10 Asian Dishes To Kickstart Your Foodventure
One of the best ways to truly experience a country’s culture is through its food, especially for a continent as eclectic as Asia. You’ll soon find that there are several ‘sub-cuisines’ within one cuisine alone — like how Chinese food could also have regional sub-categories such as Hokkien, Cantonese, or Teochew dishes, amongst others.
The next time you visit Asia, get the local experience by eating like one. Challenge yourself to a foodventure of tasting not just dragon fruits or durians, but more exotic Asian dishes like Drunken Prawns and Turtle Jelly.
Here’re 10 Asian dishes to start your exotic foodventure with!
1. Drunken Prawns and ‘Dancing’ Shrimps
Chinese Drunken Prawns / Image Credit: Eat What Tonight
Most Chinese know Drunken Prawns as a dish where boiled prawns are served immersed in a fragrant brew of Chinese herbs and wine. However, you can find different variations to this.
In China, you can find shrimps served live and soaked in Chinese wine.
Odori Ebi / Image Credit: VidartheJedi
The Japanese also enjoy them with alcohol. Known as Odori Ebi, live shrimps are served alive with de-shelled bodies, and they are dipped into sake before eaten.
A culinary favourite in Northern Thailand, Goong Ten is a bowl of live shrimps mixed with herbs. The shrimps are so fresh that they jump around in your bowl, giving it its name “Dancing Shrimps”.
2. Chicken Feet & Head
Chicken Feet / Image Credit: Serious Eats
Mostly skin, tendons, gelatin and bones, you’ll find the Chicken Feet to be a chewy dish. Apart from Asia, you can also find Chicken Feet served at many other countries like Brazil, Italy, Mexico, and South Africa.
Phoenix Claws / Image Credit: Perut Gendut
You can find a dish called Pheonix Claws at most Dim Sum restaurants across Asia. These are actually braised chicken feet!
Chicken Head / Image Credit: The Travel Tart
If Chicken Feet raised your eyebrows, you’ll find this even weirder: Chicken Head. Usually roasted or deep fried, chicken head can be found in places like China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
3. Kway Chap – Animal Innards
The feet and heads of animals are quite literally just scratching the surface of what Asians eat.
Generally, Asians are known for eating everything — every part of an animal. Some of the more popular ones include the offal or innards of a pig, while chicken, duck, and cow innards come a close second.
Kway Chap / Image Credit: Miss Tam Chiak
One of the best ways to enjoy innards is through a Teochew noodle dish called Kway Chap. Popular in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, Kway Chap comes with a bowl of soupy flat noodles and a platter of assorted ingredients like braised egg, bean curd, pork intestines, pork skin and pork belly.
4. Turtle Soup
Turtle Soup / Image Credit: InterMedia.ge
Turtle Soup is brewed from the flesh of a turtle that’s usually a soft-shelled bred. Not just a novelty, Turtle Soup is a Chinese delicacy and is also known in traditional Chinese medicine to be good for the body as it lowers blood pressure and increases blood circulation. Some have also said that it works as an aphrodisiac!
You can find Turtle Soup in several specialty restaurants in Singapore.
5. Tulang Merah
Tulang Merah / Image Credit: Faine
Otherwise known as Sup Tulang or Bone Marrow Soup, mutton or beef bones are served in a sweet and spicy stew boiled with a mix of spices. It is usually served with baguette slices and a straw to slurp up the marrow.
Image Credit: Moonberry
Tulang Merah may look intimidating to anyone who hasn’t tried it as the red stew makes it look like it’s drenched in blood. You’d think that the bloody-red gravy, biting meat off the bone, and eating with hands not only sound primitive, it also looks equally barbaric, but that’s also what makes eating Tulang Merah so enjoyable!
Sup Tulang / Image Credit: Ang Sarap
If Tulang Merah scares you off, Sup Tulang is the much less daunting version of the dish. It’s a clear broth stewed for hours with beef or mutton bones and meat. Right before it’s done, potatoes and carrots are usually added in to add more texture to the soup. The result? A fragrant soup that’s fit for royalty! You can find this dish in many countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even China.
6. Frog Legs
Miss Kay’s Fabulous Frog Legs / Image Credit: Doctor Oz
The amphibian’s slimy and grimy appearance puts most people off, but Frog Legs have been said to taste like chicken.
It is widely available across Asia in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, amongst others. You can even find Frog Legs in certain European countries!
Frog Leg Porridge / Image Credit: Seth Lui
Frog Legs are said to be good for us too as they’re rich in protein and Omega-3 acids, and are considered a Chinese and French delicacy.
Swikee Kodok Oh / Image Credit: Wikipedia
While the French have them fried, it’s most popular as a Frog Leg Porridge dish or stir-fried with spices in Singapore and China, and in soup with a plate of rice (Swikee Kodok Oh) in Indonesia.
7. Century Egg
Century Egg with picked ginger / Image Credit: Young Parents
Better known as Pidan to the Chinese, the Century Egg is a Chinese food dish and delicacy that’s essentially preserved duck, chicken, or quail eggs.
Contrary to popular belief and legends, Century Eggs are neither preserved for centuries nor are they soaked in horse urine.
Image Credit: WheresMyChallenge
They are kept in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for a few weeks or months. This makes the egg white turn translucent brown and the yolk dark green to grey, with strong flavour and creamy texture.
As it is a Chinese dish, you’ll find this in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, or Chinese restaurants all around around Asia.
8. Bird’s Nest Soup
Bird’s Nest / Image Credit: Dragon Brand
Many Singaporean millennials grew up having this, yet not knowing what Bird’s Nest Soup really is. They’d then be in disbelief that it’s actually hardened saliva of Swiftlets.
That’s because a bowl of Bird’s Nest Soup is far from what it actually sounds like. Served as a dessert that tastes just like a ‘normal’ sweet soup, Bird’s Nests are generally considered a luxury. It’s also sorted into grades for the way it was harvested and processed, and can cost thousands of dollars.
Bird’s Nest soup / Image Credit: Where To Eat in Singapore
Like the Century Egg, Bird’s Nest Soup is a Chinese dish you can find in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, or at Chinese dessert specialty stores.
9. Turtle Jelly
Turtle Jelly / Image Credit: Broadway Macau
If you are feeling a little under the weather, try cooling down with a bowl of Turtle Jelly. It’s believed that Turtle Jelly can reduce internal body heat and make the skin smoother.
The Chinese call it Gui Ling Gao, which translates to tortoise or turtle shell jelly, and it’s enjoyed as a dessert across Asia.
While it was made from the shells of golden coin turtles long ago, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Turtle Jelly made out of authentic turtle shells today. Most Turtle Jelly desserts you can find at Cantonese restaurants, dessert stalls, or supermarkets today are made out of herbs.
10. Live Octopus
Live Octopus / Image Credit: Wikipedia
Live Octopus, or the Korean San-nakji, takes Sashimi to another level.
Live octopuses are served to you right after they are killed, with its nerves still be active. Imagine chewing on a piece of slimy tentacle that’s still alive and wriggling in your mouth — what an experience!
Be careful not to stuff too many pieces in when you’re indulging, as the suction cups on the tentacles make it easy to choke on.
You’ve Not Been To Asia Until…
You know how there’s always the one ‘you’ve never been there till you’ve done that’ thing you have to do whenever you visit a new place?
One of them is trying exotic foods like those above. The sound or look of the dishes may seem too bizarre for your palate, but if you don’t try them, you’ll never know!