Best brands of Asian seasonings?
If you've ventured into an Asian grocer recently, chances are it's been busier than usual. Chinese New Year is upon us, and households must be thoroughly stocked - full cupboards make for for good luck.
After many years at Big Bowl and trying myriad brands of seasonings, we know which ones are the best and most consistent. But the task of choosing one brand over another can be daunting for the home cook. If you've ever looked for help at an Asian grocer, you know that asking for a recommendation is an exercise in futility.
Trying five brands of toasted sesame oil or 10 kinds of soy saunce until you find a great one isn't a terribly pricey venture when you consider that the items are not much more $3 each. But I'm here to save you some time and money, anyways.
Here's a list of seasonings we use in the restaurants and recommend in the recipes on our website. I believe that the food is only as good as the ingredients so if you start out with the highest quality, you'll end up with the best dish.
Soy sauce - at Big Bowl and our recipes, we use only Chinese soy sauce. Go for the "light" variety -- as in color not in sodium content. Try either Koon Chun Sauce Factory's Thin Soy pr Pearl River Superior Soy.
Chinese dark soy sauce - aged longer, the best brand is Pearl River Bridge Mushroom Soy.
Toasted sesame oil - not to be confused with the pale golden variety, toasted sesame oil should be rich and pungent. We use the Kadoya brand.
Fish sauce - one of those classic seasonings that smells bad but tastes great. We use Viet Huong Three Crabs Brand and Flying Lion Phu Quoc.
Oyster sauce - In this case, you get what you pay for so look for the higher priced brands madee in Hong Kong if you can't find Sa Cheng's Oyster Flavored Sauce.
Now, when your bottles of seasoning are rolling down the black conveyor belt toward the cashier and you can't understand a lick of what anyone is saying (unless you speak Chinese) at least you'll know you've got tried and true brands.
Over the next several weeks, I'll take each ingredient individually, sharing information on how they're made and what to look for in a great product. Until then, if you've come across a brand, let us know. We're always looking for quality.