Stock is my all-important kitchen essential. You throw in some rice or noodles or vegetables or meat into good stock and you get a delicious risotto or comforting noodle soup or creamy vegetable soup or a nice stew. It's the secret something special behind a simple dish. Good stock to me is usually bone broths, slow-simmered over hours to extract the flavour and nutrients from that leftover carcass. I never never waste any scrap of bones so I usually have stock in the fridge. I try my Martha-Stewart-best, but I don't always have stock on standby though.
For those situations, I resort to "quick stocks", made very simply with Asian cupboard essentials- dried anchovies or dried shrimps, or for vegetarian versions, shiitake mushrooms or kelp. It's often quite simple, just boil the dried anchovies (ikan bilis) or shrimps in water for 20 min or so, and because they're so small, you get their flavour quite quickly. Shiitake mushrooms and kelp are even better, just soak in warm water for 30 min or so till they soften. They're perfect for unplanned stock because these dried goodies can keep for quite a while in your larder without going bad-- very important for someone with a fridge less than half her dwarfish asian height.
And then one day I was walking around the supermarket, and I saw ikan bilis (quite obviously the supermarket was in Singapore, not London) and mushroom stock powders and cubes. Of course, ikan bilis and mushroom stock powder have a lot more in them than just ikan bilis and mushrooms, mainly things that I can't pronounce properly or end in dubious numbers. Thus, my homemade instant stock powder was born!
Homemade Instant Stock Powder
(example here is for ikan bilis stock)
dried anchovies (ikan bilis)
1. Toast the anchovies in a low oven to make sure they're completely dry. You'll also start smelling the delicious (ok subjective) savoury smell of roasted anchovies, which definitely adds to the flavour.
2. Let cool completely. Throw into a food processor or blender and whizz up until you get a fine powder. Store in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge if you want it to keep longer.
That's it! I know some people may recoil at the idea of anchovies, but it's often used for Asian soups. It's also full of calcium since you eat the soft edible bones, and iodine since you eat the head (Oops I'm putting more people off aren't I?)
Anyway, you can do the same for dried shrimps, dried mushrooms, or kelp. The great thing about this is you can not only stir it into hot water for instant stock, you can sprinkle this over your stirfries for an instant umami hit. (Anchovies are great with garlic and spinach, fyi. One of my mum's favourite vegetable stirfry combi.)
Bonus tip: Break off the stalks for dried shiitake mushrooms and grind them up instead, because that tough part takes forever to soften and hence usually gets discarded after soaking, which is a complete waste of perfectly tasty mushroomy flavours.