Asian Food is diverse and there is so much food variety in Asian countries. One life is short to explore the food from Asia, I am compiling a list of 5 must eat foods in a country. This is my first post in this series.
India is one of the largest countries in Asia with so much diversity in food. The North Indian food is different from South India’s food, food from the west is different from the eastern part of India. Infect food culture changes after every few hundred miles. Indian curries are one of the most popular curries in Asian food culture. It is difficult to select 5 must have dishes from India but these are some must eat in India.
Thali is not a dish, it is the Indian name for the plate. Thali is a style of the meal which is an ensemble of different dishes. A balance thali should offer all the 6 different flavors of salt, bitter, sour, astringent, spicy and sweet on one single plate. Thalis are available all over India but the dishes in these keep on changing according to regions. Most of the items in these thalis are traditional dishes made from available local products of that region. For eg: a Gujarati thali is vegetarian and consists of roti, kadhi or dal, rice, vegetables with some snacks and sweet dish. In the south of India, they may serve you on banana leaf or thali and it can be vegetarian or nonvegetarian with many different dishes. Rice is the main component of the south thali. Every region has its own thali with local dishes and it’s a wholesome meal. Thali’s are better because in one thali you can taste many dishes during one meal and it fulfill our nutritional demand. Next time when you are out for lunch or dinner, try to have a thali.
Biryani’s prime ingredient is rice and it is mostly made with lamb or chicken meat. It is an aromatic and flavorful one-pot dish made with long grain biryani basmati rice, chicken/meat, fresh spices, herbs and then cooked over low heat. There are different kinds of biryanis all over India but Hyderabad and Lucknow’s biryanis are most popular in India. Biryani is made differently in different parts of India and spices used in it varies from region to region as well as the making method.
Biryani also have different options, it can be made with chicken, mutton, beef, prawn, fish, egg or vegetables. It is a wholesome meal in itself and served with yogurt raita, salan gravy, and salad.
It is a south Indian dish made from rice and lentils batter, then stuffed with potato sabzi and served with different chutneys and sambar. Dosa is a crispy pancake though in some parts of south India it comes in a soft form like a pancake. When this dosa is filled with stuffings it becomes masala dosa. Dosa batter is made by soaking rice and lentils, then a wet paste of these is made, this batter is then fermented before making a dosa. Earlier masala dosa was filled with potato sabzi but these days it is filled with many things like cheese, onions and many different things. Though it is south Indian dish originally but is available all over India and most of the Indian people like it.
Chicken Butter Masala/Paneer Butter Masala
These two dishes are essential same in nature and the main difference is that one is made with chicken as the main component and other is made with Paneer (Cottage cheese). The gravy for these is made with onions, tomato, ginger, garlic, cashew paste, oil, and butter. The gravy is then seasoned with salt, spices, and herbs, finally garnished with cream. These two dishes are rich in taste and texture. Paneer butter masala gets ready fast though cooking chicken takes time. These curries go well with roti, parantha or Naan. It is a good dish to taste Indian spices in its mild form though it’s rich in flavors.
An Indian meal is incomplete without a sweet or dessert. One of the most popular sweet in India is Gulab Jamun. There are only 3 ingredients required to make Gulab jamun. The milk solid is mixed with some cornflour for binding, then small balls of this dough are deep fried in oil. These balls then dipped in sugar syrup. That’s how the Gulab Jamuns are made. Gulab Jamun is rich and sweet in taste, sometimes these are garnished with almond or pistachios. Gulab Jamun is popular all over India but most popular in North of India. It is one of the oldest sweet from India.
Like Indian cuisine, Thai cuisine also has all five taste sour, hot, salty, savory and sweet. They use rice as a staple and since Thailand is surrounded by sea so seafood is a prominent ingredient. Thai food has special place in Asain food culture. The street food is very popular in Thailand and hawker stall prepares food by grilling, stir-frying and boiling the food. They can prepare a dish for you within few minutes after you order. I visited Thailand and ate different things during my stays. The food is diverse and there are hundreds of tasty dishes available and it is very difficult to select 5 dishes still, I am trying to list 5 must-eat dishes in Thailand.
