8 Items I Always Have In My Pantry

Pantry Essentials, Pantry staples, Things I have in my pantry

I pride myself on keeping a well stocked pantry at all times. One because I cook 5 - 6 days out of the week and two because I never want to be one of those people who has to scramble and buy out the entire grocery store right before impending bad weather. Fresh produce is always a must since I try to have vegetables with every meal. I buy whatever is in season. Right now it's amaranth greens.  Fresh items that I usually have around to enhance my dishes include garlic, onions, shallots, cilantro and lemons/limes. And I always make sure to stock up on staples like brown basmati rice, forbidden rice, noodles, steel cut oats, black beans, chickpeas and crushed tomatoes in case I have to whip up something quick with whatever's around. The meals I prepare are probably about 85% Asian style though Mexican has been gaining favor in our house of late. As far as ingredients that I like to cook with, these are 8 items other than the basics that I regularly reach for.

People probably often associate miso with miso soup. What they might not know is that this fermented soybean paste is a natural source of healthy probiotics which makes it beneficial for digestion.  I love to have miso soup for breakfast but I also take advantage of it's versatility and incorporate miso in my cooking. We have miso cod pretty frequently and miso butter garlic noodles are a regular side dish. Miso also makes for a simple and tasty Asian style dressing when mixed with a little soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. I tend to prefer red miso over white miso because it has a more robust flavor profile.

This product is made by a process in which cubes of soybean curd (tofu) are preserved in rice wine and oil. It's very salty and the slightly funky flavor which I liken to blue cheese is probably an acquired taste but my husband and I both grew up with this and love it. My favorite method of cooking leafy green Chinese vegetables is to sauté them with garlic and the briny flavor of fermented  bean curd creates the most delicious umami flavor bomb sauce. It pairs particularly well with dark leafy greens especially those which are slightly bitter. We also use this in our hot pot sauce. My husband actually likes to have this with plain congee but that's a little too strong for me. It comes spicy or non-spicy. I use the non-spicy version.

Typically made with rice wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce, bonito flakes, seaweed and yuzu juice, ponzu can be likened to a citrus flavored soy sauce. It's fresh tangy flavor is ideal for adding a touch of brightness to any dish. I like to use it in marinades because it works equally well for meats chicken or fish. It's also delicious as a dipping sauce. My favorite way to use it is to add a splash onto roasted vegetables to wake up their flavor.  It's particularly good on asparagus and portobello mushrooms.

Kewpie Mayonnaise is a cult favorite of many foodies and count me among the obsessed.  It's the only mayonnaise we use in our house. Made with premium egg yolk and rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, Kewpie Japanese mayo has a creamier and smoother consistency than regular mayo. This makes it perfect as a thickener for dressing or sauces. It also works well as a binding agent for panko crusted chicken and fish, locking in moisture and flavor. And it makes a tasty dipping sauce on it's own or mixed with Sriracha or Tabasco for a little kick. My favorite with fries! This product does contain MSG which I actually ranted about on Twitter the other week because Chinese food is often unfairly maligned for it. Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid in the human body. There is MSG in Doritos, KFC, powdered soup mixes, packaged salad dressings and countless processed foods.

I try to avoid sugar but I'm okay with fat, as long as it's good fat. Ghee is a clarified butter in which the fat is rendered from the butter to separate the milk solids and water. This makes it more heart friendly with anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits. This brand of ghee is a personal favorite of mine because it's grassfed with a clean, sweet buttery flavor and luscious texture. I use in it in all my recipes in place of butter. It has a high smoke point means it can be used on high heat. I particularly like to use it to baste roasting fish, in pasta dishes and in soy sauce butter potatoes.

Tahini is a smooth sesame seed paste with a delicate roasted sesame flavor. My go to method for it is in a garlic lemon tahini dressing that I drizzle on roasted vegetables or use on salad. To make: mix 2 parts tahini, 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part avocado or olive oil, 3 parts water with 1 clove grated garlic. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Tahini is also an integral ingredient in my sesame noodle recipe. And sometimes I do like to make my own hummus. It's actually not that hard and tastes so good.

I make my own salad dressings and when I'm not using balsamic, I use coconut vinegar. I also like to use in when I make dijon dressing. Coconut vinegar has a lighter and less tart flavor than apple cider vinegar which my husband finds too sour. There is no coconut flavor and the taste is quite refreshing.

Manuka honey is superior to regular honey because of it's rich vitamin and mineral content and potent antibiotic and anti-inflammatory qualities. I don't actually cook with manuka honey regularly but I do use it in recipes that call for a touch of sweetness. I take it with lemon and water at the first sign of a cold and it has helped to fend them off. This honey is also very effective for calming stomach issues and soothing cuts and burns. And it makes a wonderful hydrating and brightening DIY facial mask in combination with matcha green tea and lemon juice.

