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Asian food in the UK

Similarities and differences in Asian food

Asian food has many distinctive features and some of them overlap between different nations and regions. Religion also influences the type of food consumed in each country. 

Here are a few examples that you might choose to explore further:
  • Rice: Rice is commonly featured in Asian cuisine, as it is easy to grow in warm, wet climates. However, there are many different varieties preferred across Asia, from sticky versus dry.

    Saffron-flavoured rice is enjoyed in Iran, while jasmine rice (long grain rice with a nutty taste and a scent of jasmine) is popular in Thailand, egg-fried rice is often served in China and or pilau rice (spiced rice with chopped vegetables, fish and meat added to it) in South Asia.

  • Vegetarian cuisine is key in India, where Brahmin Hindus and Buddhists do not wish to eat meat for religious reasons. Instead their meals contain alternative protein sources, like pulses, (eg. lentils and chickpeas) and dairy products (eg. paneer or cheese curd which is similar to the tofu eaten in Japan).

  • Meat: Certain types of meat are especially popular in certain Asian countries. Duck is particularly associated with China, and lamb with Iran. Across Asia, both Muslims and Jews accept only meat from animals killed whilst their blood flows, known as ‘Halal’ and ‘Kosher’.  

  • Fish: Fresh and raw fish play a huge role in Japanese cuisine as Japan is an island nation, but China also has a history of breeding fish in fish ponds. Even in the UK it used to be common to see the fish and eel on offer on a menu swimming in a fish tank in the Chinese restaurant, a sight still found in many mainland Chinese restaurants.

  • Eggs: Special ways of cooking eggs include the ‘1000 year old eggs’ of China and the Tamagoyaki or sliced omelette rolls popular as a breakfast or side dish in Japan.

  • Green vegetables: Fresh and pickled green vegetables frequently appear in Asian food. The variety of cabbage and lettuce in Chinese cuisine, for example, puts the UK to shame.

  • Spices: Asian food is traditionally thought to be spicy and strongly flavoured, with things like peppers, ginger, chilli and cloves. Through overseas trade, Asian spices arrived in the UK and were used to flavour food. At first only wealthy people could buy them, but they gradually became more affordable.
Colourful selection of sushi
Bowl of noodle soup with egg, vegetables and prawns
Potatoe curry, cooked in tomato and spices
Two lumps of Jasmine rice