Starter Kitchen Series: Cooking Ingredients

Aside from the fact that we always have oyster sauce and honey in our cooking cupboard, we still consider ours a starter kitchen. Most of the ingredients that we have can cover usual dishes like adobo but not advanced enough to take on paella and other more sophisticated dishes.

That's why on this part of our Starter Kitchen Series, we will talk about the ingredients a starter kitchen should have.

But first, what is a starter kitchen?

You may be a newly-wed who just moved into your brand new home or someone who just discovered cooking as a way to pass your time, so maybe you are still in the process of collecting ingredients for daily use. If this is the case, then yours is a starter kitchen.

One of the first ingredients we bought when we moved into our home 4 years ago are the usual ingredients one would need to cook an adobo which includes the following: oil, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar  and bay leaves. With these you are also set to cook any variation of a stir-fry dish. Add flour and you are all set to master your very own version of crispy fried chicken.


As our ambitions of cooking more complicated dishes arise, we needed to buy more specialized but not necessarily impossible to find ingredients. Since Rodney enjoys cooking Chinese and Asian cuisine, we had to add in oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine, black vinegar , sesame oil and honey in our arsenal. With these at hand, we were able to cook food with more complex flavors like teriyaki, hot pot dishes, asian noodles and vegetables with oyster sauce. Chinese and other Asian dishes started to taste like how they should taste. Something you will never achieve with a plain soy sauce or vinegar.

Then I started reading on other cuisines from the other side of the world that would involve spices. So we started buying dried herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme, coriander, mixed herbs, five spice, sweet basil, curry, paprika, turmeric, white pepper and cinnamon among others. For these, you don't really have to buy in one go. We just bought what the recipe called for and eventually it started building up, so we just replenish whenever we ran out of these items. Some are harder to come by and more expensive than others. We never buy saffron because they are super expensive and besides we don't cook paella everyday.

Aside from the things I mentioned above, here are the things you would want to consider for your starter kitchen:

extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) - you can never go wrong with olive oil for pasta, quick grilled chicken and salad
red cane vinegar - for salad dressing and dip
red wine - for that spur of the moment stew recipe, red wine really brings out the flavor in beef
strong beer - you can also use beer for stew but make sure to use the ones with strong flavor rather than the light one. Beer is also a good marinade for chicken.
sriracha - its flavor is very distinct but it really works for dishes that would need a little kick
fish sauce - for ingredients that would require it. We don't use this as much because it's very high in sodium, if a pinch of salt will do, just use salt.
kosher salt and sea salt - I prefer kosher salt over iodized because I find it more flavorful with just a small amount, while sea salt is great for steak
star anise - try adding a couple of this to your adobo recipe to add a different flavor
knorr or maggi seasoning - for my adobo, I use 3 different kinds of soy sauce. I find that adding a tbsp of this seasoning enhances the taste and give it a different flavor. (This may contain msg so if you are trying to avoid that, you don't have to add it.)

There you have it! This is the first part of our Starter Kitchen Series and we hope you watch out for the next posts on this topic as well.

Thanks a lot! And happy cooking!


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