The Lessons of Asian Food Culture: What Western Countries Could Learn
Cuisine is perhaps one of the main identifiers of a culture, and as such, the food we enjoy shapes who we are as a person. The food that we find comforting, in particular, can say a lot about where we have come from, where we have been and what we have been exposed to during our lifetime. It is fair to say that what we want to eat is a combination of our experiences, and will mean something deep to us, even if we are not aware of it. It is therefore important that we consider if the foods we eat and our dining experiences are the best they could be.
Interestingly, there have been many studies and thoughts of how we connect to the world through food, and ultimately one point prevails: Food defines us. With this in mind, there are some traits in terms of the ritual of eating within western culture that could benefit from taking a few lessons from their neighbours in the east.
Communal dining is a bigger deal in Asian cultures. Dishes are shared with each other on a daily basis, and the actual act itself is considered a major social activity, providing a chance to catch up with your loved ones and share your experiences with each other. The dining experience does not start at the point of eating but begins from cooking together or waiting in the restaurant together, leading to a discussion about the food you share and taking pictures, creating a great way that groups of people can connect. Additionally, communal dining is made easier by the use of round tables, that encourage people to share the dishes laid out in front of them, rather than confined to individual servings.
Additionally, communal dining is not just a once-in-a-while activity either, but something that happens every day. Sadly, the idea of communal dining is not a big deal in some Western countries, where average meal times are a less monumental occasion, usually performed alone or in front of the TV; whilst communal dining is usually reserved for big celebrations such a birthday or national holiday.
Cuisine is naturally shaped by the wealth, and historical wealth, of the country. Western cultures who have not faced many agricultural hardships in their history have grown accustomed to extravagant eating. Whereas in many Asian cultures, people have learnt from the generation before them to manage their food to avoid unnecessary waste.
Additionally, in Japanese culture, it is custom for the most expensive dishes to be presented first in the course of meals, whilst the cheaper side bits, such as noodles, are presented at the end to avoid any expensive ingredients being thrown away.
In regards to methods of cooking, Chinese cuisine utilises a wealth of techniques to create some truly unique offerings. As well as frying, roasting and baking that Westerners will use in their own cuisine, Chinese cuisine utilises the use of steaming, stewing, sautéing, braising and quick-frying, which allows ingredients to be used in a number of different ways, providing with diners with numerous tasting experiences.
Chinese cultures will also chop all their ingredients into edible portions which eliminate the need for a knife. This means the process of eating your meal is a lot easier than having to chop up any large portions on your dish. Whilst it’s up to you if you want to use chop sticks, the idea of chopping food into edible portions is definitely a good idea to consider in future meals.
Passion for Food
Whilst there are many cultures around the world who make a point to focus part of their cultural identity around food, there are still somewhere food takes a back seat. Food in many Asian countries is about a love of cooking, a desire for good nutrition, authentic recipes that are centuries old and passed from generation to generation, and meals that are truly loved by all, making for a truly rewarding experience for all involved.
With this in mind, there are a few lessons that you could incorporate you're your dining experiences for the future. Additionally, if you want to plan an Asian dining party to practise these skills, be sure to check out our online shop for essential ingredients, such as oriental rice, that you will need.