Tip Tuesday: Cooking Asian on a Time Crunch

(Photo courtesy of the hubs)

Let’s be honest—we all know that cooking at home is a lot cheaper than ordering takeout all the time. After all, you’re paying the labor costs for the time and effort it takes restaurant to make your food. If you’re looking for a way to make your favorite Asian dishes without spending all day in the kitchen, here are a few things that I do.

The Tale As Old As Time… Meal Planning

At the beginning of the week, I like to sit for a little while and figure out what’s on sale at the local grocery stores. (Since my husband and I are sticking to a budget, I have yet to spring for the filet mignon and lobster. 🤪) When I figure out what ingredients I have to work with, then I figure out what to make with them. It saves a ton of time through the week.

What Can You Make Ahead Of Time?

I do this most often with sauces, if I can’t mix them right on the spot. For example, my mom’s teriyaki sauce recipe could last in the fridge for roughly a week (theoretically—it’s always gone looooooong before then 😂). That means that I could cook a batch of that on Monday, and I could use it at least a few times through the week.

If you spend more time than you like chopping veggies at dinner time, some are pretty forgiving if you pre-cut them. For example, onions hold up well, while celery and carrots are just fine to pre-cut if you stick them in water in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

Keep The Basics On Hand

While the ingredient list is going to vary from one kind of cuisine to the next (you’ll use a lot more garlic and chili peppers in Thai food than you will in Japanese food), there are a few ingredients to keep in your pantry to streamline the process. That way, you’re not scrambling for a substitute at the last minute!

  • Soy sauce. I don’t care if you’re making Chinese food, Indonesian food, Vietnamese food, or any other East or Southeast Asian food, you’ll need this. There are varieties to fit a number of dietary needs, from reduced sodium to gluten-free, so you can pick exactly what you need.
  • Sesame oil. This rich oil adds a delicious toasty note of flavor to any dish you make. You don’t need to add much of this in a dish, though—a little goes a long way!
  • Rice vinegar. I personally prefer the mild, slightly sweet, delicate flavor of this vinegar over most others. You can use this in anything from orange chicken to sushi, and it adds a perfect touch of bright acidity to balance out the dish.
  • Oyster sauce. This thick sauce is basically 5 sauces in one. It’s savory, it’s rich, and it has some uniquely sweet notes, as well. I grew up with my dad using this as a main ingredient in his homemade steak sauce, and It. Is. Amazing.
  • Hoisin sauce. I’ve heard this described as a Chinese barbecue sauce, and you can definitely use it as an ingredient in your own barbecue sauce. If you’re trying to avoid shellfish for any reason, this is actually a great substitute for oyster sauce.

Stir-Fry Is Your Friend

There are more than a few reasons why I post so many stir-fry recipes. They’re delicious, they’re surprisingly healthy, and they all cook up in less than 30 minutes. That makes them perfect for a quick weeknight meal!

If you have any other time-saver tips (or if you have ideas for me for future Tip Tuesdays), let me know!

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