Recently in Asian Food Etiquette Category
We at Asian Food Grocer are always looking for the newest, most spectacularific products to provide to our customers. And yes, we do have a good excuse to be using made up words- we're excited! And why are we excited...
We recently got in a shipment of new beverages from a company called Taste Nirvana, out of Thailand. Most of their products are based on coconut water, but they also have Lattes that are based on Green Tea, Thai Coffee, and Thai Tea. But maybe you're still not impressed. Maybe you don't really understand the implications of coconut water, and all the great benefits it has to offer- well, read on.
Coconut water comes from a coconut. (Duh) It's the juice inside, and it has a very sweet, very creamy flavor to it. It's also rich in many essential vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium. It has a lot of complex B-vitamins as well as electrolytes. This makes the drink great for boosting your energy, while achieving better blood and skin health. It is especially good for hydration, and is recommended to be used instead of an energy drink because you get the vitamins, the electrolytes, the energy, and the hydration, but without any artificial flavoring.
Taste Nirvana makes a point to not only offer a cholesterol free, preservative free, gluten free product, but they are also environmentally conscious. All of their containers are recyclable, they use an efficient factory that operates on steam, and they hold several certificates and awards for the steps they've taken to be environmentally responsible.
Now, most of the coconut waters you'll find are from plants harvested in South America, and they generally have a bit of a tart effect. The Thai coconuts, however, have much more of a sweet and fruity flavor. This makes them better for sweet, flavorful drinks.
We hope this will make you all give coconut water a chance, because it really is the whole package: great taste, super healthy, not too expensive, and good for the environment. But we also need to talk about the other stuff that Taste Nirvana sells, like their Lattes.
The drinks they have all offer a creamy, smooth texture, and they're flavored with natural cane sugar, which is healthier than high fructose corn syrup, and is better for you than artificial sweeteners.
Their three Lattes are Thai Tea, Green Tea, and Coffee. Everyone had their own favorite flavors too. Gustavo preferred the Green Tea, Ruthie liked the Thai Coffee, and Julian took to the Thai Tea. All of the drinks were rich and smooth, with sweet effects and a creamy, silky texture.
We recommend you try all our drinks and experiment to find your favorites. And we encourage you to think of the coconut water drinks as a healthy alternative to your energy drinks, your sodas, and all your high fructose corn syrup drinks.
And please don't forget to take our poll below. We all have our own favorites, but we really want to know what you guys think!
Chopsticks are an integral part of Japan's history and culture, and have been for a thousand years. Because of this they are seen as so much more than mere utensils. There are approximately 40 basic rules concerning chopsticks and proper etiquette, but we picked out a few of the more important ones.
- Do NOT stab your chopsticks into the rice so that they are standing straight up. This action is reserved for funerals only, and doing so at a typical meal is considered extraordinarily offensive. (Of all the rules you learn, this first one may be the most important)
- Do not spear your food with chopsticks.
- Don't rub your chopsticks together. If you must rub them together to get rid of any splinters in the wood, do it under the table, as doing so in plain view suggests the restaurant owner is cheap.
- Do not use your chopsticks to get food from a serving plate, as there should be serving chopsticks.
- Do not point with your chopsticks.
- Chopsticks should be placed right-left direction; the tips should be on the left. Placing diagonal, vertical or crossing each stick are not acceptable. Using a Chopstick Rest is also perfectly acceptable.
- Never pass food from your chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks.
Sushi as it is known today is relatively young in terms of Japan's history, only about 200 years old. Sushi is considered a type of edible art, and is meant to be appreciated as a beautiful dish as well as a tasty one. That being said, don't treat it like fries at a fast food place, eat them one piece at a time, taking time to enjoy the full flavor of the food.
- It helps to know a little about what you're ordering or eating. Nigiri is fish over a ball of sticky rice; Maki is fish and rice and other ingredients in a roll of seaweed; Temaki is a hand roll of sushi, often made to look like a cone shape; Sashimi is raw fish with no rice.
- Sushi is meant to be eaten all in one bite. The portions in Japan are generally smaller, as Americans have added a bit of girth to the food. But nonetheless, the food is meant to be eaten one piece at a time, all at once, so don't ask for a knife to cut it, as it will make you look bad.
- Don't be afraid to ask for a chef's recommendation. Fish stocks change by day and by season. It will show that you respect the food, and want only the freshest when you ask what his or her recommendation is.
- Sushi is designed to be finger food. Traditionally, Japanese food was eaten with the thumb, index and middle finger, but not the pinky or ring finger. So don't be afraid to ignore those chopsticks.
- It has become western tradition to lather your food in condiments, whether it's gravy, ketchup, or even Soy Sauce. However with sushi, the idea is to add a subtle and accentuating flavor, not an overpowering taste. Dip lightly, do not douse.
- The ginger is not to be eaten as a meal, it's a way of getting the taste out of your mouth, so that you don't mix flavors and can enjoy one item at a time. It has a strong taste, so beware.
The history of alcohol in Japan is ancient, and because of that there is a long list of rules to consider. However, since we've been rambling on long enough we'll keep this one short.
- In Japan people say "Kanpai" when they drink. This is their version of "cheers."
- It is considered rude to pour sake for yourself. You should pour it for others, and they will do so for you.
- Don't smoke at a sushi bar. The smoke will overpower the taste and natural aromas of the food and drink being consumed.
There are too many rules and traditions in Japanese cuisine to break it all down into tight little groups, but here are a few last minute quick tips.
- Tipping in Japan is considered unnecessary and is unexpected. American sushi restaurants, however, expect it just as any other restaurant would.
