Why Asian Foodies are Loving Middle Eastern Cuisine
The continent of Asia is known for its homegrown culinary delights. In Japan and Korea, sumptuous cuts of beef are grilled and served with rice and leafy vegetables, in China, dumplings filled with pork and shrimp are deep-fried or served in soup and in Thailand the locals rave about their chicken soups (red and green) that are made with curry paste and other spices.
With so much on offer across the 48 countries of Asia, you may wonder why anyone in the region would need to look elsewhere for a sensational supper. However, many people in Asia are looking further afield, expanding their palettes and embracing Middle Eastern cuisine.
Middle Eastern Cuisine Offers Great Variety
The Middle East is made up of far fewer countries than the entirety of Asia (there are 22 Middle Eastern countries altogether) but there is just as much variety. The Middle East includes African countries such as Egypt and Morocco, Asian countries such as Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates as well as Israel and Turkey which are classed as European sovereignties (depending on who you ask).
As a result, the area encompasses quite a lot of different cultures, traditions, and histories as well as different ideas about how food should be prepared. Middle Eastern cuisine includes many sharing dishes that are ideal for sharing with family and friends. This includes Lebanese food such as kafta which a filled chicken, lamb, or beef meatball filled with onion, parsley, and breadcrumbs and served on skewers as well as kanafeh, a sugary cheese pastry that is both sweet and tangy thanks to the orange blossom syrup it is smothered in.
However, the dishes served up in Lebanese cuisine are different compared to those served in Egyptian or Moroccan cuisine. For example, a classic Egyptian dessert is couscous prepared with butter, sugar, nuts and dried fruit while a Moroccan starter is pita chips which are chips made out of pita bread and served with spicy and minty dips. For those in Asia, it means that there’s plenty to choose from and enjoy.
Middle Eastern Cuisine Uses Similar Spices
Middle Eastern cuisine is also growing in popularity in Asia because it isn’t a dramatic departure from many of the flavors and spices already used in Asian cooking. According to Delishably, some of common herbs and spices used in Asian cooking include cinnamon, fresh coriander, nigella, and green cardamom.
The Thai dish Massaman curry uses cinnamon, while the Lebanese dishes of cinnamon chicken rice and cinnamon braised meatballs also include heavy uses of the spice. It means that although Middle Eastern food may be a little departure from what many people in Asia are used to, the familiarity of spices means that it’s not a totally different taste experience.
In the coming years, we can likely expect Asian foodies to embrace Middle eastern cuisine even more. By 2021, 2.5 million Chinese tourists will visit the Gulf (including areas like Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait) each year, which is an increase of 21%. As many more tourists follow suit and bring back their taste for Middle Eastern food with them, many more people in the region will begin to love it too.