The consumption of food is a personal and communal experience in Asia, whether in expensive 5-Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo; hawker centers in Singapore; food stalls in Manila; and side road eating places in Hanoi.
In this side of the world, food is what binds people together. Food is not just something you put in your mouth to satisfy your hunger. A meal is not something you rush to finish so you can get back to work, it is something to spend time on to truly savor and experience.
Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale. ~ Elsa Schiaparelli
Eating is a chance to talk about the day’s events, be it school or work. It can also be an instrument to get to know people better, where they come from and their experiences. This is something, which guests of Asian families will experience.
Lucky is the man invited to an Asian home for dinner. Where did you come from? What did you do? How many places have you traveled to? How do you find the country? These are just some of the questions which guests will be asked eventually.
Now you may reply or not to the questions in all honesty but you must, by all means, appreciate the food served to you and perhaps even compliment the chef. By doing so more outstanding dishes will be created and more people will be happier for having partook of such sumptuous meals.
With each spoonful of goodness, the day’s events are relived and the future is discussed. For some reason, food tastes a lot better when shared with family and friends. Each morsel is transformed as an agent for deeper companionship and more meaningful relationships.
Food and eating is truly in the heart of Asia that people greet each other not with hellos or how are yous, but rather with “Have you eaten?” and “Let’s eat”! Regardless if you are meeting friends who you have not seen for a decade or friends you have just been with yesterday, eating is a central part of get-togethers. It is what cements companionships and makes it stronger. In Asia, get-togethers are incomplete without food and the thought of the absence of food in these events is just simply appalling!
The satisfied slurping of noodles; the quiet resolution of the lady putting together banh mi and pho to create the perfect symphony of flavors; the sound of the pan sizzling with goodness; and the smile on people’s faces after that first bite. These are but some of the culinary memories people will remember of Asia and perhaps the continent can even teach people a thing or two about food and eating.
This article first appeared on lets-eat.sg in March 2015