- If your waiter/waitress brings you a hot towel, that is for washing your hands, and not so much for the food. This is also common on Japanese airlines.
- It's ok to drink from your soup bowl. It's also ok to use your chopsticks to push the solids within the soup toward your mouth.
- Slurping is ok when you are eating noodle dishes. It is even considered polite on occasion, though you should be polite to your neighbor too and not slurp so that you distract anyone.
- If someone sneezes it is considered polite to ignore it, instead of saying "bless you," as is common in the west.
- Don't blow your nose at the table. This is considered very offensive, and something to be done in private.
These general tips should leave you prepared to walk into any Japanese restaurant and hold your own. Enjoy!
We get a lot of customer emails here at AsianFoodGrocer.com. One of the most frequently asked questions that we receive is: What is a rice cake? Do you bake it in the oven? Is it soft and fluffy? Or are they those dried circle things that come in bread packages like at the grocery store? If you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you're in luck! We're going to tell you exactly what they are!
The actual name for rice cakes is Mochi. Mochi is a very soft and extremely sticky food that is made out of short grain sweet rice and has the texture of raw cookie dough. To make mochi, polished sticky rice is soaked overnight in water. Once the rice has thoroughly absorbed the water, it is cooked and then pounded into a paste using a mortar and a giant wooden mallet called a kine.
Two people are needed to properly use the mortar and mallet. One continually turns and wets the mortar to keep the mallet strikes even and to insure that the paste has the right consistency. The other person wields the mallet. The two must work at a strict steady rhythm to make sure that they don't injure one another. Getting hit on the noggin with a very large wooden mallet would not make very good mochi, ouch! The super sticky paste is then shaped into various forms.
Mochi normally is shaped into rectangles or spheres then stored away for use later. But more often than not, these sticky little buns are mixed with natural food colorings then shaped into beautiful flower shapes for special occasions like New Years. This style of edible art is called Wagashi, a traditional Japanese confection that focuses on the beauty of nature. Beautiful multicolored rice cakes are served alongside tea. Each skillfully crafted piece is filled with a number a sweet fillings like sweet adzuki red bean paste, lotus seed paste, and even sometimes fresh fruit. It doesn't have to be a special time of year to enjoy mochi however.
Finding mochi rice cakes filled with red bean is no problem as long as you know where to look. (Cough, cough! Asian Food Grocer) But for a real treat, Mochi Ice Cream is the way to go. When frozen, sweet and sticky mochi paste takes on the consistency of a marshmallow, so it is no wonder they fill it with ice cream! Typical flavors include creamy vanilla, fresh strawberry, rich chocolate, mellow green tea, and juicy tropical mango. We don't carry them yet here at AFG, but we may in the near future! Mochi pieces are also eaten in a sweet red bean soup called Oshiruko. Dongo is another very popular dumpling that is fire roasted then covered in a syrup made of soy sauce, sugar, and sometimes topped with toasted sesame seeds. Mochi is such a versatile food but to the novice beware. It's so incredibly sticky that it can actually pose a choking hazard if large bites are taken, so stick to nibbling. If sweets foods aren't your thing, don't fret! Mochi can be eaten in salty dishes too.
Eating mochi fried is very common. In fact, that's what we call Rice Crackers! When mochi is cooked in hot oil or baked in an oven, it puffs up almost like popcorn and becomes hard and crunchy. Rice Crackers are then glazed in a thin soy sauce mixture and then left to dry. Mochi can also be found in soups like Zoni, a traditional New Year's meal. It can also be spotted in Shabu Shabu, the Japanese style hot pot.
So go ahead and get yourself into a sticky situation with these not so cake like rice cakes!
Since picking up new skills is easier for children, it pays to get your children started on Fun Chop early. Fun Chop is suitable for children over the age of three, so basically if they can dress themselves (however oddly) they can use chopsticks with Fun Chop. Teaching them to use chopsticks early will help them cultivate a taste for delicious Asian food early, and save them the trouble and embarrassment of having to learn when they are older. Prepare your child for a life of culture, travel and cuisine with Fun Chop!
Available in a variety of colors, these playful little chopstick helpers are a friendly addition to your Asian food utensils. Help your child develop a taste for Asian food early in life with a little help from Fun Chop (hint, they work for adults too!)
Step 1. Pick up the First Chopstick
If you use disposable chopsticks, you'll need to break them apart first. Gently pull them apart. Try not to twist them or you might end up with a few splinters in your rice. Place the first chopstick so that the broad part rests at the base of your thumb and the narrow end rests on the tip of your ring finger. Hold it in place with the tip of your middle finger.
Step 2. Add the Second Chopstick
Place your thumb over the second chopstick. Position the second chopstick so that it is held against your index finger by the end of your thumb. Hold it like you would grip a pencil. Make sure the ends are even.
Step 3. Practice the Pivot
Keep the bottom (first) chopstick stationary and pivot the top (second) chopstick. Move the tip of your index finger up and down while the thumb remains stable. Open and close the chopsticks until the movement feels natural. Once you get the hang of it, pick up a morsel of food. It might take a few attempts. Practice at home with sliced cold cuts and cheese, then try bits of meat and vegetables. If you still can't get the hang of it, try this Fun Chop chopstick holder.
- Never stab or pierce your food with a chopstick, many cultures consider this rude.
- Don't stick your chopsticks into your rice straight down. This is commonly done at funerals.
- Lay your chopsticks parallel to each other. Never let them cross.
- It's considered bad manners to wave your chopsticks over food, trying to decide what to eat next.
- Don't eat directly from the central plate; always transfer food to your plate first.
- Never lick your chopsticks.