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22 Common Herbs and Spices in Asian Cuisine


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Common Spices in Asian Cuisine

Common Spices in Asian Cuisine

What Herbs and Spices Are Used in Asian Cuisine?

People today are cooking more Asian cuisine than ever before, and it's important to know the basic ingredients to make the most authentic dish possible. I've made a list of common seasonings separated into herbs and spices.

Common Herbs

  • Chilies
  • Chinese chives
  • Cinnamon (and cassia bark)
  • Fresh coriander (aka cilantro)
  • Curry leaves
  • Fenugreek
  • Galangal
  • Ginger
  • Golden Needles
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Lemongrass
  • Star Anise
  • Thai Basil

Common Spices

  • Green Cardamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Five-spice
  • Nigella
  • Seven-spice
  • Turmeric

Read on to learn more about each one!

1. Chilies

You can find large chilies, medium chilies, and bird's eye chilies in Korean cooking. If you're not used to cooking with these peppers, remove their inner tissues to eliminate most of the hotness. This way, you can still get a milder version of the same flavor. I do like the hot chilies, but just know that it can be very powerful!

Chinese Chives

Chinese Chives

2. Chinese Chives

Chinese chives are typically more pungent than the ones commonly found in the market, which are European chives. They're bought fresh and chopped whole (flowers and all) to be used in stir-fry dishes and spring rolls.

Cinnamon Quills (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)

Cinnamon Quills (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)

3. Cinnamon (and Cassia Bark)

Know that the cinnamon you buy in an American supermarket is most likely cassia bark. True cinnamon is from Sri Lanka, and I've found it in Asian markets labeled as "Cinnamomum zeylanicum." They are rolled-up quills, which are better than the ground kind because they're more flavorful and last longer.

Cassia bark is related to cinnamon and comes from other parts of the world. It is usually used in large pieces for flavoring and can be easily picked out of the dish. Cinnamon is typically preferred for sweet dishes.



4. Fresh Coriander (Cilantro)

You may have to ask for fresh cilantro in American markets. You'll have to find the more mature plants used in Asian cooking in Asian supermarkets. Thai cuisine uses the roots, leaves, and stalks to make green curry paste. In Indian and Chinese cuisine, utilizing just the leaves is preferred.

5. Curry Leaves

Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. They can be used either fresh or dried.



6. Fenugreek

The fresh leaves are used extensively in Indian cooking. The dried leaves are called "methi."

7. Galangal

You may see galangal in a market and mistake it for ginger. Galangal has a series of rings around it, but fresh ginger is smoother. This herb adds an aromatic bitterness to Thai dishes and is known as 'ka' in Thai markets. I recommend you buy it in a dried form.



8. Ginger

Ginger is a popular ingredient and sold in most markets. It's highly recommended you use only fresh ginger because the flavor and aroma are well worth it! It is universally used in Asian cooking, but it's also a great way to freshen up the air in your home. All you have to do is peel, chop, and boil it to create a refreshing aroma!

9. Golden Needles

Golden needles come from the tiger plant and are easily found in Chinese grocery stores. Make sure to soak them in hot water before using them in your dishes.

10. Kaffir Lime Leaves

These fragrant leaves are found in Thai markets. You can use them whole or shredded and mixed into a paste.



11. Lemongrass

Lemongrass is an essential ingredient in Thai cooking that can be purchased in Thai and specialty markets. It gives a citrus-like sourness to Thai dishes.

12. Star Anise

Easily found in American supermarkets, this dried star-shaped fruit is a member of the magnolia family. It has a pronounced aniseed flavor and can be used whole or ground. Star anise is native to China.

13. Thai Basil

There are at least three varieties of basil used in Thai cooking, so it's important for you to choose and buy the right one because they all taste different.

14. Green Cardamon

Green cardamon is native to Southern India but is now cultivated in tropic areas. To add a subtler flavor to a dish, remove the cardamons before serving.

15. Cloves

You can easily find cloves in all American supermarkets, which is convenient because they are used in many parts of Asia. They can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but make sure to remove whole cloves before serving a dish.

16. Ground Coriander

Ground coriander is easily found in American supermarkets, but the seed form is found in Asian markets. The seeds are dry-roasted before they are used in cooking. Ground coriander will lose its fragrance if stored for too long, so only dry-roast the amount you need for a recipe at a time.

17. Cumin

There are two times of cumin: black and white. Black cumin is known as There is white cumin and there is black cumin (nigella). White cumin is easily found in markets in both seed and ground forms. White cumin is commonly used in Southeast Asia by being roasted, ground, and used to make curry paste. (See black cumin, or nigella, below.)

Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek Seeds

18. Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds are a very popular ingredient used to make curry pastes in Southern India.

19. Five-Spice

Five-spice usually consists of the following ingredients: cassia, star anise, fennel seeds, anise pepper, and cloves. This mix is aromatic and not too hot.

20. Nigella

Nigella is black cumin. Indian cooks usually prefer nigella over white cumin. It is found in seed form and typically roasted, ground, and mixed to make curry paste.

21. Seven-Spice

Seven-spice is also known as Japanese shichimi. It is a blend of fragrant spices that include: tangerine peel, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, chilies, and seaweed flakes. A hot blend of seven-spice also includes ginger and sansho pepper.

