Exciting stockpiling ingredients
March 11, 2020 12:12 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are taking social distancing very seriously, so we need to stock our cupboards. We have a bunch of food already, but it strikes me that this is a great opportunity for us to learn to cook new at-home cuisines that are well suited to working with stockpiled ingredients. We are a vegetarian household. I'm particularly interested in Indian and Japanese cuisine, but I'm excited to try out anything that works well at the intersection of vegetarian and stockpile-friendly (as few fresh ingredients as possible). What should we be stocking up on?
posted by simonw to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
* pulls up chair and sits down *

I've poked my own nose into Japanese cooking in the past, and looked into similar "what pantry items can I get" research (albeit for different reasons). The web site Just Hungry (and the sister site Just Bento) are a great place to start; she even has a "basics pantry list", and much of what's on there is shelf-stable and I've used most of those items.

I would add various kinds of noodles to that list, because if you have noodles and broth, you can throw just about anything else in that and DIY a soup that way. Noodles can also be stir-fried and used as the base for a....stir-fry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on March 11, 2020

How about try your hand at pickling? Both Indian and Japanese cuisine do a lot of pickling, although a bit differently then what's done in "the West". It's a way of turning your perishable vegetables into something that'll last a bit longer.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:36 PM on March 11, 2020

Here's what I keep stocked as I love Japanese cooking.

Sushi rice
Rice vinegar
Tonkatsu sauce (often this is called "stir-fry sauce"), soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
Sesame oil and seeds
Onions, ginger, tofu, garlic, seaweed
Curry powder (mmm, katsu curry)
Panko breadcrumbs (mmm, katsu curry)

Hm, not sure what else I'm forgetting. Lately I like just frying some noodles with one tbsp mirin/one tbsp soy sauce (adjusted up down based on volume).
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:38 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

We did our shopping last week, and while we're not vegetarian, things we got that might work for you were:

shelf-stable tofu
curry pastes (as opposed to curry powder)
dried mushrooms
tortillas and naan (to freeze)
cans of coconut milk (for curry)

Stuff we already have that fit Japanese and other East and South Asian cusines:

shichimi togarashi (a seasoning good on rice, eggs, whterver you like)
ginger root in the freezer (defrost in water; gets vaguely goopy on the surface, but you're mincing it and cooking anyway so the texture doesn't matter. you could cut it up first for an easier time of it)
lemongrass stalks in the freezer
Makrut lime leaves in the freezer (Thai flavoring--often sold under the offensive name 'Kaffir lime')
about a billion different kinds of rice
kombu (to make quick dashi)
red and white miso, which will stay in the fridge for a long time
dried chiles of various sorts
peanuts and peanut butter, to use for peanut sauce, or stand in for peanut sauce
various frozen vegetables for stir-fries and curries
garam masala
posted by telophase at 12:38 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of vegetarian Ethiopian wat (stew) dishes! They often use onions, lentils, potatoes/sweet potatoes, cabbage, garlic etc. most of which keep for weeks on the counter and months in the fridge. I'm not an expert by any means, but the spices I generally see in these recipes are berbere mix, cardamon, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, so you could pick up those if you don't have them. They're usually eaten with injera, which is made with teff flour and all-purpose flour.
posted by brook horse at 12:51 PM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Rancho Gordo beans are having themselves a social distancing moment in the sun, but they are truly exceptional and well worth the (slight) premium.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:52 PM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Dried shiitake mushrooms (or similar variety) are vital for making a lot of Japanese food vegetarian-style as a substitute for bonito. Kombu is really important, too. A simple vegetarian dashi is just kombu and dried mushroom simmered together.

