When people talk about Asian food they can make the faux pas of lumping together a number of different countries and different cuisines. Although there are obviously similarities in cooking methods and ingredients, every country of Asia is very proud of their cuisine. Many of them also have a signature or national dish. If you want to become more acquainted with Asian cuisines, these are some of the iconic dishes to try.
1. Kimchi, South Korea
The national dish of South Korea is not a main, but a side dish that seems to be included on every Korean menu. Made from cabbage and other veg, it has a sour and spicy taste that comes from red, sun-dried chili flakes and the dish is usually fermented. Kimchi is high in fiber and low in calories, making it one of Asian cuisines' healthiest dishes.
Sample recipe: koreanbapsang.com
2. Rendang, Indonesia
This spicy dish uses slow-cooked meat (usually beef) flavored with coconut, turmeric leaves, ginger, chili, shallots, galangal and lemongrass. It is served not just in Indonesia but other Malay regions in Asia. Eaten during important cultural events and when welcoming a treasured guest, the dish is dry and dark in color because all the spices get absorbed into the meat during the slow cooking process. It is typically served with rice and vegetable side dishes.
Sample recipe: saveur.com
3. Tsukemen Ramen, Japan
Asian cuisines don't mingle instant noodles with broth or vegetables and call it Ramen! Meaning "dipping noodles" in Japanese, Tsukemen Ramen is served in a bowl on its own with the broth and garnish on the side. Dip your noodles into the hot broth and mix with side dishes like barbecued pork, ume plum, green onion, nori, bean sprouts or marinated egg. Now open your mouth wide and munch, munch, munch!
Sample recipe: justonecookbook.com
4. Pad Thai, Thailand
There's no such thing as knowing too many noodle dishes for a fan of Asian cuisine! Pad Thai comprises of stir fried noodles flavored with tamarind pulp, dried shrimp, fish sauce, red chili peppers, palm sugar and garlic. Typically served with lime wedges and chopped roasted peanuts for extra crunch, Pad Thai is prepared with bean sprouts, crab, shrimp or chicken, and an assortment of other vegetables and coriander leaves.
Sample recipe: thaitable.com
5. Oyster Omelets, Taiwan
Oyster omelets are one of Taiwan's finest dishes. Mixing egg batter with potato starch for a thicker egg wrap consistency, the cook prepares a filling of small oysters and fries it in pork lard, before serving with a savory sauce.
Sample recipe: seriouseats.com
6. Peking Duck, China
Everybody knows this prime example of Asian cuisine's historic origins: Served in China since antiquity, Peking Duck is a dish fit to grace the dinner table of emperors. Seasoned with spices before being roasted or glazed with maltose syrup, Peking Duck is most famous for its delicious thin and crispy skin and succulent tender meat that melts in the mouth. The skin is traditionally served first, then the meat arrives with side dishes and garnishes like pancakes, sweet bean sauce, spring onions and vegetables.
Sample recipe: foodnetwork.co.uk
7. Chili Crab, Singapore
You simply cannot go to Singapore and not sample chili crab. This dish is completely ubiquitous – street stalls, homes and restaurants all have their own versions, but they’re all reliant on the chili, in various strengths. Chili crab has been promoted by The Singapore Tourism Board as one of Singapore's National Dishes, and simply must be savored using your fingers.
Sample recipe: whats-cooking.com.au
8. Pho, Vietnam
No self-respecting street food vendor or restaurant in Vietnam would dare omit Pho from their menu. Pho is the country's most popular and finest soup; imagine linguine-shaped rice noodles, herbs and meat floating nicely in a richly flavored broth. The dish is made from boiled chicken bones or red meat smothered in spices and wrapped in cheesecloth to prevent froth from these ingredients to cloud the broth. Now inhale deeply – this is the essence of Vietnam in a steaming bowl! Pho is served with various vegetable garnishes such as chili peppers, bean sprouts, cilantro, onions and herbs like basil leaves.
Sample recipe: steamykitchen.com
9. Nasi Kerabu, Malaysia
Nasi Kerabu is one of the most colorful dishes in Asian cuisines, tempting hungry diners with its bright blue hues and red side dishes. Often consumed with fried or marinated chicken, fried fish, salads, salted egg and crackers, Nasi Kerabu does not owe its bright colors to modern artificial flavoring but to butterfly pea flowers that lend their powerful taste to this dish.
Sample recipe: allrecipes.asia
I’ve concentrated on South East Asia simply because there are so many countries in Asia. It’s an exciting area of diverse cuisines, especially as you move from East to West. Do you have a favorite? Me? I’m partial to a fairly spicy satay chicken.