Despite differing languages across Asia, we all speak the same when it comes to food. Not only does a love for all things delicious unite us, it also defines us in many ways; traditionally, culturally and emotionally.
The rich flavours of Asian cuisine can be traced to a vibrant history of ingredients and cooking methods, as well as condiments that help define its distinct flavours. Have you ever wondered what the best Asian condiments are?
If you're a newbie in the kitchen, there's no need to worry. There are because we have the best Asian condiments to get you started.
33 Best Asian Condiments And Sauces For Delicious Dishes
1. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and widely used in Chinese and Japanese cooking. This sauce is used in combinations with other ingredients to form new sauces as well!
This miracle Asian sauce is loved by all, Asian or not, you cannot ignore this! This is used as a dipping sauce, as well as in many stir-fry or gravies. This sauce is easily available in local groceries in Asia. You will find its many varieties, dark and light being the most commonly found!
2. Fish Sauce
What: Fish sauce is primarily made of salt coated and fermented fish for a long time, sometimes even for a couple of years!
How: This is one of the most loved sauces in the Southeast Asian kitchens. Primarily it is used in tossed salad, as a marinade or as a dipping sauce. Fried rice and dumplings use this generously in Asia.
Where: This too, like soy, is easily available in all local grocery and online stores.
3. Plum Sauce
What: Plum sauce is a prominent condiment in the Chinese cuisine. It is made of reduced fresh plum with a dash of ginger, garlic, onion, soy sauce and chili sauce.
How: Most of the deep fried Asian delicacies like spring rolls, fried shrimp and chicken meatballs are complemented by this lip smacking plum sauce.
Where: You can either make it on a saucepan yourself or buy it from many local and online grocery stores
What: This green beauty leaves a mark on the taste buds which you’ll never forget! It is nothing but a paste of Japanese horseradish.
How: As it’s very pungent, it is very difficult to consume in bigger quantities. It usually is served with raw fish and sushi.
Where: The original root is not very commonly found, but the paste surely hits the grocery shelves. Even wasabi flavored snacks are available in many online and offline stores.
5. Hoisin Sauce
What: This Peking-style sauce has a very distinctive taste. It is made of starch like sweet potato, rice or wheat, along with water, sugar, soybeans, sesame seeds, white distilled vinegar, salt, garlic and red chili peppers. This may have preservatives, stabilizers and coloring agents.
How: Hoisin sauce has a peculiar thick, salty and slightly sweet taste. It is used in grilled chicken, stir-fry or as a dipping sauce for fried appetizers.
Where: It is easily available in many online and offline grocery stores.
6. Black Bean Sauce
What: Black bean sauce is made of fermented black soybeans and called as douche in Chinese. This is made into a paste and tossed with ginger, onion and chili.
How: Noodles and rice compliment with this black bean sauce. Stir fries are always a stunner with this sauce.
Where: Black bean sauce is available in most online and offline Asian markets.
7. Nam jim gai (Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce)
What: This sauce plays the perfect rhythm that your sensory glands ask for! It is a popular condiment and dipping sauce used in Thai, Western, Afgan and Malaysian dishes. A perfect amalgamation of Thai chilies, rice vinegar, salt, garlic, cornstarch and sugar, a sure hit!
How: One of the best dipping sauce, this is used for spring rolls, dumplings, fried vegetables et all!
Where: Globally loved Thai sweet chili sauce is available anytime, anywhere!
8. Kasundi (Indian mustard sauce)
What: This Indian mustard sauce gives tough competition to the American one! Mustard seeds are fried in oil with ginger, garlic, chili, tomatoes and then made into a smooth paste with water, vinegar and a hint of turmeric.
How: In a few Indian recipes, this sauce is diluted and used as a pungent yet flavorful gravy for fish and vegetables. It is also used as a dipping sauce for fried cutlets.
Where: Other than India, this might not be very readily available, but a few online stores do sell them. Best to make it fresh at home!
9. Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste)
What: K-beauty products can cause a glow on your face externally, but this gochujang causes a glow internally once you consume it, of course due to joy! It is made of chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt and sometimes sweeteners.
How: This is mostly used as a marinade for meat dishes, and diluted into curries, soups and dipping sauces.
Where: Amazon and local super markets do keep this paste.
10. Green Chutney
What: Whether you are an Asian or not, Chicken tandoori and other grilled dishes swear by this condiment- Green Chutney. You do find a variety of chutneys in India, but the green one is everyone’s favorite! It is made of coriander leaves, garlic, salt, sugar, lemon juice, green chili and sometimes mint leaves, peanuts and yogurt are also added.
How: Grilled meat, sandwiches and dipping condiment with fried appetizers.
