A TRUE MELTINGPOT IN EVERY SENSE
WHILE IT MAY BE EASY TO DISTINGUISH GEOGRAPHICAL BOUNDARIES
AMONG THE COUNTRIES OF ASIA, IT BECOMES HARDER FOR ONE
TO DRAW A DISTINCTION WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD HERITAGE
The people of Asia share a lot in common, the most obvious being their love for food. The popular phrase '' lets eat ' has literal translations in almost everywhere in Asia. The similarities do not just end here. Whether you are tucking in a bowl of beef noodle soup in Vietnam, or a tummy warmer of broth with rice noodles in Thailand, chances are that there will be a handful of common ingredients that go into all these dishes. Most of the Asian countries have a history of colonization by different Western powers - the Indonesians by the Dutch, Vietnam by the French, Philippines by the Spanish and Malaysia by the English, Dutch and the Portuguese.
Up till the seventh century, sailing ships of trade plied between the China and Indian sub-continent, with South East Asia providing the ports in which to replenish supplies. From India, the traders sailed down the Malabar coast, then on to Burma and the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand, from where they transported their goods over land to Cambodia (Fu-nan), then to Vietnam, until they reached their final destination in China. Indian influence in recipes of Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand is strong while Vietnam, Cambodia and even Laos has shown some Chinese influence.
However, Asia being the melting pot as it is, the food and cooking methods as evidenced in the various recipes, draws influences from China and India. While northern Vietnamese cuisine has a distinct Chinese heritage, there are many dishes that have its origin from India, such as Bahn Xeo - a form of curry from Vietnam. Curry is derived from the Tamil word, karhi, meaning sauce, and in all the Asian countries, you will find the glory of 'Curry' enjoyed in one form or another, either mild or spicy. Arab traders who settled down in their trading countries also left behind their culinary influence, the most popular being the kebab - marinated meat cubes threaded on skewers and cooked over an open flame has evolved into what is commonly known as Satay, a popular cuisine in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.
Herbs and fruits that are indigenous to the region have given rise to numerous interpretation of uses in the different countries of Asia. Coconut is widely used though out the region, while Indonesia shares the uses of galangal, pandan leaves, lemon grass and the leaves of the Kafir lime with countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand. One of the great things of Asian cooking is the fresh and readily available ingredients and the most commonly used cooking method are stir-fry, steam and blanching.
Despite the cooking methods and influences that have been adopted and indigenized in the region, the fact remains, the heady flavors of Asian cooking are as diverse yet as intrinsically similar as it people.
ONE CAN NEVER BE HOMESICK WHEN TRAVELING IN ASIA
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Last updated : 02 March, 2009