Asia’s soul-warming slurps

Friends enjoy eating Asian food together. Source: Shutterstock

THE best food comes in a bowl. Even if you’re thinking, “hang on a second, I love plate food,” pop it into a bowl and we promise it will taste better.

It’s just a simple gastronomic fact.

Our claim is also backed up by Asian cuisine, as most Asian national dishes come in a bowl. Coincidence? We think not.

Here, for your scrumptious salivating enjoyment, are Asia’s best bites in a bowl.

For Pho-sake, get me more of this deliciousness

Fresh and healthy, pho is the national dish of Vietnam and over the last few decades, it has migrated to every corner of the world.

From New York to London, and Australia to South Korea, this salty broth packed full of fresh veggies is a winner across the world.

Pho works both as a comfort, soul-warming food and a healthy alternative to cream-based soups and curries – no pho-woes here.

The soup is traditionally made from the beef broth that has been boiling for days.

Found lurking in the bottom of the bowl for a tasty surprise are oodles of flat rice noodles.

Plonked on top in a colorful array of vitamin-bursting goodness are bean sprouts, mint, coriander, chilies, onions, lime, and Thai basil.

Then comes the sizzling strips of tender beef… cue Homer Simpson drooling.

Enjoy it with chili oil or a squirt of Siracha sauce.

Nom nom on Tom Yum with your chums

First, the sourness hits you and then comes the tongue-tingling heat. Thailand’s tom yum soup renders you in a temporary state of masochism – gasping for cool air in between slurps of intense heat because you just can’t get enough.

The base of tom yum soup is made from stock and fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, shallots and crushed chili peppers.

Non-shelled shrimp or shredded pork is added to the broth to create a vibrant bowl of orange soup with fresh green toppings such as coriander and Thai basil.

Stir it all up and be prepared for happy tears to stream down your face as the heat hits you.

Would you agree you’re full of glee while eating China’s congee?

Congee, a type of rice porridge, is a staple food in many Chinese provinces, however, it differs considerably from region to region.

Made by over boiling rice until it breaks down and forms a porridge-like texture, it’s as simple as can be.

It can then be topped with just about anything you fancy. There are hundreds of variations, but usually, they are savory.

From meat to veg and piquant sauces to last night’s leftovers – whack it in and feel it comforting your soul with every bite.

If you’ve got a sweet craving to satisfy then try the “eight treasures congee” which consist of red beans, black and glutinous rice, dried dates, peanuts, lotus seeds, pine nuts, and raisins, then sprinkled in sugar.

Charmin’ ramen

While it may have originated in China, ramen is now very much associated with Japan.

The recipe of this majestic, mouth-watering dish varies from region to region in Japan, but all make for sensational slurping.

Like the other soups in the list, the broth is often made from either chicken or pork bones, but vegetarian versions have also been created in recent years.

The broth is then combined with various ingredients to create the perfect balance of salty and herby tastes.

Most commonly devoured is miso, which is a relative newcomer to the ramen scene.

It combines miso soup with oily fish or chicken broth and then topped with ground pork, cabbage, sesame seeds, garlic and drowned noodles.

This creates a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty soup.

Other variations include salty shio, shōyu, and thick and creamy curry ramen.

Let this mohinga dish linger

Mohinga is a rice noodle and fish soup from Myanmar and serves as a staple part of Burmese cuisine.

You can pick up this dish almost anywhere in the country, from street-side food hawkers to major restaurants in the cities.

The chickpea-based dish is commonly eaten for breakfast but now Myanmar’s residents are eating it throughout the day too.

The base of the think soup usually consists of chickpea flour, crushed rice, garlic, onions, lemongrass, banana tree stems, gingers, fish paste, fish sauce, and catfish. However, the ingredients vary based on availability.

The further north in the country you travel the less fish is found in the dish.

The soup is then served with rice vermicelli, with a squeeze of lime, crisp fried onions, coriander, spring onions, crushed chilies and sometimes even fried chickpea fritters.

If this bowl of goodness doesn’t warm your soul, then nothing will.

Love, laugh, laksa

Laksa is so simple, yet oh so delicious. Eaten as a staple lunch and dinner time meal in Malaysia, the soupy goodness consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli.

Then whole shrimp, chicken or white fish is dunked in alongside rich coconut milk.

The first recipes for laksa were written centuries ago as a product of mixing Chinese and Malaysian dishes together when Chinese traders settled in new lands (Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore) and married foreign wives.

There are heaps of different varieties. The most popular in Malaysia is asam laksa, which is a sour fish soup flavored mostly with tamarind.

Also chucked into the bowl are slices of sour mangosteens, shredded mackerel, finely sliced fruits and vegetables including chilies, onions, cucumber, pineapple, lettuce, mint, and ginger.

It is then topped off with a thick sweet shrimp paste called hae ko… more like hell yeah!

Mie Ayam, you ayam, we all scream for ayam

Mie ayam is a super popular dish found across Southeast Asia, but Indonesia is where you can find the best.

The yellow wheat noodles used in the dish are boiled until they are al dente and then mixed with cooking oil, soy sauce, and garlic.

Dried chicken meat is then usually cooked in soy sauce alongside button mushrooms and more garlic, added to the noodles and voila!

When combined, mie ayam is tipped into a bowl are sprinkled with spring onions, Chinese cabbage and sometimes crispy fried wonton.

Oh, so devilishly delicious.

Care for some Kare-kare?

Kare-kare is a fantastically rich stew dish found all over the Philippines. The diversity of this meal has earned it the accolade of Philippines’ national dish.

The stew usually contains a variation of stewed oxtail, pork hocks, calf’s feet, pig feet, beef stewing meat, and sometimes offal and tripe – but you won’t find that in restaurants or many street vendors.

It can also be made with seafood including shrimp, squid, and mussels. Alongside the mountain of flavourful meats, yummy veggies such as cabbage, daikon, green beans, pak choi, and asparagus are added.

Then just before serving, roasted peanuts, diced onions and chopped garlic are sprinkled on top for visual pleasure and tasting euphoria.

Beloved ema datshi – rotten cheese soup

That’s right, the national dish of Bhutan is literally translated into rotten cheese soup. But anyone who has ever tried a stinky cheese knows that rotten part just means matured, like a Stilton or creamy blue.

Dashati is the traditional Bhutanese cheese which is made from the non-fat part of the curd of cows or yak’s milk.

This pongy cheese is then served with fiery chili peppers and sometimes the watery liquid left over from the curd is mixed into the dish.

If you’ve visited the idyllic Buddhist nation and haven’t tried ema datshi, then have you really visited Bhutan?