ESSENTIAL CHINESE INGREDIENTS
A mainstay of cuisines the world over, in China, the pungent bulb has two functions, first as the key ingredient in Szechuan and northern Chinese dishes, and second for its medicinal properties as a tonic to counter the area's cold climate.
A natural digestive, the aromatic root of this subtropical flower also comes loaded with vitamin C and adds a spicy bite to Cantonese cuisine.
Along with cloves, fennel, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorn, the star-shaped licorice-scented bud of the Chinese magnolia tree is an ingredient in fivespice powder, used in barbecue and marinades. Freshens the breath, too.
ESSENTIAL KOREAN INGREDIENTS
These bittersweet seeds of the gingko tree - a plant botanists consider the oldest living thing on earth - are believed to promote long life, good luck and sexual prowess. Available canned at most Asian grocers or fresh from herbalists, gingko is used to season soups and stews as well as calm the nerves.
Dark-red serrated leaves widely known as shiso come from a plant related to mint and basil and taste like both. The leaves are available fresh or preserved and the crushed seeds are used to flavour bulgogi ribs.
Longer and thicker than mung bean sprouts, these sprouted legumes are high in protein and get served raw over meal-in-one stews like bibimbap or cooked in Seoul foodstyle pancakes.
ESSENTIAL VIETNAMESE INGREDIENTS
Cilantro to some, Chinese parsley to others, the leaves of this distinctive herb - "soapy" to naysayers - are widely used as a garnish throughout Southeast Asia.
A variety of spearmint, Vietnamese mint has small dark-green leaves that add tangy flavour to tossed salads and noodle soups.
Similar in shape when peeled to the white portion of a green onion, lemongrass is the edible portion of the citronella plant and provides the unique lemony taste found in pho.