Healthy Asian Diet Foods
Traditional Asian Diet Food Pyramid
Source: © Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust
The Asian Diet
There is no single tradition of cooking in Asia, and both culinary and dietary habits vary enormously throughout the Asian continent. Although rice is a staple food in many Asian recipes, wheat and other grains also appears on the menu. But Asian food industries are less well developed than in the West, thus traditional Asian eating habits include minimal amounts of processed food. Lack of pasture is a strong influence on Asian diet habits, as it means that dairy foods are restricted, while meat is limited with pork and fish being more common than beef.
Some Asian Dietary Habits
Chinese gastronomy and cooking habits are influenced by the theory of balancing fan (grains and rice) with ts'ai (vegetables and meat). The traditional Chinese diet also conforms to the yin-yang balance of hot and cold. Rice is the common grain, except in the north where wheat flour predominates. Pork, chicken and duck are widely consumed, as well as large quantities of vegetables (mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean sprouts). Salt is typically replaced by soybean sauce. Chinese eating habits vary with regional culinary specialities. Some common Chinese diet foods/dishes include: Peking Duck, paotse pork buns, chiaotse cabbage and pork buns (Peking area); hot fiery pepper recipes (Szechwan region); fish recipes with shad, mullet, perch and shrimp - also, minced chicken and bean-curd slivers (Chekiang and Kiangsu regions); egg roll, egg foo yung, roast sparrow, snails, snakes and eels (Cantonese region).
The diet and culinary traditions of Japan are largely dictated by geography. As a group of islands, with a relatively small land mass available for dairy/grazing, Japan's diet includes a large proportion of fish and sea vegetables. The average Japanese diet comprises much more fish (average 3.5oz per day) and soy protein and much less red meat than Western diets. Fish is eaten raw (sashimi), broiled, fried in deep fat (tempura) or salted and broiled (shioyaki). Also, as much as 25 percent of all food recipes and menus in the Japanese diet contain some variety of seaweed. The staple food of the Japanese diet is rice. For example, a basic meal might include steamed rice, a soy-based soup like Miso, with side dishes of (eg) fish/seafood, vegetables, seaweed, chicken, and noodles.
Spices are a distinctive feature of the cooking and dietary habits of India and Indonesia. Almost every Indian cook can prepare a curry, with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg and turmeric. The Hindus of Indian have developed the world's finest vegetarian cuisine, using cereals, lentils, peas, beans, and rice. Other specialities in the Indian diet include: idlis (steamed cakes of rice and lentils), pakoras (vegetables fried in chickpea batter), raita (yogurt flavored with fruits or vegetables), biriyani (a family of rice dishes cooked with meats or shrimp), samosa (a flaky deep fried pastry), korma (lamb curry made with crushed nuts and yogurt), and a variety of breads and hot wafers including naan, pappadam, parathas and chapatis.
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