8 Asian Aromatic Herbs To Enhance Your Dishes 

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Best Asian herbs for cooking

 

Asian herbs are some of the most essential ingredients used as a natural food enhancers and flavouring in our diverse cuisines. These herbs are flavoursome and are used for that perfect balance of aromatic, peppery, citrus, sour and sweet sensations to a dish. Without them, the dish lacks depth, fragrance, flavour and even appearance. 

 

In addition to flavour, fresh herbs contain an incredible source of antioxidants and help boost up your metabolism and improve one’s overall health.

 

Although there is an abundance of natural and organic Asian herbs that can be used in an unlimited way in your cooking, here are some common pairings and quick tips to get you started.

 

1. Ginger

Ginger in any form such as raw, cooked, crystalised or powder is a versatile ingredient in cooking. Whether used in desserts for a touch of heat or used in savoury dishes, ginger is a great way to add a hint of spice and zest to a variety of meals and recipes. Once peeled and grated, ginger can also be easily added  into various dipping sauces, glazes and marinades to give oomph to a dish. 

 

 

Ginger is used mostly in Asian recipes like noodle bowls or stir-fry. One such recipe is the famous Vietnamese Beef Pho. This dish is light, yet full of flavour from the beef broth which is infused with spices and herbs. Onions and ginger are roasted to obtain a toasty char-grilled and rich depth of flavour to the broth — an important step to a wonderful aroma in making any Vietnamese Pho dish. To serve, simply garnish with more aromatic herbs like Vietnamese mint, basil and coriander for an added crunch, texture and overall fragrance to your Pho. 

 

Love ginger? Click here for 7 more ginger recipes to try at home.

 

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/homemade-vietnamese-beef-pho/

Preparation Time: 5 hours. Serves 3 to 4

 

2. Chinese Chives

Chives are a member of the onion and lily family and therefore, have a subtle onion taste with a hint of garlic. These scented stems are generally used in Chinese cooking, especially in stir fryings or use as an accompaniment with meat recipes or simply as garnishes for freshness and texture.

 

 

Our Pork and Chives Dumplings recipe is the best way to utilise Chinese chives due to its mild and delicate flavour. For this, juicy minced pork combined with heaps of chopped Chinese chives are combined with other seasonings to produce a bountiful of flavours. 

These traditional and classic Chinese dumplings are enjoyable to make with your friends and family. Whether steamed or lightly pan fried, these succulent and juicy pieces of dumplings are indeed addictive!

Recipe :https://themeatmen.sg/pork-and-chive-dumplings/

Preparation Time: 1 hour. Serves 40 Dumplings

 

3. Torch Ginger Flower/Buds

This ornamental, pretty in pink flowering bud is not only flavourful and fragrant, it also yields similar health benefits to ginger. Torch Ginger or Bunga Kantan which is commonly called by the locals here, is an indispensable ingredient to add a floral undertone especially in Malay or Peranakan cuisines. These exotic buds are often used to zest up the rempah like Assam Fish, Nasi Ulam, Sambal Stingray and especially as garnishes in Chinese Rojak.

 

Here are two local favourite hawker fares that we can create at home by incorporating the fragrant Torch Ginger:

Singapore’s Sambal Stingray

The art to a good rempah starts with the abundance of Asian aromatics. For the meticulous and flavourful spice mix, we incorporate ingredients such as chillies, belachan, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass and Torch Ginger buds — which distinctly adds fragrance to the rempah. Slathered the stingray with the aromatic rempah before wrapping it with banana leaves for the added hint of fragrance when toasted. 

 

Garnish with sliced onions, a squeeze of lime and shredded Torch Ginger Buds for that perfect aromatic finish that lingers in your mouth…Yums!

 

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/homemade-bbq-sambal-stingray/

Preparation Time: 30 mins. Serves 3 to 4

 

Chinese Rojak

 

Don’t we all love Chinese Rojak? This delightful mix of fruits and vegetables salad tossed in homemade thick and caramelised shrimp paste sauce will tantalise your taste buds even more with its sweet, tangy and savoury concoction. A touch of spiciness and a generous shavings of the Torch Ginger Bud adds a hint of fragrance and freshness to this wonderful salad! 

