7 Little Known (but delicious) Asian Dishes
Those who have never previously visited Asia can so easily find their perceptions of this culturally fascinating continent’s cuisine informed by their experiences of the local Chinese restaurant back home, but there’s so much more to the region’s dishes than that.
Here are just seven of the less obvious Asian dishes that you should know about.
Biang Biang Noodles
Only in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province in China, will you usually find these thick and long noodles that are frequently served in soup. They are often dubbed “belt noodles” and when buying one in a shop, you can typically choose whether to have one or two of them in your dish. Their considerable size aside, these noodles are distinguished by their balanced blend of local flavours, including the likes of cilantro, cumin, dark vinegar and chilli peppers.
While in Suzhou in China’s Jiangsu province, you really shouldn’t miss the chance to sample this delicious sweet and sour fish. Songshu guiyu literally means “squirrel fish” and it has an attractive smell, texture, flavour and even appearance. It differs from other fish in that its preparation involves the flesh being scored into cubes, with one end remaining attached to the bone, leaving the meat cubes sticking out like spines. It is battered and fried golden brown.
The next time you’re in Korea, don’t hesitate to try this dish consisting of stir-fried delicate sweet potato noodles in sesame seed oil. You are sure to savour the mix of ingredients including sliced green onions, mushrooms, spinach, julienned carrots and even beef on occasion, with soy sauce providing additional flavour.
Laksa Noodle Soup
This spicy noodle soup hails from Malaysia and Singapore, with two main varieties from which to choose: curry laksa and asam laksa. While the former is identifiable by its coconut curry broth base, the latter includes fish and other seafood, not to mention a tangy tamarind kick. A good bowl of laksa may also contain the likes of shrimp, cockles and bean sprouts.
Brace yourself for this one… it’s fish sperm! It’s one of the many weird dishes that visitors to Japan frequently encounter, consisting of the male genitalia of fish that still contains all of the fluids. It’s served basically anywhere, from pubs to sushi bars, and the locals frequently speak very highly of it. Migrationology writer Mark Wiens has described shirako as tasting “a lot like runny cream cheese. Not bad at all.”
Another dish that is strongly associated with a specific Chinese region – this time Hainan province – bamboo rice is must-try cuisine in the only tropical portion of the enormous territory of China. It is cooked within a section of bamboo, which can be filled with a variety of meat and vegetables.
Hue-Style Spring Rolls
You’ll see lots of cold spring rolls stuffed with vegetables during your stay in Asia, but Hue-style spring rolls are a different matter. Hailing from Vietnam’s imperial capital, these distinctive spring rolls are made with shrimp, carrots and pork wrapped in lightly fried rice noodles.
So, there you have it – seven lesser-known dishes that show you don’t need to settle for the same old banh mi, chow mein or dumplings during your next trip to Asia.
Remember that there are many ways to experience Asia, including through the usual package holiday, plotting an ambitious road trip across the continent or embarking on the complete Asian and Far East cruise with a trusted operator like Imagine Cruising.
All of them are great options, but whatever you do, you should make sure you don’t waste the plentiful gastronomic opportunities in this captivating part of the world!