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What to buy to create Asian flavours

Person putting soy sauce in shopping trolley

Caroline Trickey shares what you need to create the flavours of Asian cooking at home.

Asian cuisines often delight because they balance five tastes in one meal — sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savoury). Here’s how …

  1. Sweet comes from sugar, mirin, honey, even coconut cream — and helps control heat or spiciness.
  2. Sour flavours derive from acidic foods like lemon and lime juice, rice vinegar and tamarind. Their sharpness cuts through fattiness.
  3. Salty sauces such as fish and soy sauces, and shrimp paste add flavour in combination with a salty taste. Use sparingly!
  4. Bitter flavours provide a pungent taste when balanced with sweetness, sourness and saltiness. Bitter ingredients include grapefruit, citrus zest, dark greens, garlic, mustard powder, star anise, and arugula.
  5. Umami balances and ties together the other four, providing deliciousness.

5 delicious Asian-inspired recipes to try

Wok-fried cauliflower with honey soy hoisin and pine nuts

Pork and five spice dumplings

Lime and chilli pork larb

Spicy fish cakes

South Indian fish curry


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