As I promised in my last post, I have made a complete photograph-supported catalogue of my pantry, along with notes about items.
Looking at the items over and over as I photographed them, photo-edited them, titled them and captioned them, the following ten categories emerged:
- Chinese cuisine
- Japanese cuisine
- Thai cuisine
- Indian cuisine
- What do I do with this? Make more kimchi?
- Things I put in drinks
- Just use already
- Unique flavourings
- Staples & Condiments
I can’t imagine others care too much to read everything, but if you have been following along for this long, then I suggest you at least skip to the “Just use already” section. That is where the biggest challenges are.
I have a lot of Chinese pantry items, which is entirely no surprise to me. I’ve had a pantry full of Chinese items since I was a student living in Chinatown.
There are only two things in this section that I feel like I need to make an effort to use: the raw peanuts and the spicy chili crisp. I can see myself using the peanuts for various things, but I bought them for a specific recipe. If I don’t use the spicy chili crisp, then I am under utilizing my newest cookbook, Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes.
Ash taught me that you can add chili bean paste to lots of stuff for instant yum.
I bought spicy chili crisp because the Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes told me to.
Red bean chili paste AKA Doubanjiang. Necessary for a variety of Chinese sauces.
Black bean paste. Necessary for a variety of Chinese sauces.
Fermented black beans are not as stinky as advertised, at least, not to someone who likes washed aged cheeses.
Two or three Sichuan dishes and this bag of Chinese dried chilies will be used up.
This brand of Taiwanese rice is the tastiest rice I’ve found, with a buttery nutty flavour, but it’s totally inappropriate for anything but Chinese dishes, and requires a lot of lead time for soaking.
I will never be without Chinkiang vinegar again. I’d love to see what I can do with this outside of Chinese dishes.
This brand of Shaoxing rice wine is the cheap stuff for cooking. Apparently the good stuff is drinkable.
I’ve used some of this black fungus twice already. A little goes a long way, since they expand so much when hydrated.
My friend Daniel described a great way to prepare raw peanuts as a snack with Sichuan pepper, but I forget the method now.
I included sesame oil for completeness.
I included hoisin sauce to remember that I have it.
My Japanese pantry items fall into two categories: supporting ingredients to make a mean miso ramen with homemade ramen noodles, and a bunch of odd ball stuff. Maybe if I was the kind of person who made rice bowls, these items would make any sense.
Not cataloged: the plastic onigiri form that I bought but never opened.
I bought furikake for the first time recently. I used it once that same day.
Delightful! Though these particular black sesame seeds might be stale.
Spicy sesame oil is a yummy garnish for ramen.
When you bake sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in a low oven, you convert it to sodium carbonate, which is an ingredient in alkaline noodles AKA ramen noodles.
I impulse bought matcha soba noodles when I was picking up standard soba noodles one time.
I keep around a package of nori sheets to cut up as garnish in Japanese noodles or rice bowls.
I bought these bottles of tsuyu sauce to replenish my stock to have with udon, but I didn’t replenish my udon stock.
I bought panko flakes to make breaded deep fried mushrooms, but then made marinaded mushrooms instead.
I’ve had this tub of miso paste in my fridge for months, but it is still good. I should make miso ramen again.
I included Kikkomon soy sauce for completeness.
Geez, I have everything in stock but the fresh ingredients for another Thai sticky rice feast. I guess I should schedule one.
I should also finally make the recipe that called for split mung beans, and try to make the dessert sticky rice at least once.
There are two more items in this list that I could move to the “Just use already” section: pandan pudding mix, and the chicken curry sauce. That sounds like a weeknight meal right there.
I was really into sticky rice for a while. I should not give that up, or at least, not until this bag is done.
I bought this to make a sticky rice dish with, but then didn’t make it. Typical.
Red sticky rice is used in desserts, which require a lot of lead time to prepare, which is why I fear I won’t use this.
Combine this holy basil seasoning paste with minced meat as directed for a delicious “dip” for vegetables and sticky rice. Part of a Thai sticky rice meal.
Laab seasoning mix makes preparing laab at home dead easy.
I’ve had such great luck with other pastes and mixes from this brand, that I decided to try branching out and make my favourite soup, tom ka, at home sometime.
Combine this nam prik ong paste with minced meat as directed for a delicious “dip” for vegetables and sticky rice. Part of a Thai sticky rice meal.
I’ve had such great luck with other pastes and mixes from this brand, that I decided to try branching out. I have no idea what the flavour of this “Thai chicken curry sauce” will be like.
I prefer to buy Thai curry paste in these packets so I don’t have a big open jar to feel guilty about. This is the red variety.
I prefer to buy Thai curry paste in these packets so I don’t have a big open jar to feel guilty about. This is the green variety.
