Asian menus decoded for the monolingual traveler
GETTING to experience new flavors is one of the best parts of traveling.
For some, the surprise of what’s in the dish is part of the fun. But for others, the looming fear of it triggering an allergy or just being plain awful is too much to stomach.
Unless you’re well-versed in worldly cuisines or have proficiency in foreign languages, overseas menus can be difficult to navigate.
So with the help of OpenTable, we’ve put together a glossary of ingredients and dishes that might trip you up when eating in Asia.
Here are the foodie definitions to take you from a creature-of-habit-diner to a well-versed, well-fed culinary connoisseur.
A Korean dish consisting of rice topped with sautéed vegetables, chili paste, and beef or other meat. Sometimes, with the addition of a raw or fried egg.
A savory, spicy, and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt.
It goes well with tofu and vegetable dishes.
A Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients. It’s normally pan-fried and can be served hot or cold.
Asian plant of the mint family used as a culinary herb in drinks and dishes.
A round, yellowish citrus fruit with fragrant, acidic juice, used as a flavoring in sweet and savory dishes and drinks.
A type of sushi with no rice. The dish or shellfish is served alone or with sauces.
A Malaysian spicy soup consisting of noodles, chicken, prawn or fish topped with boiled eggs and chilis.
Often coriander, cucumber, and other toppings are sprinkled on top for taste.
From the radish family, this big white root vegetable is usually used in Asian salads. It has a crunchy texture and slightly peppery but refreshing taste.
Bánh mì [bhun-mee]
Vietnamese savory baguette commonly filled with crispy pork, daikon, carrot, spring onion, lettuce, and chilies.
Like ginger, but different. Galangal is copper colored and smells more piney than fresh.
Pure galangal is minty and spicy to taste and is used a lot in Indian cooking. It also has plenty of health benefits.
Arguably the condiment of all condiments, sambal is a hot paste normally found accompanying Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak.
It also contains onion and sugar, giving it a fresh and slightly sweet taste. Although it’s hot, it’s highly addictive.
Also known as “stinky beans” these dense vegetables are a key ingredient in dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Thailand, and Burma.
They are best enjoyed when combined with strong flavors such as garlic, chili or shrimp paste.
Regarded as the “King of Fruits” in Southeast Asia, the pungent fruit has the texture of congealed custard and tastes of crusty socks or cream, depending on your taste buds.
The famous Southeast Asian dessert consists of green flour jelly noodles soaked in coconut milk and palm syrup.
Depending on which country you eat it in, it can be topped with jackfruit, red beans or durian.
Native to India, this stoneground, flat wheat bread can be found across Asia being used as an edible utensil for curries, condiments, and sauces.
The bread can also be stuffed with egg, onion or sweet treats such as banana and condensed milk.
Thick, creamy, and delicious. Originating from India, Lassi is a popular drink across Asia made from yogurt, cream, sugar, water, and spices.
Mango is the most common flavor but pineapple, strawberry, mint, masala, and ginger are also popular.
Belacan is a fermented shrimp paste used as a flavoring in Asian cooking.
A Chinese savory porridge made from over cooked rice. Commonly topped with minced pork, slices of century egg, chives, and ginger.
Essentially the Indonesian version of Chinese tofu, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and is a staple source of protein.
It is a great meat substitute if you’re looking for vegetarian options.
While Asia has a selection of some of the tastiest and food in the world, it also has some of the strangest dishes.
Fried insects aside, in many cultures in Asia including South Korea, Indonesia, and China, eating dog is widely accepted.
Although it is a cultural and culinary choice, it’s not for everyone.
Here is the world for “dog” in the Asian nations where eat it is legal to eat so that you can avoid it:
- Indonesian: anjing
- South Korean: gae 개
- Chinese: gou 狗
- Vietnamese: cho
Although picture menus go a long way in identifying what you’re eating, it’s probably wise to familiarize yourself with the most common dishes and ingredients to avoid disgust and disappointment.
Source: Travels travelwireasia.com