Cooking for a Cinco de Mayo celebration means utilizing different varieties of chilis, from habañeros to jalapeños to serranos. But you know what we've recently realized? It can be confusing to understand the differences between all those peppers, so we're setting the record straight with a primer. Get to know them in one hot minute when you keep clicking.
We've got a partnership with the recipe, equipment, and product testing gurus at America's Test Kitchen. They'll be sharing some of their time-tested recipes and technical expertise with us weekly. Today's topic: essential Asian ingredients to stock in your larder, and an easy recipe for Asian-inspired noodles.
From white miso to kecap manis, many supermarkets now carry a wider array of Asian ingredients—look for them in the international foods aisle. You can also hit a specialty store or an Asian market to get the ingredients you need to make a flavorful stir-fry or curry. Keep reading to learn more about 13 common Asian ingredients that you’ll find in many of our recipes — and a recipe that utilizes many of them.
Few foods are more versatile, come in a greater variety of styles, or are more prized in Asian cuisine (and our kitchens) than the noodle. Ranging in style from translucent, almost-rubbery cellophane noodles to fat, chewy udon noodles (and near everything in between), there's a noodle for every cuisine and palate. Keep reading for a breakdown of the most common types across Asian culture.
Did we leave your favorite style of Asian noodle off the list? Chime in with your top pick in the comments!
If you're looking to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a big traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage feast, there's just one problem. As it turns out, corned beef and cabbage is not actually a traditional Irish dish. The meal features salt-cured beef, which gets its name from the large "kernels" of salt that covers it during its curing process. But beef was rare and incredibly expensive in Ireland, hardly something that farmers would readily have access to. It was more likely that these boiled dinners would feature some kind of bacon cooked with cabbage.
When the Irish immigrated to the United States, beef was more available and certainly more affordable, and corned beef in particular became an important part of the culture, as it took the place of bacon in the boiled meal. So don't feel disheartened if you had planned to enjoy a boiled dinner of corned beef and cabbage on Sunday, because not only is it a part of the Irish-American St. Patrick's Day tradition, but it's also wholesome and full of slow-cooked flavor.
Seeking out the highest-quality ingredients one can afford is always important, but never more so than when it comes to crustacean cookery. Here are some of our best practices for getting your money's worth.
First and foremost, look for a shop with high turnover of these critters. This applies whether you're looking to buy live crab and lobster, precooked lobster tails, crab claws, or even lump crab meat. While seeking out the freshest precooked meat may seem obvious, even creatures sold live are highly perishable; once they're plucked from the sea, they'll stop eating, and a starved crustacean will have less meat on its shell.
What to Keep in Mind When Buying Live Crab or Lobster
- Buy these in season, and from local waters. A cross-country journey means more time has lapsed from catch to plate, and the critter is likely less robust and less meaty. Plus, purchases made at the source will cost less than those coming from thousands of miles away.
- Look for active, wriggly live crab and lobster, taking care to avoid any that appear lethargic. They should feel heavy for their size when handled; this indicates a juicy, meaty find, rather than one that is nearly all shell.
- Avoid any seafood coming from a less-than-spotless tank.
- Make sure to either kill them in the cooking process or cook them immediately after dispatch. Even the lapse of one hour between killing and cooking can effect the quality of the meat, leaving you with a pile of mushy meat.
You're probably familiar with meat options like carne asada, carnitas, and even barbacoa. But some bold taco aficionados opt for more exotic tastes such as head and tongue that you might recognize from taqueria menus. They're not for everyone, especially the squeamish, but before you rule them out, get to know what they are.
Shrimp's briny-sweet flavor, satisfyingly snappy texture, and ease of preparation (few foods cook up faster) make it a perennial favorite. Whether the crustacean's final destination is an easy appetizer or expedited étouffée, keep these crucial guidelines in mind the next time you hit the seafood counter.
What to Know About Shrimp
- Avoid purchasing shrimp from Southeast Asia, as the regulations on shrimp farming and harvesting are far less stringent than American standards. Look for sustainably farmed US shrimp or those that are wild caught using traps in Canada or the US. For an in-depth look at the sustainability of different shrimp options, consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide.
- Like all seafood, shrimp should smell of the ocean — briny and sweet, like seaweed — and not off-putting or "fishy" in any way. Particularly avoid any that smell of ammonia.
- Eschew labels such as "jumbo" and "large," as these are often inconsistent. Instead, refer to the count number: this is presented as two numbers that indicate the range of how many shrimp of this size will make up one pound. For example: 16/20 indicates that there are 16 to 20 shrimp in one pound. Keep in mind that the smaller the count number is, the larger the shrimp will be (16/20s are among the largest).
If you think oyster, mussel, clam, and scallop cookery seem best left to the experts, then think again. In reality, much of the onus of prep work comes down to choosing exceptionally fresh shellfish — after that, the effort to reward ratio is high. With that in mind, we've rounded up crucial guidelines for shopping for shellfish, starting with one of our favorite categories of mollusks, the humble bivalve.
Generally speaking, bivalves should be purchased alive, since these creatures decompose exceptionally quickly once dead, even when properly stored on ice and refrigerated. Most of the qualities listed below indicate whether or not the animal inside the shell is still living.
Things to Bear in Mind When Buying Clams, Oysters, or Mussels
- In their raw state, these bivalves should feel heavy for their size.
- Like all seafood, these should smell of the ocean — briny and sweet, like seaweed — and not off-putting or "fishy" in any way.
- If shellfish are prepackaged in mesh bags, ask to open up the bag to get a better look, as it's tougher to tell the condition of the shells when bagged.
- Shells should be tightly closed, with no chips or cracks present. An open shell indicates that the creature is already dead (and will have begun to decompose). Once ready to prep or eat raw, sharply tap any that are slightly ajar; if alive, shells should close — and if any don't, make sure to discard. Likewise, once cooked, the shells should open up slightly — this indicates that the shellfish was alive when cooked — any that stay closed should be discarded.
Some people can eat honey by the spoonful while others are put off by its unique sweet taste, but regardless of how you feel about honey, there's no denying the fact that it has been an important ingredient throughout history. Since ancient times, honey has been a cherished ingredient; during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it's used to symbolize a sweet new year. It's also been praised throughout history for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, along with other health benefits.
Honey is actually a natural sweetener made by bees for their own consumption: bees collect nectar from various flowers, then deposit them into the cells of the beehive. The viscous consistency of honey is achieved by the ventilation from the fluttering of their wings. How cool is that? Keep reading for some honey tips.
Despite my love of Jewish food, I must confess I've never held a deep understanding of gefilte fish. Growing up, I'd stare at jars of those cloudy, floating Manischewitz members with a mixture of intrigue and disgust. What, exactly, was gefilte fish? I wondered. Did people actually eat that?
Now that I have the palate of an adult, I'm no longer disgusted, but as someone who's never tried gefilte fish, I remain intrigued. Gefilte is actually Yiddish for "stuffed," and this dish is really just white fish that's been chopped, seasoned with carrots, onions, and eggs, stuffed back into the skin of a fish, poached, then served chilled. Find out the story behind its creation when you read more.