Turns out pork rinds are a standard accompaniment to a Thai sticky rice meal, which is why you find them in Asian shops.
I bought tamarind to make mango salad, which I have done twice but holy this is so much tamarind.
I use this occasionally in Thai cooking. It lasts forever.
This pandan pudding mix was an impulse buy during a shopping trip of purely impulse buys. When to make it?
Coconut milk is not something I have a problem using up. I always seem to have it in the wrong size, though.
I included fish sauce for completeness.
I recently committed myself to make rava upma and also a fish curry. I also bought dried mango powder, which I have not even researched how to use. So, yeah, I see at least three projects in this list.
I bought coarse semolina recently to make rava upma. Question: can I use this interchangeably with the Weizengrieß we eat for breakfast?
I bought black mustard seeds to make rava upma.
I bought raw cashews to make rava upma. I used up that bag for something else and bought this bag as a replacement.
These mustard leaves in curry sauce were an impulse buy when I was buying the things to make lentils one evening, but then the lentils were more than enough to feed us. They are labelled as ready-to-eat, so I should just eat them already.
Just before I committed to buying dried mango powder on impulse, I read that it adds a tangy sourness to dishes. Yes please!
I bought fish curry masala when someone I trust about Indian food told me that this is a trustworthy brand. I’ve liked fish curry when I’ve had it, but never order it because I think the probability of being disappointed is high.
I prepared this panch phoron following a recipe, not realizing that it has a name and you can just buy it ready-mixed. I have enjoyed it with lentils and potatoes.
I included mixed hot pickle to remember that I have them. I eat these with Indian foods, and occasionally with hard cheeses.
What do I do with this? Make more kimchi?
I could have called this section “Korean cuisine” but that would be a lie since all you can do with these things is make more kimchi. Last time I made kimchi, the smell during fermentation disgusted Fronx so much we never ate the kimchi, which is super sad.
Long story short, if you are looking to make kimchi, please consider taking my stock of salt and chili.
Bonus challenge: am I able to make anything else with the shrimp paste?!
I bought this huge bag of coarse sea salt to make kimchi. This was the smallest size you could buy.
I bought this huge bag of Korean chili flakes to make kimchi. This was the smallest size you could buy. I also used them to make chili oil once, but found them to be too mild for that purpose.
I bought shrimp paste for making kimchi. It is not actually a paste but tiny shrimps. You need only a tablespoon for every two cabbages worth of kimchi. How will I ever use this up?!
Things I put in drinks
Sorting the collection of pantry items, a section emerged: things I have for the purpose of putting in drinks. For the most part, I don’t need to be reminded to use these, but maybe I should remind myself to stop buying salty sweet things to put in drinks: four kinds is enough!
Oh, and maybe I could make a Moroccan stew sometime instead.
I put preserved lemons at the bottom of sweet fizzy drinks and cocktails, plus I will often add a teaspoon of the brine. Maybe I should actually cook something with them.
I put Chinese salted plums at the bottom of sweet fizzy drinks and cocktails. Very good with ginger beer.
I put salted apricots at the bottom of sweet fizzy drinks and cocktails. If this seems weird, note the glass pictured on the label.
I put Thai pickled limes at the bottom of sweet fizzy drinks and cocktails.
I picked up this instant matcha ginger latte mix in the summer. We mixed it hot and served on ice, which was tasty!
I was way into making tea with powdered lemon peel two years ago.
Celery salt is a key ingredient in everyone’s favourite tomato-based cocktails, and useless for pretty much anything else. Correct me if I am wrong.
I bought this matcha tea powder for mocktail experiments.
Okay, so these are ready to eat so I should just fucking eat them. Fuck yeah.
I bought these sardines with white wine because that fish is so cute! And because I like having tinned fish around, especially sardines.
Mmm sardines with lemon. The thing about sardines is they aren’t cheap, but the best way to eat them is straight from the tin. They are luxury lazy food.
Roasted red peppers are a ready-to-eat food. How are these not eaten yet?
These baked beans are very likely to be eaten, and when they are it will likely be straight from the can on buttered toast.
Just use already
Here it is. The real reason I did an inventory.
This is the list of items that make me feel like a hoarder. I save things for a special time instead of diving in. Or I buy one ingredient on impulse with a grand plan and then I promptly forget about that plan until I see the item kicking around a drawer.
These are the things I can’t let go of. Until I see that it expired. Or worse, it has no expiry but after five years I finally toss it. (Goodbye, gooseberry jelly that bob made. I’m sorry.)
I vow to use, prepare, or otherwise make something with each of these jewels.
This Instant tapioca package doesn’t have an expiry date on it, but I think it might pre-date Fronx. Do you think it’s still good?
I bought this soybean paste for a reason. I just have no recollection what that reason was. I think maybe something in Hot Sour Salty Sweet.
