Kecap Manis: This Indonesian treacly sweet dark soy sauce is similar to Thai dark sweet soy sauce and, in many cases, both can be used interchangeably.

Minced crab in spices: Made of crab meat and a spice blend, this Vietnamese ingredient comes in a small can. Look for it in the dry goods aisle of most Asian supermarkets that feature Southeast Asian ingredients. If you see the words “Gia Vi Cua Nau Bun Rieu” on the label, you have the right product.

Radish, preserved: Preserved radishes are made by pickling fresh daikon radishes until they are saturated with the flavors of the pickling liquid then dehydrating them in the sun until they dry out, shrink, and become shriveled. Preserved radishes are sold whole or finely chopped. They also come in two varieties: sweet and salty. We use the sweet variety in the recipes in our first issue.

Salted soybean paste: Salted soybean paste is made from soybeans which have been cooked, mashed, salted, and left to ferment until the mash forms a salty, pungent paste with chunky and runny consistencies. Find salted soybean paste in the dry goods aisle of most Asian stores; it usually comes in a glass jar or bottle.

Sambal oelek: A type of chile-garlic paste that is used in Indonesia and Malaysia. An American brand, Huy Fong, makes it, and this brand is easy to find both at Asian and mainstream stores.

Scallops, dried: Dried scallops are used to make Cantonese superior stock. They can be found at a well-stocked Chinese grocery, either sold by the pound or in a box in the dry spice aisle.

Shrimp, dried: There are many types of dried shrimp. For the recipes in our first issue, use a Thai brand which is meaty and slightly salted.

Shrimp paste, Thai: This dark purple, briny, and pungent paste is used in small amounts in curry pastes and more. Be sure to use a Thai brand in the Thai recipes in our first issue.

Seasoning sauce, Thai: Known in the US as the green-capped Golden Mountain sauce. This brand is very easy to find. Nearly every Asian grocery store carries it.

Soy sauce, Thai dark sweet: This is dark soy sauce with added caramelized sugar or molasses. Do not confuse it with dark soy sauce which is also dark in color but isn’t sweet or sticky.

Soy sauce, Thai thin: This soy sauce is lighter both in color and concentration than regular soy sauce and is perfect for Thai cooking.

Tamarind block: This is made of mature tamarinds which have been shelled (and oftentimes deseeded) and packed into a small but dense block that weighs about 6 to 8 ounces. Unless the recipe instructs you otherwise, tamarind in this state is usually prepared by being soaked and diluted in water to create a loose paste before being used.

Tamarind paste: This is a thick but loose paste of tamarind pulp which has been loosened with water. If you don’t want to prepare tamarind paste from a block of tamarind pulp, you can buy it ready made. Tamarind paste, often labeled “tamarind concentrate,” comes in a plastic jar which needs to be refrigerated once opened. Be sure to use a Thai brand, because different brands vary greatly in consistency, and we test our recipes with a Thai brand.

Thai pickled garlic: These are whole garlic heads that have been pickled in a sweet and salty brine until soft and fragrant. They come in a glass jar, packed in their pickling liquid. Recipes often call for both the pulp of the pickled garlic and the pickling liquid.

Tinapa: Tinapa is a type of Filipino smoked fish. If you cannot find it, use any dry-smoke small fish.

Vinegar, Filipino cane: This is vinegar that is made from fermented cane juice. Use a Filipino brand, such as Datu Puti, in our recipes for best results.

Vinegar, Chinese black: Also called zhenjiang or chinkiang vinegar, this dark brown and potent (but fragrant) vinegar is usually used in small amounts. It’s widely available at most Asian markets.

Wine, rice white: Look for shaoxing wine at most Asian stores.


Bihon noodles: These dried rice vermicelli-style rice noodles come in a 16-ounce plastic package and are imported from the Philippines. Look for “Excellent Rice Stick” with a large red shrimp on the label. That’s what we test our recipes with.

Bun noodles (Vietnamese dried vermicelli): These dried vermicelli-style noodles are used in Vietnamese dishes. They need to be cooked in lots of water and rinsed very well before being used.

Glass noodles: These dried noodles are made of mung bean starch and sold wounded into small bundles. Before being used, they usually need to be soaked first, drained, and cut into desired lengths. Glass noodles cook up translucent—hence the name—and tender with some chewiness. Be sure to use a brand that is made of 100% mung bean for best results.

