Asian food is notorious for ruining everything good and easy in your life. After one bite, you’ll soon realise that all other dishes are bland and stodgy in comparison, and you’ll have to hunt and gather for ace Asian restaurants for the rest of your days.
Asian food is the best food out of all the nationalities. It’s quite a statement, but it’s one that I stand by! Sure, I might be a touch biased since I am half Asian, but I prefer to call myself ‘well-educated’ instead of biased.
I have been lucky enough to sample a huge range of dishes from various restaurants, cafes, street vendors and home-cooking (thanks relatives!) from all around the world, and it has solidified my belief that Asian food is the way forward to a long, healthy life of tasty treats. Just take a look at my grandma – Asian food consumer, 86, doesn’t look a day over 60 and still gets caught speeding in her car! What a legend.
1. It’s the epitome of clean eating
As long as you avoid the heavily deep fried dishes, the majority of Asian food is simple and pure. From simple rice dishes to flash-fried veggies, from noodle soup to seaweed; the list is endless of all the varieties you can indulge in! Don’t just reach for the greasy sweet and sour chicken or egg fried rice. Think outside the box and you won’t have to worry about your waistline with all the sea food, crunchy vegetables and nutritious broths.
Vietnamese food is so simple, yet delicious. Have you tried Pho? Have you tried rice paper Vietnamese spring rolls? These dishes are stocked full of healthy ingredients with minimal messing around in the cooking process.
2. You can eat cheap without sacrificing the taste
When travelling in Asia, you’re guaranteed to be able to find some amazing food without busting your budget. When traipsing around European cities, it’s hit and miss whether you find delicious food for a good price! But when you wander the streets in Asia, you can stop off at any street vendor and scoff some freshly made cuisine for pittance.
Sure, it’s trial and error whether you accidentally pick up something that will blow your face off with the spice, and you may run the risk of eating something that might have you running for the toilet… but in all honesty, I have never had the latter happen to me.
Some of my golden memories lie in Thailand of when I found a delicious noodle soup stand in Chiang Mai for a £0.70 bowl of top-notch food. Say what?! That’s right, I had a full meal for that amount! And during the Full Moon Party, I discovered the most crispy and warming spring rolls that were bursting full of veggies. I’m sure I bought all that were on offer that eve, but they gave me the energy to carry on through the epic night.
3. It’s easy to make
I have a bit of a fear with the kitchen. The thought of having to cook and feed others is pretty terrifying and I literally have no idea how to go about cooking delicious nibbles. However, I can cook a mean stir fry. It’s so incredibly simple: sweat garlic and onion, throw in chopped veggies, add soy sauce and sweet soy, maybe some ginger, and a load of chilli – voila! You have something darn good.
Following Asian recipes or getting some advice is a good plan if you want to try out some experimental things. Alex made Pad Thai for her first time with the help of some good recipes and it turned out freaking amazing! Egg, noodles and peanuts are a sure-fire way to please a hungry crowd.
I’m lucky enough to live with a chef who sometimes lends a helping with my cooking fiascos. He once whipped up a batch of sushi rice and showed me how to roll seaweed sushi rolls with slithers of raw salmon and avocado running down the centre. Get the right apparatus i.e. a wooden rolling mat (NOT a sushi gun) and you’ll soon have a ton of healthy tubes of sushi that a restaurant would charge you a bomb for.
And for those who aren’t keen on going too far out with cooking, Asian style tastes great raw (hi, sashimi) and with the right seasoning, the simplest of things can be amazing.
4. It’s fine to eat with your hands
When you can get your hands dirty, you know that you’re having a good time. I’ve already mentioned fantastic Thai spring rolls and Vietnamese rice paper rolls, which you can dip in satay peanut sauce or thai sweet chilli sauce. But when you get to sample Peking Duck, you’ll never look back – *DROOL*.
The crispy succulent duck comes out shredded off the bone and you take a thin Chinese pancake, scatter the duck down the centre with chopped cucumber and spring onion. Dollop Hoisin Sauce or Plum Sauce and you have yourself a little package of heaven. Who cares that you have Hoisin dribbling down your chin and trickling down your elbows, because you are experiencing something very special.
5. Feel the burn!
When dealing with chilli, approach with caution. If you’re a newbie to the fiery taste then it’s best to slowly build your tolerance by adding a tiny bit at first. As you adjust to the kick, add some more… and then more… so on and so forth.
