I always use many of the same, basic seasonings to cook all of my dishes. On this page, I will discuss what’s in my spice cupboard, separated by West and East.
Oliviers & Co Salt & Herb Mix
While I do make my own chicken/meat rub at home, I love Oliviers & Co. salt and herb mix spices. I use two versions: one designed for fish, and one designed for meat. Most often I use these spices when I am doing any pan-grilling. I usually do not marinate anything ahead of time (you don’t need to); I just throw these spices onto my fish or beef steak and they are ready for the grill ten minutes later. I also like that there are coarse pieces of dried sea salt, which are flavorful and crunchy once you bite down into the meat.
These spices are available for purchase directly from the Oliviers & Company website:
Fleur de Sel – Sea Salt
The phrase “fleur de sel” translates into “flower of salt” in French. This is hand-harvested sea salt that is considered to be a higher-end “artisan” salt. It is more expensive than regular salt but I use it typically as a coating rather than everyday cooking. You can usually find fleur de sel in more specialty grocery stores, such as Williams Sonoma, Urban Fare, Sur La Table, etc.
For everyday use, Kosher salt is my number one pick for the kitchen. It is a heavier and irregular grain so it is very easy to use your finger tip to gauge the amount of salt for each dish you put in.
Bouquet garni is another item originating from France. It refers to a bunch of herbs tied together in a bundle (“bouquet”) for convenience when making soups, stews, and stock. There is no patented formula for bouquet garni but it usually involves:
- Bay leaf
- And can include: basil, rosemary, chevril, celeriac, leek, onion, parsley root, etc.
It is not always tied in a bundle with string as pictured above, but can also come in small sachets. It has a very distinct flavour and is used often in classic French dishes like beef bourguignon, pot au feu, ossobuco, and bouillabaisse. Sometimes I make my chicken stock with a bouquet garni to add a different set of flavour.
In every Chinese cabinet, there should be a standard set of sauces and spices. With these few ingredients below, you should be able to make most basic Chinese dishes:
Soy sauce is used for both flavour and colour. I prefer using the Kikkoman brand, but there are many out there that are suitable as well. A little goes a long way and it is one of my #1 staples for chinese cooking.
There are two kinds of soy sauce — regular and dark. Regular is used mostly for flavour, whereas dark is used for both is flavour and colour. There are certain dishes where you will want a darker, richer colour (brine water duck for instance), so you will opt to use dark soy (“lo chau”). Both kinds should be readily available in the supermarket.
Premium soy sauce
Also the first pressed/superior/premium soy sauce is my first choice for some seafood dishes. It is a little more expensive but it worth the money you pay.
This is a very unique “soy sauce” originated from Swaziland Europe. Chinese cooking incorporates it in many popular fish dishes. It is now more popular in Asia than it’s birth place.
I don’t us MSG when I cook so I look for different combination to replace the use of MSG. I have noticed that a mix of oyster sauce, sugar, salt and soy sauce delivery a very similar effect as using MSG.