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September 26, 2010

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Southeast Asian cooking

SOUTHEAST Asian cuisine is famous for its fresh, aromatic ingredients and colorful dishes. No matter Thai food, Singaporean or Indonesian, dishes from this part of the world offer new and exotic taste sensations and fragrances.

Besides that, many Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore have multi-ethnic populations. Immigrants from all over the world bring their home country dishes and then create diverse dishes, a fusion cuisine of various culture's cooking styles.

For example, Singapore's Nonya food is based on Chinese and Malaysian traditional cuisine, using basic Chinese cooking way but blending in Malaysian spices; Malaysia's Teh Taric is created by the early Indian immigrants who sought to preserve India's historic tea culture. Sweet pineapple, fragrant curries, and spicy satay transport visitors from Shanghai to a tropical beach, enjoying lazy days.

Thai food is famous for its hot chilis, harmonious blend of the spicy, sweet and sour, and the abundant fresh ingredients. Each dish appeals not only to the palate but to the eyes and nose.

Aquatic animals, plants and herbs are major ingredients; the herbs in traditional Thai cooking are also beneficial to the health.

The Thailand Pavilion at the World Expo offers food ranging from the piquant and challenging to milder sensations and flavors.

They include noodles in spicy prawn soup, chicken Khao Soi and Pad Thai with prawns, among others.

A proper Thai meal consists of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, and sometimes fish and vegetables. Though the small restaurant in the Thailand Pavilion can produce only relatively simple dishes, it uses the freshest, high quality ingredients to create a range of food.

Visitors can enjoy traditional Thai food just through three dishes at prices lower than those outside the Expo Park.

The Singapore Pavilion showcases Singaporean food and has organized varied food festivals during the Expo.

The food center at the Singapore Pavilion has four sections offering Indian, Malay, Chinese and Nonya food, around 80 different dishes. The open kitchen is glassed-in so visitors can watch the preparation.

The Indonesia Pavilion serves its unique cuisine at its enak (snack) eatery beside the pavilion in the shade. The grounds contain a small pool and boat, suggesting a tropical island. The most popular Indonesian food -- satay, chicken or beef kebobs, and Indonesian fried rice, also known as the national food -- are served.

Satay is a distinctive Indonesian spice and the satay in the Indonesia Pavilion is different from the satay common in Shanghai.

I Made Wana Ambara, head chef of an Indonesian five-star hotel, said Indonesian food is known for its variety of spices. It's hotter and sweeter than food in other Southeast Asian countries, commonly using spices, curry and coconut milk.

All the fresh ingredients are transported to Shanghai by air.

Fried rice is a must at almost every meal, including presidential banquets for foreign visitors. Thai fragrant rice and a special sweet soy sauce is used; the soy is made of black beans.

Other common ingredients are curry, pepper and raisins. Fried rice and satay are typically eaten together.

Ambara beef soup is recommended by the chef and is delicious without the MSG that is common throughout Asia; it also contains curry, rice noodles and egg.

The pavilion also features iced cendol, an Indonesian specialty drink made from fresh coconut milk, grass jelly, red beans and other ingredients.


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