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Asian Food: 31 Popular Dishes + 6 Secret Recipe Tips

From Chinese noodles to Indian chicken to Thai soups to Malaysian buns, Asian cuisine is flooded with delicious dishes. There’s a recipe for every single taste in Asian food, so what if we told you that after today’s article, you can easily recreate them in your kitchen.

One of the oldest and most diverse cuisines across the globe, Asian cuisine is incredibly unique in its wide range of flavors, textures, and colors.

How could it not be when Asian dishes encompass foods from extremely rich cultures; Chinese cuisine? Check. Indian cuisine? Check. Japanese, Korean, and Thai cuisine? Check, check, and check.

The spectrum of recipes featured in Asian cuisine would take hundreds of articles to cover, but we’ll start with a taste today. Our guide to Asian food will introduce you to popular starters, soups, mains, salads, desserts, and more.

We’ll explore 31 of the top Asian dishes you must try and share 6 secret recipe tips to help you master the art of Asian cooking.

Traditional Asian Cuisine: More than Kung Pao and Dumplings

Traditional Asian Cuisine: More than Kung Pao and Dumplings

Words like "diverse" and "versatile" don’t even begin to do justice to the astounding range of flavors, aromas, textures, and colors that Asian cuisine contains.

While most people in the US immediately think of Panda Express noodles, Kung Pao chicken, and dumplings when Asian food is mentioned, you should know that these dishes are less than a drop in the sea of Asian recipes.

When we talk about Asian cuisine, we’re talking about an entire continent with dozens upon dozens of countries, regions, and cultures, each having its own style and affected by multiple factors including geographical location, existing ethnicities, climate, and resources.

Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, and Thai are some of the cuisines forming Asian cuisine, so one can only imagine the complexity and depth of today’s topic.

Most Popular Street Food in Asia

Most Popular Street Food in Asia

We honestly can’t think of a cuisine with street food that awakens the senses with its aromas and flavors more than Asian cuisine does.

It’s also one of the most expressive cuisines when it comes to street food, highlighting its rich heritage and outstanding creativity with memorable treats that speak to the soul.

Street food is a key part of the food culture of each country and region belonging to Asian cuisine, so let’s take a look at a few of the most favored options you’re bound to stumble upon.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

From Osaka in Japan, we’re looking at the popular Takoyaki, which translates into grilled octopus. This snack is shaped like balls and made out of dough with a savory filling consisting of octopus, tempura bits, and pickled ginger.

Once grilled, it’s topped with takoyaki sauce, seaweed, bonito shavings, green laver, and mayonnaise.

Egg Tarts

Egg Tarts

If you’re strolling through the streets of Hong Kong, there’s no doubt you’ll come across the area’s famous egg tarts.

Its origin is traced back to the 1950s when British chefs made their way down there from Guangzhou’s tea houses. This sweet treat consists of an egg, sugar, and milk filling surrounded by either a cookie-like or meringue crust.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

We can’t bring up Asian street food without mentioning Pad, also known as Thailand’s gift to the world. This widely recognizable stir-fried noodle meal consists of rice noodles, dried shrimp/chicken, eggs, garlic, fish sauce, chili pepper, tamarind paste, tofu, and palm sugar.

Toppings options are many, but the most traditional are crushed peanuts and bean sprouts.

Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki

Your street food experience in South Korea can’t be complete without a taste of Tteokbokki; a treat hailing from Joseon royalty.

Although it was originally sweet and mild, the traditional flavor profile we know today is sweet and spicy. It uses gochujang sauce, garaetteok (cylindrical rice cakes), sausage, hard-boiled eggs, fish cakes, and scallions.

Phở

Phở

Not only is Pho the most popular street food in Vietnam, but it’s also the country’s national dish. It’s essentially a noodle soup that features rice noodles, rich broth, meat, and herbs.

The exact ingredients vary from region to region. Some parts use chicken and others use beef, some add blanched whole green onion, quẩy, and coriander while others bean sprouts, chili, and hoisin sauce.