Khanom jin, fresh: This is fresh rice vermicelli that is used heavily in Thai cooking as a rice alternative. Fresh khanom jin can be fermented or unfermented with the latter being prized for the tang and the deep flavor it possesses. Unless you live in Thailand, it’s nearly impossible to find fresh khanom jin.

Khanom jin, dry: Dried rice vermicelli is a good alternative for those living in areas where fresh khanom jin isn’t available. Dried khanom jin is found at most Asian stores specializing in Thai or Southeast Asian ingredients. They need to be cooked like you do pasta. Be sure to use a lot of water, because these dried noodles release a great amount of starch while cooking and when they’re cooked in liquid that is too starchy, the cooked noodles are prone to developing a gummy texture. Cooked khanom jin also needs to be rinsed under cold or warm running water and shaken dry before it can be used.

Miki noodles: These are Filipino-style soft and thin egg noodles. If you cannot find them, use fresh egg noodles that are wound up in bundles in the refrigerated section of most Asian stores.

Misua noodles, dry: These are very thin wheat-based noodles that come in dried form. Be careful when handling misua noodles as they’re fragile and are prone to breaking.

Mung bean noodle sheets: These are large but very thin rounds of dried noodle sheet made with mung bean starch, which is the same ingredient used to make glass noodles (see above). In this state, mung bean noodle sheets are very brittle and fragile and need to be handled with care, especially if you deal with a recipe that calls for them whole. Luckily, the recipe in our first issue tells you to go ahead and break the sheets up into smaller pieces before cooking them.

Shanghai egg noodles: These are soft noodles similar to miki noodles above. Any fresh, thin egg noodles can be used in their place.

Thin dried rice noodles (rice sticks): Also known as pad thai noodles or pho noodles after their most common applications, these dried rice sticks can be found at most Asian stores and, due to their popularity, at most mainstream supermarkets. Thin dried rice sticks come in varying widths. The narrowest variety works best in the pad thai recipes in our first issue.


Thai palm sugar: Thai palm sugar usually comes in a flying saucer shape. It’s hard and needs to be grated finely before being used so it dissolves readily.


Banana blossom: Banana blossoms can be found at most Asian stores. Remove the purplish red petals and the little bananas between them until you get to the core which is tender and lighter in color. Banana blossoms oxidizes quickly, so once you cut it, make sure to soak the slices in strong acidulated water. The sap it releases is also lightly to stick to your hands and your knife; to prevent this, rub some oil or coconut butter on both before you tackle a banana flower.

Chinese celery: Longer and with thinner ribs than regular celery, Chinese celery is more fragrant and tender and is a preferred choice of celery in Asian cooking. It’s found in the produce section of most Asian stores. If you cannot find it, the young and tender leaves and ribs at the heart of a regular celery work adequately as a substitute.

Chinese chives: Chinese chives are also known as garlic chives and are used as mostly as an aromatic in Asian cooking and also as a side herb/vegetable accompanying some Thai dishes, such as pad thai. Chinese chives have thin and flat blades that are considerably wider and hardier than those of the regular chives which are slender, delicate, and tubular. Their scent is also stronger than that of regular chives. Chinese chives come in two varieties in the United States. The green variety is most commonly found and use. The yellow variety is much more expensive and much more difficult to find. If you cannot find yellow Chinese chives, use the green variety instead.

Fingerroot: Also known as “krachai,” this fragrant, finger-like rhizome is used in Thai cooking. In the United States, fingerroot rarely comes fresh. Unless you live in a big city with high Southeast Asian population, chances are the only forms of fingerroot you will find are brined or frozen. Frozen fingerroot works like fresh; it just lacks the original snappy texture after having been frozen. Brined fingerroot comes either whole or cut into thin slivers; it should be rinsed thoroughly and patted dry before being used.  

Galangal: A ginger lookalike but certainly not a ginger substitute, this rhizome is used heavily in Southeast Asian cooking. Galangal has become easier to find in recent years with large chain supermarkets, such as Whole Foods, carrying it in their produce section. Otherwise, look for it, in both fresh and frozen forms, at most Asian stores.

Makrut (kaffir) lime leaves: The leaves of makrut lime are used as an aromatic to flavor soups and curries in Southeast Asian cooking. Most Asian supermarkets carry frozen makrut lime leaves, though some have fresh ones. There is no substitute for makrut lime leaves. If you cannot find them, leaving them out is a better way to go than replacing them with unwise choice such as grated lime zest.