I keep on hand short grain rice in white and brown (because I'm fussy like that), mirin, sake of drinking quality, light rice vinegar, dried mushrooms, kombu, tamari (I can't explain it, I just think it tastes better than soy sauce, but this is controversial), brown miso (this is a taste thing, too, you might prefer white), toasted sesame oil (vital!!), sheets of nori, lots of sesame seeds, umeboshi paste in a squeezy tube (fussing with the pits of the whole fruits is annoying), furikake sprinkles, instant curry block. There's a bunch of other non-vegetarian and perishable stuff also, like fish sauce and worcestershire sauce and bonito and tofu and scallions and ginger.
posted by Mizu at 1:02 PM on March 11, 2020

Borscht! You can get little packets and canned sliced beets and it is delicious and is very shelf stable.
posted by corb at 1:07 PM on March 11, 2020

Oh, I forgot about panko! Very important.
posted by Mizu at 1:38 PM on March 11, 2020

Whole grain berries: wheat, rye, barley, etc. More fiber, nutrition and flavor than processed grains.

I like to mix and match and serve them as a side/pilaf type thing, or sub them in for rice in rice dishes.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:38 PM on March 11, 2020

What we had at home always as a Japanese family was (similar to mizu):
Tofu, soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes, bulldog sauce, green onions, nori, umeboshi, ponzu, curry in a box, rice, miso paste, udon and soba noodles, Napa cabbage, ginger, garlic. I have toasted sesame seed oil but we never did at home. We often also had gyoza skins (I often have them in my freezer) and raw chicken and eggs.
posted by umwhat at 2:41 PM on March 11, 2020

Dried tofu rolls (dozens of kinds)
Dried gluten sponge
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2020

Best answer: A tip I see a lot for recipes (like many Indian ones) that begin with browning onions for a long time is to chop and cook down many pounds of them all at once, freeze them in ice cube trays, and then use a few cubes as the base of a recipe.

If you do that, you stock up on jarred garlic-ginger paste and canned tomatoes, and you make sure you have plenty of whatever spices you use regularly, you'll have the convenient-for-storage basis for a lot of recipes. That all plus beans/lentils and rice would keep you going all on its own in a pinch. You can add pickle and whatever fresh or frozen vegetables are convenient to make things more interesting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I make this lentil dal in enormous quantities and never grow tired of it.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:21 PM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Indian and mostly-vegetarian here. Rice and dried lentils are super stockpile-friendly and easy to cook!

Rice is often just cooked plain. Lentils can be boiled with salt and finished with: in 1 tbsp of oil, fry a few mustard and/or cumin seeds (about 0.5 tsp each) till they sputter, add 0.5 tsp turmeric powder, turn off the heat, mix into the cooked lentils. The "finish" is pretty much flexible, so experiment a little, see what you like.
posted by splitpeasoup at 4:47 PM on March 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Japanese curry cubes are delicious and totally stockpile friendly.
posted by slightlybewildered at 8:49 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Have you seen this Ask.me?

Curry powder is a combination of spices, and if you buy the separate spices, you can combine them yourself to find the flavors you like best and make really good curries that are not all the same.
I use: ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, dry ginger, dry mustard, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, ground chilies, pepper flakes, clove, pretty much in order of amount used
I seldom use: fenugreek(very common in traditional Indian curries), paprika (mild red pepper), cinnamon, caraway.
Rice and beans are the ultimate shelf-stable foods, so Indian foods are a great option. Get a large container of plain yogurt and whatever vegetables you like to add, esp.tomatoes - canned are fine. You'll want onions and maybe frozen spinach. Winter squash like butternut keeps well, carrots, cabbage, sweet and white potatoes. You can use meat, or not.

Naan is not hard to make. I don't eat dairy and make it without yogurt. If you can get some fresh cilantro, it keeps well in a glass of water in the fridge and is really good on flatbread with some oil, garlic, and salt.

You could plant some herbs in pots; they come up pretty fast if you have sun.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 PM on March 11, 2020

Yogurt isnt exactly a pantry staple but it lasts a good long time - everything else that goes into this delicious yogurt-based Kadhi is extremely shelf stable (chickpea flour, spices, ghee) and very easy (although hing and fenugreek are less common). I found i had to let it boil a bit longer than the 10 minutes in the recipe but that could have been the fine-ness or age of my chickpea/gram flour. Its really a personal preference about your desired thickness at that point. As the author notes its sometimes/frequently eaten with pakoras floating in it but is just as tasty over some plain rice.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:29 AM on March 12, 2020

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