January is Asian cuisine month and I’m so excited to explore the wonderful Asian recipes (<<< here are all the Asian recipes on my blog and this is where the future recipes will appear) from different countries, such as India, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Japan and more. This is part of my challenge to explore the major world cuisines this year and veganize their most popular recipes. 🙂
Besides posting dozens of new recipes each month I will also write a short food guide about the cuisine I explore. I thought this would be interesting for all of you veggie foodies who follow me. If you want to learn some cool facts about each cuisine, about their recipes, specifics, what spices they use and so on, these short food guides will deliver that info.
Hope you’ll enjoy following this challenge.
P.S. I started posting daily stories on Instagram. Watch me cook, do groceries, share my favorite recipes and more, at @gourmandelleblog.
- What makes the world love it
- What makes it different?
- A short note
- The cuisine of East Asia and the love of noodles and rice
- Chinese cuisine
- Japanese Cuisine
- The rich food history of Southeast Asia
- Thai cuisine
- The rich and diverse cuisine of South Asia
- The Indian cuisine
Asian cuisine – what makes the world love it
Fried rice. Spring rolls. Sushi. Miso soup. I bet you know these dishes and are a big fan of them. Yes, they belong to the Asian cuisine that is hogging all the limelight now. The world has developed a fascination for Asian gourmet and lapping up Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Thai foods like never before. The increasing number of Chinese and Thai restaurants in New York and Paris is a testimony to the popularity of oriental food in the West.
Asian cuisine – what makes it different?
Spices. Ingredients. Method. Asian foods taste different from western foods as they use entirely different spices and ingredients. The cooking method also varies making these foods delicious. The basic reason for the popularity of Asian foods is their simplicity.
Leaving aside the deep-fried dishes, most recipes are pure and simple. Think of the rice dishes and stir-fried veggies, they are tasty, nutritious, and easy to make. Crunchy and loaded with vegetables, these dishes are low in fat and high in nutrition. Items like broths, different types of bread and rice keep you full for a longer time without piling on calories.
Traditional Asian dishes like kimchi, dim sums, stir-fried beans, and dumplings make us yearn for more. Let us take a gastronomical journey of Asian cuisine that would satiate all our senses.
Asian cuisine – a short note
Most foodies love to learn about their favorite cuisine and how it evolved. So, if you are a connoisseur of Asian food, this article is for you. Read on to know more about Asian food, how it is different in various parts of the continent and how the local culture has contributed to it.
Asia being the largest continent has a huge variety of physical features, cultures, traditions and of course, food. The continent is actually made up of different regions and subcultures with distinct cuisines.
You must have noticed Indian rice dishes are different from Japanese ones and Chinese sauces vary from Korean ones. Such is the diversity of Asian cuisine that one is bound to feel mesmerized. If you delve deeper you would find that Asian cuisine can be broadly categorized into three regional cuisines, namely, East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian.
Let us learn more about these exotic foods so that you can develop your palate and enjoy them more.
East Asian cuisine and the love of noodles and rice
The East Asian fare is perhaps the most popular today in the whole world. The culinary history of this region goes back to thousands of years making it all the more interesting. The gastronomy of Japan, China, Taiwan, and Mongolia form this cuisine but Chinese and Japanese cuisine are the more prominent contributors. Rice is the base of most East Asian dishes along with noodles which are made of either wheat or rice.
You would find a wide array of soy products being used in this cuisine along with vegetables like cabbages, onions, sprouts, and mushrooms adding color and texture to the dishes.
Chinese dishes have gained immense popularity all over the world with people eagerly lapping up soups, noodles, rice and various kinds of meat items. The best thing about Chinese food is that each region has its own specialties that make this cuisine as varied as possible. Of these, Cantonese, Hunan, and Szechwan are more popular with foodies.
Since rice is grown abundantly in China, it forms the main staple food. Can we talk about Chinese dishes and leave out noodles? Never. Chinese noodles are blissful creations. They come in different shapes, textures, and sizes. They are served with different toppings, either hot or cold.
Tofu made from soybean is used widely in Chinese dishes. There are a few unique vegetables you would find only in China like bok choy, baby corn, snow pea pods, straw mushrooms and Chinese eggplant. Amongst vegetables, bean sprouts and soybeans form the major sources of protein.
Seasoning is what makes Chinese food so unique and delicious. Garlic, fresh ginger root, cilantro, sesame, and scallion are the main seasonings used in Chinese preparations. You would also find cinnamon, star anise, fennel and cloves in some regional dishes. When it comes to Chinese seasonings we cannot forget the most popular soy sauce that has found its place in the global kitchen. Apart from this, oyster sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, chili sauce also go to make the Chinese dishes so tasteful.
The most famous Chinese dishes that foodies swear by are stir-fried tofu, spring rolls, hot and sour soup, and different types of noodles and rice. Amongst the non-vegetarian dishes, Peking duck, chicken with chestnuts and dim sums are very popular.
It’s time to focus on another East Asian cuisine that leaves our mouths watering whenever we hear about it. Yes, I am referring to the Japanese cuisine.
You must try the Japanese cuisine at least once if you have not already done so. Food forms an integral part of the Japanese culture and hence you would get an insight into the lifestyle and culture of this fascinating country through its food.
Traditional Japanese cuisine or Washoku is simple and delicious. It mainly uses seasonal ingredients relying heavily on the local produce. Thus, you would find an abundance of rice and seafood which are available easily in this part of the globe.