Where: It is usually available in Indian restaurants and rarely sold in bottles or packets. You can make it fresh in the house using all the ingredients and turn it into a paste!
11. Filipino Vinegar
What: This Filipino condiment is the perfect answer to all vinegar cravings! This is made of fermented sugar cane juice.
How: Usually it is used to wash/marinate meat/fish, and dilute curry powders and pastes. It has a distinctive fresh taste.
Where: Amazon is a saving grace for the rest of the Asians, as this is available offline in the Philippines.
What: Never underestimate the power of a Sriracha sauce! Named after the eastern region in Thailand. It was first used in seafood dishes in that area. Made of chilis, sugar, garlic, distilled vinegar and salt.
How: This is how Asians define their chili sauce! Use it in pad thai noodles, stir-fry or as a ketchup, sriracha has multiple uses. Let your imaginations go wild!
Where: This one is easy to get as offline and online stores readily have this sauce.
13. Roasted Sesame Oil
What: This Japanese beauty is produced in two different ways. Directly pressed from roasted sesame seeds and the other way is roast sesame seeds in a neutral oil like canola and then strain it.
How: It is used in salads instead of olive oil and in cooking many of the Chinese, Korean and South Indian dishes!
Where: It is available in most of the online and offline grocery stores.
14. Oyster sauce
What: This sauce has a self-explanatory name. Made of oyster and soy, this is used especially in Chinese cooking.
How: Oyster sauce dominates all types of stir-fries that you can imagine!
Where: Easy-peasy to get, anywhere-anytime!
15. Achaars (Pickles)
What: This is made of chili and spice and everything nice! Popular in India, Achaars (or pickles) are quite varied. From raw mangoes, to chili's, to lemon; pickles come in all forms and combinations.
How: It is served as an accompaniment with Indian dishes, be it puffed fried flatbreads, parathas, biryanis, you name it and it is clubbed!
Where: Easily available in all leading online and offline stores. It can also be made in the house.
16. Teriyaki Sauce
What: This popular condiment is used as a sauce and condiment. Comprising of four main ingredients- soy sauce, sake, sugar and ginger. Simple ingredients painting the taste-buds colorfully!
How: Teriyaki is actually a Japanese cooking technique in which broiled or grilled meat and vegetables are glazed or tossed with this amalgamation.
Where: This sauce too, is a relief for all those who struggle to get nom noms in their life. Easily available in offline and online stores.
17. Miso Paste
What: Miso paste is basically a paste made of soybeans, fermented rice or barley with salt, water and a fungus. Don’t get irked by the term ‘fungus’. You get miso paste in two variants- lighter one that is less fermented, and red miso that is strongly fermented and saltier.
How: Miso is popularly used in Japanese soup. But other than that, it is also used as a poultry rub, glaze and diluted into a sauce.
Where: This one is exotic, yet easily available in many online and offline grocery stores.
18. Garam Masala
What: Garam masala is the magical condiment that originated in India. It is a fragrant rich powder made of coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sometimes it also consists of saffron, turmeric, fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, mace, star ase, bay leaves or fenugreek.
How: It is usually used to make rich curries, in biryanis and as a marinade with yogurt for meat.
Where: Make your own version if you want to! But garam masala is easily available in Indian grocery stores and big supermarkets.
19. Hainanese chicken sauce
What: This national dish of Singapore originated in China. It is made of chili, ginger, chicken stock, red chili, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, lime and vinegar.
How: Hainanese Chicken Rice is the best dish that uses the sauce and does justice to it.
Where: Usually you either make the sauce in-house, or eat it as a meal in restaurants serving chicken rice.
20. Sambal Oelek
What: Sambal Oelek is a hot chili paste or sauce, commonly found and used in Thai and Malaysian cooking. Its base is chili and the additional flavour is added using shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, palm sugar, lime juice, rice vinegar etc.
How: Sambal Oelek is the universal ‘hot quotient’ saviour. It’s uses are very wide, from gravies to sauces to marinades. Want something hot and spicy? Add Sambal Oelek!
Where: This is also easily and commonly found in all the online and offline Asian grocery stores.
21. Raita (yogurt dip)
What: This Indian spiced yogurt dip is at par with the greek yogurt. Raita can be made with different ingredients, curd and rock salt being the common base. Many raitas have finely chopped onion, tomatoes, cucumber, chilis and coriander leaves.
How: Raita compliments biryani like Tom and Jerry and balances the flavours. It is also used as a dip in a few Indian appetisers.
Where: This needs to be made in the house with the choice of ingredients.
