11 Vital Kitchen Staples

” Chicken again?” Everyone remembers that aching feeling as a kid when dinner felt like the same meal over and over again. Home cooks fall into ruts-or let’s call them routines-just like everybody else.

Fear not. Armed with a few trusty staples, you can win this battle and dramatically improve whatever you’re making. Let these condiments, sauces and spices do the heavy lifting for you.

This Korean hot sauce has crept into the national spotlight as Korean cuisine became tremendously popular over the last couple years. Spicy and pungent, the centuries-old spicy chile paste is great as a condiment. Use it in place of Sriracha (yeah, we said it) and bring a whole new round of excitement to your taste buds. It’s not just a condiment, however. You can incorporate gochujang into the cooking process, too. Try these Spicy Pork Meatballs, Korean Fried Chicken or Kimchi Fried Rice and thank us later.

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Meet the condiment you never knew you were missing but will be hooked on once you try: Brooklyn Delhi’s achaar. A small-batch, Brooklyn-based operation, Brooklyn Delhi currently sells four varieties of achaar, which is basically like an Indian relish or chutney. Made from a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and oil, the sweet-and-spicy condiment can come in many flavors. From Brooklyn Delhi, you’ll find roasted garlic, rhubarb ginger and tomato and gooseberry. It goes great on rice and, of course, with Indian food, but you can also spread it onto a sandwich or stir it into a vegetable dish for an extra kick.

Ssäm Sauce
If you haven’t tried Momofuku’s ssäm sauce, you’re in for a treat. Made of miso, sake, soy sauce and rice vinegar, the special sauce is subtler than gochujang, so you can go ahead and use a lot of it. Pour it on everything from stir-fry to pizza (yup). With the flavors of David Chang’s empire in your kitchen, why wouldn’t you go wild?

Shiro Dashi
Dashi, the Japanese broth made from kombu and bonito flakes, is the basis of many Japanese soups. Shiro dashi is a concentrated stock that you can buy in bottles and use sparingly to add the umami flavor of dashi without going to all the trouble of making the stock. Add dashes to tofu or fried rice, but don’t stop at Asian dishes: Try adding a splash to mussels or any fish dish and be wowed by the transformation a few drops can make.

Custom Salts
While the debate rages on as to whether or not salt is good or bad for you, remember that a little bit of good salt goes a long way. So invest in some smoked salt, or pink Himalayan salt, or whatever you want and sprinkle it on dishes just as they come out of the oven or off the heat. Use it on desserts for that salty-sweet fix or sprinkle it on fruit. It’s about the least effort you can make to not only bring out the flavor in your food, but also deliver new flavors, depending on how creative you get with your salt choices.

If you don’t already have a jar of this spicy, Moroccan paste in your refrigerator, stop what you’re doing right now and go get one. While it can come in many varieties, typical ingredients consist of dried chiles; caraway, coriander and cumin seeds; garlic; olive oil; and lemon juice. Stir it into stews, smother roasted vegetables with it or try making this Harissa Yogurt to douse onto everything from potato salad to chicken. You’ll start craving the flavor and adding it to your eggs in the morning. Trust us.

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