Do you use any of these? What are some pantry staples in your house?

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Blackswan said...

Japanese mayo & fermented beancurd are 2 of my favourites too! xoxo

Doctor Anne said...

I have my pantry stocked all the time as well, but out of the ones you mention here only Miso paste is a staple at our house.

Pilar said...

Over the last few months I've been hearing so many reviews about Manuka Honey, especially for hair care. Thanks for introducing these products! Have a great week Rowena!

Ivana Split said...

These are great things to have in one's pantry. I always have most of these at home too. It is wonderful that you cook so often. You're doing a great thing for your health. When we cook for ourselves, we can have a better control of what we are doing. Prepacked food is full of additives so using fresh vegetables when we can is the way to go. I always say that I'm fortunate to come from culture where cooking is valued so I could pick it up early on in my life. My husband likes eating out, but I genuinely enjoy cooking so we eat at home fairly often. I'm not the best with preparing meat because I never developed a taste for it, but I'm pretty good with traditional dishes that include it. I'm much better when it comes to preparing fish. Definitely a fan of fish and anything that comes from the sea really. I remember what you said about miso soup so I bought it. It's prepacked so I'm sure it's not as healthy as the home made one but better than nothing, right?

I haven't tried Manuka honey but I have been using organic honey as a face masks for a few days now. I had a bad acne breakout earlier this week and honey has definitely helped me with that. I also tried honey and yogurt mask and was very happy with results. I'm planning to try honey and lemon mask but I heard we shouldn't do it more than once a week because lemon can be drying.

Emmylou said...

Oh my gosh! I am obsessed with Kewpie mayo! My husband thinks I'm crazy coz I can eat anything with it:D And yes to miso paste as well. I like making miso soup from scratch, and the kiddos love it...well, two out of the three:P
Happy Easter Monday, chingu:)

ALLIE NYC said...

Oooo I wanna come over you house for dinner! Hahaha just kidding. When I am freelancing I cook at home more. I keep stock items and then shop once a week for the rest. When I am working full-time I do not cook at home that much

Allie of


I cook almost every day so I get it. I like posts like these because it's interesting to see what others use and have in their pantry. I've not done one of these posts in a while but I use everything on your list except Kewpie Mayo, but I am not keen on mayonnaise, to begin with, and I don't use honey unless I bake for others. We use a lot of various fermented items, peppers and chillis so I usually wait to visit my parents and raid their spice cabinets because I cannot get everything in the commercial shops, plus my father makes the best harissa sauce. I mostly cook, African, Asian, and German food, sometimes Irish. Thanks for sharing Rowena, and have a great start to the week, dear! :)

Shireen L. Platt said...

I've always thought ghee is unhealthy and should be avoided with all cost or at least that's what my mum kept telling me. Definitely learned something new with this post, Rowena and red miso paste?! What! Had no idea there's such a thing and now I'm going to google miso butter garlic noodles recipe.

Carolyna's world said...

wow so many new ( at least for me) and interesting products. I know Tahini sauce- couple of weeks ago I had a chance to try them first time in my life. So unusual flavor.
Very interesting post my dear xx

Lena L said...

I can't wait to try fermented bean curd with vegetables! I think we share many favorites including kewpie mayo and red miso (I'm also interested in making miso garlic butter noodles. I will search if you've posted a recipe here). Ghee is probably the only thing I couldn't do - I tried more than a few but it wasn't for me.

Gabrielle said...

How fascinating! All of these are new inductions to me besides the Manuka honey! I love learning about what other people keep in their fridge/cupboards :) Hope you're having a lovely week so far Rowena!

aglassofice.com x

Kinga said...

I tried Tahini Paste :) I actually liked this :) But other product I didn't know:( Love your blog, such a amazing design<3

Jenny said...

This is such a great list of staples and I want to buy them all now after reading your post! I used to keep a tub of miso around for soup but I didn't know you could make so many other dishes with it! Fermented bean curd is a favorite of mine with congee, and now that I know I can cook with it too, I definitely want to pick up a jar next time at the supermarket, along with Kewpie mayo!

Jenny // Geeky Posh

sonia // daring coco said...

I love tahini paste. Also Kewpie mayonnaise is the best. I also love it with fries (or any kind of mayonnaise really). I can't eat fries without mayonnaise these days. Even though I know most people prefer ketchup, I much prefer mayonnaise, like an aioli.


Jo said...

What a great list Rowena! I have a bottle of tahini just sitting in my fridge because I've no clue what to eat it with. I will make note of your tips.

xo Jo


Jackie Harrison said...

I never try or seen coconut vinegar now I'm on a mission to look for it and try thanks.