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COOK•EAT: Asia

Asian Food Character-Ethnicity

Like casting a light from a lighthouse, Chinese civilization has given immense influence to every corner of Asia, including for cooking-eating. The Chinese food culture is based on a theory that medicine and eating are synonymous for attaining an ultimate goal of long life without health and aging issues. Thus, either positive or negative sides of foods were thoroughly determined. In other words, they presumed health issues would be prevented or cured by eating the right foods with medicinal benefits. All Asian people have inherited such an idea, believing it from the bottom of their hearts. In daily eating, everybody pays attention to eating, what is good or what is no good. It was extrapolated into a Yin-Yang theory, which will be talked about in a story of the Zen Macrobiotics later. My interpretation of this theory is to eat wisely to promote health and to minimize unfavorable things by balancing both when options are available. Nothing odd or peculiar, I guess, it may be a wise, convenient way to practice it today. In the real world, though, we eat anything we come by.

Thus, Asian food has different ethnicity and character from the west as a matter of comparison. In practice, Asian cooking uses numerous and various vegetables, fish from freshwater or ocean, and other ingredients with respectively unique herbs-spices-source than the west. In another words, Asian cooking is more compound or blended with ingredients, while the western ones are rather mono- or a few combined. For example, stir fries contains lots of different vegetables with a choice of additional chicken, pork, beef or seafood if affordable, all compounded. California roll sushi: cooked rice with avocado, imitation crab meat and Nori for wrapping. For the western ones, fried chicken, roast beef, cheeseburger, used to be, with potatoes or cooked vegetables at the side. Recently fresh vegetables are added to burgers for luring health-conscious customers, though. It may be said that the west is more carnivorous or monotonous while the east omnivorous or varietal. 

Flavoring is often done by sauces, like fish sauce, soy sauce and other sauces, originated from dripping while preserving foods in salt. A drip from salting fish is fish sauce, while salting vegetables gives respective sauces, particularly often after a fermented process. Soy sauce is a good example representing an Asian condiment. By pouring soy sauce, cooking would become Asian, almost.

Oil and fire are also characterized for Chinese cooking, while eating fresh or raw is common in seaboard areas. A wok or similar is a cooking pan to do everything from stir frying, frying a whole fish, and steaming through a bamboo mat. A long time cooking like a stew may not be often seen. Asians may be short tempered, unable to wait too long. Chinese in the north in particular innovated flour foods by making a flat, un-risen dough to cut into noodles (not much extruding through small holes), to cut into smaller squares or to press a small chunk to make round for dumplings. These were transplanted through the Silk Road into the western food culture like pasta or spaghetti, and ravioli or tortilla. So the mother of the Asian culinary is the Chinese food culture and also a kind of mother-in-law of the western counterpart. On this planet, despite geological or political divisions among the east, the west, the north and the south, food cultures have been developed by mingling various food sources from all over the place. Typical examples are potatoes and corn from South America. Hot peppers from the south have also spread throughout Asia incorporating into its unique recipes like Korean Kimchee or Chinese hot and sour soup. In these globalizing days, we share the same ingredients or ideas for our own ways of eating and cooking. 

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