Major Regional Cuisines of Asia

Asian cuisine is very diverse, and this diversity has led to the division of the cuisine into several different regional cuisines that have varied staple ingredients and cooking methods. While most people are familiar with Chinese and Japanese cuisine, those two country-specific cooking traditions and styles are only a small portion of the vast number of cuisines in the Asian region. Here are the major regional cuisines in Asia.

East Asian Cuisine

Considered to be the most popular Asian cuisine, East Asian cuisine covers the dishes and cooking styles created and popularized in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Mongolia, and Tibet. The staple ingredients or foods used in this region are rice and noodles, which are prominent in some of their most popular dishes and in the aesthetics of Korean cuisine. In addition to noodles and rice, East Asian cuisine also prominently uses mung beans, soybeans, bok choy (Chinese cabbage) in their dishes. The most consumed meat type in the region is seafood, with Japan having the highest per capita consumption of seafood.

Central Asian Cuisine

Central Asian cuisine covers the dishes created in the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Central Asian cuisine features dishes and cooking styles that were produced through the mixing of Western cuisine, Russian cuisine, and Mongolian cuisine. The most popular dish in the region is called “plov” or “osh,” which is supposed to be a variation of pilaf, a rice dish that is prominent in the European Balkan region and the Caribbean region. Most of the countries in this region use horse meat as a primary ingredient in most dishes instead of beef. Interestingly, the Central Asian region is also the place where yogurt was invented.

West Asian Cuisine

West Asian cuisine consists of the dishes invented in the Arabian Peninsula, Anatolia, South Caucasus, Fertile Crescent, and the Iranian Plateau. Because the region was fertile during ancient times, the cuisine in West Asia has primarily used grains, legumes, and other ingredients that have been grown in fertile soil for their dishes. Rice and wheat are also popular ingredients in the region, and they serve as a staple along with corn and barley. Smen, which is a type of fermented butter, is one of the most used ingredients for cooking in the region. Because pork is not allowed to be eaten in most of the countries in the region, other meats like lamb and mutton are more popular.

North Asian Cuisine

Pelmeni dumpling in Russia

North Asian cuisine can also be called Russian Cuisine, as North Asia only consists of the Asian portion of the Russian Federation. While there is only one country in this region, North Asian cuisine is surprisingly diverse because of the many cultures that were created and cultivated in Russia. Pelmeni, a type of dumpling that is made with thin and unleavened dough filled with meat inside, is quite popular in most regions of Russia. It is speculated that Pelmeni originated as a simpler version of the Chinese dumpling (wonton), but the connection is still being studied upon by historians. Because of the cold climate in the country, drying and fermentation are commonly used preservation methods in Russia in order for the people to have an ample supply of food after the harvest season and during the winter. The primary meat eaten in the region is fish.

Southeast Asian Cuisine

Pho a Southeast Asian dish

Southeast Asian cuisine is composed of dishes found in Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and other countries located in Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia. Most of the dishes in the region are created by mixing different cuisines in Africa and Asia, as they would often have noodles and rice that are mixed with primarily African ingredients like basil and cilantro. In addition, the most popular sauce in the region is fish sauce, a condiment that is made using fermented fish that is coated in salt. The meats that are used as ingredients for dozens of dishes in the region are also varied, but seafood is the primary meat utilized in most countries since they are surrounded by the sea.

South Asian Cuisine

The last Asian cuisine on the list is South Asian Cuisine, which consists of dishes and cooking methods popularized in the Indian subcontinent. Most people would know South Asian cuisine for its curry, which uses some of the popular herbs and spices in the region to make a truly delectable dish. As for the meat, South Asian cuisine has fish, goat, and lamb as the main ingredients, while beef is uncommon in the region because of the importance of cows in Hinduism and Indian culture. In addition to beef, pork is also prohibited in most parts of South Asia due to its connection to both Hinduism and Islam.

By reading this article, you will understand that it is difficult to summarize the different dishes, ingredients, and cooking styles found in Asian cuisine, as it is much more diverse than any other cuisines found in other continents in the world. If you ever visit all of the regions in Asia, try out their different dishes and see which regional cuisine suits your palate.