Asian Food in the World

Asian Food in the World

Asian food has made its presence known in just about every other country and cuisine. Many Asian dishes are enjoyed across the globe in their original form, and just as many have merged with local cuisines in various regions to create delicious fusion recipes.

Ramen

Ramen

No Asian food has achieved global fame the way Ramen did. Dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, this Japanese dish is nowadays a staple of Japanese culture and a worldwide favorite.

From instant ramen to traditional bowls, it features chewy noodles and a rich broth, typically topped with pork, scallions, egg, and seaweed.

Sushi

Sushi

The epitome of global Asian food is none other than Sushi with its interesting flavors, beautiful presentation, and bite-sized format.

It’s also quite versatile ingredients-wise, pairing rice with a wide range of veggies, raw fish, and cooked seafood. It’s then rolled and hand-pressed to perfection and served with a selection of sides such as pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi.

Biryani

Biryani

Boasting a celebrity status among Asian food, Biryani is an Indian dish made with basmati rice and spices such as cumin, garam masala, and coriander.

There’s also a protein component with chicken, beef, lamb, or eggs, or you can keep it vegan by adding potatoes and other veggies instead. To finish it up, toppings such as nuts, raisins, yogurt, and saffron milk are used.

Kimchi

Kimchi

A staple of Korean cuisine and a favorite among pickled food lovers around the world, Kimchi offers a mouthwatering blend of flavors that keeps you coming back for more.

It’s spicy, sour, salty, and sweet, made typically using Chinese cabbage. It’s left to ferment in a brine concoction infuser with garlic, leeks, chili peppers, fish paste, sugar, and ginger.

How Healthy Is Asian Food?

How Healthy Is Asian Food?

A traditional Asian diet is rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals while being low in total and saturated fats.

That’s mainly because of the ingredients featured across Asian cuisine, which consist of many types of vegetables (such as scallions and bean sprouts), fruits (such as mangoes, pineapples, and bananas), and grains (such as rice, noodles, corn, and bread).

Asian cuisine also limits dairy and meat consumption to much lower levels compared to Western cuisine. Eggs and chicken are usually eaten a few times a week whereas red meat is eaten a few times per month. Asians rely heavily on fish, seafood, legumes, nuts, and seeds to obtain protein.

This sort of diet has been linked to decreased incidence of heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer among other chronic conditions. Additionally, Asian cuisine is believed to help in weight loss, maintaining low cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling diabetes, and boosting mood.

Famous and Popular Asian Dishes You Have to Try

Famous and Popular Asian Dishes You Have to Try

The following section features a selection of must-try Asian dishes from every food category to help kickstart your journey of exploring the wonders of Asian cuisine.

Soups & Salads

Soups & Salads

Asian cuisine is by no means short of soup and salad options that fill up the belly, warm up the soul, and pair brilliantly with various main dishes. From savory to spicy to sweet to zesty to refreshing, here are some of the top Asian soups and salads you don’t want to miss out on.

Miso

Miso

One of the most prominent soups in Japanese cuisine is Miso. Traditionally, it consists of dashi stock mixed with miso paste, to which is then added a range of options ingredients such as tofu, negi, seaweed, mushrooms, potatoes, taro, shrimp, green laver, onions, cabbage, and daikon slices.

Miso soup is commonly served for breakfast alongside white rice.

Laksa

Laksa

Hailing from Malaysia, Laksa is a spicy, hearty soup made using rice vermicelli or thick rice noodles and either sour asam or coconut milk as a soup base.

It also features toppings like prawns, fish, or chicken, and contains a bunch of spices such as chili, turmeric, and lemongrass to add flavor and elevate the dish’s aromatics.

Tom Yum

Tom Yum

A super popular dish in Thai cuisine, Tom Yum represents a meeting point of rich and bold flavors in an aromatic and vibrant soup.

Key ingredients include lemongrass, red chili peppers, fish sauce, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. For protein, Tom Yum can feature chicken, mushrooms, beef, pork, or shrimp. Every sip is an explosion of spicy, zesty, sweet, and sour tastes.

