1 st anniversary celebrations… !
All ingredients for the Asian Kitchen
is now available for online shopping
in uk, northern ireland and ireland
Herbs and spices are the basis of Southeast Asian cooking, so it is a good idea to stock up your pantry with the different herbs and spices that are called into use all the time. Many of these ingredients can be easily found in your local Chinatowns and, often, even in local supermarkets.
This is just a basic list, and if you cannot find a particular herb for a recipe, do not worry. Just substitute it with whatever you have at hand and it will usually turn out great. By combining the different herbs and spices, meats and seafood can be transformed into an astounding culinary experience.
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetable substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Sometimes a spice is used to hide other flavors.
Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are parts of leafy green plants also used for flavoring or as as garnish.
Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why spices are more commonly used in warmer climates, which have more infectious disease, and why use of spices is especially prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling.
A spice may have other uses, including medicinal, religious ritual, cosmetics or perfume production, or as a vegetable. For example, turmeric roots are consumed as a vegetable and garlic as an antibiotic.
A spice may be available in several forms: fresh, whole dried, or pre-ground dried. Generally, spices are dried. A whole dried spice has the longest shelf life, so it can be purchased and stored in larger amounts, making it cheaper on a per-serving basis. Some spices are not always available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric, and must commonly, be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are often used both whole and in powder form.
The flavor of a spice is derived in part from compounds (volatile oils) that oxidize or evaporate when exposed to air. Grinding a spice greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation. Thus, flavor is maximized by storing a spice whole and grinding when needed. The shelf life of a whole dry spice is roughly two years; of a ground spice roughly six months. The “flavor life” of a ground spice can be much shorter. Ground spices are better stored away from light.
To grind a whole spice, the classic tool is mortar and pestle. Less labor-intensive tools are more common now: a microplane or fine grater can be used to grind small amounts; a coffee grinder is useful for larger amounts. A frequently used spice such as black pepper may merit storage in its own hand grinder or mill.
Some flavor elements in spices are soluble in water; many are soluble in oil or fat. As a general rule, the flavors from a spice take time to infuse into the food so spices are added early in preparation.