5 Flavor-Boosting Essentials for Healthy Asian Cooking

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Jaden Hair helps home cooks overcome their intimidation of Asian cooking every week on her popular Steamy Kitchen blog. Now, 120 of her quick, classic recipes are available in Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites. We can’t wait to get started trying dishes like Mapo Tofu, Sake Steamed Mussels or Miso Cod (see below), but first we asked Hair to for her short list of pantry essentials for cooking healthy Asian dishes. Pick them up on your next grocery trip, then grab a wok and get steamy! —BBL Editor

1. Ginger, Garlic and Green Onions: This is the “Holy Trinity” of Asian cooking. The combination of these aromatics are heavenly and a big flavor boost to any stir-fry or saute. Use a rasp grater to grate the fresh ginger (instead of chopping) — it’s much easier and fast, plus you won’t get any of the tough fibers from the ginger. For garlic, I like “smushing” it with a garlic press — the more the garlic breaks down, the more flavor it releases!

2. Wok: I love using a wok! It’s one of my secret weapons in the kitchen. The wok is the most versatile cooking tool that I have – I can stir fry, steam, saute, grill, simmer, all in a wok. Plus, because of the dome shape, very little cooking oil used. I can stir-fry a meat and vegetable dish to feed four people with just a teaspoon of oil. (Of course, my favorite wok is the Steamy Kitchen Wok that I designed!)

3. Fish Sauce: Fish Sauce is magical. It’s the “salt” of Southeast Asian cooking, combining flavors of salty, sweet and savory. Just half a teaspoon will transform bland stir-fries, fried rice or soup into umami-rich flavor.

4. Miso Paste: Miso Paste is another umami flavor booster. Miso is more than just for soup: Slather some on a fish fillet and bake, or whisk a teaspoon into any dish to add a complex, savory note.

5. Rice Wine or Dry Sherry: Much of Chinese cooking includes a dash of Chinese rice wine. I learned a tip from my mom: Whenever you have odd bits of fresh ginger, just add them to the wine bottle. The ginger will flavor the wine!

Now that you’ve got the basics, try this marinated fish recipe from the book:

Miso Cod
Serves 4

2 tablespoons shiro miso (white miso)
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin (or 1 tablespoon honey mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
4 pieces black cod (about 6 ounces each)

Combine the miso, sake, mirin, and sugar in a resealable bag. Mix well. Add the fish fillets to the bag, seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Massage the bag a bit, spreading the marinade all over the fillet. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the fish from the marinade and use a paper towel to gently wipe off any excess marinade, but don’t rinse the fish. Discard marinade.

Place the fish in the prepared baking sheet and bake until the fish flakes easily, about 10 to 12 minutes. Move the fish to the top rack and place 6 inches from heating element. Turn oven to broil to brown and caramelize the fish, about 1 minute. Keep a close eye on it as it will burn easily. Serve immediately.

For more recipes, join Steamy Kitchen’s virtual book launch party all week long.


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Steamy Kitchen's Healthy Asian Favorites by Jaden Hair
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