Like many other global cuisines, Asian cuisine is as varied as the countries on the continent. Asian cuisine is very much a part of the culture and history of the Asian countries but there are some food commonalities between the various cultures. In Asian cooking, the emphasis is on smaller portions, smaller amounts of meats and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unlike the Asian-hybrid cooking that can be found elsewhere, traditional Asian food preparation involves very little fat, and very rarely is anything deep fried.
While there are few commonalities binding Asian cuisine, there are many more differences that are based primarily on location. East Asian cuisine encompasses Chinese and Japanese cuisines as well as cuisines from Taiwan and Korea. Chinese cuisine is perhaps most famous for its Peking Duck as well as the myriad dumplings, steamed buns and stir-frys that are staples of Chinese cooking. Be sure to try different styles of Chinese cuisine such as Cantonese or Shandong. Chinese usually eat congee porridge for breakfast. China is also renowned for its many varieties of tea; this ancient beverage has been enjoyed for thousands of years in China.
Japanese cuisine focuses on the freshness of ingredients and foods that are prepared more simply but with great finesse. Theirs is a very healthy cuisine, and they are known for eating myriad varieties of fresh fish. A must see market for foodies and culinary travelers in Japan, is the Tsukiji Market which is the world’s largest fish market. Have some sushi for breakfast, while watching all the hustle of the market. South Asian cuisine is also known as Desi cuisine and includes the exotic flavors of India. India has plenty of restaurants but the street food culture remains ever popular.
This no frills kind of eating is particularly popular in Delhi. Also popular on a more global scale is Thai food. Pad Thai is universally recognized as the national dish of Thailand, and makong is a kind of Thai whiskey that has become much more affordable since the government started taxing beer and thus much more popular. Makong is the primary ingredient in Thailand’s welcome drink, the Sabai Sabai. The island nation of Laos has laap as its national dish but also popular is a salad called tam mak houng, made from green papayas.
In the capital city of Vientiane, Laos you can drink a Beerlau at Sala Sunset Khounta boat on the banks of the Mekong while watching the sunset. The Philippines is well known for the adobo cooking style which is a preparation of chicken or pork that is braised slowly in vinegar, garlic, oil and soy sauce until very tender and nearly dry. In Vietnam, pho is of course the national specialty. Bali Indonesia’s national dish is nasi goreng and in Cambodia one can find amok, a dish of curried and steamed fish, as the national dish.
On the islands of Java, or Sumatra, see if you can drink the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world, called Kopi Luwak, it’s made from coffee berries that have passed through the digestive system of Indonesian monkeys (also known as a Palm Toddy Cat). Southwestern Asian cuisine begins to borrow flavors and ingredients typically indigenous to countries in the Middle East, though they retain the focus on freshly prepared and simple dishes that are nutritious and packed with flavor. Asian cuisine is exotic and flavorful.
The clever use of cooking techniques and spices has transformed what were originally humble peasant food dishes into specialties that are now known the world over. Conversely, with many Asian countries having a separate cuisine for the historical ruling King or Royal Family, the dichotomy between humble and royal food has lessened and dishes that were once only served to royalty can now be found in any common Thai restaurant. Nonetheless, traveling through Asia takes you on a tour not only of wildly exotic countries but of foods that are distinctly different from country to country.
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