Satay is small chunks of seasoned meat barbecued on coal. Chicken, pork, beef, fish, prawns, mutton or eggs are grilled on a bamboo skewer and then served as is. There is always a sauce to go with satay and its main ingredients are peanuts, soya sauce, chilly and oil. These satays are bite size and are available everywhere in streets of Thailand as well as in many other Southeast Asian countries.
Spicy Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)
This is an outlandish dish, some people love it and some people can’t eat more than a bite of it. The main ingredient of it is Green Papaya as the name suggest. The shredded raw papaya along with garlic, chilies, cherry tomatoes crushed in pestle and mortar. This beaten salad is garnished with peanuts, dry shrimp or salted crab. Traditional it is a very hot dish and not for every taste buds but these days many places dish out a milder version of it. It is considered a healthy dish considering the ingredient used in it.
Red Curry (Gaeng Daeng)
It is one of my personal favorite curries. The base of this dish is red curry paste, which made with lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, cilantro, shallot, garlic, fresh chiles, and soaked dried chiles. This red curry paste is cooked with meat (Mostly chicken or seafood), coconut milk and garnished with finely sliced kaffir lime leaves. This aromatic curry goes well with steamed rice. Red curry is one of the most popular curry dishes around the world.
Flat Rice Noodles (Pad Thai)
If Red curry is most popular curry dish then Pad Thai is considered a national dish of Thailand. It is a complete meal in itself. The soften flat rice noodles are fried in a searing hot wok, with crunchy bean sprouts, onion, some meat or seafood and finally topped with a fried omelet before serving. Pad Thai get ready within minutes and was mostly made in front of me when I ordered this anywhere. It is served with finely ground peanuts, fish sauce, and chili powder or sauce.
Mango Sticky Rice (Kao Niow Mamuang)
Mango sticky rice is the most popular Thai dessert made with glutinous rice and fresh mango. It is prepared steamed sticky rice, which is very with glutinous rice variety. Sometimes steamed Jasmine rice is also served with Mangos. The Mango Sticky Rice is served warm or at room temperature. Traditional it was eaten by rolling the rice with the fingers and scooping up mango slices but nowadays it is served with spoon or fork.
Madhurima Chakraborty of Orange Wayfarer traveled to Vietnam and she ate many different types of food. From her experience from Vietnam, she recommends these five must-have foods when you are there.
The broth of the Pho
When in Vietnam, be prepared to soak in the flavourful broth of the Pho. They kick-start the day with this rich meal that consists of meat slices, essentially that of beef, for the experimental souls, you have fish cakes as well. I must not forget the zing added by home-grown herbs, red chilies, and lemongrass. Add the zest of lime to pay proper respect to the gleeful affair. Their chilies are quite a sight, bent like a parrot beak and fit to scare away the fiercest of demons!
Talking about food and I shall not be mentioning the spring rolls? That is a sin in Vietnam! Vietnamese start the day with freshly steamed shrimps and pork slices, wrapped in thin slices of rice paper sheets. The dab of soy sauce makes it ethereal! And the herbs! Very important ingredient of a Vietnamese kitchen.
I strongly recommend Ban mi when traveling the Northern Vietnam, especially Hanoi. A baguette sandwich filled with greens and a choice of fillings, including paté and freshly made omelet, is the epitome of comfort food example. The southern part of the country takes price in preparing a spicier version of the food.
Slow cooked Fish (Ca Kho To)
Do try their fish, slow-cooked in an earthen pot and served with steamed sticky rice. The sneak-head fish (which is otherwise known as Eel) is wrapped in the banana leaves and steamed to perfection with little mix of spices. It is best served with sticky rice.
The coffee in the country is enriched with the creaminess of egg yolk. Volumes have been written about the goodness of Vietnamese coffee. Do not forget to watch the sunset while sipping on it. The Vietnamese Coffee is one of the finest in the world and retains a unique character as the egg white is used to add foam atop the liquid. Needless to mention, it tastes great as well!
Other things to try are deeply fried frog legs, Shrimp cakes, sticky rice are some of the assortment the cuisine has on offer for you.