Building up your tolerance will open up a whole new universe of Asian food that would normally blow your head off. Once you have a grip on the spice, you don’t need to worry which street vendor you approach or what you randomly pick from the menu full of indecipherable characters whilst in Asia.
You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you train yourself to handle chilli, but don’t run before you can walk. I still remember the distressing burn when I ate some super spicy Chinese sea food that my mum ordered. Thanks mum, I’ve only just regained my sight.
6. It tastes good all around the world
You don’t have to be in Asia to taste fantastic Asian food! Unfortunately, traditional dishes from certain countries can really be mimicked poorly in other countries e.g. faux British fish and chips in Bangkok doesn’t quite work, and an American-style burger in Malaysia just doesn’t feel right. But as Asian food is so exciting and versatile, chefs have been bringing out fantastic menus to restaurants all around the world for all the mega Asian fans.
Living in Bristol means that I’m quite far from the bustling cafes of Singapore, but I still get to taste quality Asian food! My favourite spots are Nomu which has amazing tofu fries and a delectable range of sushi. Bauwow also has incredible bowls of Pho on offer and Sticks and Broth is a Ramen eater’s wet dream. Luckily, these joints are really affordable so I’m a happy Asian gal!
7. The power of the broth
The broth of any Asian soup has to be done well as it can dictate the entire bowl. Bad soup = liquid disappointment. The secret with some Asian food recipes is the length of time that you can dedicate to boiling the broth. With Vietnamese Pho, throw in the bones and blanch them, preferably beef bones as the marrow is full of iron and zinc! As it’s liquid, the nutrients absorb quickly into the body, which is also great as it’s pretty low fat.
Herbs and other things to include are coriander, basil, shallots, caramelised onion, ginger, star anise, cloves, cardamon – it all brings together a lovely soup that tastes incredible. After the broth is done, squeeze fresh lime and have a side of Sriracha hot sauce or Hoisin sauce. Don’t add it to the boiling pot or you’ll spoil its fragrant taste.
A bowl of this is quick to heal a hangover or any groggy travel vibes, plus its actually good for breakfast. If that sounds a bit wild for those Western cereal lovers, then go to Vietnam and you’ll be converted quickly.
8. Go light or go hard
Sure, Asian food is clean and healthy but you can still stuff your face with it and fill that gaping hungry hole. Bowls of steaming Pad Thai, Ramen noodles and rice will really nail any hangry tendencies. But despite the gorging, you won’t be feeling too sluggish and hideous like you would after a Big Mac.
Bento Boxes are the most incredible invention. You get a box that’s divided into sections and each part contains Japanese goodies. From salad to soft-shell crab, from Teriyaki salmon to sashimi – you get to taste a bit of everything! Plus, you usually get a side of Miso Soup. The size might be deceiving but you will be stuffed full and so content afterwards.
9. Veggie options are just as good as the meaty ones
It doesn’t matter if you’re a vegetarian or a meat-lover, everything tastes good when done Asian style. Pork, beef, chicken, prawns and all the other meaty options will be great, but have you tried tofu?
There’s about 500 ways you can cook tofu and about 90% of them taste better than you can dream. Silken tofu, fried tofu, marinated, curried, scrambled and whatever they do to tofu that means its lightly fried on the outside but molten in the centre (OMG) are all amazing ways to consume this soya bean curd.
Tofu contains amino acids, iron, calcium and other micro-nutrients, so don’t be sad that you’re missing out on the meaty options as you’re winning with this healthy substance!
10. You can eat it out of fun things, like a pineapple
Mum always said, ‘Don’t play with your food’, but you know what? If it’s put in a pineapple then I can do whatever I want – No rules! It’s pretty much done for novelty effect, but the juices of the scooped-out fruit add a zing and sweetness to your meal. And you get to pretend you’re on a desert island.
I had pineapple fried rice which was served in an actual pineapple when I was in Northern Thailand, and it had me. It was so good and the perfect way to dine only a few days into my trip. I was living the Asian dream.
If you haven’t really explored all the Asian delicacies out there, then it’s time that you get stuck in. Hopefully this homage inspired you to hit up your local Asian restaurant, but pick with care and make sure you find the best food in your city!
I love to
play with photograph my food so find my foodies snaps over on Instagram.
All photographs by Sophie and Alex saint, apart image 12.