Asian countries have a long and rich culinary tradition. Throughout the vast continent, it is possible to see all manner of ingredients and tastes. There is something unmistakably delicious about certain foods and flavors that capture the imagination of any cook. Dishes from Asian countries often satisfy the appetite without an uncomfortable feeling of fullness that one often finds in Western cuisine.
Every country in the continent has its own unique perspective on Asian cooking. Though the customs from different regions can seem quite different, their commonality is unmistakable. Those who would like to add some of this exquisite experience to their own dining can start by incorporating some of the most important ingredients from Asian cooking into their own kitchen.
There are a few elements found repeatedly in Asian cooking that are essential to capturing the essence of the cuisine.
Most dishes include rice, because it is the main crop of many Asian countries and is used in almost every capacity. Not only steamed rice, but rice paper and noodles can be included in a meal.
Tofu is often used in vegetarian meals, because it is high in protein. It is used heavily in regions with a tradition of Buddhism.
Sauces are important to flavor rice and stir-fry. Soy sauce, oyster sauce, black bean sauce, and fish sauces are easy to keep on hand.
Tea is not only good for the body; it is the perfect accompaniment to Asian cuisine.
The island nation of Japan has an illustrious tradition. Their cuisine is full of fish and other consumables from the sea. Japanese cooking utilizes noodles made of wheat and other materials much more than other Asian dishes.
In order to add some Japanese flavor to meal, try using soy sauce or wasabi. Also, Japanese dishes are characterized by their ordered appearance. Sauces, rice, and main courses are all served in their own individual bowls. This can be seen in popular Japanese foods like sushi and tempura.
The Tastes of China
Traditional Chinese food can be quite different than what is labeled as Chinese in the United States. Many recipes contain large amounts of vegetables like corn, bean sprouts, and shitake mushrooms. Peanuts are also found in many Chinese foods.
The most distinct part of Chinese dining is the serving style. Food should be pre-cut into small pieces. Every diner should get a rice bowl, but other foods should be communal so that the diners may pick what they wish to sample with their chopsticks.
Southeast Asian Dining
Though they are often grouped together, the Southeast Asian countries include Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Vietnam among others. These countries all have their own strong dishes and techniques to bring to the kitchen, but have many similarities.
Cooks who want to capture the flavor of this region should look to fish sauces, lemon grass, and spices like turmeric and garlic. These elements are used all over this region because of the high concentration of fishing communities. Most dishes are served with fresh herbs, vegetables and dipping sauces.
Indian food and culture is very distinct from the rest of Asia. India�s long history and stint as a British colony has effected their culture in numerous ways. Many different regional cooking styles fall under the umbrella term of Indian, but they are all characterized by an expert use of spices. Most Indian food is vegetarian, but some dishes to employ chicken, lamb, and fish. In keeping with Hindu and Muslim practices, no beef or pork is used.
Those who wish to capture the intense flavors of Indian cuisine should stock their pantry with plenty of spices. Spices like coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, fennel, turmeric, and various peppers are used in all kinds of dishes. The most iconic Indian dish is curry, a wet meat and sauce combination served with rice. There are hundreds of recipes for this type of meal, and one can even buy curry powder that contains most of the spices mentioned above.
Be Creative with Asian Flavors
Most Asian cooking is reliant on achieving a balance between different flavors. Though the food can be very rich, it is also meant to highlight and enhance subtle ingredients like rice and bean sprouts. The tenets of Asian dining give a chef so much to work with that creating a tasty meal should not be difficult.
Those that create Asian dishes regularly should look into investing into a rice cooker and wok. Also, it would be a good idea to keep plenty of fresh vegetables on hand just in case the urge to add some Asian flare to dinner strikes.