Trying local delicacies is all part of the experience when you head off on your travels. Here’s what you can expect to try in Asia:
Cambodian culinary secrets are rarely written down, instead they are passed from one family member to the next for generations. So, when in Cambodia be sure to try the local cuisine.
Rice and freshwater fish are plentiful thanks to the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake, which provide a breeding ground for the fish and vital flood waters for the rice paddies. On the menu too are noodles, soups and plenty of vegetables and tropical fruits. Expect sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours, and pastes of blended spices from cinnamon, cloves and ginger to pungent fermented fish.
Try lok lak – beef stir-fried with lime juice and Cambodian Kampot pepper – or a curry blended with creamy coconut and lemongrass.
According to legend, Chinese dumplings were invented during the Han Dynasty by a man called Zhang Zhongjian. Upon returning to his ancestral village during the winter he discovered that many of the locals were suffering frostbite, particularly to their ears. In a bid to warm people up he cooked some mutton with healing herbs and wrapped it all in dough which he shaped to look like ears. Who knows if this helped matters, but the dumplings were obviously delicious, and centuries later, they continue to be a firm favourite across the nation. If you visit China you’re sure to try some, and you might even get to make some yourself.
Vietnamese Street Food
If you’ve packed your sense of adventure, trying out street food on your holiday to Vietnam is a must! Apart from offering great value for money, the stalls you stumble across usually specialise in one dish, so over the years it’s sure to have reached the peak of perfection. So whether you go for a bánh mi (a baguette stuffed with pickled veg, meat and chilli) or bánh bao (white buns filled with minced pork or veg then steamed), you’ll be savouring a truly authentic Vietnamese tradition.
More a work of art than a plate of food, Japan is known for its sushi. These pretty little rolls of seaweed and rice seasoned with vinegar come with various fillings, from tuna, salmon and shrimp to cucumber and avocado. Key seasonings are Japanese horseradish, wasabi, and soy sauce but the etiquette is not to mix the two together.
The real sushi pros out there will know that you should place each piece upside down in the mouth so that the fish is against the tongue. This means you’ll take in all the complex flavours.
Sugar Cane Juice
Grown for more than 4,000 years across south-east Asia and the Indian subcontinent, sugar cane is a tropical grass which nowadays produces more than 70 per cent of the world’s sugar. The rest comes from sugar beet.
Once harvested, the canes are crushed by large rollers similar to a mangle to extract the juice, which is packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Among a whole host of health benefits, drinking this sweet liquid is said to help relieve the symptoms of a cold, aid digestion, treat jaundice and improve the immune system. If you don’t fancy it in its raw state though, why not try if after it’s been through the fermentation process and turned into rum. Beware, this version is not quite so healthy!