Have you wondered what makes Asian cuisines absolutely delicious but complex? What is the secret to achieving the distinct flavors of spicy-, tangy-, sweet-, salty-, and/or sourness?

Below are seven popular Asian sauces and condiments that will take the taste of your food to the next level.

Fish Sauce

This could be probably not the nicest of all the choices you have in this list. I’ll tell you. Fish sauce isn’t really inviting in terms of its aroma. There’s something pungent but distinct fishiness in its sauce. But, don’t let your Asian cuisine experience go on without fish sauce as this do wonder on your meals.

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment literally made from fish, usually, anchovies that have been coated in salt and is usually fermented for several months up to two years. Compared to other sauces, fish sauce is lighter in texture, less thick and is usually lighter in taste.

It’s amazing how a single condiment transforms a meal’s taste into something so complex. There’s the saltiness, sweetness, briny feeling in that savory liquid.

Practically, fish sauce has been used as a substitute for table salt. Whenever something is bland, fish sauce is added to the table. Soup, noodles, porridge, whenever you feel like something is missing, fish sauce is a good option to add and transform your meal to the next level.

Again, some people might not like the strong smell of fish sauce. If you’re one of those people, here’s a list of fish sauce substitutes you can try.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce Plate

Sometimes called a Chinese Barbecue Sauce, hoisin sauce is generally used as a glaze or coating for meat dishes. Just like other sauces, this is also commonly used in stir-fries Vietnamese rice paper rolls, and an alternative dipping sauce.

In terms of texture, hoisin sauce is like an Asian version of tomato ketchup. It has a thick, fragrant sauce and usually darkly-colored in appearance but has a balanced sweet and salty taste, perfect for a classic marinade.

Hot Chili Oil

Made from dried hot chili pepper, chili flakes, or chili powder well-preserved in oil, this condiment is a great alternative to your standard hot sauce. It does a pretty good job of upgrading the heat on any savory recipe for a more intense feel.

This condiment has gained popularity over the recent years and is now made with several varieties. Other spices like garlic and paprika are added for a more flavorful hot chili oil.

I could say that the options for using this condiment are way so limitless. You can add hot chili oil to your dish to make it extra or ultra spicy or add a few drops to your plain soup, sea food or veggie or serve it on the side simply as a condiment.

Mirin

Who loves teriyaki? Teriyaki which is a famous Asian marinade is actually made from only four ingredients including mirin. You could have an idea by now how teriyaki got its distinct marinade flavor.

Mirin is a form of rice wine that is sometimes confused with rice vinegar but is both considered an essential condiment in Japanese cuisines.

Unlike rice vinegar which is naturally made to be sour, mirin has a sweet flavor, which makes a great pair with saltier sauces, like soy sauce or the Japanese soy sauce version, tamari.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce almost looks the same with soy sauce in terms of color but not for its consistency. Oyster sauce is usually thick and sticky and makes a great flavor additive for bland dishes.

This salty-sweet sauce is pretty popular as it is always used in Asian stir-fries. Not only that, but it also adds a delicious savory flavor to vegetables, noodle dishes, and marinades while enhancing its color and appearance. Dishes with oyster sauce look brighter which makes it more appealing to the senses.

Rice Vinegar Sauce

Sushi, anyone? Making sushi without rice vinegar is actually fine, but the thing is, will you achieve the traditional Japanese sushi flavor? To achieve this distinct Japanese cuisine, you need rice vinegar.

Compared to other vinegar, this one is less acidic and adds a mellow, sweet flavor to marinades, salad dressings, and sweet-and-sour dishes, perfect for Asian cuisines.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is one of the most ancient condiments among Asian cuisines, commonly an addition to stir-fries and a versatile ingredient that adds flavor to a wide variety of dishes. Soy sauce is usually salty but rich in flavor. A few teaspoons and there you have your upgraded dish.

Soy sauce may also come in different strengths of flavors, consistency, and color just like with the Japanese and Chinese varieties.

Usually, soy sauce is added to meat dishes for a marinade, as a seasoning for sautéing veggies, and as a dipping sauce. But, for many Asians, soy sauce is used as an alternative for salt. It serves as a flavor enhancer to a bowl of rice, stews, and soups, a dip for fried fish, pork stew, and again, anything you can see in the table.

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