ss_blog_claim=94754a6b1be8770ce22d6ccb8015a428 ¿Where the Heck are You?: 8/1/10 - 9/1/10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts On Asian Cuisine

Granted, taste is individual, but from experience and experimentation I rank the major Asian cuisines as follows: Vietnamese 1st, Thai/Khmer 2nd, Japanese 3rd, Chinese 4th, and Indian and Korean tied for 5th. This is by no means a comment on quality, each of these cuisines is of high quality and contain a variety of ingredients.

I have eaten several of these cuisines in their native countries, and at both high-end restaurants and street-vendor stalls. I've eaten Thai in Bangkok and Khmer in Siem Reap. In Shenzhen Guangdong (Canton in English) China I of course had Cantonese, and also in nearby Hong Kong. I found the Chinese food in Taipei Taiwan to be more like Fujian of the mainland. I have eaten all these cuisines at American restaurants all across the country.

I pick Vietnamese for the top slot because of not only its unique components but also its fusion of Chinese elements, French influences, and the citrus and curries of Thai. I think if I had to give up all but one cuisine to eat, I would choose Vietnamese because of the variety.

I didn't touch on Nipponese cuisine previously, but from my childhood, it was and is still one of my favourite cuisines. Partly because of the mysticism that surrounded a particular Japanese restaurant my parents would take us to every few years in the city. It was a fantastical mystical place. It began with the kimono clad hostess that met us at the door and lead us over the little arched bridge over the stream that trickled from the indoor waterfall and through a garden to the main dining room. Along the way we would get a quick glimpse of the sushi bar. The main room was surrounded with the sliding rice paper walls of the "private" tea rooms. All of which just made the place magical to a child! Of course as a child, my favourite dishes were the shrimp tempura and teriyaki. My tastes grew as I did and now I am more fond of sitting at the sushi bar enjoying sashimi and handrolls. One of the most intriguing aspects of Nipponese cuisine is the presentation, it is one of the most intricate of all cuisines and is steeped in legend and tradition. I love getting a real Bento Box for lunch, it's so much fun opening all the little food gifts. And least I forget, a big bowl of Miso is a great way to chase away a cold!

A cuisine I forgot to mention is Malay, which I have sampled in both Kuala Lumpur and in America. Which is a bit courser than the more refined Asian cuisines and in general is quite spicy.

The American-Chinese cuisine that so many are familiar with is mostly based on Cantonese with a bit of Hunan and Szechuan to add some spiciness. The 19th century Chinese immigrants who came to America to work on building the western railroads created a style of Chinese food not found in China by utilizing the local ingredients of their newly adopted country and catering to the western American tastes.