Sayur Asem

Sayur Asem

A traditional Indonesian dish, Sayur Asem is a type of vegetable soup that’s widely enjoyed in Southeast Asia. The base is tamarind soup that often features beef stock to make it richer.

Other ingredients include long beans, lemongrass, bilimbi, young jackfruit, peanuts, chayote, bay leaves, and palm sugar.

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai

Another delicacy from Southeast Asia is the Thai soup Tom Kha Gai. Spicy, tangy, sour, and creamy, the base of this soup is coconut milk, which is then flavored by adding lemongrass, galangal, Thai chili, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, and coriander.

You’ll typically see it made with chicken, beef, or shrimp, but some variations are cooked with tofu, mushrooms, or pork.

Sunomono

Sunomono

Simple, cool, and refreshing, Sunomono is a light salad with great popularity in Japanese cuisine as both a side and an appetizer.

After cutting cucumbers into thin slices, they’re tossed with a dressing consisting of soy sauce and vinegar. You can then top the salad with sesame seeds and nori (dried seaweed).

Som Tam

Som Tam

From Thai cuisine, we have a lovely, vibrant salad with a fun texture known as Som Tam. Its star ingredient is green papaya strips, which are tossed with green beans, roasted peanuts, tomatoes, dried shrimp, and crab meat.

The spicy, sweet, and tangy dressing is made using garlic, fish sauce, tamarind juice, lime, chili peppers, and palm sugar.

Starters, Sandwiches & Sides

Starters, Sandwiches & Sides

The food culture throughout Asia heavily features sides and starters thanks to the prevailing habit of serving smaller portions of several dishes each meal. The Asians also enjoy their wraps and sandwiches, pumping out some of the most delicious recipes you can find in this category.

Fresh Spring Rolls

Fresh Spring Rolls

A rockstar of Vietnamese cuisine, fresh spring rolls are also known as summer rolls or Gỏi cuốn. Each crip roll consists of rice paper wrapped around a variety of ingredients including prawns, pork, and vermicelli rice.

It also contains herbs such as cilantro, basil, and mint, served unfried alongside fish sauce or hoisin sauce.

Gyoza

Gyoza

The Japanese version of dumplings, Gyoza, consists of a flavorful filling wrapped in a thinly rolled dough. The center is traditionally a mix of pork, ginger, cabbage, chives, and garlic along with soy sauce and sesame oil. It’s then pan-fried to make a crispy layer on the outside and delightfully soft inside.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi

Another delicacy of Vietnamese cuisine is Banh Mi, which is a mouthwatering sandwich that’s popular as an affordable yet highly fulfilling meal.

To make it, slice open a crispy baguette and add marinated chicken/pork, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and herbs. Top it off with soy sauce and mayonnaise.

Achichuk

Achichuk

Hailing from Central Asia, Achichuk is a popular starter and side in Uzbekistan. Light and tangy, it’s essentially a salad of online slices, tomato slices, fresh basil, and red chili.

The resulting flavors go beautifully with the typically meaty and heavily seasoned main dishes of Uzbek cuisine.

Green Curry

Green Curry

Also called Gaeng Keow Wan, this dish is a signature of Thai Cuisine and is widely popular as an appetizer, side, or even main dish.

It’s deeply aromatic and flavorful, made using coconut milk, Thai green chili, green curry paste, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass. You can pair it with your favorite among veggies, seafood, chicken, or beef.

Samosas

Samosas

A widely loved snack that doubles as a side and starter in Indian cuisine is known as samosas. This two-part dish features deep-fried triangle-shaped pastry puffs with a filling consisting of peas, potatoes, garlic, chili, ginger, coriander, cumin, and garam masala.

It’s coupled with dipping sauces ranging from sour to sweet to spicy.

Satay

Satay

A staple of Southeast Asian cuisine, Satay is the national dish of Indonesia and an immensely popular side/starter in Thailand and Malaysia.

It consists of marinated meat skewers (chicken, pork, or beef) that are grilled and served alongside a savory peanut and shallot dip.

The smokiness of the meat goes perfectly with the sweetness and richness of the peanuts.

