It is no secret that Asia has cooked up some of the best food the world has to offer. Not only that, but it has got to be some of the best-travelled food, with takeaways and restaurants popping up the world over. In this piece, we will discuss some of the best ways to enjoy the best food cruelty-free - by taste testing the top vegan dishes in Asia! Surely you will join me, right? Let's go!
Thailand – Mango Salad
Mango Salad with Tofu
When you think about vegan food, salads come up, right? Well, as a twist on the classic green salad, Thailand has served up a truly sweet, sour, and savory treat of its own! With the traditional Thai green mangoes as its base, it incorporates coriander, bean sprouts, lime juice, and chilies to round it out.
Many recipes call for prawns or fish sauce to be added to it, but the salad really does not need a meat for it to hold its own. Have it as an appetizer or an accompaniment to any dense, spicy Thai dish, and give your palate a wake-up call!
Japan – Agedashi Tofu
Rivaling the Edamame bean for popularity as a vegan starter, the humble Agedashi tofu, when done well, is truly a masterpiece. Soft silken tofu is lightly dusted in cornstarch/potato starch and deep fried, before being sat in a dark, decadent sauce filled with horseradish and spring onions.
Traditionally, the dish is garnished with a light topping of bonito flakes (dried and smoked tuna) for its slight saltiness. For the purposes of this piece, however, I will stick my neck out and say that it really does not need it. Agedashi tofu is light, rich, and scrumptious - don't miss out!
Japan – Edamame Beans
How exciting can beans be, right? That is genuinely what I thought when first offered this dish. It did not look very appealing, nor did it seem to stand out to be in any way. It all changed the moment I popped one out into my mouth.
With a light briny burst, two beans hopped onto my tongue. It was still firm to the tongue, yet gave way immediately to any sort of pressure. Strangely enough, the bean feels very substantial to eat! Give these a try; it really does taste better than it looks.
India – Dhal
Dhal with Pumpkin
Being a perdominantly Hindu nation, there is a large aversion to the consumption of animals, cows in particular. This, however, has not stopped India from becoming a leading light in tasty foods. Here is not a tribute to the rich, thick curries that we have all come to know and love - this is a nod to dhal, a light, summery gravy, and its accompaniments.
Dhal does not need to simmer for hours like traditional Indian curries need to - vegetables release their goodness much quicker. It also does not feel as heavy on the stomach and you do feel much better after eating dhal as opposed to its creamier, meatier counterparts.
One word of warning: traditionally, dhal is started with ghee, a clarified butter. With its milk solids removed, it will not affect those of you who are vegan due to a dairy intolerance. However, if you are vegan through choice/morality, ask them to prepare it with vegetable oils instead - problem solved!
India/Malaysia/Singapore – Roti, Naan
Singapore and Malaysia both have their versions of these, but they are rooted in Indian culture. Naan bread is much more popular around the world and is usually made in the tandoori oven at obscenely high temperatures. After about thirty seconds, it is pulled out, topped with a topping of your choice, and served alongside your curry.
Roti, on the other hand, is a lighter, tossed fried bread. After being stretched and tossed, it is fried with vegetable oils until golden brown and crispy. Both are fantastic with any of the curries available, but Singapore and Malaysia serve the Roti with a light dhal (as above). Enjoy!
Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia – Rojak
Ever wandered onto a food street in any of the three countries mentioned above and wondered what the odd mix of ingredients under a dark sauce was? Well, let me be the one to introduce you to Rojak! Essentially a fruit salad, the star is definitely the sweet, sour, and salty sauce that ties it all together.
Fried tofu, bean sprouts, and a variety of ripe and unripe fruits make up the body of the dish. Today, there are many vendors who try to add value to the traditional dish with calamari, shrimp, and other meats. Traditionally, however, this is a fruit and veggie salad, which is perfect for you to savour!
Korea – Kimchi
There is no better way to round out a vegan-inspired list than with arguably the most popular vegan side dish of all time! Eaten at nearly every meal, the humble Kimchi can be enjoyed fresh, ferment, spicy, and not so much. Not only that, but Kimchi is also incorporated into many of Korea's dishes. Talk about versatile!
At its most basic, Kimchi is purely salted and fermented cabbage and Korean radish. It is usually eaten as a starter to whet the appetite or as an accompaniment to a much heavier dish. Even better, Kimchi is so easy to make that you could probably have a bottle of it ready to go whenever you need it!
There are many reasons to go vegan, with morals, health, and intolerances or allergies among them. For whatever reason you chose to become a vegan, I congratulate you on your choice, and I want you to know that there is no need to substitute taste just because you swapped meat out of your diet!
Hopefully, you found this piece helpful! Share it with your friends and do comment below if I missed out on your favorite vegan Asian dish. Eat on!