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Seeds, Nuts, and Fruits Used in Asian Cooking

Seeds, Nuts, and Fruit Used in Asian Cooking

Asian cooks include seeds, nuts, and fruit in their dishes. Fortunately, now all these plant foods can be found in most American supermarkets. To prepare authentic Asian cuisine, it is necessary to be familiar with the various seeds, nuts, and fruits, and know how to use them.


poppy seeds - the color determines the use; the cream-colored ones are usually added to curry sauce as a thickening agent. The more familiar gray-blue seeds are mostly used in bread.

sesame seeds - (see photo below) - rich in aromatic oil and important in all Far Eastern cooking, these seeds are used whole or crushed into a paste. (I use sesame seeds in many American dishes).


candlenuts - these are not commonly found in American markets; raw ones can even be toxic. Candlenuts come from Indonesia and Malaysia; they should always be cooked. Almonds and macadamias can be substituted.

cashew nuts - while I ike them raw, in Asian cooking they are often fried first. They are used whole, chopped or made into a paste.

ginkgo nuts - usually found only canned in American markets. Commonly used in Japanese or Chinese cooking. In autumn in NYC, and here in Brooklyn, the streets are lined with Gingko trees, which are shedding - and the grounds are covered with leaves and gingko nuts.

almonds - often used in Indian recipes.

macadamia nuts - often used roasted or fried. I like them in their natural state. They are usually expensive in American markets. A better deal can be found in Asian markets.

peanuts - also known as groundnuts throughout Asia (and Africa too). Very often used in Asian cooking. I like peanut sauces served in Thai restaurants. For the best flavor buy them raw and roast yourself (photo below).


coconut - perhaps the easiest of all fruits to find. Has been sold in American markets forever. When you are buying a coconut, shake it to hear the liquid inside. Coconut milk and cream are used in many Asian dishes.

guava - this pear shaped fruit can be eaten like an apple. The seeds are edible as well. For cooking, only the pink or cream-colored flesh is used while the skin and seeds are discarded.

mangoes - excellent sweet mangoes come from India; also from Thailand and the Philippines. They should be firm when held but not hard, and the flesh should be fragrant. Mangoes are also easy to find in American markets. Indian markets also sell sour green mangoes which are used to make pickles and chutney.

kaffir lime - the dried peel can be bought packaged. It is used to add piquancy to chili dishes. The fragrant skin is often sliced and added to curries to make them more fragrant.

pomelo - looks like a grapefruit but is usually larger. Is eaten as is, or can be added to almost any salad.

quince - a fragrant fruit used in Asia as a vegetable. They are often filled with meat or used as a part of a stuffing mixture for seafood and poultry.

pot marigold - fresh petals give color and flavor to various cooked dishes, and also salads. Dried petals can be found in Asian markets.

Some of my favorite Asian dishes, (from when I lived in Korea and traveled throughout Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and China) with seeds, nuts, and fruits:

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Gado-Gado - Cooked vegetable salad with peanut sauce -  although a national dish of Indonesia, I had this dish in Malaysia. 

Laksa Lemak (Hot noodle soup with coconut milk) Malaysia - I had this in SIngapore - excellent! It also has candlenuts, and almonds. I had it with tofu and shrimps, no chicken.

Homok Talay (Mixed seafood in coconut milk) Thailand - also has kaffir leaves.

Jap Jae (also spelled Chap Chae) Warm rice noodles with vegetables - Korea - an absolute favorite dish from when I lived in Korea. Has sesame seeds. In Korea the noodles are made with yam flour. Excellent!

Various Satays (skewered meat, poultry, shrimps) served with peanut sauce.

And always room for dessert:

Mamuang Kuo Nieo (Mango with sweet glutinous rice)! Lovely! Fruit is usually dessert in Asian countries.

Happy eating!

Peanuts/Sesame Seeds

peanuts/sesame seeds

peanuts/sesame seeds


Valene from Missouri on March 17, 2016:

I've always wanted to try cooking with Kaffir lime leaves, but I don't know where to find them. None of the Asian stores here seem to have them.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on September 12, 2011:

I'm with you there sharwhatuknow - talk about good food and I am there. Thanks for commenting.

sharewhatuknow from Western Washington on September 11, 2011:

@BkCreative, that is why I am such a fan of Asian cuisine. The food and the way it is prepared is so healthy and is delicious.

Ok, enough of talking about food, I am going to send myself into a feeding frenzy during supper. LOL !!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on September 11, 2011:

It was such a pleasure sharewhatyouknow - eating the cuisine in Asia. In fact while I lived in S. Korea - I ate as much as I wanted yet my cholesterol went down 40 points in 3 months - and my weight went down. They don't eat processed foods like we do. Food is in season, locally grown and it is not a dairy and bread based diet.

Love sesame seeds on stir fry!

Thanks for commenting!

sharewhatuknow from Western Washington on September 10, 2011:

I would just love to visit Asia one day and certainly would love to try authentic Asian cuisine.

Sesame seeds are excellent on the stir fry vegetables that can be bought in American stores.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 18, 2011:

Such a great idea. I am so glad to read about this move to natural healing and preventive medicine. You are not in the USA unfortunately - we need far more of this type of healing. I'll look for more about your center and I will spread the work.

Thanks for writing!

Jammu and Kashmir Medicinal Plants Introduction Centre on January 17, 2011:

The Jammu and Kashmir Medicinal Plants Introduction Centre, has recently embarked upon a vigorous programme of cultivation about 50 species in its nurseries at its centres at Pulwama, Ramban, Kargil and Gulmarg. Some of the important species being cultivated in this programme include : Oak-Quercus robur Colchicum Luteum,Saffron Bulbs (Crocus sativus Linn), Marijuana-Cannabis cashmiriana, Hawthorn berries/seeds(Crataegus oxycantha), Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Celosia Linn, Pyrethrum, Malus communis, Prunus armeniaca, Prunus serotina, Cedrus deodar, Aeaxulus indica Colebr, Capsicum annum, Ginkgo biloba Seeds,Wild Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Pomengranate , Sweet Appricort, Apple, Kewi, Plum,Lukat, Peach, Almond, Walnut Grapes, Sweet Chestnut, Ginkgo biloba plants, Althaea officinalis, cypress cashmiriana seeds,Ceratonia siliqua,Viola serpentine cashmiriana (Bunafsha), Dioscorea deltoidea, Saussurea costus cashmiriana, Gladiolus bulbs ,Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), Beldona seeds, Kuth (Saussuria lappa),Phytolacca acinosa,Rosmarinus officinalisetc, Rosemerry etc.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on May 16, 2010:

Thank you so much my dear friend. I love good healthy food that is tasty and fresh - and all locally grown. It made such a difference. I certainly had fun eating my way around Asia and would love to do it again. It energized me! And thanks for the rating!

alexandriaruthk from US on May 16, 2010:

I miss coconuts BK, my you should be an Asian you know more my dearest friend, Maita I rated it up!

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