Also known as laksa leaves, polygonum or daun kesum,they are traditionally added to spicy soup dishes. The spear –shaped leaves will wilt quickly once they are plucked from the stem. They have an intense fragrance reminiscent of lemon with hint of eucalyptus. There is no rdeal substitute, but a mixture of spearmint and coriander leaves or basil does approximate its flavor and fragrance.



Also known as kunyit, turmeric is a root similar to ginger but with a bright yellow to orange color and a strong woody flavor. Turmeric has antiseptic and astringent qualities, and stains permanently, so scrub your knife blade, hands and chopping board immediately after handling. Purchase fresh turmeric root as needed as the flavor fades after a few days. Substitute 1 teaspoon ground turmeric for 1 in (21/2  cm) of the fresh root. Turmeric leaves are used as a herb, particularly in Sumatra. There is no substitute.



Tofu or bean curd comes in various form. Soft tofu is silky and smooth but difficult to cook because it falls apart. Firm tofu holds its shape well cut or cooked and  has strong, slightly sour taste. Pressed tofu (often confusingly labeled as firm tofu) is a type of firm tofu with  much of the moisture extracted and is therefore much firmer in texture and excellent for stir-fries. Refrigerate fresh tofu enclosed in a plastic container submerged in water. Dried tofu skin is the dried skin that forms on top of boiling soy milk; it is dried and sold in sheets a wrapper. Of protein, riboflavin, calcium dan iron. They are low in cholesterol and sodium and are increasingly popular with health enthusiasts. They are sold in most health food stores and Asian  specialty shops+plain, marinated or smoked. Look for them in the refrigerator or freezer section.



Fermented soybean cake, a Javanese creation, made of compressed. Lightly fermented soybeans with a delicious nutty flavor. They can be fried, steamed or baked and are a rich source of protein, riboflavin. They are low in cholesterol and sodium and are increasingly popular with health enthusiasts. They ae sold in most health food stores and Asian specialty shops—plain, marinated or smoked. Look for the m in the refrigerator or freezer section.



Used as thickening agent, and sometimes in the making of fresh rice papers. Combined with rice flour, it adds a translucent sheen and chewiness to pastries. Available in many Asian food markets. Cornstarch may be used as a substitute.



The root of this plant (also known as cassava) and the tender green leaves are both eaten, though the leaves have to be cooked for at least an hour to remove the mild toxins. The root is grated and mixed with coconut and sugar to make sweetmeats. Fermented tapioca root is added to some dessert. While the dried root is made into small balls and used in the same away as pearl sago. Substitute spinach or water spinach for tapioca leaves.



Fresh sugar cane juice-extracted from the stalks by a crushing machine-is a very popular drink in Vietnam. In addition to the familiar uses of sugar cane, the peeled stalks are also used as skewers in cooking.


soy sauce

A very important condiment in Asian cooking. It is a brown liquid made by fermenting boiled soybeans and roasted wheat or barley. Asian countries such as China, Korea and Japan produce a number of varieties ranging in color from light to dark and in texture from thin to thick. Chinese dark soy sauce is extremely dark and thick. It has a much richer flavor and color due to the addition of molasses. Light or regular soy sauce is thinner, lighter in color and saltier and is the type most commonly used as type most commonly as a table condiment as well as for cooking. Sweet black sauce is a thick fragrant sauce used marinades and sauces. Sweet black soy sauce is not widely available in the West but can be approximated by adding ½ teaspoon brown sugar to 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce. Hoisin sauce also makes a good substitute. Another type of soy sauce, tamari, is black and has a slightly  smoky, full-bodied flavor that comes from the addition of wheat. Tamari is available in most Japanese stores and well-stocked supermarkets.

In Indonesia, thick sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) is most frequently used as a condiment. It is much sweeter and thicker than normal soy sauce. It has palm sugar and cane sugar molasses added.



A –star-shaped fruit, eaten raw and finely sliced. Young starfruit has a tart taste and is often served on the Vietnamese vegetable platter as a complement to grilled or fried foods.



An – 8-ponted dried pod encasing shiny black seeds with a strong aniseed flavor. The whole spice is usually used when cooking and is discarded before serving. Whole star anise keeps for a year in an airtight container.