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The Most Seminal Dishes from Asia

A Look at the Most Popular Dishes from Asia

By Lewis HumphriesPublished 9 months ago 3 min read
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Pad Thai is a staple dish from Thailand

Wherever you go in the world, you’re likely to encounter new and exciting cuisines, many of which have a unique history and are engrained in the culture of the locations that you visit.

Even visitors to the UK can sample delicacies such as fish and chips and steak and kidney pie, which may be food that we take for granted as we encounter it every single day.

Of course, some region’s cuisines are more flavourful and exciting than others, with Asian countries in particular having contributed a number of exceptional dishes to the wider world.

But what are the most seminal Asian dishes from around the world, and where exactly did these incredible examples of cuisine originate from? Let’s get into it!

#1. Sushi

Sushi is a Japanese staple that originated in China

While sushi is synonymous with the country of Japan, it actually traces its origins back for Millenia to the old rice fields of China. So, although Japan is now considered to be the sushi capital of the world, this dish initially evolved from an ancient example of Chinese cuisine called ‘narezushi’.

But what is sushi? Well, this dish is usually prepared with vinegared rice and seaweed, while it can combine a diverse array of fresh ingredients. For example, while sushi is commonly associated with seafood, it can also be prepared using vegetables and (in some instances) fruit.

Typical sushi flavourings include wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce, while it may be combined with various types of garnish such as Daikon radish.

While the vinegared rice contributes heavily to the flavour of sushi, different types of fish can also create unique and enjoyable taste experiences. For example, tuna and salmon sushi dishes are generally light in flavour, whereas octopus-inspired sushi is much stronger and more powerful.

#2. Pad Thai

Pad Thai emerged as a national cuisine during World War II

As the name suggests, Pad Thai was born in and is native too Thailand, having emerged as a national cuisine during the Second World War. Somewhat surprisingly, Pad Thai was actually created by Thailand’s Prime Minister at the time, who was concerned about the nation’s increased rice consumption and the distribution of food supplies.

Pad Thai is now an iconic Thai dish, and one that combines flat rice noodles with vegetables (such as bean sprouts and shallots), egg and a viable source of protein (like seafood, chicken, pork or tofu).

In terms of flavourings, this dish also relies heavily on soy sauce, fish sauce and vegetable stock, while it may be seasoned with fresh herbs, chillies and roasted peanuts. These elements combine to create a uniquely fresh and balanced dish, which can be sour, sweet and spicy in equal measure.

Usually, the ingredients are stir-fried together at a high heat, making it a relatively quick and easy dish that’s popular throughout the eastern and western worlds.

#3. Kaeng Lueang

Kaeng Lueang is better known as 'Thai Curry' in the western world

Now we come to what’s arguably the most flavourful dish on this list, with ‘Kaeng Lueang’ (which translates into “yellow curry” in English) one of the best known and most popular meals to have originated from Asia.

Heralding from Northern Thailand, Kaeng Lueang is more commonly referred to in the western world as ‘Thai Curry’, with different iterations available that vary in terms of their seasoning and spice level.

For example, ‘yellow’ Thai curry features generous amounts of turmeric alongside staple ingredients such as cumin, coriander, shallots and lemongrass. This dish also features fewer chillies, so it’s generally considered to have a mild taste.

‘Green’ Thai curry is arguably the mildest variation of Kaeng Lueang, while the ‘Red’ iteration incorporates more and hotter chillies to create a more explosive taste. This version may also include less coconut milk (which is also crucial to the taste of different Kaeng Lueang), while all Thai curries tend to feature potatoes and a broad range of Asian vegetables.

The Last Word – And Some Honourable Mentions

When exploring the rich and varied world of Asian cuisine, Peking duck is another highly popular export, and one that originates from the Chinese capital of Beijing.

Then there’s Kimchi, which is a staple Korean dish that’s prepared using an array of fermented vegetables (such as native radishes and cabbage) and seasoned using garlic, scallions, ginger and chilli powder).

Ultimately, any list of popular and historic world cuisines relies heavily on Asian dishes, which tends to be flavourful, healthy and relatively easy to prepare. These facts have helped dishes like Pad Thai to transcend their Eastern roots and become popular staples throughout the western world.

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