Asian food is my staple, being half Asian and bought up on an Asian diet, even my friends laugh at me that all I naturally ever cook, invite people for and ask for- is Asian food.
It is usual for us to complain when we get to foreign countries that there is no ‘good’ Asian food.
But what is good Asian food?
There is a complicated list of factors that make food good: Fresh ingredients, a good cook, hunger levels, and even emotions amongst a few. But one of the undeniable facts about Asian food, that makes it so enticing, is the amount of ingredients.
I cannot speak for all Asian cuisine, but from what I know about Chinese cuisine is that a lot of the herbs, spices and sauces that were added on to a lot of our traditional cuisine were designed to overwhelm. Historically, besides the food eaten by the royal family, and wealthy individuals (which were specially concocted, imported or modified), most of Chinese cuisine comes from the farmers, fishermen and villagers that could not afford the luxury of a lot of ‘meat’.
Pork was abundant because it was cheap, availability of fish would depend on distance from the sea, but more luxurious meats (poultry, beef) were saved for more celebratory occasions (like family events or festivals). The delicacies like shark fin, abalone and garoupa is unheard of in the normal kitchen.
Of course not all dishes are flavored abundantly, for example in the south you can find a range of fish dishes which are basically just steamed, or raw fish- simply served with bean, or soya sauces). Similar to sashimi in Japan.
In the neighboring countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and to an extent Vietnam, Burma and Cambodia, Asian cuisine has largely affected eachother and all share this running trait of having a plethora of flavors and ingredients.
It is easy in Asia to find these dishes, and the local spices and seasonings are of no shortage. But this is where the tricky part comes in when it comes to making Asian ingredients outside of Asia: how can you find all these ingredients in one place?
You have to search one place for galangal, another place for coriander, a local shop for lemongrass, and maybe a special ordering site for oyster sauce. By the time you find all this, they might have all lost their freshness.
For many you may think this jumble of ingredients can be replaced, be improvised, or be changed. Yet it is the complexity of these details, of these specific ingredients that give the dish that special taste, that make it that dish.
I have to say, even my enthusiasm for my favourite dishes waned, and I stopped complaining that some restaurants were just missing that little something something.
And then I found something ingenious: Asian food PASTES!
Chopped, mixed, grounded, cooked and condensed pastes for the most challenging of dishes, rarest of ingredients and above all: the most nostalgic tastes! It was showcased at the Emirates Culinary Guild this month, and I have to say the stall was even more popular than the actual free buffet that was served in the room next door. To get to taste it and see it was different to just hearing about it.
Chatting (whilst eating) to Corporate Chef Balan, and to Worldfoods representatives, I learnt that they were a company from Malaysia that was looking to make Asian cooking a snitch in any kitchen. They have a crazy collection of pastes and marinades for professional chefs, ranging from Thai curries to tom yum, kaffir lime pastes and basil curries!
It is amazing that only chefs have access to ingredients like this, I believe there is a retail range coming but the taste of these products were superior in smell and texture once it was cooked. The most important part is that they retained the taste and consistency with every cooking. Many Executive Chefs from all the big hotels praised it, mainly because they said in Dubai it was already difficult for commis’ to recreate the flavor of their dishes, let alone maintain it with every order they get.
The process and raw materials used is impressive. Worldfoods only use 100% fresh and authentic ingredients in the pastes, there are no artificial preservatives. colorings, or flavorings in them: meaning the strength of taste comes from the fresh spices, seasonings and herbs. With no dairy, trans fats or genetic ingredients, it means it is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans; and to follow the latest food trend, the product is also gluten free
With the little bucket I have, which can last me for ages, I have made curries, laksas and stir-frys. Apparently you can also use them to marinate meat, as sauce for satays and for salad dressings. Talk about all in one.
Worldfoods will be available on Click Cuisine (a website dedicated to providing chef ingredients to private individuals) very soon, for now I think one other place you can get it from other than that- is from me
Join the Asian Kitchen Invasion, I think it will be gracing a lot more dinner tables in the UAE very soon…besides mine.