22. Thai Curry Paste
What: “I don’t know what Thai curry is”, said no one ever! This Thai curry paste comes in two options- red and green. Both have almost the same ingredients except the green has coriander, basil to give it that amazing colour! It consists of grated galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime, salt, black peppercorns, cumin seeds and chilli.
How: This paste is usually used to make Thai curries with coconut milk and in Thai fish cakes.
Where: Globally loved, this tasty paste that packs a punch is easily available in many grocery and specialty stores in Asia!
What: Popularly known as the gunpowder in South of India. Podi powder is a condiment used in idly, dosa and other South Indian dishes. This powder is made of dried red chilis, urad dal, chickpeas and sesame seeds.
How: This is sprinkled over steamed rice-lentil cakes, dosas and other gravies.
Where: Even though you can find this Asian condiment in a few Indian stores, but it is best to make it in-house.
24. Kecap Manis
What: This Indonesian delight is nothing but a sweet soy sauce. The fermented palm sugar molasses adds to its unique taste along with soy.
How: A thick and syrupy sauce, you can add this in marinades or use it as a condiment in Indonesian food and stir-fries.
Where: ABC has made it readily available in most of the online and offline grocery stores in Asia.
25. Rice Vinegar
What: China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam swear by this rice vinegar. It is a common ingredient in many of their dishes and is primarily made out of fermented rice.
How: If you want to add a certain amount of sweetness to your dish, add rice vinegar which is very good for health as well. You can also use it in pickling, marinades, cocktails, dipping sauces, and salad dressings.
Where: Rice vinegar is quite common in Asian supermarkets and online grocery stores.
26. Chili Garlic Sauce
What: As the name suggests, this one is very dear to all Asians. Chili garlic sauce contains choices of chilis, garlic, salt, sugar and vinegar.
How: Let your imaginations go wild with this sauce. Use it as a dip, sauce, in curries, in stir-fries and anything else that needs to be zinged up!
Where: This can be made at home, and also is available everywhere!
27. Satay Sauce
What: If peanut is your thing, you will go weak on your knees with this one! Satay sauce is made up of roasted peanuts, onion, garlic, soy sauce, chili, caramelised sugar and peanut butter. Yum, right?
How: This one is widely used in Indonesian and Malaysian grubs. There are no hard rules with this sauce and you can pretty much add it to any dish, gravy or grill or as a dipping sauce. The choice is yours!
Where: Though you can find this in all stores, you can make it in the house and add or delete any ingredient to suit your taste!
28. Schezwan sauce
What: Sichuan sauce is more famous as Schezwan sauce in South East Asian countries, especially in India. In fact, many also call it the dumpling sauce! It is made of sichuan peppers, soy, chili, garlic, onion, ginger, tomato ketchup, sugar and salt.
How: Use it as a dipping sauce for dumplings or any fried rolls. Aside from that, it can also be added to any other dish to add both heat and flavour!
Where: This beloved Asian sauce is available in all offline and online grocery stores.
What: Kimchi is a staple of Korean cuisine, made with salted and fermented vegetables. Cucumber, radish and cabbage being the most popular ones. Aside from that, kimchi also consists of seasonings like chili powder, scallions, garlic and ginger.
How: Close your eyes, and imagine what you want would go well with Kimchi! That’s right, add it to you rice, soups, stir-fries, eggs, quesadillas...anything!
Where: Can be found in stores, but it’s fun making it in the house with your own choice of ingredients.
30. Kaya jam
What: This Malaysian and Singaporean sweetheart, is made with coconut milk, eggs and sugar.
How: Bread and Kaya jam go hand in hand. Period. But if you want to become a little adventurous, you can try using it in desserts too!
Where: This one’s a no-brainer. You can get your hands on as many as you want!
31. Banana Ketchup/Sauce
What: You do not need to be a minion to love this! Filipinos love this sauce that is made up of mashed banana, sugar, vinegar and spices. Interesting, right?
How: Filipinos actually use this instead of a tomato sauce. Try it to know it!
Where: It might be a little difficult to get your hands on one of these bottles outside Philippines. But hey, anything for food! Go make new friends!
What: Atchara is a pickle very popular in the Philippines. Unripe papayas are its main ingredient along with spices.
How: It is served on the side with grilled meat or fried dishes.
Where: Amazon might come to your rescue with this one, but you can also easily make it in the house!
33. Thuna Paha (curry powder)
What: This spice, which is a Sri Lankan cuisine staple, is a type of curry powder made using cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, fresh curry leaves, red chilli powder, uncooked rice, cloves, and black peppercorns.
How: When you want a little spice and aroma to pump you up, use Thuna Paha in curry-based sauces and dishes.
Where: It is quite difficult to find in all grocery stores other than the Sinhalese ones. But this one can be prepared in the house.