Traditional Favourites of Asia Kitchens
In the kitchens of palaces and restaurants sophisticated combinations of exotic ingredients; prepared using a wide variety of techniques. Also in these kitchens that recipes came to be written down and preserved for future generations.
In this section, we introduce you to the aromatic and delectable foods found in Asia. There are three distinct areas that vary widely in cooking styles and ingredients; each prepares their specialties with palate-pleasing perfection. Many of these foods started out as peasant meals and have since been elevated to a completely new status by street vendors and restaurants worldwide.
The Three Cuisine Areas of Asia
- The southwest – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma
- North-East – China, Korea, Japan
- The South East – Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia
In the South East and Southwest, curries are very important, less so in the foods of the North East. South Western curries are yogurt-based; whereas the curries of the South East and North East are coconut milk-based.
Rice is a staple starch in all three areas. In addition to rice, South-Western cuisines include a variety of leavened and unleavened bread. The South East and North East regions include more rice and egg noodles in their meals. Ghee or clarified butter is used primarily in the South West regions as the major medium for frying foods. Vegetable oils are preferred in the other regions.
Garlic, ginger, and chili peppers are very popular throughout all of the Asian foods. Soy sauce is a very popular cooking ingredient as well as a condiment throughout the North East, while the South East area prefers fish sauce, as fish is so abundant. Galangal, an aromatic rhizome in the ginger family, and lemongrass are specific to the South East region.
Equipment needed for Asian Cooking
most important piece of cooking equipment in all of South East Asia. If you plan to do much of this region’s cooking, you should invest in a good wok. The rounded bottom of the wok provides a range of cooking temperatures in one pan, which can be important in stir-frying.
Woks come in many different styles and materials – round-bottomed, flat-bottomed, one- handled and two-handled, stainless steel, mild steel, Teflon-coated andaluminium. The most traditional is the hand-beaten of mild steel with a round bottom and two handles. The traditional round bottom is designed to sit in the round hole of a charcoal burner
Mild steel is preferred for its heat transfer properties;
thin stamped stainless steel or aluminum just does not hold enough heat, and cast aluminum takes too long to heat up and cool down. In a modern kitchen equipped with agas stove, if the wok does not fit the burners, it may be placed on a wok ring. In an electric kitchen, a flat-bottomed wok is best, both for stability and for heat transfer.
A properly seasoned iron wok is at least as non-stick as any Teflon coating ever made. A new wok must be seasoned before use. Scrub it well with soap and water to remove any coating applied to protect it during shipping, rinse well, and dry. Place the wok over low heat, wipe lightly with vegetable oil and let stand on the heat for 10 minutes. Cool and wipe with paper towels to remove the dark film.
Repeat the oiling, heating, cooling and wiping procedure until the paper towels come away clean. Once a wok has been seasoned, it should be cleaned with plain water only using a wok brush, never with soap or abrasive cleaners, then dried and oiled before storing. If the metal ever rusts, clean with steel wool or fine sandpaper and re-season.
- long handled shovel-shaved scoop used to stir fry
- a ladle used to transfer liquids to and from the wok
- strainer with a brass or steel basket to remove foods from hot oil
- a strainer with a bamboo basket for removing foods from boiling water or stock
- bamboo whisk brush for cleaning
- a rack which sits on the side of the wok for draining fried foods
- stackable bamboo steamers
- Clay pots – “hot pots”, glazed on the inside but unglazed on the outside are used for baking or stewing
- Cleavers– light cleavers are used for general chopping, slicing and carving; heavier, thicker cleavers are used for chopping bones
- A good set of kitchen knives
Curry and Chili Pastes and Powders
For best results, buy fresh whole spices and grind them yourself in a spice or coffee grinder rather than buy pre-ground spices. If stored properly in an airtight container in a dry place, powders will keep for several months.
If you would prefer to make pastes, use fresh ingredients and grind with a mortar and pestle Most pastes will include onion, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, chili paste, garlic, and coriander. Use authentic recipes and follow the recommended portions for the best results. Pastes should be refrigerated after preparation. They will keep for a week or two.
The cooking of the South East Asia Region-Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia
peasant foods of Thailand were the origins of the South East Region cooking of today. Soon, the peasant foods associated spread east across the mountains into Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and south down the Malayan peninsula and the island arc of Indonesia. As it spread, influenced by cooking habits and ingredients from the North East and southwest regions; integrating many of the techniques and preparations. European cuisines had great influence in these areas as well. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were once French colonies; while Malaysia was once a British Colony, and Indonesia was once a Dutch colony. Thailand successfully resisted colonization.
While rice is the staple grain of the North East and South East noodles came to this region from China. Additionally, curries are less common in Vietnam where the Chinese influence is strong. Chinese influence also introduced the wok and stir-fry technique. The arrival of chili peppers indeed all peppers, are native to the Americas. Their arrival traced back to the arrival of European settlers. Fish sauce thought to be a local invention; however, some believe that the Romans may have had some influence; they had a similar sauce called liquamen or garum; a fish-based sauce used to salt foods in ancient Greece, Rome and throughout the Byzantine Empire.
There are many interesting and intriguing spices used in all of the regions;
such as cinnamon from Sri Lanka, cardamom and cumin from India, coriander and star anise from China. Cloves, nutmeg, and mace are native to these areas and are used abundantly in all the regions.
