Mumbai has been smitten by Southeast Asian cuisine for a while now. From Chinese Kung Pao to Thai Flat Rice, Kanika Sharma decodes six fundamental noodles and sauces of this varied culinary family, in this must-read guide
Kung pao sauce
Origin: Sichuan Province, China
Ingredients: Dry red chilli, dark soya sauce, molasses
Taste: Soft, served dry
Best combination: A semi-thick sauce, which is slightly sweet in taste. Traditionally served and enjoyed with chillies
Best combination: Cashew nuts and dry red chillies.
(From left, front row) Flour noodles, Flat rice, Pad Thai, Glass noodles, Vegetable noodles, Vermicelli or cellophane noodles; (From left, back row) Kung pao sauce, Satay or peanut sauce, Chilli bean sauce, Sesame sauce, Black bean sauce, Hot garlic sauce
Satay or peanut sauce
Ingredients: Peanuts, fish sauce, molasses, tamarind
Taste: crunchy and creamy
Best combination: Skewered vegetables & meat.
Chilli bean sauce (doubanjiang)
Origin: Sichuan Province, China
Ingredients: Tung Nu chilli, garlic & black bean
Taste: Oily, Spicy and dense
Best combination: Goes with everything, specially tofu and seafood.
Origin: Yunan province, China
Ingredients: White sesame seeds, oil
Taste: smooth and subtle
Best combination: chicken and meat, avoidable with seafood.
Black bean sauce
Origin: Sichuan Province China
Ingredients: Black bean, soya, oil
Taste: Salty, thick and has has the quality of enveloping the ingredients of the dish
Best combination: Chicken and meat, avoidable with seafood.
Hot garlic sauce
Origin: Sichuan province, China
Ingredients: Garlic, chilli, oil, soya sauce
Taste: Salty, spicy, smooth with bites of fine garlic.
Best combination: Vegetables, chicken, meat and seafood.
Origin: Part of Mandarin style cuisine or Northern China
Ingredients: Flour (sometimes tapioca or arrowroot), water, and oil. Also, egg is used, on occasion, to make the noodle shinier and chewier
Taste: Chewy and super absorbent of flavours
Best combination: Goes well in stir-fries with all sauces except peanut sauce. Also complements vegetables, protein, meat and seafood.
Ingredients: Made out of rice flour, water, potato, wheat
Taste: Soft, served dry
Best combination: Goes with seafood, meat and poultry. It can be paired with sweet, spicy or sour sauces.
Ingredients: Made from rice and wheat starch
Texture: Flat soft
Best combination: Add chicken and prawn to it. Add only a little sauce to this kind of noodle. Steaming would be a good option. This noodle goes best with Hot Garlic Sauce, which is sweet and sour.
3mm Pad Thai Noodles in the glass along with six kinds of sauces. Pic/Satyajit Desai. Location courtesy/Mekong, Palladium Hotel
Ingredients: Made with skinned green beans and potato starch
Taste/texture: Soft, slightly sweet to taste when made with black bean sauce
Best combination: It goes well with sautéed chicken and black bean sauce. Chef recommends it stewed or stir-fried. Tastes great in Vietnamese Spring Rolls and noodle-based soups.
Origin: Tong Guan region, China
Ingredients: Spinach purée
Texture: Soft, served dry
Best combination: It goes best with shrimps or chicken and julienned beef. An ideal way to eat it would be steamed and stir-fried with no curry. Spice lovers can add a little chilli sauce.
Vermicelli or cellophane noodles
Origin: Part of many Asian countries (China, Thailand and Vietnam, hence extremely dynamic)
Ingredients: Rice flour, water
Texture: Slightly chewy, slippery and bland (thus, it is a great accompaniment to strong stews and sauces)
Best combination: Best in stir fry or in noodle soup bowls. Dynamic noodles go great with all sauces. Vegetables, proteins, red meat and seafood are good too.
Southeast Asian cuisine, defined
Southeast Asian cuisine has been familiar to Indian palates since the 1980s. Its popularity owes to the fact that a high level of spice is associated with it — especially peppercorn, star anise and cinnamon, and not only chilli.
Chinese cuisine can be divided into two types — Sichuanese and Yunan. The great thing about Southeast Asian cuisine is that the ingredients available are always put to use. Salt has always been tough to source in these countries; so, the Chinese use soy sauce while the Thai and Vietnamese choose Fish Sauce. Sichuanese is fundamentally spicy and its colour palette ranges from red to brown whereas Yunan bearing proximity to the river, ranges from yellow to brown. Unlike the Chinese, Thai food focusses on sour flavours, and they have about 16 ingredients to produce the element of tanginess (think, kafir lime). In Malaysia, flatter noodles are opted for unlike in Chinese and Vietnamese food.
Immigration has always played a role resulting in a great influx of influences. For instance, Southern Thailand has a large population from Malaysia and thus, tamarind becomes a strong component in their food. Another important facet of Thai cuisine is its crunch factor produced by ingredients such as water chestnuts and peanuts.
Vietnamese food is highly complex but it isn’t as creamy as the others in the region. Many a times, broth/stock is used peppered with great ingredients such as mint, bird’s eye chilli, basil and lime that go very well in dishes like Pho.
Also, their dishes are more crude and less polished unlike Thai stews.
Source: Deepti Dadlani
Know your sauce & noodle
>> XO sauce is made of dried scallops, prawns, shallots, dried chillies and sugar. The sauce is rich in flavours; best paired with Soba noodles and prawns.
>> Udon noodle is a wheat flour noodle from Japan. It is used in broths or served with tempuras or rice cakes.
Source: Vaibhav Mahajan, Auriga
Information courtesy: Chef Cheang Chee Leong, Chef De Cuisine, Mekong, Palladium Hotel and Deepti Dadlani, Communications Manager, Palladium Hotel