 

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/chinese-rojak/

Preparation Time: 15 mins. Serves 2

 

4. Peppercorns

A simple Salt and Pepper combo has been the norm for an easy table seasoning, whether you’re cooking at home or dining at the restaurants. Although black pepper is commonly used in Western cuisines, white pepper on the other hand is often used for Chinese cooking for its lighter flavour — a perfect addition to soups and stir fries.

 

 

Peppers are packed with antioxidants and contain anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to one’s health. Our Bak Kut Teh recipe has heaps of white peppercorns in the broth, bumping up the flavour and  extracting its nutritional elements . An easy dish to prepare, this peppery soup is light, healthy and  comforting for a rainy day.

 

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/bak-kut-teh/

Preparation Time: 2 hours 30 mins. Serves 4

 

5. Lemongrass, and 6. Vietnamese Mint (Laksa Leaves)

These distinctive citrus-scented herbs are frequently used with spiced dishes when prepping a rempah, especially in our Malay and Peranakan cuisines. When lemongrass adds a punch of aromatic flavour to a well prepared rempah, Vietnamese mint provides a distinctive herbal fragrance, which is significantly identified with a laksa dish — hence they are commonly known as laksa leaves.

 

 

One of our most popular Malaysian dishes is the Penang Assam Laksa. This tangy and savoury dish adds a punch of aromatic flavour as lemongrass and laksa leaves are the 2 most essential ingredients in the spice mix. The result is a wonderful, umami and mouth-watering broth.

 

There is simply nothing more authentic than adding shavings of Torch Ginger Buds to our Penang Assam Laksa for a very satisfying and complete end to the dish.

 

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/penang-assam-laksa/ 

Preparation Time: 1.5 to 2 hours. Serves 4

 

7. Scallions

Scallions or Spring Onions are essential to enhance flavour to a dish, whether in soups, marinades, as garnishes for appearance and texture among others. Since they are milder in flavour, scallions are perfect to add to minced meat recipes too.

 

 

In this Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup, heaps of scallions are sauteed together with other aromatics like ginger, shallots, garlic and ginger to extract a savoury , earthy and aromatic flavour for the sauce base. Another layer of flavours like soy bean paste, rice wine and other seasoning are all added to create an impactful and rich depth of flavour for the broth. 

 

This famous Taiwanese street food is a classic old fashioned dish but can be easily achieved and enjoyed by everyone without packing your luggage! 

 

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/taiwan-beef-noodle-soup/

Preparation Time: 2 hours 30 mins. Serves 4

 

8. Galangal

Identical to ginger, galangal (also commonly known as Blue Ginger) is a root herb frequently used in Malay, Peranakan and Thai cooking. Such similarity in appearance is often mistaken and confused, however galangal has a distinctive taste, more citrusy and earthy, whereas ginger on the other hand, is peppery with spicier notes.

 

 

Galangal is a staple in most Thai cooking such as the popular Tom Yum Goong. This light soup produces layers of flavours from the broth which is infused with the fragrant lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. This refreshing dish has all the right notes of freshness, spiciness, tangy and savoury undertone that accentuates the dish and definitely tantalises your taste buds. 

 

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/tom-yum-goong/

Preparation Time: XX. Serves 3 to 4

 

Common Asian Herbs and How to Use Them

Whether it’s peppery, citrussy, floral or earthy undertones, adding fresh and natural herbs is definitely a great way to add flavour to an otherwise ordinary dish, it enhances the flavour to your cooking and helps to alleviate a dish, whether in appearance, smell or taste. Let us know if you have any favourite spices or herbs on our Meatmen FB Cooking community!

 

So let’s get fresh and natural and start cooking with these wonderful aromatic herbs as not only they are flavoursome, they are also packed with various health benefits!

 

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