This is part one of a three-part series.
Asia, by geographical and cultural scope, is insanely massive. The entire continent features a broad diversity of race, history, religion, language and traditions. It seems that no two countries, no matter how intertwined or nearby, will ever be exactly the same. One of the more prominent ways to know just how diverse Asian food is by doing a culinary tour. After all, Asia was previously known as the paradise not just for tropical beaches but also for exotic spices and herbs infused in the most ordinary of local dishes.
Embark on a gastronomic food crawl around the most prominent countries in Asia. You will see that much of the culture is intertwined in the act of cooking and meal preparation. Let your tastebuds guide you.
ASIAN FOOD CRAWL
You probably have heard of about this Asian country to the tune of “Oppa Gangnam style.” But did you know Korean food also deserves some recognition for its locally grown ingredients and multiple side dishes? South Korea’s national dish is kimchi, made from fermented cabbage coated with pepper flakes, garlic, chives, onion, and more. A frequently copied recipe is bibimbap, a rice meal mixed with meat, egg and vegetables topped with spicy sauce from gochujang (pepper paste). Bulgogi, on the other hand, is thinly sliced beef marinated in pear juice, garlic and soy sauce, making it sweet and savory. It can be made into a stew or wrapped with lettuce leaf and rice.
The Land of the Free features a unique blend of spices and herbs guaranteed to tickle your tastebuds. Pad Thai is a popular Thai-style fried noodles, made of thin noodles with beansprouts, onion and egg. It is often enjoyed with various condiments such as fish sauce, sugar, chili powder and peanuts. For a pleasant herbal concoction of this unique Asian food, try Tom Yum Goong. It is a flavorful blend of lemongrass, chilli, galangal, lime leaves and juice, shallots and fish sauce added with prawns and mushrooms. Pad Krapow Moo Saap is best for the rainy days. A piping hot wok is filled with basil leaves, chilli, pork, green beans, soy sauce and sugar is topped with egg and served with rice.
The racial diversity in the urban center of Singapore can be tasted from its food. Because of its Chinese, Malay and Indian population, its local cuisines are just as multi-sided. Hainanese Chicken Rice is steamed chicken served with rice cooked that is cooked in chicken stock and often dipped in sauce. Hokkien Prawn Mee is stir-fried thick and flat Hokkien noodles with prawns, chicken, pork, squid or fish cake. It is seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and chili and served sambal sauce and lime wedge to tone down the oily taste. Meanwhile, a fish head curry is a fusion of Indian, Chinese and Malay dish. It features giant fish head with vegetables cooked in curry and served with rice or bread, often paired with tamarind juice.
Chinese food rules the Hong Kong gastronomic scene. A famous street food is the Sichuan-style wonton with its thin skin and rich meat filling in chicken or duck broth. The Wind Sand Chicken, originated from Guandong, is a whole chicken flavored with garlic pieces and roasted so that the skin is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Shrimp and chicken balls are thinly chopped meat kneaded into balls and deep fried with breadcrumbs. It is known in Chinese language as "dragon and phoenix balls", relating to Chinese royalty, and is served during wedding ceremonies.
The homogenous culture of Japan features dishes that you will never taste anywhere else. It is, after all, the birthplace of sushi, a street food with many variations but typically comprised with raw fish wrapped in rice and lightly seasoned with vinegar. For the colder months, eat ramen, which are egg noodles in salty broth either with tonkotsu (pork bone), miso, soy sauce and salt. Okonomiyaki, known as the Japanese pizza, is grilled pancakes filled with cabbage and pork, topped with fish flakes, dried seaweed, Japanese mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Other unique Japanese food to try are tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets), soba (buckwheat noodles), tempura (deep fried seafood and vegetables), yakitori (grilled chicken), unagi (grilled eel in sweet barbecue sauce) and shabu-shabu (meat in broth).
We finish the list with one of the healthiest places to eat for Asian food, Vietnam. Their use of vegetables in various dishes is astounding. For starters, pho is Vietnam’s national dish and staple food. It is noodle soup consist of flat rice noodles beef or chicken broth topped with ginger and coriander, spring onions and slivers of meat. Banh mi is a baguette sandwich stuffed with greens, ground meat and omelette. It is commonly sold on the streets and eaten for snack. Goi Cuon, also referred to as French spring rolls, are translucent spring rolls packed with vegetables and minced meat and served with lettuce. This is usually eaten by hand and dipped in peanut sauce. Of course, when you find yourself in Vietnam, don’t forget to drink the world-famous Vietnamese coffee!
Starved yet? Before embarking on your next flight to these amazing Asian food destinations, make sure to partner your plane ticket with a travel insurance for safety and protection while travelling.