Milo Cranberry Cookies (pictured) made with all-purpose flour
Uses: Cakes, cookies, deep-frying batter, roti prata/canai and dumplings
All-purpose flour is perhaps the most useful flour to have around the house. It’s super easy to make a crispy chicken cutlet for Chicken Katsudon with it, as well as an oozy Mala Molten Lava Cake, or a warm batch of Milo Cranberry Cookies for a rewarding treat. Almost every flour can be substituted with all-purpose flour, which makes it a mandatory ingredient in every pantry. It’s mildly nutty flavors and relatively high gluten content makes it good for cakes, cookies, and dough made from it can be stretched out to wrap some juicy Thai Pork Dumplings. In case you are wondering, all-purpose and plain flour actually have different protein and gluten content, so while they can be swapped with each other, you have to be mindful of the mild texture changes.
Uses: Bread, pizza, ramen noodles and hand-pulled noodles
Isn’t it amazing that the stretchy, chewy sourdough loaf you love shares the same flour base as the slurp-worthy, broth-soaked ramen noodles you love? As bread flour is milled form the hard spring wheat, it has a higher protein and hence gluten content than all-purpose flour, which is milled from hard winter wheat. Let’s put it this way – high-protein bread flour gives that desirable stretch we all love in Classic Margherita Pizza and One-Dish Gula Melaka Bread and Butter Pudding. Without the higher protein, your hand-pulled Din Tai Fung Dan Dan Noodles and bread loaf will break more easily.
Rice flour gives Kueh Kosui (pictured) a soft, chewy texture
Uses: Rice noodles, chwee kueh (water cake), chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls), glutinous rice balls and goreng pisang
When you tuck into a greasy, glossy plate of Char Kway Teow that just came out of the wok, you’re essentially savoring one of Asia’s most sought-loved by product of rice flour. From warming Pho Bo (Beef Pho) to Toothsome Pandan and Pumpkin Kueh Kosui, rice flour is a neutral-tasting grain that has a chewy soft texture when cooked. Glutinous rice flour or sweet rice flour (it’s not sweet though!) is another common type of rice flour. The main difference between the sweet rice and normal rice flour is that the former becomes super sticky when heated up, allowing you to achieve the absolutely addictive gooeyness in Onde Onde or Nian Gao (New Year Cake).
Kueh Bingka (pictured), a sweet and satisfying Nyonka cake made with tapioca flour
Uses: Dim sum, nyonya kueh, pudding and tapioca cakes
Tapioca flour – unlike sweet rice flour - does have a real sweet taste to it! Tapioca, cassava or yucca root itself has a hint of sweetness, and it makes sense that its flour has it too. It’s well-known for its thickening properties, and makes for a great corn starch substitute for thickening soups and gravies. In Asian cuisine, it’s often used in colorful Nyonya delights like Kueh Bingka and – how could anyone forget – chewy tapioca pearls in our must-have Bubble or Boba Teas. It’s gel-like feel when cooked and cooled is what makes it so unique in our favorite snacks and desserts!
Cake flour gives these Cat Tongue Cookies (pictured) a melty, fine crumble
Uses: Cakes, pastries, biscuits and muffins
You might wonder why we’ve included cake flour when all-purpose could fit that purpose. Remember how every forkful of your wonderfully layered Carrot Cake broke off soft little crumbs, and every mouthful had a light and fluffy texture to it? That is precisely what cake flour does. With less protein content, and hence less gluten in your final product, cake flour reduces the density of your baked goods, and allows for finer, softer cakes that are well aerated. If you want a soft crumble to your Cat Tongue Cookies (Lidah Kucing), cake flour will make all the difference in your baking.
Make rolls of Keto Popiah (pictured) with almond flour
Uses: Macaroons, scones and ketogenic-diet desserts
Sink your teeth past the fragile crust in a sweet savory Salted Egg Yolk and Curry Macaron, and your senses will delight in the chewy, moist texture of its contents. The chewiness and moisture levels are made possible by almond flour alone in this specific dessert, as the oiliness of the almonds keep the moisture in those egg whites, preventing it from hardening into a cookie! Almond flour is also incredibly nutritious, packing a whole load of good fats, proteins and fiber for gluten-free breakfasts and bakes It makes for fulfilling Keto Popiahs and a whole lot of nutty gluten-free cookies and cakes.
If you want a thicker soup, use corn flour in a Carrot-Ginger-Turmeric Soup (pictured)
Uses: Thickener for sauces, soups and gravies, pudding, binder for meats
The subtle difference between corn starch and corn flour is that corn flour is made from whole corn kernels, whereas corn starch only uses the starchy part of the corn, called the endosperm. For those who love popping those Crispy Fried Chicken with Sambal bites during the afternoon or digging into a crackling Ikan Goreng Kicap, having cornstarch is almost a necessity in keeping those mouthwatering juices in, while allowing the exterior to get real crunchy in the hot oil. We’re also all familiar with its use as a thickener for comforting curries, soups and gravies. When using corn starch for that purpose, remember to convert it into a slurry first by mixing in some hot water and not add it in your dish directly!
Make a tray of Savoury Bacon and Avocado Muffin (pictured) with coconut flour
Uses: Pancakes, gluten-free desserts and paleo bakes
If you are a fan of the slightly nutty taste of coconut, you will absolutely relish a Savoury Bacon and Avocado Muffin or easy coconut pancakes. As it’s much more filling than all-purpose flour, you only need ¼ cup of coconut flour to substitute a cup of all-purpose flour in normal recipes. On top off that, throw in an egg as well. Coconut flour lacks the binding effects of gluten, and eggs help keep your baked creations together.
Semolina flour gives the signature crumb-like texture in Sugee Cake (pictured)
Uses: Pasta, bulgur, unleavened bread, flat breads, pizza crusts, baklava and breakfast cereals
Semolina flour is the coarser cousin of durum flour and both are often used to make pasta. It’s the second most popular wheat species after our typical bread wheat. Dough made from durum or semolina flour is much easier to shape then bread flour, that’s why it’s the most coveted flour in terms of pasta making. When you use this pale yellow grain in your beautiful Sugee Cake or Nammoura (Lebanese Semolina Cake), it gives your desserts an airy, crumbly texture.
Add some oat flour with corn flour in a delicious tray of Milo Krispies cookes
Uses: Pancakes, waffles and whole-wheat bread
A great source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants and vitamins, it’s no wonder why a hearty bowl of oatmeal at breakfast is so popular among the health-conscious. Oat flour is created from grinding oatmeal, and it inherits the same subtle buttery flavors from the former. Mix some in your next Mala Pancakes with Crispy Fried Chicken (1:1 ratio for substitution) or Thai Milk Tea Cheesecake for a heartier and more nutritious treat!
One thing though, when using oat flour, be sure to add baking powder in as well - that's how you get the rise. In some recipes, it's also blended with wheat flour.