Asia produces some of the most complex, varied, exciting and delicious foods of any place on Earth. Bold, pungent flavors like ginger, lemongrass, chilis and a host of fresh and dried spices punctuate Asian foods with a robust taste.
Sauces and broths are cooked slowly, developing profound and complex foundations for dishes. If you find yourself with an itch to explore the foods of the far east, these staple dishes are a great place to start.
Hailing from Japan, Ramen is a hearty, mind-numbingly delicious noodle soup that consists of wheat noodles swimming in an unctuous broth with a variety of other ingredients. Making Ramen broth is an elaborate and time-consuming process that involves lots of ingredients but yields a deeply flavorful and satisfying product.
Typically, the broth is some sort of meat stock that’s cooked for hours and flavored with aromatics such as ginger, garlic, miso, kombu (kelp), soy, mushrooms, bonito flakes and other ingredients. The combination of toppings in Ramen are endless.
Braised duck, roasted pork belly, grilled chicken, carrots, mushrooms, scallions, radishes and soft-boiled eggs are just a few of the many ingredients you might find in a bowl of Ramen. That’s the beauty of Ramen, you can make it your own.
One can often find Ramen on the menu at a Japanese restaurant but more than ever specialty Ramen shops are popping up everywhere.
There are thousands of different variations of Ramen, many of them vegetarian-friendly. Since Ramen is so intricate, making it at home is quite a project, but it’s absolutely worth it.
One of the most common and beloved Asian foods in the world, fried rice is a takeout food staple. Fried rice is made by cooking steamed white rice in a hot wok with other ingredients. But there’s a lot more to fried rice than you probably think.
Everyone has had fried rice from their favorite Chinese restaurant, which is usually flavored with soy sauce then cooked with barbecued pork, some vegetables and scrambled egg. What a lot of people don’t realize though is that while Chinese fried rice is the most popular, virtually every Asian food culture has their own variety of fried rice, all of which offer different variations of wonderful taste.
In Thailand, for example, fried rice is often made with big chunks of pineapple and is flavored with lime, cilantro and cashews. Indian fried rice may be accented with coconut, ginger, green chilis and cilantro.
Definitely do not stop eating your favorite Chinese fried rice, but just realize there’s a whole lot more options out there. Whatever type of fried rice you’re looking to indulge in, it always makes a great sidekick in any spread of Asian cuisine.
A delicious bowl of curry is second to none when it comes to packing vibrant, fresh and exciting flavors. Curries are most commonly Indian or Thai, but there are many incredible curries to be found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos and beyond.
As with many Asian foods, there are countless different types of curry. Some are meat-based, but many curries, especially Indian curries, are vegetarian. Some curries are green, while others are red, yellow or orange. Many curries are sweet whereas others pack incendiary amounts of spiciness.
Curries are made by pounding a complex collection of herbs and spices into an aromatic paste, then frying that paste and adding liquid to make a sauce. The most widely used ingredients in those pastes are ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime leaf, turmeric, cumin, fresh chilis, cilantro and Thai basil while the liquid is coconut milk.
Thai curries tend to be fruitier, lighter and more herbaceous as they use more fresh ingredients like lemongrass whereas Indian curries are more savory and rich as they use more dried spices.
Curries can be found at any Thai or Indian restaurant but are also a ton of fun to make at home. All that curry needs to make a great meal is a bowl of rice to soak up all that deliciousness.
Chinese Hot Pot
If you haven’t had Chinese Hot Pot before, it’s time to try it. Hot Pot is a sort of fondue that comes from the Szechuan region of China. To go to a Hot Pot restaurant is to embark on one of the best food experiences of your life.
You sit down and from the menu you pick what you would like to cook from a cornucopia of sumptuous ingredients like sliced pork belly, Chinese sausages, cubed tofu, fresh shrimp and diced vegetables. They then bring out those ingredients along with a bubbling vat of hot broth made by simmering Szechuan chili peppers, ginger, garlic and Szechuan peppercorns in beef stock to create a dynamic flavor profile. Finally, you cook all those little morsels in the fiery cauldron of incredible flavor that lies before you.
The chili peppers give the broth a potent kick, but the Szechuan peppercorns actually help ease the heat by literally creating a cool numbing sensation on your tongue, giving you a fascinating yin-yang experience unlike anything you’ve ever had before.
Alternatively, if you want to try Hot Pot at home, all the requisite ingredients can be found at your local Asian market.
Vietnam’s national soup, Pho is a true pleasure to savor! Like many great Asian dishes, its principal element is a deeply flavorful broth that’s made from hours of cooking wonderful aromatic ingredients.
The broth is made from beef meat and bones slowly simmered with star anise, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, coriander, garlic, onion, fish sauce and roasted ginger. The result is a rich, complex and incredibly delicious liquid that’ll warm you to your soul.
When this broth is ready, it’s poured over rice noodles and raw beef that’s sliced paper-thin. As the hot broth is poured over the beef, it’s gently cooked by the hot liquid. The soup is garnished with crunchy bean sprouts, fresh mint and Thai basil, sliced red chilis and lime.
Literally translating to “mixed rice”, Bibimbap is the most popular rice dish in all of South Korea. Bibimpap is as simple as it’s tasty. It consists of a bowl of steamed white rice topped with an assortment of cooked meat, vegetables, Kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and a fried egg.
The vegetables are typically carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, bean sprouts and spinach that all have all been lightly sautéed with sesame oil and the meat is ground beef or chicken that has been stir-fried with chili paste.
In Korean restaurants, the rice is lightly seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil before being put in a hot Dolsot, a clay pot which heats the rice and creates a crispy, toasted crust. This is all topped up with a drizzle of Gochujang, a Korean pepper paste made from chili peppers and fermented soybeans.
The paste combines with the yolk of the fried egg to make a spicy, umami-laden sauce that permeates the rice and vegetables with explosive flavor. Find this Korean staple at any Korean restaurant or try making it at home for a terrific Korean entrée.