If you thought you knew how to make instant noodles properly, chances are you were missing a crucial step, says Arthur Tong of Asian Staples, a new online hub for Asian pantry items such as rice, noodles, condiments, snacks and spices.
“Almost nobody talks about it – it’s not even on the manufacturer’s instructions. But it’s really important to drain and discard that greasy yellow water and use clean, boiled water to make your soup,” Tong tells Broadsheet.
Asian Staples is as much an educational experience as it is an online shop. For example, the entry for dried kelp is accompanied by detailed notes cautioning home cooks against heating the kelp quickly, or at all. (Instead, cold infusion is recommended: soaking five to 10 grams of kelp in room-temperature water for eight to 10 hours will result in a delicious stock.)
“When you go to an Asian grocery store, you don’t see plaques explaining ingredients. This is about taking the guesswork out of [cooking],” he says.
Asian Staples’ instructional approach isn’t a surprise. Tong also runs Tea Craft, a specialty tea company that’s been servicing top Sydney restaurants such as Mr Wong, Tetsuya’s and Sixpenny for 13 years.
When lockdown shuttered Tea Craft’s core customer base, Tong tapped into his contact list of chefs to find creative ways to promote his online grocery store. “I gave them a list of our ingredients and said, ‘Pick six and do whatever you want.’”
Chef Victor Liong of Melbourne’s Lee Ho Fook came up with a prawn and shitake mushroom rice-paper roll with XO sauce. Toby Wilson of Sydney’s Taco King at The George wrote a recipe for breakfast donburi. Other chefs include Mitch Orr from Sydney’s Cicciabella and Lillia McCabe from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, also in Sydney.
If you want to make one of their dishes, ingredients for the chef collaboration recipes can be bought individually or as a bundle. There are also recipes and ingredient bundles for fried rice, stir-fries, vegan noodle soup and the “Student Survival Bundle”, which includes five packs of cult Korean instant noodles Shin Ramyun, seaweed, canned mushrooms, fried shallots and garlic. You can search for goods by product type (such as “vinegar, cooking wines, oils”) or by cuisine (Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino – the list goes on).