Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients.
15 May 2013 - 3:50 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Thick caramel sauce

Thick caramel sauce is even more viscous than dark soy, this is used to add a depth of colour and flavour to many dishes. Surprisingly, despite its name, it is not sweet.

Tamarind paste

Tamarind paste is a fruity sour pulp that gives a tart sweetness to many dishes and curry pastes.

Ikan bilis

Ikan bilis are small dried anchovies that add a crunchy texture and salty taste to the national dish Nasi Lemak.

Dried shrimp

Dried shrimp are tiny dried prawns used in Laksa pastes and sambals.

Shrimp paste

Shrimp Paste is known as Belachan in Malayasia, is a paste of shrimp that is pressed into a block. It has a pungent, unappealing smell, but once roasted the flavour isn't as strong. For best results, wrap a small amount in foil and put into a hot oven or hold over flame using tongs. Then cool and crumble. 

Lup cheong

Lup cheong are dried, slightly sweet, spicy sausages, red in colour and usually made from pork meat and spices. Slice very thinly and stir-fry or steam whole and slice.

Pandan leaf

Pandan is a tropical herbaceous plant with long, green leaves. Its leaves are widely used throughout South East Asia to add a unique taste and aroma to desserts, drinks and to wrap savoury foods. It is also available as a powder, to flavour and colour cakes and used when cooking curries, rice and desserts.


Candelnuts look like macadamia nuts and have a high oil content and a creamy texture. Inedible in their raw state, they are a common addition to curry pastes and sauces as they help thicken the sauce.

Palm sugar

Palm Sugar is a golden sugar with a rich caramel flavour and a hint of coconut. It can be grated or sliced. If not available, brown sugar may be substituted


Lemongrass (serai) is a grass with a lemony aroma and flavour. It can be very woody so look for young, fresh stems and use the white part closest to the base of the stem.