Food may not be a reason to travel to Asia but for me it is certainly a
reason to come back, When I was a young man in England, my only exposure to
Asian food was Chinese takeaway at a shop in Sheffield. Fried rice was rice
fried with egg and bean sprouts. Sweet and sour pork – a great favorite of
my adventurous English friends was pork fried in sticky dough swimming in
sickeningly sweet syrup. No wonder many of us thought Chinese cuisine was
not as wonderful as it was made out to be. The small, rather dirty Pakistani
restaurant opposite Leeds University served very mediocre briyani rice.
Nothing like the aromatic dish of similar name I was served in Kuala Lumpur.
Asian food in Europe is not fairly represented. It was little wonder I did
not recognize the fried rice that came when I ordered if at the airport In
Singapore. The rice was full of diced carrot, green peas, cauliflower and
cubes of chicken!
It is little wonder that most Asians are obsessed with
food. Asian food is so delicious. When I first moved to Bangkok, I was
amazed that food was the main topic of many conversations. My colleagues at
Chulalongkorn University were very insistent that I knew where the best
chicken rice, fried noodles and beef soup were sold. Of course, no two
people would agree. I discovered through my learned friends that some of the
best food in Bangkok is to be found at street stalls, the markets, the
noodle shops and the push-carts. I learned not to judge by appearances
alone. I discovered that in Thailand and indeed for much of Asia, the more
unpretentious the premises, the tastier the food.
Let me give a few examples. My favorite restaurant in Bangkok is Chang
Kit. It sells the best rice soup with fresh fish. When the taxi stopped in
front of the restaurant, I did not immediately want to enter it, The shop
was very old, the tables and chairs were rickety. The waiters were old too
and dressed casually in faded T-shirts with holes in them, But one spoon of
the soup and all is forgiven, The best wonton noodles I ate was at a
roadside stall in Kuala Lumpur. It was in the heart of Chinatown. There were
only two tables and clients had to wait to be served. The black chopsticks
looked quite filthy. It was a rainy evening, Every time a car passed, my
feet were splashed with dirty water. The noodles were tender, the soup
flavorful, the vegetables crunchy and the roast meat was to-die-for.
Many Westerners think that the hygiene in Asia's foodstalls is a little
suspect. There is probably some truth in this. My experience has shown me
that it is safe to eat at most restaurants where the food is cooked on the
spot, for example, fried noodles or chicken porridge. Therefore, Chinese,
Vietnamese and Thai food is relatively safe. It is less safe to eat food
which has been cooked earlier and left to sit on the counter for hours. Food
goes bad very quickly in the tropics because of the heat. Food cooked with
coconut milk tends to get spoilt even faster. Therefore, I try to avoid
restaurants serving food already cooked and placed in food warmers. I also
avoid raw vegetables and cold drinks. This is because not all food vendors
wash their vegetables well or boll their drinking water.
The best thing about Asian food – Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and
so on – is that it is usually very tasty. Another advantage is one can eat
in Asia quite cheaply. For instance, for the equivalent of a British pound,
one can have a balanced meal of rice, chicken and vegetables in most Asian
cities. For that amount, one is lucky to get a sandwich in Europe. The
exception to the rule is Japanese food which is often the most expensive
food in Asia.
For some travelers, food is a reason to come back to Asia.
Asian food in Europe is not well-represented. Besides, the taste of the food
is quite different from the actual dishes served in their country of origin.
A visit to Asia shows that most Asians are obsessed with food and justly so
because Asian food is so delicious, it is impossible to judge the quality of
food by looking at the appearance of the shop selling it, The best food is
often sold in simple shops, Food hygiene is sometimes suspect in Asian food
stalls so it is advisable to eat food that is cooked on the spot. Food goes
bad quickly in hot weather. Furthermore, it is better to avoid raw
vegetables and cold drinks. Finally, the best thing about Asian food is its
reasonable price. (138 words)