Several varieties of herbs are native to this area and are used plentifully in all regions. Thai basil, sweet basil, and mint are three of the most favored. Citrus flavors are also important to the region’s cuisines, especially lime, which is native to Indonesia and Malaysia. All parts of the lime used, the juice, pulp, zest, and leaves. Lemongrass and galangal are the flavors that make the foods of these regions unique.
The medley of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavors is what makes Thai cuisine so distinct and nowhere is it more noticeable than in the Thai national soup tom yam. Thai chefs are extremely talented in appropriating foreign dishes and making them their own – such as in a typical noodle dish. Famous in Bangkok Koh Phangan, enjoy a hearty papaya salad, otherwise known as som tam, while Thai green curry is as distinct a dish as they ever get. Enhance your stay in Thailand with its delicious food.
the national aroma of Thailand, thanks to the generous use of fragrant herbs. Lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots provide the memorable smells, with chilies and fish sauce providing the kick. Substance comes in the form of jumbo shrimp (goong) and mushrooms. The flavor is a unique combination of spicy hot and sour; makes for an ideal start to a meal, or – when paired with rice – a worthy main dish.
the national dish of Vietnam sold everywhere from nice restaurants to street corners; where grandmothers set up makeshift kitchens. The rice vermicelli soup, pho a staple all over Vietnam and this Spiced Beef Pho with Sesame-Chile Oil version is the specialty of Hanoi.
Char Kway Teow –
Stir-fried flat rice noodles are a popular dish throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. One of the most popular street food in Malaysia; Char Kway Teow smoky fried noodles with lard, sausages, and prawns.
South West Asia Region Favourites – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma
Pakistan is rich in cultural and ethnic diversity. As such, cuisines vary greatly from region to region. They incorporate many of the cooking traditions from South Asia. And much of the cuisine similar to North Indian cuisine.
For highly seasoned and spicy foods, one should visit Punjab and Sindh. Foods and cuisine in other parts of Pakistan; are as varied as the regions themselves and offer distinct tastes by region. With the growing popularity and lifestyle changes globally, ready-made masala mixes are now available (mixed and ready to use spices), making it easier to achieve the authentic tastes of the Middle East.
Made with either chicken or lamb and is traditionally served with special yogurt called raita. Excite your taste buds with an explosion of flavors!
Creamy Moong dal
Moong dal is a thick soup made with lentils and is traditionally served with rice or naan. This dish has some fabulous aromatic spices; cumin, chilies, ginger, cloves, coriander and turmeric; that come together for heavenly comfort food.
This is a very popular recipe in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. This is a simple meat dish that is amazingly delicious. Traditionally served in a wok like a pan called karahi/kadhai; hence the name, you serve it hot with peas pulao, khichdi or naan. This amazing dish is made with few spices and ingredients; the flavor and taste are just amazing.
Foods have been melded by Hindu and Jain beliefs; a good example of which is vegetarianism, popular in Indian society. Islamic influences date back to Mughal and Delhi Sultanate rulers. And Persian (Syrian) trade and interactions influenced both North Indian and Decani cuisine forms.
Over the centuries, foreign invaders, traders, and colonial rulers resulted in the introduction of new food types and eating habits. The staple potato, an essential ingredient in many northern Indian recipes, came via the Portuguese. Indian cuisine also shaped history; the spice trade to Europe frequently quoted as the root cause of Europe’s Age of Discovery. Indian food forms have had an impact across Southeast Asia.
best served hot, accompanied with traditional Indian / Pakistani / Bangladeshi dishes. Naan goes well with curries, chicken, kebabs, etc.
also known as tandoori murgh in India, is marinated in yogurt, lemon juice, and plenty of spices, then grilled or broiled. Authentic tandoori chicken marinated in a tandoori masala or spice mixture. Traditionally, in India, this dish would be cooked in a tandoor; a type of clay oven that puts out intense heat. The tandoor used to make foods; whether it is chicken, beef or another dish like bread known as naan. Serve with long grain Basmati rice, cucumber salad; grilled veggies, or roasted corn on the cob.
Curried Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Cauliflower
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, with a little help from the well-seasoned yogurt marinade, remain moist and tender when oven-roasted. Hint: Soaking the prepared vegetables in ice water for 15 minutes before roasting will hydrate them; making them more moist and tender when cooked.
North-East Asia Region Favourites – China, Korea, Japan
Foods that were originally considered Western cuisine during Japan’s modernization also became popular in Korea. Popularized in post-war South Korea; these foods adapted to fit Korean tastes and now such a part of mainstream food culture; that it’s not considered especially Japanese anymore. Although no longer considered as Japanese; yellow curry another cooking staple in Korea.
For ton katsu, it is not entirely clear where the journey started, but deep-frying is not a native method of preparing food in Japan. The timing coincides with the Meiji Restoration, which brought with it the opening of trade with the West. Whatever its origins, ton katsu’s popularity has spread all over Asia, with regional variations.
Bibimbap is probably one of the most well-known and beloved Korean dishes for many people. Bibimbap simply translates to “mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables“. You can make endless variations to this dish depending on your preference and dietary requirements
A traditional dim sum brunch includes various types of steamed buns such filled with barbecue pork, dumplings, and rice noodle rolls, which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. The dim sum also served with steamed green vegetables; roasted meats, congee, and other soups. Dessert dim sum is also available as the customary egg tart.