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Asian Food Q&A






Q.  Is there such a thing as Thai bread?

Q.  Is there ever a good time to tip in Japan?

Q.  What is 'edamame' and how do I eat it?

Q.  Is there kid-friendly Thai food?

Q.  How do you use chopsticks?

QHow do you pronounce 'Satay'?

Q.  What are the effects of eating too much Japanese horseradish?

QWhat is the bread called that's part of Indian food?

Q.  Do samosas come with a dip?

Q.  How do you pronounce 'wasabi'?

Q.  How do you pronounce 'edamame', and why can't we eat the pods?

Q.  Is there such a thing as Japanese coffee?







Q.  Bread seems to be popular throughout the world, but is there such a thing as 'Thai bread'?


A.  Thailand doesn't have much of a history of bread-eating.  This is despite the French bringing croissants to neighbouring Vietnam, and the English introducing sliced white loaves to places as close as Malaysia.  Nowadays, of course, you can find this, and other kinds of bread in Thailand, but still they are not what people would first to turn, for say, breakfast.  Instead, expect to find bread used in snacks, even to hold slabs of ice cream to make ice cream sandwiches- literally!


Q.  I understand that it is customary in Japan NOT to tip at any restaurant or service-providing facility. Are sushi-ya an exception?

A.  Nope!  Japan is a land where tipping is an alien concept-- it's not done to anyone there, ever, which makes it an easy rule to remember, and even easier to follow.  Instead, everyone- including people in roles where we in America would normally tip- is paid a decent salary.  Incidentally, The Food Virgin once tried to tip some especially helpful hotel staff, but that just ended in a lot of embarrassed Japanese-style giggling, and the return of my money.  So relax, and enjoy your trip there!  P.S.  When in America, tip as per usual at Japanese restaurants, like you would at any other.

Q.  I went out to eat Japanese food recently with friends, and something called 'edamame' came to the table.  It looked like a bowl full of pea pods, and one friend said we should eat the pods, like with snow peas, while another said to just eat the beans inside.  Which one is right?

A.  Your 2nd friend is right- definitely don't eat the pods!  Edamame is a popular Japanese appetizer, and is fun finger (and mouth) food.  Pick up a pod, put it near your mouth, and squeeze the beans into your mouth.  Discard the empty pod either into a bowl that the waiter will bring out just for this, or put them in a neat pile on your plate or side plate.  


Q.  I read your article on Thai food and want to try it, but will have to take my whole family.  Will there be anything there that I can feed my 5 and 8 year olds?

A.  Yes!  Although some Thai food can be spicier than kids are used to, other dishes are great for kids.  Start them off with chicken satay, which can either be eaten plain or dipped into the peanut sauce.  For main dishes, fried fish, pandan chicken, and tom kar gai are all mild.  You can also ask whether a chili-free version of pad thai or other dishes can be made.


Q.  At home when I eat Chinese food, I eat it with a fork, but when I'm out, sometimes chopsticks are available.  I've seen people using them and they make it look easy, but I tried it once and it didn't work for me at all!  Will anyone care if I don't use chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant?

A.  Well, the good news is that no one will really care if you stick to the good old tried-and-true fork when you eat at Asian food restaurants in America.  But the even better news is that it's not all that hard to learn how to eat with chopsticks.  The trick is to hold your hand out as if you're about to shake hands, then curve your fingers comfortably.  Anchor one chopstick across the end of your middle finger and the joint of your thumb.  Your thumb pressing toward your palm will keep it in place.  The other chopstick will be held between the ends of your thumb and index finger and will rest against the index finger.  This is the chopstick that will move so that you can pick up items and hold them firmly.  It is easier to learn with wooden chopsticks, as these have better grip than ceramic ones.  Order Chinese and practice at home until you are comfortable enough to try it in a restaurant.  For more instruction, try this link to eHow:  eHow- How to Eat with Chopsticks.


Q.  How do you pronounce the Thai food, 'satay'?


A.  There are two ways to pronounce this delicious meaty appetizer: sa-TAY, and SA-tay.  Both seem to be used in Asia, but the first one is more common, whereas the latter is a bit more European/American.  For more Thai food pronunciations, check out the Thai food page.


Q.  What are the effects of eating too much Japanese horseradish?


A.  Umm... breathing horseradish breath on your date?  Japanese horseradish, also known as 'wasabi', does have some useful properties.  It is used with sushi to help kill any bacteria that might remain in the raw fish.  The real question is, why are you eating too much wasabi anyway?


Q.  What's the bread that goes with Indian food?  It looks like pita bread, but is longer.


A.  You probably mean naan (pronounced with a long 'a', similar to 'non' as in 'nonsense').  You can get it plain, with garlic, sometimes even with cheese.  Use it to scoop up your curries.  We also like pappadums, which are the Indian version of crackers, served at the beginning of the meal.  You can dip pappadums into mint sauce, mango chutney, or other condiments brought out with them.


Q.  There are a lot of dips and sauces on the table for Indian food.  We've ordered samosas before, and are confused- which dip goes with the samosas?


A.  Samosas are a great Indian food appetizer-- potatoes and other ingredients deep-fried in a triangular pastry packet.  Typically not too spicy, they're good for newcomers to the cuisine too.  Perfectly spiced as they are, you don't need to dip them in anything.  If you want to, though, take a spoonful or two of chutney to your side plate (or main plate if there's no side plate), and dip your samosas in that.  Some recipes you'll see suggest mango, mint or tamarind chutney.  These are all good choices.


Q.  How do you pronounce 'wasabi'?


A.  'Wasabi', the popular, green, Japanese version of horseradish is pronounced 'wah-sah-bee'.  Normally, in English, we have emphasis on one syllable in each word more than the others, but with Japanese it is less so.  Put a little emphasis on the middle to make it easier for you to say, as in 'wah-SAH-bee'.  In Japan, they say it slightly more like 'WAH-sah-bee', but it might be over-emphasized by an English speaker that way.  Check back soon for our easy audio guide to hear the pronunciation of key words for each cuisine that we've written up.


Q.  How do you pronounce 'edamame'?  And why not eat the pods?  We eat the pods of snow peas, after all.


A.  I can see that we're going to have to put up a pronunciation page for our Japanese Food Virgins.  'Edamame' is pronounced, 'ed-a-MA-MAY'.  To find out how to eat it, read our article on Japanese Sushi.  As for eating the pods, technically, they won't harm you if you do decide to eat one, but edamame pods are nowhere near as chewable as snow pea pods.  If you put one in your mouth, you'll be chewing, and chewing and chewing... long after the sushi chef has packed up his knives and gone home.  Make life easy for yourself-- pop the beans out into your mouth, and enjoy.


Q.  After a sushi meal, is it normal in Japan to drink coffee, like we would after an American meal?


A.  Coffee drinking isn't a traditional end to a Japanese meal, but these days in America, you could probably get a cup.  Remember, most people choose to drink green tea with Japanese food, so it would be strange to switch to coffee after that.  That said, coffee drinking is popular in Japan throughout the day, found in offices and homes, and with cans of it available from vending machines offering both hot, and cold coffee (yes, cold, with milk, if you want). 






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