I’ve learned that it’s easy to keep some exotic ingredients on hand for the Asian soups I love, since most of the oriental markets carry them in the freezer section. Here’s what I typically have on hand that I buy at the Asian market:
Stalks of lemon grass. They will be in the freezer and will be wrapped like scallions. They give high lemon flavor as a soup or tea base, and you remove them before eating. I also grow lemongrass in my yard.
Kaffir lime leaves. These will be in the freezer maybe 25-50 to a bag. They give high lemon flavor as a soup or tea base, and you remove them before eating.
Gangalal. This is a form of ginger. It will be in the freezer in a small tray, probably already cut into small pieces. They give sharp ginger flavor as a soup or tea base, and you remove them before eating.
Chilies or chili peppers. These will be in the freezer in small bags. Most of them are too hot for me; you have to find your own comfort level. I sometimes pop a whole chili in a soup and then take it out and discard it. I do not cut it open. That gives enough heat for me. Remember the high heat is in the seeds, so after handling them wash your hands.
Fish sauce also called nuoc mam. I use the 3 Crabs brand. A little goes a long way. High flavor, smells hmm fishy; tastes great in a sauce or soup base.
Chili garlic sauce in a jar on the shelf. It is hotter than Sriracha sauce. They are both red.
Sriracha hot sauce has a red rooster on the bottle. It is milder than chili garlic sauce.
Nam prik pao or tom yum soup paste. In a jar on the shelf. Try different brands.
Sesame Oil. Usually not cooked, but added into hot soups and dressings.
Bunches of fresh basil or cilantro for rinsing before last minute adding to soups. I also grow my own fresh basil.
Scallions in refrigerator for rinsing before last minute adding to soups.
Rice noodles, also called rice sticks.
Tapioca sticks, another kind of noodle.