Anis star Not only used for baking, anis staris widely used in Chinese cooking. It is available whole or in powdered form. Also found in the Ngohiong / Five spice powder recipe.
Cardamom The pale green oval pods, which are the best variety is probably the world’s most expensive spice after saffron. The black cardamon is cheaper.
Chilly There are dried, flaked and powdered forms. Using the fresh chilllies brings out the strong aroma of the pepper plant. We usually say, the smaller it is, the hotter it gets. They can be used unriped (green) as well as riped (red). Ripe chillies are hotter than the green ones. You cn deseed them to remove the hotness. Dried chillies are used more favourably for flavouring and seasoning.
Cinnamon Cinnamon is largely used in the world. It comes from the bark of an edible tree native to Sri Lanka. In South East Asia, this is used commonly for meats puoltry and desserts. More commonly you’ll find powdered forms availble in the shelfs of the supermarket. But it’s aroma dissipate faster this way.
Clove Cloves are used in smaller quantities as it has a stronger flavour than most other spices.
Coriander Seeds You’ll find coriander seeds commonly in curries or meats, used in India, Singapore or Malaysia and Indonesia.I usually grind them just before using it so that it is more fragrent.
Five spice powder (Ngo Hiong) The chinese loves using this. It is a mixture of five ground spices: cinnamon, clove, sze chuan pepper, fennel and star anise. Make them yourself: here
Galangal Galangal is used fresh in malaysian, indonesian and thai cuisines. The younger root is pale pink and more tender and flavourable than the mature one (beige). Also known as lenkuas or blue ginger.
Garlic Alio, Ayoli…etc what other spice is more used than the garlic
clove. Be it fresh or dried, it can be eaten raw, cooked, fried, sauteed and leaves the consumer with a garlic note at the very end.
Ginger It’s a basic ingredient in many asian cuisines. Preferably used fresh. And yes, nowadays it’s also available in the local supermarkets in europe!
Nutmeg Can use to flavour soups, cakes, desserts, breads
Shallot It’s smaller than the most onions and purple in colour. I love using them in acar (pickles) and salads as they are quite mild and not so sharp. Makes the dish looks attractive
Turmeric powder Once the powder touches your cotton blouse or kitchen towel, you’ll
be spending days to get rid of the yellow colour. Use sparsely (e.g. 1/4 tsp)
Candlenut As the name implies, you can use it to light up your nights. It has a nutty taste, normaly used after grinding, blended or pounded as a gravy thickener in e.g. curries.
Anchovy, dried Salted and sundried and can be used in soups and as an appetizer with peanuts and chillies
Shrimp paste (belachan) The secret to all asian dishes. The westeners will well wrinkle up their nose if they know the real meaning for this. It has a strong pungent flavour. Should be stir fried before eating it.
Shitake mushrooms (Chinese mushrooms) Soak them in hot water before use. You may want to use the stock in the dish you are making to intensify the taste.
Dried prawns Sun dried and salted. Used commonly in vegetables too.
Palm sugar Gula Jawa, gula batuk, gula melaka are some varieties. Used for savoury dishes or sweets
Peanuts They don’t only taste well when they are roasted and salted, but also when they are used in soups.
Cuttlefish Available as dried or “soft” in packets. Use the dried forms for
soups, the soft ones as a dish like the famous Penang Jiuhu Engchai”
Sesame seeds Sesame seeds somes from originally from India, used in breads and salads and comes in black or white.
Tamarind pulp (asam) Used for it’s sour taste. If aquired as a pulp, soak it in hot
water for  10minutes, then press out the pulp to make the juice. Strain the pulp from the juice. Nowadays, there are also tamarind paste, which eases you in the usage.
Bean curd (taukwa) Soft beancurd can be used in soups (silky ones) and the ones which
are firmer, can be used in vegetable dishes, clay pot variations or plainly deep fried and eaten together with a good black soja dipping
Bean curd sticks (foo chok) Used widely in poultry soups. And yes, the love water, so do not
leave them soaking too long as they will suck up all the soup like a sponge
Sichuan pepper Amazingly, this pepper art is not related to the common black pepper, and it’s not hot either. It has slight lemony overtones and only the husks are used commonly in Sichuan cuisines.
Ang Khak Ang Khak means red seeds. I’ve never been aware of it’s origin until lately when my curiosity arose. It’s fermented rice, used mainly for it’s red colouring to colour BBQ meats or even soups in the Hakka region.
Black prawn paste (Petis Udang) This is the sweeter version of the shrimp paste that sometimes goes well also to snacks like rojak
(Fruit salad), etc


Pak Coy Pak choy is also known as the chinese cabbage and literally translated as the white vegetable.
Pickled mustard leaf (Kiam chye) Wash off the pickled sauce from the leaves first before using, to prevent your dish from becoming too sour.
Lady’s Finger (Okra) Love em in curries or stir fried. Mainly used in malay, indonesian or indian cuisines.
Papaya It’s one of the cheapest fruits in asia (0,20 EUR), and one of
the most expensive ones in europe (~ 18 EUR). Used as a salad, dessert or green. I prefer them very ripe and perfumed.
Pineapple I’ve seen pineapple plantages in Malaysia and loved them. The
smaller they are, the more aromatic and sweeter they are. Used in salads like rojak and desserts
Sweet potato Widely used in asian desserts, also gado gado to replace the normal potato
Tapioca Also known as Yucca, can be boiled, mashed or fried.
Water Convolvulus (Kangkung) Usually grows wildly in SEA in streams, now also exported to europe
and many other parts of the world. Can be substituted with spinach or watercress.
White radish (white carrot ) Used widely in soups or pickled. The germans love them raw with
a sprinkle of salt to make it watery.


Basil leaf The sweet basil is commonly used in Thai cooking to flavour foods.
They are very vulnerable to heat (turns brown) so it’s best to use it just before serving.
Chinese chives They have long flat leaves like the spring onion (scallion) and is more aromatic than the usual spring onions.
Chinese parsely (coriander leaves) Used the stems and roots for cooking, the soft leaves for garnishing and soups
Curry leaves fry them with the curry mix you have just put together. It enhances
the flavour of the curry.
Kaffir lime leaves (jerut purut) Leaves from the lime, and lemon. Goes well in pan fried dishes, curries, asam pedas, etc
Mint leaves The turkish and arabian folks loves them in teas (fresh mint leaves)
and salads. My favourite way too to use them.
Polygonum leaves The leaves are narrow pointed and can be used in laksa as a garnish
and flavouring curries
Spring onions (Scallions) Used usually for garnishing, or as a substiture for onions.
Lemon grass Popular for flavoring curries, asam pedas, essential in thai cooking.
Normally, the outer skin is peeled off and you use only the inner ones. But since it’s so expensive in europe – we use all of it!
Banana leaves If grilled with meats (poultry) or fish (ikan bakar) it gives
the dish a smoky pungent flavour. Can usually be substituted with an aluminium foil but I would advise against this. No taste, no fun. Can be frozen, after cleaning and dried.


Rice noodles (Bee Hoon) The Bee Hoon is made from rice flour. Fried bee hoon or used in
soupy dishes. Soak first in cold water to soften, drain then cook
Vermicelli noodles (Glass noodles) Glass noodles are made from mung bean flour. Can also be fried
or used in soupy dishes. Soak first in cold water to soften before cooking
Yellow egg noodles Hokkien noodles (roundish) or Mee pok (flattened) are made from
wheat. Can be fried or used in soupy dishes.
Udon noodles Mainly used in Japanese cuisines and the famous udon soups.