Asian Pantry essentials: vegetarian friendly

About a month ago I shared with you a pantry and fridge essentials grocery list and some friends of mine suggested that I did the same but with Asian ingredients. A lot of the food I cook has some Asian touches to it: I’m an unconditional fan of South Korean food, mostly because it burns your intestines every time you eat it, but also because it is mostly soup-based and stir-frieds, which I love. As a result of that, and the fact that I live next to the biggest Asian supermarket in Paris… well my pantry is more 70% packed with Asian pantry essentials than anything else. And today I want to share everything I buy that is not only an essential to a vast majority of recipes but also, vegetarian friendly!

Disclaimer: I mostly cook recipes with a touch of south Korean, Japanese and Chinese cuisine because it is what was more accessible to me when I was younger and because when I lived in Korea, well, I learned a lot while I was there. There are also a couple ingredients from Vietnamese, Thai and Indian cuisine !

Asian pantry essentials

I’m going to divide this section into three categories: Sauces, Spices and dried goods.


If I was ever to choose one sauce to use for the rest of my life, I’d choose gochujang. I’m that weak for spicy shit. I know many people would have said srirarcha which yes, it’s up top the list of sauces, but gochujang holds a very specific place in my heart. Plus I did not want to start this post by mentioning soy sauce as the main sauce (Which yes, it is second).

Spicy sauces

  • Gochujang: I use gochujang for many things. Mostly Korean cuisine but if I’m ever lacking a bit of spice in whatever dish I made, I will just add some of it. It works really, really well with rice based dishes such as kimchi fried rice, and for soups, like a mandu & kimchi stew.
  • Chili oil: I’m not going to go into another spicy sauce rant but… chili oil.
  • Sriracha because there are never enough spicy sauces. Same uses as gochujang. Use as you will.

All the other ones

  • Soy sauce (light and dark): What could I say about soy sauce. I mostly use it for marinates, tofu really takes a great flavor with it. I mix it with other ingredients such as honey/maple syrup and it does a great glaze. A simple stir-fry with some soy sauce is going to be delicious as well.
  • Hoisin sauce: BEST. THING. FOR. TOFU. MARINATES! So good. It is traditionally used for maaaany meat-based dishes but who said vegetarians aren’t allowed to enjoy this sauce. Another great use: when you make veggie rice wraps, dip some in this sauce and it’s just, so, so good.
  • Tonkatsu sauce: Very flavorful. A great addition to a lot of fried food. Nowadays you can find fried tofu steaks like you would for your meat counterparts, so they are great. I sometimes use a bit with my burgers!
  • Miso paste: The best you can find when making ramen, or marinades. Some people use it as salad dressing but I don’t eat salads, so I wouldn’t know.
  • Rice vinegar: Many, many uses. Sushi rice, marinades, a great addition to many sauces. I usually mix my soy sauce with some rice vinegar and the marinade is so great.
  • Sesame oil: Ah, my friend sesame oil. This is going to give you a toasted flavor to anything you are going to cook. Kimchi fried rice? Add some sesame oil and you’ll see. Just a basic vegetable broth? Add a bit and you will see. It’s so good.

There are many, many, many other sauces out there, but most of the other onces I use, such as peanut sauce, pad thai sauce and such, I make them homemade because I find them better.

Others: Spices, condiments, grains, …

  • Red curry powder & paste
  • Madras curry
  • Garam masala: Great for many dried beans dishes. I use it a lot when cooking lentils in the Instant Pot.
  • Chili flakes: Great addition to many things: soups, when making homemade kimchi, when marinating tofu, …
  • Curcuma
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Japanese curry blocks

I think this list could have been pretty long but I don’t want to add ingredients that we don’t use often and therefore buy just for certain recipes because it kinda defeats the purpose of a “pantry essentials” list.

We have many other spices in our pantry, but that is a whole lot other post and I don’t want to turn this one into the longest post ever written when talking asian pantry essentials.

Image by atul prajapati from Pixabay

Dried Goods

The three things we absolutely, always, always, always have are the following:

  • Rice (usually three types: thai rice, sushi rice and broken rice)
  • Noodles (usually three types: soba noodles, ramen noodles and somen noodles). We occasionally buy some glass-noodles and rice noodles.
  • Dried beans, most specifically red beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Other stuff we buy every now and then:

  • Dried seaweed
  • Dried mushrooms

Asian Fridge essentials

Two ingredients that are always in our fridge:

  • Tofu: From soft to extra-firm. We sometimes buy smoked tofu as well.
  • Kimchi: All types and always making sure it’s vegetarian.

Other stuff we buy:

  • Rice cakes : to make rice cake soup, and tteokbokki.
  • Dumplings (fresh & frozen)
  • Edamame beans
  • Green onions
  • Korean Radish (pickled and fresh)
  • A whole lot of cabbage: All types you can think of? We are going to have that.

Recipes to make with this list of asian pantry essentials

Curry recipes

Other recipes

In my instagram feed there are many other meal ideas that were made with most of the ingredients in this list, so don’t forget to check it out!

What other pantry friendly ingredients you use when making some Asian inspired recipes? Tell me in the comments!

Don’t forget to tag @tofu_cado if you ever try one of my recipes, I would love to see the results!

Have a great beggining of week and see you next time!

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