22. Turmeric

The warm yellow color of this spice makes us think of saffron, but you definitely don't want to use it as a substitute. Tumeric is sold all over the United States and adds a distinctive flavor to Asian festival dishes.


ur nan on May 08, 2019:


realtaexasgal@yahoo.com on August 26, 2018:

Obviously some of the spices above appear to be fresh. What is the shelf live of fresh herbs and can they be dried or frozen?

Thank you.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 17, 2013:

So true Ann Lizbeth - quality and freshness are everything. I've been disappointed many times buying these spices in local markets. We also lose the benefit of their nutritional value when they are old or poor quality. Thanks for writing!

Ann Lizbeth on December 09, 2011:

Thanks for the fine information. The taste of everything depends on how good your spices are . It is hard to find good quality Asian Spices here in the US. Best are coming from Asia and I found a good Spices store on eBay


BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 01, 2011:

Thanks for the link to 24caratspices. I'll leave it here so others can check it out.

Michale, tell me what ka is.

Michal on November 30, 2011:

Is there an alternative to ka? I can't find it locally.

indian spices on November 22, 2011:

I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me,and I am completely satisfied with your website.All comments and articles are very useful and very good.

Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in turn you are sharing with each one!…

a href="http://www.24caratspices.com" title IndianSpices Indian Spices

Spices on November 14, 2011:

I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me,and I am completely satisfied with your website.All comments and articles are very useful and very good.

Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in turn you are sharing with each one!…


organic spices on November 07, 2011:

hi i am new to this site .i am going to try this recipe right now after seeing.hope comes out good.Thanks for sharing.


BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on April 15, 2011:

Great info to share. Thanks a lot!

Varninda on April 14, 2011:

Hello BKCreative,

We have some nice Malaysian cooking Recipes. Just go to our website:TasteofMalaysia.biz then click on the link "Recipes"

Wish you good luck!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 02, 2011:

Thanks for adding it to the list, kulatunaga!

kulatunga on February 02, 2011:

Why you do not enter black peppercorn as Asian spice?

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on July 31, 2010:

Thank you revolving spice rack. By the way, I like your name. Thanks too for writing!

revolving spice rack on July 31, 2010:

Nice hub! I so much love asian spices for my cooking

revolving spice rack on July 31, 2010:

Nice hub! I so much love asian spices for my cooking

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on June 26, 2010:

Thanks so much Maita. I love all the herbs and spices used in cooking. So health-giving! Thanks for the up rating!

prettydarkhorse from US on June 26, 2010:

I love this hub, I didn't see this before, rating it up, Maita

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on May 20, 2010:

I'm so glad you came across it too DeBorrah K. Ogans and glad you found it helpful. Thanks so much for your comment and good wishes!

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on May 19, 2010:

BkCreative, Nice Hub! I am glad I came across this one! I thoroughly enjoy great Asian Cuisine! This will be helpful!

Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on March 11, 2010:

I always respond mruduveni jones! I love communicating with other hubbers - it is such a great writing community! You are so welcome and of course I am following you and will keep up with all your writing!

mruduveni jones from Denver on March 11, 2010:

Oh didn't expect you would respond. Thank you so much! You are welcome too! Glad to meet you also.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on March 10, 2010:

Thanks so much for all the information mruduveni jones. Our access to all the great Indian herbs and spices are a bit limited unless we get to a major Indian market (and know what we are doing). You have provided all the information.

Many thanks!

mruduveni jones from Denver on March 10, 2010:

Like white cumin and black cumin, there are green cardamoms and Black cardamoms, Black cardamoms are bigger in size and are used especially in some of the exotic Indian dishes like "Biryani".

How about including Mace,Peppercorns,Nutmeg, Bay leaves, carom seeds... too in your spice list?

Yellow Poppy seeds are also very common in south Indian dishes.

Mustard seeds which are little larger than poppy seeds are very common in Indian daily cooking.

Fennel seeds are also very common in many dishes.

mruduveni jones from Denver on March 10, 2010:

"Methi" is a Hindi(India's National language)word for Fenugreek leaves. Fenugreek seeds are tiny golden yellow colored seeds, with a bitter taste, and the leaves that grow out of those are cooked mostly with yellow lentils called "Toor dal" and also as a combination with other vegetables. The dried fenugreek leaves are called "Kasoori Methi" which has a great aroma and used as one of the spices in some of the exotic Indian Dishes.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 03, 2009:

Hello einron - thanks so much for sharing this info about lemon grass.

I had a great time in Malaysia and Singapore - loved the cuisine. But now I am more curious about the lemon grass drink and will look into it.

einron from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA on February 03, 2009:

You have mentioned most of the Chinese herbs. I like Lemon grass for we use it in curry in Malaysian and Thai curry. Lemon grass drinks help people who go for chemotherapy and radiation. Check it out.

BkCreative on December 07, 2008:

Thanks Jess, I'll correct that now! Although it is listed that way in a cookbook, further research shows it is a separate pepper.

Jess on December 06, 2008:

whoa 5 spice is totally different from sichuan pepper, it is completely different products...

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