The Most Asian Dish

The Most Asian Dish

Asia, the largest continent in the world – with a total of 48 countries – is a melting pot of race and culture. That being said, there is a common dish found across its cuisine: Rice. Grown in every continent on earth, with the exception of Antarctica, it is the third-highest worldwide production, after sugarcane and maize. So what makes it the ultimate Asian dish?

 

Asia alone both produces and consumes 90% of the world’s rice

 

In 2016, the top 10 rice producing countries were Pakistan at 2.85 million hectares (approximately 2.85 million rugby fields combined), Cambodia (2.90), Philippines (4.50), Burma (6.80), Vietnam (7.66), Thailand (9.65), Bangladesh (12.00), Indonesia (12.16), China (30.35), and finally India at 43.20 million hectares. 

 

Link to ancient Asian folklore

In India, rice is associated to the Hindu God of Wealth, Lakshmi a.k.a Annapurna (provider of a bounty of rice). In Bali, Hindus believe that it was the power of Vishnu that created rice from nothing, while Indra (God of Bad Weather), taught the people to cultivate their own rice; hence, the use of waterlogged soil. In Japan, rice is associated with the sun goddess Amaterasu, who ruled both the sun and heavenly fields of rice. In Thailand, Mae Phosop is considered to be the ‘mother of rice’ deity. She is commonly depicted as a beautiful woman wearing a red dress with extravagant jewellery, holding a sheaf of harvested rice on her right shoulder.

 

Not all rice is made equal

Being the oldest known food still consumed today, years of cross-pollination and genetic modification has resulted in over 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice. The varieties can be narrowed down into three types of rice grain: short, medium and long. Long-grains are dry, firm, and stay fluffy after being separated after cooking (eg: Basmati and Jasmine). Medium-grains produce the most moisture, making them tender and slightly chewy, which is why they’re commonly used in risottos and paellas (eg: Arborio and Valencia). Short-grain rice is only a tiny bit longer than its width. Known for sticking and clumping together, it is commonly used to make sushi.  

 

A celebration of rice

In Asia, inhabitants generously commemorate various ancient festivals dedicated to the agricultural cycle of growing and harvesting food, most notably rice. Here are a few examples:

  1. In Malaysia and Brunei, a World Harvest Festival takes place, featuring members of the Dayak community together with neighbours from Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines.

  2. In Thailand, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an ancient royal rite held in Cambodia and Thailand to mark the beginning of the rice-growing season.   

  3. In Japan, a grand ceremony is held in the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine for the annual Otaue Rice Planting Festival. The festival has become a popular tourist attraction, thanks to the spectacular dance performances, which are believed to enhance the vitality of the grains.  ​

 

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3 Asian Dishes That Have Greatly Deceived You

3 Asian Dishes That Have Greatly Deceived You

Many of us have had our fair share of bad food experiences – where the food isn’t as good as the review, or when the price isn’t always right. Now imagine something worse, being told that the porridge you had is frog instead of chicken, that the delicious ice cream in your hand is actually vegan – the horror. We Malaysians take our food very seriously, so finding out that our favourite dishes aren’t what they appear to be may send us into shock. Cross your fingers and hope your nasi lemak isn’t a lie because we bring you a list of 3 Asian dishes that may have deceived you.

 

1. Vindaloo Curry

Vindaloo, the curry, is a hit in European countries and is arguably the most popular Indian dish outside of India. Its recipe can be traced back to Goan Catholic Community in western India; however, it’s true origins are further west, approximately 8,900 kilometers west, specifically Portugal. The word Vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of “vinha d’alhos”, which translates to meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic in Portuguese. The dish made its way to India in the 15th century by Portuguese explorers – its recipe tweaked to local conditions – for there was no wine-vinegar in India at the time. Franciscan priests would ferment their own palm wine, incorporating local ingredients such as tamarind, cinnamon and cardamom. The secret of the dish – chili peppers – Portugal’s legacy in trade. The dish gradually met the same fate as Indian dishes in England: it became another hot curry. Luckily, in Goa many restaurants still stay true to their Portuguese roots.

2. Kimchi

Conceived around the 7th century, kimchi isn’t just a major staple in Korean cuisine – it is also considered to be one of the most healthiest food in the world. In present day, K-everything is more popular than ever in Malaysia, resulting in plenty of Korean restaurant chains. Besides the lack of an adorable elderly Korean aunty in the kitchen and misspelled menu items, most kimchi in non-authentic Korean restaurants are from *drum roll* – China! This Asian invasion on cuisine isn’t just happening in Malaysia, but in Korea as well. Just imagine, 98% of Korean kimchi is made in China!

3. Wasabi

We all know the taste of wasabi … right? While most of us are accustomed to the tear-jerking kick of the paste, courtesy of our neighbourhood sushi chain, the real deal is much different. Most wasabi in Japan isn’t cut with horseradish and green-food colouring, it tastes sweet yet medicinal-like. Despite its popular demand in legit Japanese establishments, most restaurants (even in Japan) prefer its fake counterpart, mainly because fresh wasabi loses its flavour 15 minutes after grating.

Fascinated by our list? Get your Asian cuisine fix when you shop with Happy Fresh today! We’ve prepared several bundles just for you, so you can get your very own taste of Asia! See more here.