Mango, sour green: Green mangoes are used in mostly savory dishes in Thai cooking. Make sure the mangoes you buy are sour green mangoes, not regular supermarket mangoes (Tommy Atkins) that appear to be green. Sour green mangoes are available in the produce section of most South Asian and Southeast Asian stores. Choose ones that are very hard.

Patola: Also known as Chinese okra or luffa gourd or angled gourd or Singwa, this summer squash is used throughout South, Southeast, and East Asia to make stir-fries and soups. If you cannot find them, use zucchini instead.

Perilla leaves: These are the leaves of the perilla plant that are used in Korean, Japanese (where they’re called shiso), and Vietnamese cuisines. If you cannot find them, leave them out.

Sawtooth coriander: Also known as culantro, this herb has long blades with jagged edges. You can find it at some Asian stores. If not, substitute with cilantro.

Torch ginger bulb: The bulbs of torch ginger are used in the Asam Laksa recipe in our first issue, but you’re not to find this outside Asia. The best substitute are Japanese ginger bulb, myoga, which can be found at Japanese and Korean supermarkets.

Vietnamese mint: Known as rau ram, this herb is used throughout Southeast Asia. It’s found quite commonly in the produce section of any well-stocked Asian supermarket.

Water spinach: Known as kang kong or Chinese water morning glory, this tubular vegetable with crunchy stems and spinach-like leaves are used extensively throughout Southeast Asia to make stir-fries, salads, curries, and soups. Most Asian stores carry it in the produce section.

Kamias (bilimbi fruit): Look for this sour fruit at Filipino markets as these are the places where you’re most likely to find them. Fresh ones are hard to come by, however, and you may have to use the frozen version.

Starfruit: Also known as carambola, these sweet and sour star-shaped fruit is used both in Latin America and Southeast Asia. They’re often found at Asian markets and in the “ethnic” section of some grocery stores, such as Whole Foods.


Annatto seeds: Also known as achiote, these red seeds are used to impart a bright golden color to dishes. Find them in the spice aisle of an Asian or Latino store.

Asam keping (sour slices): These are dried slices of a sour fruit, garcinia atroviridis, and they’re used as a souring agent in Malaysian, Indonesian, and southern Thai dishes.

Curry powder, Madras: Curry powder is a spice blend that is used heavily in Southeast Asia where South Asian cooking traditions often meet those from East Asia. Formulas vary from brand and brand and from country of origin to country of origin. We recommend that you use one that is labeled “Madras curry powder” as this is what we use in our recipes.

Sichuan peppercorns


Meatballs, Asian: Asian meatballs are dense and bouncy and are made differently and with different ingredients than Italian-style meatballs. They usually come in beef and pork varieties, though sometimes they’re also made with chicken. You can find them vacuum-packed and frozen at most Asian stores. Thaw them by running them under hot tap water and draining well before using.

Tempeh: A well-known Indonesian product, tempeh is made of fermented soybeans pressed into a dense cake or loaf. You can find it at most Asian stores and as a meat substitute in the refrigerated section of many mainstream grocery stores, such as Whole Foods.

Tofu, extra-firm pressed: Pressed extra-firm tofu usually comes vacuum-packed and is very dense and very firm—much more so than extra-firm tofu that comes in a plastic tub. Sometimes it’s has reddish brown color on the outside, sometimes bright yellow. Either one works as long as the texture is firm and dense.


Chickpea flour: This is a flour commonly used in South Asian and Burmese cuisines. Look for “gram flour” at South Asian stores. Garbanzo bean flour—which is what this is—sold at most mainstream stores can also be used.

Rice flour: This is a finely milled white flour made from white long grain rice. It’s very important that you use an Asian brand for best results as the consistencies of most American-made brands vary widely. We use Erawan brand of rice flour in our recipes.

Sticky rice flour: Also known as glutinous rice flour, sticky rice flour is made from white glutinous rice. It’s used to make pastry. Don’t confuse it with regular rice flour which is made from non-sticky long grain rice. We test our recipes with Erawan brand of sticky rice flour.

Tapioca starch: Tapioca starch is made from dried cassava which has been processed into very fine powder. It’s used most commonly as a thickener and a pastry ingredient in Asian cooking. We test our recipes with Erawan brand of tapioca starch.