Asia is home to dozens of different cuisines that originated from a variety of cultures and ethnicities. The dishes on these Asian cuisines are prepared or cooked using unique methods that are not found in Western cooking styles. It would be difficult to enumerate every cooking method invented in used in Asia, although there are some cooking styles that are more prevalent or more popular in different countries in the region. Here are the top 5 cooking methods in Asia for you to know which styles are the most well-known in the region.
Steaming is considered to be the healthiest Asian cooking method, as it doesn’t need oil for it to cook or prepared dishes. As its name already suggests, steaming is a cooking method wherein food is heated or cooked using the steam that comes out of boiled water. Because it doesn’t involve frying or using cooking oil, steaming allows food to retain its nutrients and natural flavor without being influenced by other ingredients. The ancient Chinese steaming method involves the use of bamboo steamers, which have holes on the bottom where steam rises through and cooks the food inside. These bamboo steamers are often stacked on top of one another to save space in the kitchen.
Another popular cooking method in Asia is stir-frying, a subtype of frying that uses a wok and a wok spatula to constantly stir and mix ingredients over a gas stove set on high heat. Ingredients cooked through stir-frying are usually a combination of vegetables and seafood, but there would sometimes be a little bit of pork or chicken meat mixed into the dish. These ingredients would be flavor-enhanced using salt and soy sauce, which are two of the most frequently used marinates for stir-frying. Because the gas stove is set on high heat while stir-frying, constant mixing and stirring of the ingredients is required for them to not turn out overcooked.
Boiling is somewhat similar to steaming, as they both use boiling water for cooking dishes, but instead of cooking the dish through the steam, boiling actually cooks the ingredients on the boiling water itself. This cooking method is regarded as the simplest one in Asia, as it only requires a person to dip or plunge the ingredients in constant boiling water. After a few minutes, the ingredients will automatically be cooked without the need to stir them. The most famous dish that uses this cooking method is shabu-shabu, wherein a variety of ingredients are cooked together in boiling water.
Braising is a complex cooking method that combines wet and dry heating methods to create a flavorful dish. The first step for braising is sautéing the ingredients at a high temperature, and once the ingredients are cooked, they will then be transferred to a covered pot filled with a small amount of boiling water and let them simmer for a few minutes. Ingredients used for braising are typically cooked in large cubes, as the size would be better for the method since you would have to cook them for a long period of time, and a smaller size would make them overcooked. Most cooking experts would call braising “pot roasting,” although some would say that those two are different cooking methods since braising doesn’t technically need a pot all the time.
Roasting in Asia is quite different from the roasting method used in the West, as it uses different ingredients that are not found in Western roasting. While roasted meat in the West is usually pork, beef, turkey, or chicken, the roasted meat in Asia is sheep, chicken, Peking duck, and a whole pig. In addition, the roasting process in Asia typically involved basting the meat with cooking oil after seasoning and then hanging it above an oven for a more even distribution of heat. Roasted chicken is very popular in Asia, although the most celebrated roasted dish in the region is the Peking duck, which is considered to be one of the most sophisticated dishes in China.
Those are the top five most commonly used cooking methods in Asia. Most of the methods stated above originated from China, but some cuisines have evolved to branch out from ancient Chinese cooking methods and create their own unique take on roasting, boiling, and other methods. For example, in the Philippines, they have adapted the roasting method of the ancient Chinese to cook Lechon (roasted whole pork), but they have also put a spin to it by adding a pit that will cook the whole pig more evenly. It is believed that the popular method of cooking Lechon is also inspired by Spanish cooking.
What is beautiful about the different Asian cooking methods is that they would have subcategories that would exist for each country in the region, thus making the methods more diverse. So, if you ever visit several countries in Asia, you will see that they use different styles of cooking dishes despite originating from basic cooking methods.