I'm thinking maybe it'd be helpful to all of us with very busy lives to sort of create some shopping primers to help keep your fridge/pantries stocked with things that will make cooking easy. I'll start, but feel free to create a "Fill your pantry" list of your own with must-haves.
Alright, if you can't tell, we live for Asian-inspired food. I love Mexican and Italian food, but not the way I love Asian food. So, I thought I'd put together a little list of things it's helpful to have in your fridge/pantry for cooking Asian foods. Get thee to an Asian food store, my friends, and explore some new foods (if you haven't already). If you live near me (or want to come and visit), I'd be happy to take you myself and help you figure it out.
When you're at the Asian store, buy:
Dark soy sauce (buy the Kikkoman's, it's fine. But also get some good dark soy sauce, like Silver Swan. They taste different, and it's worth having two kinds)
Fish sauce (I'm sure Ernie could tell me what's in fish sauce, but I'm not sure I want to know. It's salty like soy sauce. And tasty. Get the kind that is very liquidy, like soy sauce)
Fresh garlic cloves
Mirin (cooking rice wine. sweet. it makes a good base for marinades)
Soba noodles (usually buckwheat)
Rice noodles (both fat and thin)
Rice Vermicelli noodles (good for soups)
Good jasmine rice (throw away that Uncle Ben's and buy some real rice, my friends)
Extra firm tofu
Toasted sesame seeds
There are other things you can buy — wasabi, miso paste, annato, etc. — but if you had all this in your pantry, you'd be prepared to make almost anything. I'll post some recipes over the next couple of days. We're trying a soup tonight that smelled so good when I made it last night.