Sushi and sashimi are two popular food types in Japan. Most of the foods are healthy as they are eaten raw or boiled or seared with minimal seasoning. Miso, mushrooms, seaweeds, soy sauce, and bonito flakes are frequently used to enhance the taste.
Japanese cuisine is characterized by the use of light dipping to add variety. Wasabi, pickles, miso and soy sauce are often used as dips. Most popular Japanese dishes are sushi, ramen, tempura, and udon.
Any discussion on Japanese fare would be incomplete without mentioning the plating. Yes, the presentation is important in Japan and most foods are served in small quantities in bowls and plates that are connected to the season and the culture. They are absolute work of art and would bowl you over.
The rich food history of Southeast Asia
From East Asia, let’s move on to Southeast Asia and find out what’s on the menu.
Southeast Asia consists of a group of countries which are varied in their landscape, culture, and heritage. Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, and Malaysia are major countries of this region. However, Thailand rules here with its strong and exotic dishes that make tourists flock to its sea beaches and major cities. If you have been to this part of the globe, the greatest dilemma that you may face is to choose between the physical beauty of the countries and the food. Yes, both are exotic and it is hard to decide which one is more attractive.
Although these countries offer different cuisines to enthrall your taste buds, certain things are common to them. The dishes are light and simple with strong aromas of citrus and herbs. Basil, lime, and coriander are added to the dishes for flavor. Stir-frying, boiling and steaming are the usual cooking processes adopted that retain the taste and nutrition of the ingredients used.
Rice, white and long-grained is the favored staple of Southeast Asia. Vegetables, broth, and protein form the basic Southeast Asian meal. Grilled fish, squid, pork or shrimp are common non-vegetarian dishes. The popular dishes of this region are Banh Mi, Beef Pho, Tom Yam Kung soup, and Pad Thai.
If you want to taste the best of Southeast Asian food, you have to try Thai food. Incredibly tasty with a large variety to satiate the palate, Thailand is the heaven for foodies.
Thai cuisine – food you can die for
Most tourists who visit Thailand come back raving about its food. Fresh and spicy, the characteristic fragrance of Thai food would drive you mad. Thai dishes are prepared with lots of veggies and spices where the balance is the key. The richness of some dishes is balanced with the side dishes. The Chinese influence is prominent in the recipes with the fish sauce being the main ingredient in many dishes.
Rice is not only the staple food but the main food in Thailand and is consumed in all the main meals. Jasmine rice, the long-grained aromatic rice is the most coveted rice. Khao pad or fried rice is made with veggies, pork, chilies, and fish sauce.
Noodles are also quite common in Thailand. The Thai dishes although spicy are healthy as most of them are stir-fried or grilled. Garlic, chili, and basil are the common spices used to add flavor to the dishes.
The greatest draw in Thailand is perhaps the street food. From soups to fried dishes, fried rice, various non-vegetarian fares to desserts and fruits, you would find a whole range of sumptuous food being sold in the roadside food stalls.
While you enjoy Thai food, let us travel down south and introduce you to South Asian cuisine.
Rich and diverse South Asian cuisine
The south Asian cuisine is mainly the fares from the Indian subcontinent which are characterized by the use of various types of chili, cloves, and black pepper. Other spices that are exclusively used in this area are cumin and turmeric. A lot of butter and ghee are used to add flavor to the dishes.
Along with vegetarian dishes, south Asian cuisine includes a lot of non-vegetarian items also like fish, chicken, goat, and lamb. Beef is eaten by a few communities too. The cuisine of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan share a lot of common features like the different recipes of pilaf which is a flavored rice dish.
The Indian cuisine – food for the soul
The south Asian culinary tradition is greatly dominated by Indian cuisine which is spicy, rich and varied. Being a vast country with a huge population, the country has different food traditions in every corner of it making it a foodie’s delight. We can broadly divide the cuisine into northern and southern ones with the distinctive use of herbs, spices and even cooking style.
In northern India, meat dishes are very common along with lentils and vegetables. Paneer or cottage cheese is used to make tasty dishes like paneer butter masala, palang paneer and even added in the dough of the flatbread.
The famous Indian curry is actually a north Indian dish with veggies or meat which is nowadays being tweaked to suit the palate of the global population.
In south India, rice forms the staple food and various dishes like dosa, appam, and idli are made with its batter mixed with lentils and herbs. Indian cuisine sees the use of yogurt, coconut milk, nuts and dairy products a lot
Chicken, lamb, and mutton are the most common meat items being eaten by the people. In the coastal states like Maharashtra, Kerala, and West Bengal, seafood is common.
Without mentioning the desserts we cannot complete any discussion on Indian cuisine. Indians are particularly fond of sweet dishes and these also vary with the regions. While north India swears by its gajar ka halwa, a sweet dish made of carrot, sugar, milk and generous amounts of ghee or clarified butter, in other areas you would find people gorging on malpuas, ladoos, and sweets made from cottage cheese.
In India, food is a part of every festival and cultural programs. The dishes vary according to the seasons and the occasions too.
Food not only satiates our hunger and makes us healthy, they are related to our culture too. Through our dishes, we pass on the heritage, history and a love for the country. Be it in Japan, Thailand or India, you would find people enjoying their food along with the family members that strengthens the bond too.
Asian cuisine is not only about spices, herbs, and special ingredients, the utensils are different too. Moreover, eating with the hands is a prominent tradition here which helps in feeling the food. Once you visit Asia and experience its lifestyle and food, you can never forget it. A part of it would always remain in your heart beckoning you to come back again.