A large gourd, about the size of a watermelon, with a dark green skin and white flesh, it has a light flavor similar to zucchini and is often sliced and added to soups and stir-fries. The outside of the melons can accumulate a white wax-like coating, which gives them their alternate name: wax gourd. They can be bought year-round at Asian grocery stores.
These are the tubers of a plant that grows in water. When fresh, they are small balls with a thin, dark brown skin. They have a bland flavor but are often added to stir-fries for their crunchy texture. They are sold peeled (whole or sliced) in cans or jars at supermarkets.
A bright yellow powder used in Chinese and Indian cooking, ground turmeric is made from grinding up a root that is related to gingerroot. It is the main ingredient in curry powder, has a slightly pungent flavor, and is primarily used as a coloring agent. We recommend wearing rubber kitchen gloves when touching it, because it will stain your hands.
White blocks of soybean curd made from soybeans, water, and a curdling agent, tofu is chock-full of protein and calcium and absorbs spices and flavorings well when you cook with it. There are two main types of tofu: soft/silken (also called Japanese-style) and firm/extra-firm/regular (also called Chinese-style). It is sometimes called bean curd and is sold fresh or packaged at most supermarkets.
A thick, dark brown sauce made from the fruit of a tree native to Asia, it has a sweet and sour flavor and is used in Southeast Asian, Indian, and Macanese cooking. If you cannot find the concentrate form of the fruit at a
specialty grocery store or Indian market, you can buy tamarind pulp at an Indian or Spanish market, soak it in
warm water, and then strain the juice and discard any bit of shell and fibers.