Artful substitution


Have you ever gone all the way to the supermarket just to buy a particular bottle of sauce? Braved through traffic just to get a specific item, only to end up using it only twice in your life!

Yes, sometimes you need to go the extra mile if you want to cook your dish perfectly. But then again, sometimes it’s also possible to make do with what you’ve already got in your kitchen without making life so difficult for yourself.

Here are some easy substitutes that you can get away with.

Grilled salmon with a bit of teriyaki sauce tastes amazing. — FilepicGrilled salmon with a bit of teriyaki sauce tastes amazing. — Filepic

1 Teriyaki sauce

Used in Japanese cuisine, this particular thick and sweetish sauce is often used to cook chicken or fish.

It has a bold, tangy flavour that perks up your meat and vegetable dishes, and the paradox is, a bottle of store-bought teriyaki sauce never tastes the same as the sauce in Japanese restaurants anyway! You probably have better luck making your own: mix a couple tablespoons of good quality soy sauce with honey and/or brown sugar. Some add a bit of garlic and ginger powder for extra kick. Use this as a glaze over fish and grill – you’ll be amazed how good it tastes!

Mix your own black vinegar. — FilepicMix your own black vinegar. — Filepic

2 Black vinegar

Ran out of black vinegar for your jiaozi (Chinese dumplings)? No big deal, mix some white vinegar -

which is more commonly found in our kitchens than black vinegar - with some soy sauce. Voila! You can also enjoy other foods with home-made black vinegar such as grilled fish, steamed chicken and noodles.

Sometimes, you can replace yogurt with milk in your cake. — FilepicSometimes, you can replace yogurt with milk in your cake. — Filepic

3 Milk in cake

Some cake recipes call for the addition of yogurt to add moisture to

the cake so that it’s more airy. Not everyone has yogurt at home, but most households will probably have milk which they use for coffee and tea. You can replace yogurt with milk, and the cake will probably turn out alright as the taste of yogurt or milk is usually not pronounced. That is, unless you’re specifically making a yogurt cake!

Duck egg can be used to replace chicken eggs in cake. — FilepicDuck egg can be used to replace chicken eggs in cake. — Filepic

4 Duck egg

Most cake recipes use eggs. If you’re allergic to eggs, that means you’ve effectively cut a big part of

dessert from your diet. But all is not lost, as you can still use duck eggs because strangely, some people who react adversely to chicken eggs can get away with eating duck eggs. It works the same way, except that the cake may not be as fluffy or rise as much, but it’s not crucial as long as you add a bit more baking powder or sodium bicarbonate.

Pine nuts have a creamy, nutty flavour. — FilepicPine nuts have a creamy, nutty flavour. — Filepic

5 Nutty pesto

The traditional recipe for Italian pesto calls for sweet basil, pine nuts, a clove of garlic, cheese and

olive oil, plus salt and pepper. But then, pine nuts don’t come cheap and are not always available. It’s alright to change up, and use walnuts, almonds or even cashew nuts instead. The purpose of pine nuts is to add a nice nutty texture to the pesto; they also impart a mild flavour to the sauce. Walnuts and other nuts have their own flavour profile and can be a delicious replacement.

Tomato sauce can be used in many dishes. — FilepicTomato sauce can be used in many dishes. — Filepic

6 Tomato puree

If you’re making tomato-based spaghetti sauce from scratch, you’ll definitely need whole tomatoes

and maybe a can of tomato puree. But if you’re making some chicken or fish dish with tomato-based gravy or curry which calls for just a tablespoon or two of tomato puree, it’s okay to use tomato ketchup instead. It comes out quite nicely and even gives the dish more oomph.

Kicap manis added to garlic and cili padi makes a great dipping sauce. — FilepicKicap manis added to garlic and cili padi makes a great dipping sauce. — Filepic

7 Sweet soy sauce

Some people swear by well-known Indonesian brand ABC for the best kicap manis (sweet soy

sauce). While some might argue that “real” kicap manis tastes quite different from other commercially-made versions in the market, it’s just splitting hairs over a personal preference. Essentially, if you play with the right ratio when adding brown sugar to light soy sauce plus a touch of thick caramel sauce, you get to control the sweetness of your homemade kicap manis which is even better. Add some garlic and chilli, and you’ll get a great dipping sauce!

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