Learn all about Asian and Oriental cuisine with SOP international
Quick cook sweet & sour chicken or Thai green curry has its benefits at being convenient but more often than not is lacking in that distinctive flavour that embodies Asian & Oriental cuisine. A flavour that can really only come from authentic ingredients sourced from its country of origin.
The spread of traditional Chinese food began with Cantonese style cooking from the south of China and this style includes many of the more instantly recognisable Chinese dishes such as stir-fries, sweet and sour and chop suey. In recent years, Northern style and spicier food from Szechuan and Shanghai have become better known and understood outside of China. Each of these styles have developed over time as a result of factors such as the geography, climate, history, lifestyle and cooking preferences of the region, all having their own distinct flavour. What distinguishes them is not only their cooking methods, but particular combinations of ingredients. All regions use ginger, garlic, spring onions, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil and bean paste, but combine them in highly distinctive ways, using a variety of different cooking techniques.
Scratch cooking is certainly making a strong comeback, especially for the adventurous cooks still wanting their favourite Chinese take-away dishes but made themselves. It’s not just Chinese food that seems to be trending in our supermarket trolleys but also a spectrum of dishes from countries throughout the Far East. The combination of mixing traditional ingredients with what’s available in the pantry has certainly led to a few new ventures in fusion cooking.
Soy sauce is the ‘new’ salt and sweet chilli sauce the pepper; these offer an authentic alternative and can be used in everything from a Saturday night curry to a Sunday BBQ. Even swapping out your regular vegetable oil for a healthier coconut oil adds an idiosyncratic flavour to eggs. Cooking a foreign cuisine can be daunting. It is like learning another language. Not only are the ingredients different, but also the grammar of the dishes is foreign.
There are only a handful of ingredients you will need to add to your larder to attempt these dishes. Shaoxing wine and Chinkiang vinegar both have foreign, mysterious flavours. They are irreplaceable, but only used in Chinese cooking. Your options are only limited by your imagination as there is an abundance of ingredients waiting to be discovered and it’s already available in most supermarkets and not just the ethnic outlets.
The Sichuanese chilli bean paste has a deeply savoury and mildly spicy flavour and I have come to use it in all sorts of other dishes – replacing Worcestershire for example, or miso. Potato flour gives a glossy thickness to sauces and try using it in place of cornflour. It is worth buying a little Sichuan pepper, which is optional, as its tingly pepperiness has a unique flavour.
So get out of your comfort zone a little, and explore your local Asian grocery store or the ethnic aisles of your supermarket.
From packing & processing cooking oil at their Runcorn branch to the main head office and distribution offices in Hertfordshire, SOP have become a global name as an importer & distributor of authentic Asian & Oriental cuisine. Originating from as far afield as Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and India, SOP prides themselves on only sourcing the best ingredients, drinks and sauces from truly dependable suppliers. The quality of their products has allowed them to be featured on several cooking programmes and in popular recipe books.
SOP offers an extensive range of products including Rice, Coconut Milk & Water, Butter & Vegetable Ghee, Spices, Cooking Oils, Snacks, Mango products and canned vegetables and fruit. The company are agents for many leading brands familiar to most Oriental & Asian households. Their experienced and energetic team is committed to providing a level of service that exceeds their customers’ expectations.
See also: Sticky Beef Stir Fry
For more information and to view a full list of products available go to www.sopinternational.com or call S.O.P. on TEL: (+44) 01992 584 466.