Phyllis Choi shares her three personal favourites of Asian cuisine – you should give them a go, too!
The most satisfying breakfast I believe I’ve had so far will have to be a delicious bento (弁当) breakfast that I had in Kyoto, Japan. On my last Christmas break, a friend and I decided to travel to Kyoto Japan and celebrate New Years there–as we are both quite obsessed with Japanese food and Japan as a place in general. We hopped on a late flight and arrived well over midnight, so the bento breakfast was my very first meal there in the following morning. Bentos are very typical in Japan, it is basically presented in the style of a ‘packed lunch’ usually contained in a box-like lacquerware container with little compartments inside for the different dishes. The wonderful bento that I had included:
- slices of salmon sashimi
- slices of tuna sashimi
- pieces of raw sweet shrimp
- a mentaiko onigiri (spicy cod roe rice ball, my most favourite thing ever)
- miscellaneous pickled vegetables
- grilled mackerel
- miso soup
These were all served in small portions, making the overall meal very light, yet it provided the consumer with variety which I particularly enjoyed. Everything was also immaculately and delicately arranged in the beautiful hand-crafted lacquerware and this made it ever more appealing. Another reason I wanted to write about this meal is because I realise, after speaking to a lot of people, that the idea of fish being served raw is actually what puts a lot of people off trying sushi in general. Raw fish, in my opinion, is far more enjoyable than cooked fish. Salmon, in particular, has a very rough texture when it’s been cooked, but when served raw it is extremely tender and has a light taste that is both enjoyable and refreshing! I highly encourage those of you who haven’t tried raw fish before to give it a go!
My favourite lunch meal is the traditional Korean bean paste stew (Doenjang-jjigae). It is a hot stew made with soybean paste and usually cooked with tofu, meat or seafood and vegetables, served with rice. The taste is extremely bold and savoury, and by eating it with rice the flavours then become more balanced and satisfying. The spiciness of the hearty stew also makes you feel warm inside when you’re eating it, hence making it the perfect meal for a wintry afternoon, or when you feel like you are coming down with a cold (this is also really good for hangovers). Personally, my favourite type would be the seafood bean paste stew, as ingredients such as clams, shrimps and squid make the flavours more light and fresh!
Lastly, my favourite dinner dish would be the rendang padang – Indonesian beef curry. Since my grandad is Indonesian, this dish was introduced to me at an early age and it remains one of my all-time favourites. This dish was originated from the ethnic group Minangkabau, and is seen as one of the characteristic foods of the Minangkabau culture, usually served on special ceremonial or festive occasions, though now it is served quite commonly across Indonesia. It is also a popular dish in Malaysia, Singapore, and Southern Philippines. It is a hot and savoury, comparatively dry curry dish that is made by cooking beef in spicy coconut milk. In the Minangkabau tradition, there are three key stages in cooking meat in coconut milk, and the dish is categorised by the liquid coconut milk content, ranging from soupy to dry: gulai – kalio – rendang. Typically it is served with rice or compressed rice cake alongside a vegetable side dish, and its extremely strong flavour tends to leave your tongue a little tingly afterwards. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy a good curry!