Look how big and glossy and beautiful these ancho chiles are! I shouldn’t let them go to waste.
Apparently, long pepper used to be as common as peppercorns during the spice trading days. I bought these on impulse from the fancy spice shop in Zurich, with a vague plan to make something sweet yet spicy, like pepper shortbread.
I don’t even know if this bottle of St Lawrence Market churrasco chicken sauce is from last year, or even longer ago. Do you think it is still good? It has no expiry date …
I intended to use this clam bouillon to make Caesers.
I bought flattened rice on impulse from the fancy spice shop in Zurich when we were there in the spring.
I ordered cheese culture from Amazon to make curds.
I ordered rennet from Amazon to make curds.
Mike Wood gave me this peanut butter jar full of wild rice when he visited us just before moving from London back to Canada. He described a method for popping it like popcorn by dipping a sieve of it into hot oil.
I’ve been hoarding this canned pumpkin for so long that it’s past its due date. I think I can still use it if I use it this month.
I keep thinking I’ll make jelly. I’ve thrown away at least one box of pectin like this and one bag of pectin sugar since the last time I actually made jelly.
I think I bought dry yeast to make challah with, even though the other times I made challah I used fresh yeast. Hrmm.
This pumpkin butter was a gift from Kristin and Sebastian. I lost it among our other spreads.
Morgan gave us this can of Amanda “luksusrogn”, or “luxury roe”. Morgan suggests pan frying slices of it. According to the Amanda Seafoods website, ”The only limit is your imagination.”
These items are the ones that I think “Hey, I should use that!” when I see it while digging around when I am already in the middle of cooking, but they don’t make me think “Ugh, why haven’t I used that already?”
There are also some items in my uncatalogued spice collection that could go in this section, such as citric acid, berbere, fenugreek seeds, lemon peel. The rest of the things in jars, including Sichuan peppercorns and white sesame seeds, are likely to get used by way of the other items in the inventory.
I bought dried limes after popping into a shop called Iran Shop to see if they carry Persian sweet lemons. (They do, in season.) I put this in some soup recently, with delicious effect.
I admit I bought this hot mustard powder for the tin. I also swear I used to use mustard powder a lot but now never do.
I had such high hopes for you, cinchona bark. I still have unused bottles of tonic syrup. To be fair, even if I drank only my own syrup, I think I would have some left.
Kecap manis is Indonesian soy sauce. It is thicker, sweeter, and less salty than standard soy sauce. I bought it to go with tempeh. Turns out Fronx doesn’t really like tempeh.
Sara bought pomegranate molasses to make a delicious Persian chicken dish. I occasionally take it out and taste a few drops of it.
Staples & Condiments
And here is everything else. All this stuff I could have just left out, really. I expect to use this stuff, maybe not soon, but soon enough.
I wanted to include these items so I can know if I have them without checking. That said, I omitted flour, white sugar, neutral oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, handful of prepared mustards, jams, honeys, and teas.
I’ve drizzled this balsamic creme on a few things. I like having it around.
I must not let this Grade C maple syrup go to waste!
Michele left the rest of this tin of golden syrup here after making a pecan pie.
I swear yellow canned tomatoes are yummier than red canned tomatoes.
It is always good to have a can of chickpeas around to toss into a salad or throw in a curry for extra protein.
I don’t know why I photographed jasmine when I excluded all other tea.
This is some random brand of basmati rice that I picked up in an emergency once.
Fronx doesn’t like popcorn, and he looks at me funny when I eat it.
As you can tell from how much is already consumed, basmati rice is not in danger of being uneaten.
Fronx claims he bought this. Fine, but I like to have a box of Dutch cocoa powder around so you can surprise yourself by your ability to make cocoa.
Thai short grain rice is my favourite go-to fast cooking all-purpose rice.
I bought sticky rice powder as a gluten-free thickener. I’m not going to be upset if I don’t use this for anything else.
I try to keep a bag of dark brown sugar around in case I can’t find it in shops when I want it. It has a tendency to not always be in stock.
There is no way this Thai red chili sauce will go unused. Maybe I can do something else besides dip chicken in it, though.
I included worcestershire sauce to remember that I have it.
I included vanilla extract mostly for completeness. I am happy to have it when I need it. I used it three times in December.
Sugar beet syrup is what passes for molasses in Germany. It doesn’t go bad. I use it every now and the.
Rice vinegar is good to have around, even if you rarely use it.
I have no recollection if I bought peanut oil for a reason or not.
I included cider vinegar to remember that I have it.
I included red wine vinegar to remember that I have it.
This will get eaten by Fronx no problem. Sambal oelek is a go-to sandwich spread for him.
Next step: actually make a plan to use everything
Now that cataloging the inventory is done, I’ll research recipes and make plans for the items.