Food is inherent to culture. The dishes of a certain region provide a fascinating reflection of their culture and values. Asian food is a great example of this fact.
If you’re unfamiliar with many Asian dishes, you may not know where to start. It can’t all be General Tso’s, right? There are so many options when sampling Asian food that you may be overwhelmed.
Here we provide a list of the most popular Asian foods you should try before kicking the bucket. This is a great starting place for experiencing new dishes.
Why You Should Try These Popular Asian Foods
In the age of delivery, there are more great options for food than ever. Asia is a vast and varied country. The food is highly regional, meaning you have plenty to choose from!
You should try these foods before you die because the flavor profiles are so incredibly different from most Western foods. How often do you see turmeric and coconut oil in your lunches?
Trying a wide array of Asian foods will expand your palate. You’ll be a more sophisticated individual after eating these cuisines.
1. Tom Kha Gai
This coconut milk-based Thai chicken soup is creamy, spicy, and delicious. Ginger and lemongrass build an intense aroma in the soup, and the chicken and tomatoes add texture. Tom Kha Gai is often served over rice.
This soup is silky and comforting, and easy enough to make at home. You’ll need a few ingredients that may be hard to find, like fish sauce and oyster sauce. These are staples in East Asian kitchens, but you may have to run to the “fancy” grocery store to find them.
Tom Kha Gai is a Thai comfort soup, similar to how we see chicken noodle soup in the USA. Order yourself a bowl on a rainy day to warm your cold bones.
2. Butter Chicken
This is a staple in Indian cooking. It’s a mild curry served over rice and often made with chicken thighs. The gravy is made with tomatoes, yogurt, and a blend of curried spices.
Similar to Tom Kha, butter chicken is considered an Indian comfort dish. You can order it at most any Indian takeout restaurants. They’ll usually let you pick the level of spiciness, but most butter chicken dishes are fairly low on the spice scale.
If you want to make butter chicken at home, pick up a spice pack. It’s easier than creating a curry sauce from scratch! You can pick these up at most Asian grocery stores and specialty grocery stores.
3. Drunken Noodles
Drunken noodles is the English name of the Thai dish called pad kee mao. This popular Asian street food is one of the easiest dishes to learn to make at home. Stir-fried in chili oil and tossed until just coated, this dish can contain an array of vegetables and proteins.
In fact, drunken noodles are considered a hangover cure due to their spiciness! They’ll wake you back up and clear your sinuses in one bite. The electrolytes and sodium in the soy sauce will help replenish your spirits as well.
4. Korean BBQ
Anthony Bourdain once said, “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start”. He was entirely right! Korean barbecue is a spectacle and luxury all its own.
At a Korean barbecue restaurant, the grill is in the middle of the table. Your meat and vegetables are smoked on the spot, letting you watch the fat melt from the meat.
Korean barbecue is always accompanied by kimchi and gochujang. Kimchi is tangy Korean fermented cabbage, a perfect accompaniment to the slow-cooked meat. Gochujang is a spicy sauce and a staple in Korean cooking.
The key to arranging a great Korean BBQ meal is the banchan, or side dishes. Pick out a varying array of flavors and textures to eat together. Combining sweetly tangy sides with your slow-cooked protein will be heavenly.
Satay is a popular food in South Asia. It originated in Indonesia and has been adopted by many other cultures as well. Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore have all perfected their own satay dishes.
Essentially, satay is barbecued kebabs. The meat is cut into small strips or bite-size chunks, rubbed with a mix of aromatic spices, and then grilled or smoked. The spice blend varies from chef to chef and region to region.
The kebabs are served with satay sauce, a savory peanut dipping sauce. The skewers can also include vegetables and accompaniments to the protein.
6. Tom Yum
Tom Yum is Tom Kha Gai’s spicy brother. Tom Yum is a Thai hot and sour soup often made with chicken as well. It’s widely available in any Thai restaurant and possibly one of the most popular soups in the country!
The name Tom Yum refers to the way the soup is made. Tom refers to the boiling process, and yum refers to the hot and sour flavor profile. There are many variations of the soup throughout Thailand.
Some versions of Tom Yum are made with shrimp and other proteins. However, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass are essential to the flavor.
7. Dim Sum
Dim Sum is a classic Cantonese dish that you’ve likely heard of before. Dim sum covers a wide range of dishes and foods, as it refers to an arrangement of small plates served with tea. Dim sum is a breakfast and lunch staple in China and the surrounding countries.
A dim sum meal will likely include a steamed bun, fried dumpling, beef rolls, and sesame dessert balls. The flavor variation within these dishes will be vast, allowing you to taste multiple versions of the cuisine. Dim sum is a great “sampler” for authentic Chinese food.
Expand the Palette, Expand the Mind!
We hope this list of the most popular Asian foods gives you a jumping-off point for your culinary adventure. You’re in for a few real treats. Assuming you don’t die first.
For ideas on how to expand your mind and live life to the fullest, browse our online magazine for some more healthy lifestyle tips!