By Carrie Hirsch
Asian food covers a spectrum of endless possibilities – the myriad of spices procured and the combination of ingredients used to create recipes are so diverse and complex and rooted in culinary tradition. We tend to think of Asian food as Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai, but the largest country in Asia is Russia and the smallest independent state is an archipelago of islands known as The Maldives - two extreme examples of how the cuisines within Asia are vastly different.
When we think “Russian”, we think borscht, caviar and beef Stroganoff, whereas in The Maldives, coconuts, fish and cassava are the staples. The geographical make-up of Asia dictates that we add in China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and about forty-six other countries whose cultures are ancient, which means the culinary traditions are deeply embedded in the palate.
It could take a lifetime to savor the offerings from these different countries, but even a small sampling of them demonstrates how each country sets itself apart form the next, naturally with some cross over of ingredients.
Even in small towns in the US, within the last twenty years, it’s relatively easy to find a Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern restaurant. Chinese restaurants were established a century in a half ago, catering primarily to railroad workers and miners, then evolved into “American Chinese” food, which is what is wildly popular and served today, although most of us are still honing our chopstick skills!