As obvious as it sounds, food in Asia is not like food at home. The general rule is that what you eat is what you can grow, and so most of the dishes are variations of each other. Some signature dishes hold their own distinctive flavour, but can be altered to suit different tastes.
A lot of the time, restaurants advertise ‘authentic’ local food, but truly the authentic food sits on the pavement outside the restaurant. The same dishes are made, the same
ingredients used and different prices charged. Even with a bit budget, the street food is the way to go. I’ve found that they put more love into the food, it’s their business and they depend on people’s custom. They’re also very proud of their cooking, you can actually taste the spice with a hefty spoon of pride. Compare this to the restaurants, also dependent of custom, but in a more removed way. The chef often has no contact with the diner, may not have their name to their effort. Dishes are often adapted to suit milder tastes, taking away the chefs oomph. I don’t mean to oopse the restaurants, merely promote the street food, with its regional specialities and warm welcomes you can feel I’m your full belly.
Typically, Asian cuisine is savoury. Three meals a day don’t include breakfast as we know it, the three meals all rotate the same hot dishes. Hot curry for breakfast is always an option. A rare dish that can be labelled as breakfast is congee, a rice pudding type meal.
Sweet things are made from mango, coconut, and sugar. The most common pudding would be mango sticky rice, where sticky rice is mixed with coconut milk and coconut sugar and put with sliced mango. Coconut ice cream is another pud, along with coconut sweets (made of a rice coconut paste and dyed bright colours). For those with a sweet tooth, fruit is the key in Asia. As I said, what they eat is what they grow and the land is ripe with beautiful fruits. Coconut, mango and banana are quite recognisable along the fruit market stalls, but then the remaining mass of shapes and colours is a taste mystery…
Rambutan belongs to the lychee family along with longan. It’s bright red with green tipped spikes, inside are transparent white segments. Like a sort of juicy grape, these little things are tasty, sweet, refreshing and moorish.
Dragonfruit is hard to miss in its bright pink or white. The fruit is vibrant and littered with little black seeds. The taste is a slight disappointment after the colour, like another fruit that’s been watered down and coloured in. The two colours have a slight taste difference but not enough for it to matter. Give it a try, you might love it, but for me with so much else to eat it gets left to one side.
The best dishes I’ve found are the ones the locals are eating, rather than the ones you’ve heard of from home. Start with a comforting spring roll and venture out as far as you like. If you feel brave, go for snake on a stick or chicken anus, for me it’s been lots of Tom Yum and stir friend cashew. Maybe some more questionable food is on the way.