For Real-Deal Asian Ingredients, Click Over to Amazon
Don't get me wrong: There are few things I love more than a leisurely stroll through my local Asian supermarket. But I cook with Asian ingredients often—if I had to guess, a third of everything that comes out of my kitchen involves rice vinegar—and that means I go through my stores rather quickly. Enter Amazon.
The selection of high-quality, not-marketed-to-white-people ingredients has exploded on the shopping platform in recent years—think crinkly curls of dried bonito, spicy gochujang paste, seaweed-rich furikake—and it's completely changed the way I shop. Sure, I still trek out to Fei Long Market in Brooklyn's Chinatown for harder-to-find ingredients, like funky Thai anchovies packed in oil and a fiery Chinese paste of chile peppers and peanuts, but sometimes, the convenience of having variety packs of Pocky delivered to my door is just too good to pass up.
The eight available-on-Amazon products below have all enhanced my weeknight cooking and broadened my meal repertoire at home. Although they're still "delivery" in the strictest sense, they've also done the impossible: helped slash my stream of take-out orders. And that's always a win.
Korea's sweet-and-spicy answer to Sriracha is gochujang, a fiery, deep-red paste that's the perfect complement to brunch eggs and rice bowls alike. It comes in a hefty 500-gram tub, which is great, because you'll want to eat it by the tubful.
Dried Bonito Flakes ($7)
These paper-thin slivers of dried young bonito, a category of fish that can include several Pacific and Atlantic species, are bursting with umami flavor and have a superlong shelf life, so it's fine to order two bags at a time. Bonito flakes are great as a topping for rice, as a base for a hearty batch of dashi broth or—if you're feeling decadent—infused into butter.
Shichimi Togarashi ($3)
Like spice but don't want it to overwhelm your grilled shishito peppers? Try shichimi togarashi, a Japanese chile pepper seasoning that packs more heat than your average Japanese condiment without wrecking your taste buds.
Awase Miso ($10)
Awase miso, a mix of red and white miso, is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Whip it into butter and smear it on grilled corn, use it to power-charge a marinade, or simply whisk it into hot water for an on-the-fly miso soup. Bonus: It lasts forever in the fridge.
There's very little that furikake, a Japanese topping usually consisting of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt and MSG, doesn't improve, from poke bowls to roast vegetables.
Rice Paper ($6)
Vietnamese summer rolls make for an easy, healthy and tasty lunch (or breakfast or dinner or snack). Order the required rice paper online and stash it for those moments when #saddesklunch simply won't do.
Banana Sauce ($10 for a two-pack)
Step aside, Heinz. This sweet-and-sour Filipino condiment, invented as a substitute for ketchup during a World War II-era tomato shortage, adds a fruity tang to everything from omelets to chicken skewers.
Here's a dinner party pro tip: If you're crunched for time, skip cooking dessert and buy a variety pack of Pocky. Your guests will be delighted; better yet, they'll all think you're a genius.
Rachel Tepper Paley is a writer, editor, and sometimes illustrator living in New York City. See what she's eating over at @thepumpernickel on Instagram.
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