There’san easy way to get the complex, multispice flavors of Southeast Asian dishes athome: packaged Indonesian and Malaysian spice mixes. If you’re not familiarwith dishes like beef rending (a rich, thick Indonesian and Malaysiancoconut-milk curry) but love Indian curries, you have to try these.Jarred Indian curry simmering sauces are becoming more and more common inmainstream supermarkets, but you’ll probably have to go to an Asian specialtystore to find these Southeast Asian spice pastes, which come in foil containersrather than jars and usually cost less than $3.50. Or order them from theremarkable specialty-food site The amount of timeand spice-hunting these mixes save is amazing. Brahim’s rending sauce, forexample, contains lemongrass, galangal, ginger, tamarind, turmeric leaves, staranise, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon—among other things.

Onepacket generally forms the flavor-basis of a curry that will serve 4 or morepeople. I like to start a curry with finely chopped onion, garlic, and ginger,which I slow-cook until soft in a bit of oil, then add the spice mixes andwater or light coconut milk, plus meat or even just potatoes and green beans. These mixes—you can get them for Javanesechicken soup, for satay peanut sauce and dozens of other dishes—yield rich,authentic flavor. The only drawback is sodium—they generally contain lots andyou’ll want to add no extra salt during cooking.

Formore on World Cuisine, check out our International Guide to Spices.