Mains

Mains

When it comes to main dishes, no cuisine does it like Asian does. The amazing diversity of these foods isn’t just because they incorporate a huge range of ingredients, but also because they use loads of different techniques to prepare such delicious outcomes.

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

One of the most globally recognizable mains from Asia is Tandoori chicken; a gift from Indian cuisine to the world. This iconic dish consists of chicken marinated in yogurt, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, lemon, and chili powder among other seasonings.

The succulent chicken is then cooked in a clay oven (tandoor) until it’s smokey and tender with a heavenly umami flavor.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Singaporean cuisine is rich in delectable mains, one of which is the succulent and fragrant Hainanese chicken rice.

The chicken is poached along with an assortment of spices and the resulting flavorful broth is then used to cook the rice. Fresh veggies, soy sauce, and chili sauce are the typical sides served with this comfort food.

Crispy Pata

Crispy Pata

Thanks to its deep-fried goodness, Crispy Pata can turn anyone into a fan of Filipino cuisine. It features pork knuckles or trotters seasoned with onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorn, vinegar, and salt, then fried until nice and brown.

A dipping sauce consisting of soy sauce, vinegar, chili, onion, and peppercorn is a must.

Bulgogi

Bulgogi

This recipe from South Korean cuisine is a fantastic gateway into Asian food for meat lovers. It features beef, chicken, or pork that’s marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic to develop juicy and tender meat bites.

The caramelized umami flavors that follow grilling the meat make it a favorite among late-night eaters.

Adobo

Adobo

If you search for the national dish of the Philippines or look up the country’s unofficial food, both inquiries will lead you to Adobo.

Chicken thigh or pork is marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorn, and bay leaves. Then, it’s lightly fried to tenderize the meat and topped with some of the same marinade as glaze.

Sichuan Chicken

Sichuan Chicken

Originating in the Sichuan province in China, Sichuan chicken took the world by storm and is still standing as one of the most popular Asian dishes across the globe.

Spicy and warm, this main dish consists of chicken, Sichuan peppercorn, chili peppers, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic all stir-fried together. It’s often topped with sesame seeds and served with a side of noodles.

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng

Easy to cook but big in taste, Nasi Goreng is both Indonesian and Malaysian for "fried rice". It’s cooked with dark soy sauce, onions, meat bits, and shrimp paste with a fried egg on top. The resulting brown rice is smothered in umami, savory, and mildly sweet flavors.

Pad Krapow

Pad Krapow

When looking for a simple, quick, and delicious main dish in Thai cuisine, most roads will lead you to Pad Krapow.

This recipe calls for chicken bits spiced with garlic, chili, and soy sauce (light and dark). The chicken is then fried and served alongside steamed jasmine rice and finished off with a sunny-side-up egg on top.

Tempura

Tempura

Japanese cuisine has a whole side dedicated to deep-fried goodies, commonly referred to as Tempura. Whether it’s shrimp, mushrooms, shiso, pork, or eggplant, your ingredient of choice will be dipped in a light batter to produce an ultra-crunchy and airy exterior.

Tempura sauce consisting of soy sauce, vinegar, dashi, and daikon radish is served as a dip.

Bread, Pastries & Desserts

Bread, Pastries & Desserts

Just like every other type of dish we’ve talked about so far, Asian cuisine is overflowing with recipes for desserts, pastries, and bread. From sweet to savory and from flaky to tender, you’re bound to find something that tickles your taste buds among the treats below.

Roti Canai

Roti Canai

Also known as Roti Prata and Roti Chanai, this dish from Indian cuisine consists of flatbread with flaky layers of pure tastiness.

The dough is made using flour, water, and ghee, which is then kneaded, oiled, folded, and flattened several times before cooking in a pan. You can add condensed milk to make it sweet or chopped veggies and eggs to make it savory.

Naan

Naan

Popular across South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and West Asia, Naan is a staple of break cooking in Asian culture.

Originating in India, the traditional recipe includes yogurt, flour, water, oil, butter, sugar, and salt. The dough is then divided and cooked in a super hot clay oven, but you can alternatively use a cast iron skillet to get that glorious soft, chewy, and puffy texture.

