Thanks to the spread of the Internet and the immigration of Asians around the world, people from all over the world know more about the rich and diverse cultures of Asia. If you want to explore the cuisines of the top three Asian countries, here’s a quick rundown.
China is one of the largest countries in the world, both in terms of geographic area and in terms of population. As with many large countries, each region within its borders has its own special food specialties. However, a typical Chinese cuisine often includes noodles or rice and a side dish with vegetables, meat, or fish. Chicken and fish are popular sources of meat. Food is generally served in small pieces that can be easily picked up with chopsticks. Chinese food is served in large common portions. Each dinner is given a bowl of rice and everyone selects food from common plates with chopsticks or other utensils.
Authentic Chinese food, unlike American Chinese food, is also known for its extravagant use of spices. Two of its regions, Hunan and Sichuan, are particularly famous for their small but fiery red peppers, used in sauces. Two regions, a canton on the mainland opposite Hong Kong and Shanghai on the north coast, are known for the excellence and abundance of fresh seafood dishes.
Moving to southeast China, Korea has a different cuisine than its larger neighbors. Korean food is characterized by the use of some spices: red pepper, garlic, onion, ginger, mustard, sesame, and bean paste. Chili paste is another favorite flavor, and it’s often served as a table sauce for diners to add more to its flavor. Koreans also prefer fermented foods like the popular pickled cabbage dish, kimchi.
The Korean roasting method known as Pulgoki has become popular in many parts of the world. Meat cooked this way is usually wrapped in a basic sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar. The addition of other spices distinguishes one region from another and sometimes distinguishes one cook from another. Korea’s location on the peninsula gives access to the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, and the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, a large part of Korean cuisine includes seafood. Dried young sardines, dried squid, and seaweed are often found in Korean dishes.
The Japanese have sailed for hundreds of years. Because of this widely available resource, Japanese chefs elevated the preparation of sushi or raw fish to an art. Japanese meals generally include a plate of rice, soup, vegetables, and fish, chosen from a variety such as squid, octopus, eels, oysters, and other shellfish. The flavors of Japanese are usually subtle, but there are surprising characteristics like wasabi, a spicy option that can be added to dishes or used as a sauce on its own. Other common Japanese seasonings include rice vinegar, mirin, miso, sake, and soy sauce. Seaweed, ginger, mushrooms, and beans are used to flavor both rice and soup.
While the Chinese parts focus on society, the Japanese table emphasizes aesthetics. Food is often served in many different plates that have small portions served in a very elegant way. The careful selection of dishes and their arrangement at the table is as important to a dining experience as the food itself. Japanese cuisine is eaten with chopsticks or cutlery, depending on the type of food.