Decoding Pan Asian | Axis Bank
Decoding Pan Asian
Dec 08, 2016

Decoding Pan Asian

<p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;If you went to a restaurant that served dim sum along with sushi and perhaps, nasi goreng, you would immediately conclude that you were at a Pan Asian place.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;Though the term Pan Asian is ambiguous, we have taken it to mean &ldquo;any restaurant that combines Chinese food with sushi and little South East Asian food.&rdquo;</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;This is, in some ways, not an unfair characterisation. The cuisine of China has had an enormous influence on the food of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries in South East Asia. For instance, though Thai is one of the world&rsquo;s great cuisines, it only took on the form we know now after the Chinese settled in that country. (Many Thais have some Chinese blood.) For instance the Thais ate no meat till the Chinese arrived; their diet was based on fish and vegetables.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;So it is with Singapore which is run by the Overseas Chinese, that is, Chinese who left the mainland a century or so ago. Malaysia is less Chinese but the cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese settlers: noodles, for instance, came from China.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;So when we use Pan Asian as a team for Chinese-influenced cuisines, there is certain logic to it. But equally, we often stretch the term too far. The Chinese had an early influence on Japanese cuisine --- soya sauce came to Japan from China --- but since then the cuisines have diverged so dramatically that it is hard to claim that they belong under the roof of the same restaurant. Likewise with the food of the Philippines, which is more influenced by the Spanish who once ran the country as a colony.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;Consequently, I am somewhat uneasy when &ldquo;Pan Asian&rdquo; is used to lump all the cuisines of East Asia together.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;But there is another problem. When we say &ldquo;Pan Asian&rdquo;, we ignore much of Asia. What about the Middle East? Large chunks of that are parts of Asia. In fact, Asia stretches as far as Turkey where it dissolves into Europe. Much of the old Soviet Union, for example, was made up of what we now call the Central Asian Republics.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm">&nbsp;So while <span style="color:black">I don&rsquo;t dispute that China has had an enormous impact on the cuisine of East Asia, the food of West Asia is completely different. Hummus, falafels, pulaos, kababs and other grilled meats all have their origins in West Asia. The Mughals who conquered India came from regions that later formed part of the Soviet Union.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;And what of India, a country with a cooking tradition that is centuries old? Such is the greatness of Indian cuisine that we absorbed every influence --- Arab traders, Mughal conquerors, European colonialists --- and made it our own. Today, India&rsquo;s biryanis are far superior to Turkey&rsquo;s pulaos and the best kababs in the world can be found in India, not Kandahar or Samarkand.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;So I propose that we dispense with the term Pan-Asian, at least in the sense we use it now. It gives too much importance to China, often when Chinese traditions don&rsquo;t even fit (as in Japan). So let&rsquo;s create a new definition of Pan Asian. Let&rsquo;s not be over-sympathetic to China in the East or say, Turkey in the West.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;Let&rsquo;s pick a place that is squarely in the centre and has the best cuisine in Asia. Yes, India, of course.</span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;If the concept of Pan-Asian food makes any sense then our starting point should be India which has it all, South Indian curries that rival Thailand&rsquo;s, our own momos that feed into the dim sum tradition and pulaos and kababs that beat the Middle East. </span></p> <p style="margin-left:0cm; margin-right:0cm"><span style="color:black">&nbsp;</span><br /> <span style="color:black">So, yes to Pan Asian. But only if it starts from India!</span><br /> &nbsp;</p>

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