Cotton Cheesecake

Cotton Cheesecake

If you’re a cheesecake fan, you’re going to adore this Japanese version, otherwise known as cotton cheesecake. It’s creamy, soft, rich, and fluffy with just the right amount of tartness and sweetness.

The recipe calls for butter, eggs, and cream cheese, but it’s the techniques of mixing and cooking that make the difference.

Pappa Roti

Pappa Roti

A Malaysian delicacy, Pappa Roti is a bun adaptation of flatbread made using flour, eggs, butter, milk, sugar, salt, and yeast.

What’s awesome about this recipe is that you can turn it into a delightful dessert with a glaze of your choice (typically caramel and coffee) or transform it into a savory snack with a cheesy topping.

Melonpan

Melonpan

A pleasure to look at and munch on, Melonpan is a sweet dish that’s popular in Japanese cuisine and East Asia.

It’s a fusion of cookies and bread, where the other layer is crispy cookie dough and the inside is soft enriched dough. Flavorings include melon, chocolate chips, caramel, custard, and maple syrup.

Kulfi

Kulfi

Indian cuisine blessed our world with a delicious treat known as Kulfi, which is a frozen dairy treat that’s similar to ice cream but creamier and denser like frozen custard.

Traditional flavors include cardamom, pistachio, mango, saffron, rose, and malai (clotted cream). Modern flavors range from strawberry to nuts to chocolate.

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

Those with a sweet tooth will be especially pleased to meet this dessert known as Gulan Juman. It consists of dough balls (similar to donuts but softer) made with milk powder, ghee, and flour.

The balls are then dipped in runny sugar syrup to soak up the sweetness and become heavenly moist.

Chinese Almond Cookie

Chinese Almond Cookie

Last but not least, the Chinese Almond Cake or Almond Cookie is a sweet, rounded pastry with a crumbly texture. It didn’t originally contain almonds, but nowadays almonds have become a staple in this treat’s recipe. Serve warm alongside ice cream or a cup of tea/coffee.

Secret Recipe Tips for Asian Food

Secret Recipe Tips for Asian Food

Asian cuisine has its own set of unique cooking techniques and ingredients that make it as characteristic as we know it today. To help you break into Asian cooking and sharpen your skills to make Asian recipes as authentic and flavorful as possible, keep the following tips in mind:

Plan Your Cooking

Plan Your Cooking

Asian cuisine is quite precise both with what you cook and how you cook it, which means you need to be prepared beforehand to help the process go smoother and yield satisfying, accurate flavors. This will happen when you plan both your pantry/ingredients and the cooking sequence.

For example, components like lemongrass and galangal are staples in Thai cuisine, miso is essential for Japanese cooking, while cardamom and saffron are heavily featured in Indian cuisine. To capture the taste of a certain cuisine, you can’t afford to overlook the ingredients that create it.

The same concept applies to the cooking order. Cooking noodles, veggies, and meat in the same pot and/or for the same duration, for instance, won’t achieve the appropriate level of doneness for each element.

You should learn which ingredients to cook separately and what goes before what.

Always Marinate Your Meat

Always Marinate Your Meat

Whenever a recipe calls for meat –be it chicken, pork, beef, duck, or something else– marinade is always mentioned as a crucial step.

So when making Asian food, you need to embrace the marinade culture, including having to often mix several ingredients (from simple soy sauce to elaborate tamarind paste) and having to wait enough time for the meat to soak up the flavors.

Fresh Veggies are Key

Fresh Veggies are Key

If it’s not obvious by now and you need us to spell it out for you, here it goes; Asian cuisine is huge on vegetables. From bean sprouts to cabbage to spring onions to shallots, you’ll need to stock up on the greens if you’re preparing to try your hand at Asian cuisine.

Just as important as having veggies in your kitchen is using them as fresh as possible. The freshness is a huge part of what gives Asian recipes their distinct deliciousness.

End with Cornstarch

End with Cornstarch

Have you ever wondered how Asian food always looks so shiny and inviting? Well, the secret is cornstarch.

