I am a Foodie. Sure, any Foodies have a lot to say. Here are some of my essential items for cooking. Please note that I'm not saying these are the best in the world, but they suit my taste and I enjoy using them.
- Olive Oil Trader Joe's Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
One time, a check out person at Trader Joe's recognized I was buying this olive oil. He was excited "I love this olive oil. Isn't it great?" We had a good conversation.
I'm not so crazy about Trader Joe's products like some people, but this is definitely what I recommend to everybody. I don't believe gourmet foods are necessarily expensive. Trader Joe's offers some different varieties of olive oil. To me, this is the best based on its quality and price.
I like Italian olive oil better than Greek one. To me, Greek one's flavor is too strong and it turns me off. I'm sure if it's used in Greek dishes, I would enjoy it. In my mind, ingredients should play well in balance to enhance each other. Greek olive oil doesn't play well with other dishes because of its strong characters.
I use this for dressing, sauce, marinade, pest, baking and cooking vegetables, but not for deep fly.
I like this olive oil because it doesn't overpower when it's used on Caprese. It just enhance all ingredients' flavors.
I have to mention this might not be authentic 100% extra virgin oil according to the New Yorker article, Slippery Business. It is a shocking fact, but something you should know.
- Sesame Oil Kadoya Sesame Oil
Great deep sesame flavor. Kadoya is actually a Japanese sesame oil manufacturer.
I use sesame oil a lot from prepping to finishing. A little drops add aloma and enhance other ingredients' flavors as well. It has a magic touch.
You can add this to Asian dressing. I don't recommend to substitute to oil in a recipe since the dressing gets too heavy. You don't want to kill fresh flavor of vegetables by that. I would use 90% canola oil and 10% sesame oil to add flavor.
Suggest to get a small bottle to enjoy its fresh flavor. Plus, you don't use it a lot though you might use it quite often.
It's an instant oriental flavor maker.
- Balsamic Vinegar Olivier 25-Year Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar
This balsamic vinegar is mild and sweet. I would put it on strawberries. Before I met Olivie's balsamic vinegar, I didn't like balsamic vinegar so much because of its tongue poking strong acidity. Olivie's still has a strong flavor, but you can taste mildness from aging. It has more rounded gentle flavor.
I think it's better to use this for recipes which balsamic vinegar gets spotlight such as dressing and marinade. I use it for a marinade sauce with rosemary. Chicken turns very flavorful with it.
It could be just me, but I feel like it loses the flavor when it's cooked.
Again, this is the best I found based on the balance of quality and price. When I find them on sale at Williams-Sonoma, I tend to stock them up.
- Rice Vinegar Mizkan Rice Vinegar
To make sushi, this is the one you need.
Not like white vinegar, rice vinegar has more dense flavor which sushi rice needs.
It can be used for sweet and sour sauce for Chinese stir fry. You can make Japanese sweet and sour quick pickles.
- Korean BBQ sauce Lee Kum Kee Korean Barbecue Sauce
If you are not sure which brand to pick for Asian seasonings, Lee Kum Kee is the safest bet.
None the less, this sauce is my life savor. If I don't feel like cooking, it puts together easy dinner in minutes. Just chop up some vegetables and stir-fly them. Then, add some thin sliced beef and the sauce to season. With some rice, dinner is served.
This is something I'd like to always keep an extra jar in my pantry.
The label says add some water to marinate meat, but I suggest not to. I usually add some sesame oil, Chinese cooking wine and a lot of chopped green onion. Green onion and sesame oil make the sauce even more savory.
- Oyster Sauce Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce
I tried some of different brands including a couple from Singapore. This one is the winner so far. Others added odd after taste to dishes, but this one doesn't. It not only adds a bold flavor to a dish, but also stimulates appetite.
It seems that its flavor is enhanced by mixing with other seasoning such as soy sauce. It's a cooking ingredient, not a table top seasoning.
- Soy Sauce Kikkoman
Kikkoman brews soy sauce in the US, but I prefer to get one brewed in Japan. They taste different.
I have to say that I wouldn't use this brand if I'm in Japan, but its the best brand I can get around here.
This is a regular soy sauce. It tends to make your dish dark. When you cook light color ingredients, you'd better to use light soy sauce. The light one adds flavor, but keep ingredients' colors light. Light soy sauce from Kikkoman has a yellow top instead of red for regular one.
Its light means color is light, not flavor. So, don't add too much because it looks lighter color, otherwise your dish ends up too salty.
- Thai Seasoning Gold Mountain Sauce
When I traveled Bangkok, I was wondering this distinctive Thai flavor. I tasted it in fried rice, fried chicken, seafood, pretty much any dishes I had over there. It can be said that this is my nostalgic flavor of Thailand.
I happened to find this seasoning at a grocery store after coming back to Japan. I had no idea this was my flavor of Thailand until I actually used it. Since then, it's added to any Thai dishes I make. This plays a critical role in my Thai fried chicken rice. It also work with Chinese stir fry dishes.
I prefer to use it during cooking rather than at a table.
- Seasonings I Herbs de Provence
This is what I use currently, but I'm not crazy about it. Lavender is too strong. I use a little bit to season chicken. Since Lavender doesn't go with everything, I'm cautious to put it to what.
I like this one much better than one above. Good blend. The clay pot is also cute.
I used to add this to pretty much everything from seasoning meet, seafood to soup, stew, pasta sauce and stir fry.
The store which carried this is gone. I don't see it anywhere, but online.
- Seasoning II Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt
This handy dandy seasoning shows up everywhere. It's just a right balance of herbs and salt. Neither of them overpowers the other. Sprinkle to egg for an omlet, fresh slices of cucumber and tomatoes, meat and seafood for seasoning...
It's nice that you can find it easily at a grocery store.
- Short Grain Rice Kagayaki
This is Japanese short grain sushi quality rice. It's cultivated in California. Usually, Japanese people notice rice from California because of the different flavor from one from Japan, but this is an exception. It tastes great. Kagayaki belongs to Koshihikari variety which is recognized as high quality rice in Japan.
If there are a pasta person and a bread person, I'm definitely a rice person. I love rice. It's something I would never get tired of eating every meal everyday.
It contains more moisture and sticky. It's not good for fried rice, Paella or any casserole dishes. For these types of recipes, I suggest long grain rice.
Not necessarily this rice, but to cook any Japanese rice, use a rice cooker or pressure cooker. Never cook it with a pot or a microwave. Sure, rice gets cooked, but it doesn't taste good.
If you see the new crop sticker on the bag in fall, don't think, just get it! That's the best rice in a year. You can enjoy its prime.
You can buy Kagayaki rice on line, but I don't recommend doing so because of shipping cost. Instead, check local Asian grocery stores - Chinese, Korean and Japanese ones have a better chance to carry ones. I used to get one from a Vietnamese grocery store.