If you're a fan of trying new things in the kitchen, and consider yourself an adventurous eater, then get ready to explore the world of Asian cuisine with these eight weird ingredients you never knew existed that actually make delicious Asian dishes!
Black garlic is product of fresh garlic that has been fermented for a long period of time in low heat, in a humid environment. It's sweet like molasses and has absolutely no garlic flavor to it. It is also loaded with umami flavor so it's amazing in dressings, sauces and marinades. I like to use in my recipes like black garlic shirataki noodle stir fry and black garlic hummus.
You can read more about this at 'What is Black Garlic?'
Red Fermented Bean Curd
Fermented red bean curd (aka fermented red tofu) is tofu that has been preserved in salt, rice wine, red yeast rice (this is what gives it its red color), and spices. It has a similar texture to cream cheese and is very salty and very high in umami flavor. This is most commonly used in Char Siu recipe (Chinese BBQ Pork) to give it that signature red glaze without the use of red food dye.
You can read more about this at 'What is Fermented Red Bean Curd?'
Fermented Black Beans
Fermented black beans are made by fermenting black soybeans with salt and sometimes ginger. They are most commonly used in stir-fries, braised dishes, sauces (like black bean sauces), or steamed meat dishes. If you ever had the steamed spare rib dish at dim sum, this is the ingredient they use to flavor it!
You can read more about this at 'What are Fermented Black Beans?'
In Lao, they call it som moo, in Thailand they call it naem and in Vietnam they call it nem chua and it all translates to 'sour pork'. This is a fermented pork sausage that has a incredibly springy texture with a sour taste. In most cases, it also contains shredded pork skin which gives it another layer of chewiness. They can be eaten as-is as a snack but it also very delicious in salads like Nam Khao (Crispy Rice Salad) which is a combination of deep fried rice balls broken into small pieces mixed with fermented sausage, a sweet and tangy nuoc cham dipping sauce, peanuts and fresh herbs.
You can read more about this at ''What is Som Moo (Fermented Pork Sausage)?'
Salted Duck Eggs
Salted duck eggs are duck eggs that have been preserved in a salt brine and then coated in a salted charcoal gritty mix for storage and for additional curing. It is commonly served with as a congee topping with congee (Chinese rice porridge). They also make great a great sweet and savory filling for dumplings and steamed buns and are delicious in mooncakes, soups and rice dumplings.
You can read more about this at ''What are Salted Duck Eggs?'
Chinese Sausage (Lap Cheung)
Chinese sausages (aka lap cheong) are air-cured sausages that are often made of pork but can be made of chicken or an assortment of livers. They are quite different than your typical sausage because they are firmer from the dry curing and they are very sweet with a touch of savoriness. They can be used the same way you use standard sausages and are frequently toasted in a frying pan and added to rice dishes like fried rice, Chinese sticky rice and Chinese turnip cake (like the ones from dim sum).
You can read more about this at ''What are Chinese Sausages?'
Shrimp paste (aka shrimp sauce) is a incredibly salty paste made with fermented shrimp and salt. If you're not used to using it, you may notice it has a very strong funky smell like fish sauce does but it does add a lot of flavor in Thai curries, broths, braised and steamed dishes and fried rice. It's also what gives Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) its complex deep flavor in its broth.
You can read more about this at ''What is Shrimp Paste?'
Chinese Olive Vegetable
Chinese olive vegetable is a condiment made of olives, preserved mustard vegetables, salt, and oil. It contains a very high amount of umami flavor and is most commonly used in fried rice, in stir fries like Chinese Minced Pork with Green Beans, or as a condiment (it's especially good as a congee topping mixed in with congee).
You can read more about this at ''Chinese Olive Vegetable?'
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This article originally appeared on Pups with Chopsticks.