Incorporating cornstarch into any glaze or sauce that you’ll use as a finishing touch to your dish will give it that appetizing luster you see in Asian restaurants.

Just be sure not to add the cornstarch too early to avoid its burning and ruining the rest of the flavors.

Invest in the Proper Tools

Invest in the Proper Tools

We’re sure you’ve noticed by now that Asian cuisine often uses special equipment to perfect its textures and flavors.

No need to fuss; we won’t ask you to buy a clay oven, but we do recommend investing in a good-quality wok. There are multiple reasons why Asian cooking favors the use of woks; they spread heat more evenly, they don’t use as much oil for deep frying, and pair easily with a steamer.

Keep Track of the Specifics

Keep Track of the Specifics

Finally, we urge you to stick to the ingredients and cooking instructions as closely and specifically as possible.

If a recipe calls for dark soy sauce, it won’t taste quite the same if you use light soy sauce instead. The same applies to replacing coconut milk with regular milk, yogurt with sour cream, rice vinegar with regular vinegar, fish sauce with oyster sauce, and so on.

Beverages in Asian Cuisine

Beverages in Asian Cuisine

Asian cuisine demonstrates unmatched versatility not only in the food department but also in the beverages corner. From hot to cold and from soothing to invigorating, here are a few examples of drinks you can enjoy across Asian culture.

Sake

Sake

The single most famous alcoholic beverage in Japan is sake (nihonshu), which is the result of brewing polished rice, koji mold, water, and yeast.

Several factors influence the quality and final taste of sake such as removing the outer layer of rice, filtration, and aging. Generally, you get a balance between acidic, sweet, bitter, and umami flavors.

Bubble Tea

Bubble Tea

Also known as Boba tea and Pearl milk tea, you’ve probably encountered Bubble tea in real life or on social media as its popularity in the Western region of the world has been skyrocketing over the last couple of years.

Originating in Taiwan, Bubble tea consists of black, oolong, or green tea either with or without milk, and added to it are chewy little balls or pearls made of tapioca. Variations nowadays use jelly shapes or popping boba as tapioca alternatives.

Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe Vera Juice

Asians love their Aloe Vera juice, especially in South Korea. Thanks to its incredibly refreshing taste when consumed cold, this beverage is a staple during summertime, although people still enjoy it year-round.

Aloe Vera juice is naturally mildly herbal with a subtle zesty and bittersweet flavor that’s balanced by adding honey as a sweetener.

Kombucha

Kombucha

Produced by fermenting sweetened black or green tea, Kombucha is a non-alcoholic beverage of Chinese origin (although it does contain trace amounts of alcohol).

The fermentation process lasts for a few weeks and then continues inside the bottle where spices, herbs, fruits, or fruit juices are added for flavoring. Kombucha is fizzy with a tangy and mildly sweet taste.

Matcha

Matcha

This is a type of Chinese green tea that’s been gaining worldwide popularity over the last few years while being widely loved across Asia, especially Japan.

What makes Matcha unique –besides its taste– is the way it’s processed and prepared to be presented in powder form, not leaves or beads. You can use water or milk to make a matcha beverage, or even add it as a flavoring to sweet and savory recipes.

Suanmeitang

Suanmeitang

Also known as sour prune drink, Suanmeitang is a traditional Chinese beverage with multiple health benefits including appetite stimulation and energy boosting.

Often served iced or chilled, Suanmeitang is made mainly from smoked Chinese plums mixed with other ingredients such as hawthorn berries, rock sugar, dried orange peel, and licorice root. Its flavor profile is sweet, sour, and salty.

Lassi

Lassi

Hailing from Indian cuisine, Lassi features yogurt as its primary component. In fact, it’s the country’s most popular and traditional yogurt-based drink with a consistency resembling a smoothie.

Served as a refreshment during summer, Lassi is commonly flavored with cardamom and cumin, but sometimes black pepper, pistachio, almond, saffron, and rose water are used.

Soju

Soju

A popular alcoholic beverage in Korea, Soju is traditionally made from fermented rice, although nowadays tapioca, wheat, sweet potatoes, and barley are also common sources.

