Asian Cuisine Crash Course
Asian culture has been around far longer than any in the West. It has developed largely unknown throughout ancient history. But now, with the proliferation of Asian immigrants and the Internet, people are becoming aware of what the East has to offer. As with any culture, food is as interesting as any aspect. Read on and discover three Asian cuisines.
China can boast being one of the world's largest countries - both in geographical area and in terms of population size. Because of these factors, China is divided into different regions that, while all characteristically Chinese, are also distinct in many ways. What is similar across all regions, however, is the universal use of noodles or rice and a complementary dish with vegetables, meat or fish. Chicken, pork, and fish are the most popular meats, with beef not as prevalent as in the West. Most dishes are served as bite-sized pieces so that they are easier to eat with chopsticks - no more slicing requiring the use of knives. Chinese dishes are served family-style, with a large communal dish wherein all diners take from. No individual portions here.
Two regions, Canton on the mainland opposite Hong Kong and Shanghai on the northern coast, are renowned for their fresh seafood dishes partly because of their proximity to abundant waters. Authentic Chinese food, in contrast to Americanized Chinese food, is characterized by the extensive use of spices. The Hunan and Sichuan provinces of China are well known for their use of sauces laden with small but fiery red peppers.
The flavors of Korean cuisine is distinct from its neighbors. Korean dishes typically use red peppers, garlic, onions, ginger, mustard, sesame, and bean paste to get its trademark taste. Also, chili paste is a favorite among Koreans with many households serving them at the dinner table. And who could forget kimchi? It's a side dish made out of fermented cabbage. If there is one dish that screams Korea, it's kimchi.
Pulgoki, a Korean way of barbecuing, has enjoyed increasing popularity. A basic sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar is used to coat meat that is about to be grilled. Different ingredients are added according to region and the individual cook's preferences. Korea's unique geography gives it access to the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. This wealth of coastline means an abundance of fish - something that Korean cuisine took advantage of and made its own.
The Japanese have a rich seafaring tradition that spans hundreds of years. Because of this, Japanese chefs have elevated cooking with fish into an art form. Sushi is not only tasty, it's a feat for the eyes as well. Preparation of this dish takes years of painstaking practice. A typical Japanese meal consists of steamed rice, soup, a vegetable dish and fish prepared in a variety of ways. Exotic fare like squid, octopus, eel, clams, and sea urchins are considered common in Japan.
Japanese food is known for its subtle approach to flavor but there are noteworthy exemptions to this rule. Wasabi is a strong spicy paste made from horseradish and is what gives sushi its kick. Other familiar Japanese condiments include rice vinegar, mirin, miso, sake, and soy sauce. Seaweed, ginger, mushrooms and beans are used in a number of ways and commonly flavor rice dishes and soups.
Japanese chefs take the time to make their creations look as good as they taste. Wherein Chinese cooking is content with serving everything in a single bowl, the Japanese approach is characterized by individual servings. These are painstakingly arranged by hand and meant to make the dish as appealing as possible.