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Navigate Asian spices and flavors with the Pacific Rim Pantry.

 

Tips and Techniques

Asian Flavors

Asian cuisines are based on balance. This concept is symbolized by the yin-yang in Chinese philosophy. Balance includes eating in harmony with the seasons. Our bodies' nutritional needs vary if the weather is cold or hot. And balance extends to the ingredients used. There are so called "hot foods," such as ginger, garlic and hot peppers. These foods are contrasted with "cooling foods," such as seafood and salad greens.


Cooking Around the Region

It's not true that all Asian food is hot. There are a wide range of spices that produce dishes that vary in flavor from delicate to fiery.

All points on the spectrum exist in Chinese cooking. In general, Thai and Indian cuisines are bold and full-flavored. Japanese food is the most mild, and Vietnamese cooking is an authentic "fusion." It combines French technique with Asian ingredients. Most Vietnamese dishes are subtle, but definitely seasoned.

Another misconception is that Asian food is high in sodium. While soy sauce and fish sauce (see Pacific Rim Pantry) are salty, they are used sparingly in most dishes. It's possible to make many Asian dishes that are very low in sodium using flavor-boosters such as ginger and curry.


Flavor without Fat

While some Asian "restaurant cooking" may rely on deep-frying, it's possible to prepare authentic fare with very little fat. Many Asian dishes are steamed, and others are stir-fried with only a small amount of fat. Since most of Asia is near water, there are a lot of seafood recipes.


Great Grains

Another concept that's apropos in Asian cooking is the role of grains. Rice and noodles are the main event of the meal. Both are at the base of the Food Pyramid. Meat, poultry, fish and are used like a condiment to flavor rice and to add moisture. Try this style of eating for a more healthful diet.


The Edible Apothecary

Curing illness through diet is part of Asian eating. For detailed information on the subject, read Nina Simonds' A Spoonful of Ginger. While Western homeopathic remedies include echinacea to boost the immune system, the Chinese rely on woodsy shiitake mushrooms. Soba noodles are recommended to reduce stress. Traditional Asian and contemporary American thought unites when it concerns a few foods for healthful eating. One is tofu. Both cultures believe it can lower cholesterol. Another remedy is chicken soup. It's good for just about anything that ails you.

 

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