A mere stroll along the busy streets in Asia, ignoring the scams that is, always provides a great opportunity for an outdoor culinary adventure.
Asian food is rich and nutritious. The recipes are tailored to produce the world’s tastiest dishes following a careful combination of natural ingredients. I’ve been lucky to dip my toe into this side of the world, exploring the various scrumptious cuisines of the locals. I have five of such dishes to recommend – you totally ought to try them out!
1. Pad Thai
A national dish in Thailand, pad thai is made from rice noodles, dried shrimp, bean sprouts, eggs, and tofu. This tasty dish is best served with beef, pork or chicken to produce a unique sour, salty and sweet flavour.
The contrasting texture in the food makes pad thai one of the most popular dishes in Asia. To augment its flavour, the dish may be served with red chillies, fresh lime wedges, sugar, or fish sauce. I couldn’t resist the moment I spotted a vendor whipping this up, and the fragrance got my mouth watering even before I was presented with a delicious serving.
2. Stinky Tofu
As the name suggests, the smell of the dish is overpowering and memorable. Nevertheless, stinky tofu is perhaps the most popular snack food in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and is available at many street food vendors.
First, tofu is fermented either in meat and fish-based brine, a mix of fermented milk and a vegetable, or a combination of both. The best tofu comes from weeks or even months old brine.
During my travels in the untouched regions in Asia, I discovered that the style of cooking is different in every country. The style of serving stinky tofu also varies from region to region.
Generally, the dish is deep-fried in oil and served with soy sauce and chilli in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. In regional versions of the dish, you’d find steamed or stewed stinky tofu as a side meal to the main dish.
3. Lahpet Thoke
This healthy and fragrant salad is most famous in Myanmar. Lahpet stands for “fermented tea” which in ancient times symbolised peace, a common addition to peace offerings made between rival kingdoms during the war.
In contemporary times, lahpet is a deep gesture of hospitality to house guests. The pickled tea leaves can be ingested either as a meal, that is, lahpet thoke, or as main snack referred to as ahlu laphet.
In the former, an assortment of fried legumes, including toasted sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, shredded cabbage, are added to the pickled tea leaves.
4. Amok Trey
One of the highlights of my trip to Cambodia was tasting its national dish, the amok trey. The spicy coconut fish curry is a delicate blend of flavours, steamed in banana leaf. Tofu, chicken and snails can act as protein substitutes in the meal.
If you visit the country during the Water Festival celebrations, you will definitely be served with amok trey in coconut shells – as the main dish. The fish has to be soaked in rich curry paste before the final cooking. The mouth-watering delicacy is best enjoyed with Jasmine rice.
5. Filipino Adobo Chicken
The Philippines stands out in the cooking of some of the most savoury chicken dishes in Asia. Filipino Adobo Chicken is no different.
Usually, the chicken is braised in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. The cooking process itself is characterised by an intoxicating sour and sweet aroma.
Before hitting the pot, the locals prefer marinating the chicken in soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, and pepper, and let it set overnight. The chicken is then cooked along with the other ingredients on medium-low heat.
Trust me when I say I couldn’t stop at just one.
Time for a gastronomic adventure!
Asia is a melting pot of cultures, and this is no less evident in its tantalising array of delicacies. Even a visit to just one country won’t be enough to experience its culinary extravagance (which is why I keep travelling down for more and more feasts).
For more adventures on the palate, why not take a peek at my favourites in the USA and the best gourmet dishes I’ve ever tasted in Southern Europe?