Spice up your cooking with these tried-and-true spices from Asia. From the world's most popular – black pepper, to a lesser-known but extremely flavorful ingredient such as galangal root, this article covers it all! I'll even tell you which country uses each one so you can start experimenting!
As you may already know Asian spices are popular in many dishes for their unique and bold flavors. Some of the most popular Asian spices include ginger, garlic, and chili pepper.
These spices can add a lot of flavor to a dish and are often used in combination with one another to create a more complex flavor profile. I have compiled a list of the best Asian spices to use in your everyday cooking.
1. Chili Peppers
- Chili peppers are a fruit that is related to bell pepper, tomato, and eggplant they are members of the Solanaceae.
- They come in different colors: green, red, yellow, and orange.
- Chili peppers taste spicy and can be used in different dishes.
- Asian countries use chili powder and paste in their cooking, especially in Indian and Korean cuisine.
2. Coriander Seeds
- Coriander Seeds are the small, dried seeds of the cilantro plant.
- They have a lemony, citrusy flavor and are often used in Asian cooking.
- India is the country that uses the most coriander seeds, followed by China and Thailand.
- Coriander seeds can be used in many different ways in your cooking- you can grind them into a powder to use as a spice, cook them whole, or even roast them to bring out their flavor.
- Turmeric is a spice that has been used in Asian cooking for centuries.
- It has a slightly bitter, peppery flavor and a slightly orange hue.
- India is the country that uses the most turmeric, followed by China and Indonesia.
- In the West, it’s mostly known as an ingredient in curry powder and other Indian-style dishes.
- In Asia, turmeric is also used to add flavor to many traditional dishes such as soups and stews. It can be found in savory or sweet dishes and is especially popular in desserts.
- Saffron is a spice made from the dried stigma of the crocus flower.
- It has a bitter taste and is often used in rice dishes, curries, and soups.
- Iran is the leading producer of saffron, followed by India and Spain.
- Saffron can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
5. Cumin Seeds
- Cumin seeds are a flavorful addition to many dishes.
- They are used in Asian cooking, and their taste is often described as earthy and nutty.
- They have a number of beneficial properties. They are high in antioxidants, and they can help improve digestion. They can also help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Cumin can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores.
6. Curry Leaves
- Curry leaves are a popular herb used in Indian cuisine.
- They are known for their strong flavor and aroma. The leaves can be used fresh or dried.
- Curry leaf trees come in three varieties: standard, dwarf, and gamthi. The standard kind is tall and grows quickly. This plant's leaves are widely available in supermarkets. The dwarf variety does not grow as tall as the taller kind, but it does spread out more.
7. Fenugreek Seeds
- Fenugreek seeds are the seeds of the Fenugreek plant, which is an annual herb that is used in cooking in Asia and North Africa.
- Fenugreek Seeds have a bitter taste and a nutty flavor and are often used in curries and other dishes.
- Fenugreek Seeds are also high in fiber and protein.
8. Chinese Five Spice
- Chinese Five Spice is a popular Asian spice (mostly used in Chinese cuisine) that is made from a blend of five different spices.
- The most common spices in Chinese Five Spice powder are cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, and Szechuan peppercorns.
- Five Spice has a warm, spicy flavor and can be used in different dishes. It is popular in Chinese cooking.
9. Galangal Root
- Galangal (Alpinia galanga) is a rhizome in the ginger family.
- Galangal has a peppery, citrusy flavor and is used as an herb, seasoning, or spice in Asian cuisine.
- It is also used to make tea and as a medicinal herb. Galangal is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
- Galangal is available fresh or dried. Fresh galangal should be stored in the refrigerator and can be used for up to two weeks. Dried galangal should be stored in a cool, dark place and can be used for up to six months.
- Garlic is a bulbous plant that belongs to the Allium genus.
- It has a distinctive taste and odor and can be used in a variety of ways.
- It is used as an ingredient in Asian cuisine and has a variety of benefits for human health.
- The most popular dish with Garlic in Asia would be fried rice.
- Its active compound, allicin, has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Allicin also helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Ginger is a spice made from the rhizome of the ginger plant.
- It is often used in Asian cuisine and has a peppery, hot flavor.
- There are different types of ginger, such as fresh ginger, dried ginger, and powdered ginger.
- Ginger can be used in cooking by adding it to dishes while they are cooking, or by using it as a condiment. It can also be used in tea or added to smoothies.
- Ginger is a good source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lemongrass is a perennial plant and is native to tropical regions of Asia.
- It is widely used in Asian cuisine, especially in Vietnamese and Thai dishes.
- It has a distinctive citrusy flavor and is often used in Thai cooking.
- Lemongrass is also used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
- There are different types of Lemongrass, but the most common variety is the Cymbopogon Citratus.
- Nutmeg is a seed from an evergreen tree. The nutmeg tree is indigenous to the Banda Islands of Indonesia.
- Nutmeg is a spice that is typically used in Asian cuisine. It has a unique taste that can add a lot of flavor to dishes.
- Nutmeg is also known for its health benefits. It can help improve digestion, boost cognitive function, and reduce inflammation.
14. Star Anise
- Star anise is a dried fruit that comes from an evergreen tree. The star-shaped fruit is about an inch long and has eight ridges.
- The flavor of star anise is similar to licorice and anise.
- To use star anise, the fruit must be crushed or ground. The spice can be used whole, but it will lose its flavor quickly once exposed to air.
- Star anise should be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
15. Sichuan Peppercorns
- Sichuan peppercorns are a type of pepper that is grown in the Sichuan province of China.
- They have a slightly fruity (citrus) and spicy taste and are used in Asian cooking to add a spicy flavor.
- When cooking with Sichuan peppercorns, it is important to toast them before use. This will help to release their flavor and make them more palatable.
16. Garam Masala
- Garam Masala is mostly used in India but has been gaining popularity throughout the world.
- Although garam masala does not have a set recipe, it is typically a mixture of spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, and nutmeg.
- Some examples of dishes garam masala can use are curries, stews, soups, lentil dishes, rice dishes, and even desserts such as cakes.
People Also Ask [FAQs]
The main Asian spices are typically chili pepper, ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, five-spice mix, and star anise. They are used in many different cuisines throughout Asia.
Several brands of extremely high-quality, fresh spices can be found at your local international grocery stores. Check out a store like Kalustyan’s in NYC or the Oaktown Spice Shop in the bay area for some great produce.
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Wrap Up: List of Asian Spices
- Some popular Asian spices include galangal root, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, nutmeg, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns.
- All of these spices offer a unique flavor that can enhance any dish.
- In addition to their culinary uses, many of these spices also offer health benefits.
- For example, fresh ginger is a good source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Lemongrass is also used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
- So the next time you're in an Asian store, pick up one of these spices to use in your Asian cooking.