This clear drink pairs well with most savory and sweet dishes thanks to its mild almost neutral flavor. Soju remains low on alcohol, but nowadays, it’s also available in various fruit flavors.

Shōchū

Shōchū

Dating back to the 16th century, Shōchū is the number 1 drink in Japan when it comes to the alcohol department.

This beverage is the result of fermenting a mixture of koji mold along with barely, brown sugar, sweet potatoes, rice, buckwheat, chestnuts, sesame, or carrots. Shōchū is served neat or on ice, and it can be diluted with water, fruit juices, or oolong tea.

Common Ingredients in Asian Cuisine

Common Ingredients in Asian Cuisine

As part of preparing your kitchen for your endeavor into Asian cuisine, stocking up on certain ingredients is a must.

The following are the most commonly used components in Asian cooking –mainly oils and sauces– and having them on hand is a great asset for an Asian food starter pack.

  • Soy sauce: This sauce is the product of fermenting soybeans and wheat grains in salt brine.
  • Fish sauce: This sauce adds an intense umami flavor to Asian recipes.
  • Shrimp paste: When in need of a savory, fishy, and salty flavor, shrimp paste is the go-to ingredient.
  • Cooking wine: To add a caramelized flavor, wine options include Shaoxing wine, rice wine, soju, and mirin.
  • Miso sauce: A few varieties of miso exist in Asian cuisine, including red miso, white miso, and yellow miso.
  • Chili peppers: The spicy, hot kick in Asian recipes is usually thanks to this fiery ingredient.
  • Sesame oil: Unlike other seed and vegetable oils, sesame oil is thicker and darker with a more intense flavor.

Herbs and Spices in Asian Cuisine

Herbs and Spices in Asian Cuisine

Besides stocking up on the ingredients above, your spice rack also needs to be tweaked to suit Asian cooking. The iconic flavors of Asian cuisine are largely dependent on the addition of spices, commonly including the following.

  • Lemongrass: A staple in Thai cuisine and a popular herb across Asian cooking, lemongrass adds a zesty sourness to food along with a refreshing aroma.
  • Ginger: Invigorating and spicy, fresh ginger is an integral flavor agent in all sorts of Asian dishes.
  • Galangal: A cousin of ginger, galangal offers a more peppery and bitter taste to Asian recipes.
  • Coriander/Cilantro: Whether fresh or ground, this spice is key to adding a pungent taste with lemony and peppery undertones.
  • Garlic: An indispensable aromatic, garlic is present in most Asian recipes.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: As the name suggests, the whole and shredded form of these leaves imparts a potent citrus flavor.
  • Cumin: This spice offers a warm, nutty, and mildly sweet flavor.

Asian Food Culture

Asian Food Culture

What better way to wrap up today’s journey through Asian cuisine than a look into Asian food culture? Here are some interesting bits regarding Asian eating habits, mannerisms, and meal structure:

Eating Habits

Eating Habits

Discussing the eating habits within Asia would take dozens of articles since every country has some unique practices and patterns when it comes to food.

However, we could shed light on some common themes that appear throughout the continent. For example, serving an abundance of side dishes, transferring amounts of food from shred plates onto your own, and always seeking company at mealtimes.

Meal Structure

Meal Structure

The composition of meals varies from region to region, but a recurrent theme in Asian cuisine is the heavy incorporation of vegetables and spices in its recipes.

Rice and noodles are also a staple in almost every meal. As for the number of meals, the general stance is eating 3 times per day; an early breakfast, and mid-day lunch, and an early evening dinner.

Etiquette

Etiquette

Again, it’d be impossible to capture the range of food etiquette across Asia in such a section due to the overwhelming diversity of the continent, but we can observe a few common behaviors. For example, the attitude of sharing and gathering around tables for every meal time possible.

There’s also the concept of respecting the family elders and heads by never sitting or starting the meal before they do.

There’s also the idea of never refusing food when offered to you. It’s also a must to use the appropriate utensils for the meal, otherwise, your behavior would be frowned upon or considered offensive.

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