- Asian market - If you've got one nearby, stop by and take a look around. We don't have access to one now that we live in a rural area, but we did when we lived in the suburbs. I used to love going there and looking at all of the exotic ingredients. It was a great place to get high quality soy sauce and other Asian staples inexpensively. You may need some help, though, as many of the packages have no English writing on them.
- Wok - I had one for years, but I rarely used it and finally got rid of it because it was taking up too much space. I know lots of people use their woks regularly, but I don't think you have to have one to make great Asian dishes. A large skillet, dutch oven or stock pot works well. I usually use my dutch oven because it reduces splatters on the cook top and is big enough to easily double most recipes.
- Soy Sauce - I always go for the reduced sodium variety. Regular soy sauce is fine as a condiment, but may make your dishes too salty, especially sauces that need to be reduced. Also, make sure to read the ingredients on the bottle. Some don't actually contain soy and are made with a bunch of chemicals that taste like soy. You don't want those.
- Vegetables - This goes against traditional Asian cooking, but I usually steam my vegetables and then add them to the dish along with the sauce before simmering. I know, it's blasphemy, but it saves time because you can steam your vegetables in one pot while you cook your meat in another. It also makes them a little softer than stir frying them. We're not big fans of crunchy vegetables in cooked dishes.
- Rice - Again, I'm going to break from tradition. I don't cook rice in a pan on the stove. I either bake it in the oven (350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes in a covered casserole) or use the "Rice" setting on my microwave. Both methods produce perfect fluffy rice and free up an extra burner on my cook top.
- Meat - I always cut meat into thin strips or slices instead of cubes. It cooks faster and looks more authentic to me. I've never had Asian food in a restaurant where the meat was cut into cubes. A super sharp knife and keeping your meat extremely cold or even partially frozen makes it much easier to achieve very thin cuts. Also, don't forget to cut all meat (including poultry) against the grain, so it is tender and not stringy.
I'll be back later to open the bar!!