Oriental Food for Flavour and Economy

Oriental, is a term which means “The East”. The Orient is comprised of central Asia, East Asia, North Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Western Asia.

Picture of Japanese food

A Japanese meal

Most people think of Chinese food when you say Oriental but the range is diverse, spanning the countries of China, Indonesia, Indian Sub Continent, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Each of these countries also has diversity in it’s cooking from region to region.

Thai food provides some wonderful fragrant curries.

Fresh and sometimes raw fish is used a great deal in Japanese cooking.

Ingredients in oriental dishes are traditionally natural, using spices and vinegars to flavour food instead of sugars and fats.  Traditionally, sugars and fats were luxuries in Asia and food was flavoured using natural ingredients.

Rice is cheap and good for you.
One of the staples common to most Asian regions is rice, this is mixed with a little meat, a lot of vegetables, sauces and vinegars.  This combination enables many of the recipes to be economical and extremely nutritious.

Comes in a varied range, it is not just the long grain, quick cook horror that is found in most Western supermarkets.
The queen of rice is the delicately flavoured Thai Jasmine Rice and many people are familiar with Basmati rice, used widely in Indian cooking.  Also look out for the short grained, more sticky, Sushi rice.

Always try to purchase rice in as large a quantity as you can store, as this is more economical, resulting in a few pence per person per meal.  Specialist rices are cheaper if bought from oriental markets and stores.

There are only about 170 calories of per meal in Jasmine rice and it is made up of carbohydrates with good dietry fibre and a low glycemic index.

Many western people are unsure of how to cook rice correctly. Rice should be well prepared to get rid of excess starch.  This also improves the texture when cooked.

Always wash the rice thoroughly about 3 times and leave to stand in cold water for about half an hour which is then strained before fresh water is added before cooking. Follow the link further down this page to discover how to make perfect rice every time.

Less is more
Although oriental cookery uses meat, this is always in much less quantity than we would consider.  Chicken features in many recipes, again, high in protein and very little fat.

Soya replaces meat in many dishes.  It is derived from pureed and pressed soya beans (bean curd) and is quite bland but it does absorb the flavours of spices and sauces easily. Tofu is the cheapest form of soya protein around.

Do more with your veg
Vegetables feature strongly in oriental cooking, they are not just used as side dishes but form a major component of many recipes and can are often highly flavoured using spices and sauces.

In oriental cookery, vegetables are steamed or cooked very quickly, allowing them to retain as much of their natural nutrient and texture as possible.

Use local markets
Many oriental markets provide food at almost half the price of the supermarket. This is due mainly to the fact that they do not spend a lot of money on marketing and presentation.  Food is packaged simply and you will find things that just simply would never be found on a Western supermarket shelf.

A few utensils
You do not need cupboards full of expensive equipment to cook oriental food. However,  a steamer and a good wok are a necessity.

A wok is very similar to a frying pan but has steep, gently sloping sides which allows the pan to heat rapidly and evenly. A good sized, deep wok can be used for deep and shallow frying, steaming, stir frying and braising.

A steamer allows food to be stacked, usually over a pan of boiling water.  Vegetables cook more quickly and retain their flavour better this way.  Fish is generally steamed in the same manner.

Further information

Oriental cookery – Learn to produce authentic oriental dishes at home.

How to steam rice

Authentic Japanese Cooking – Discover a whole new world of flavours with highly nutritious dishes.

Frugal Living in the UK – Soya mince is cheaper than meat mince.