The 10 ‘other’ Asian national dishes you should dig into

We’re all familiar with fried rice and pad Thai, but here are 10 other ethnic dishes to try when in Asia.

fat rice, malaysia

Originally served as a farmer’s meal wrapped in banana leaves, nasi lemak is now ubiquitous, from McDonald’s version of the burger to five-star restaurant interpretations. Steamed rice with coconut milk is served with crispy anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, cucumber slices and spicy sambal sauce. Richer versions come with chicken rendang or sambal prawns. It is primarily a breakfast dish, but it is also served at lunchtime. See


Ambuyat is a dish taken from the inside of the trunk of the sago palm. It is a mild starchy substance similar to tapioca starch.  Ambuyat is the national dish of Brunei and a local delicacy in the Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah and the federal territories of Labuan, where it is sometimes called linut.  Ambuyat is a dish taken from the inside of the trunk of the sago palm. It is a mild starchy substance similar to tapioca starch.  Ambuyat is the national dish of Brunei and a local delicacy in the Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan, sometimes called linut.Credit: istock is for travellers' use only at one time

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As ethnic cuisine goes, it’s a more challenging dish because of its tapioca-like, starchy consistency and its hot and sour accompaniment, a dipping sauce called cacah. Ambuyat – also common in Sabah and Sarawak – is made from the inside of the sago palm trunk, pepper and shrimp paste, and has a viscous, relatively bland texture. You wrap it on a bamboo skewer and eat it with vegetables, fish, shrimp or meat. See

Oman Shuwa

2CW7HB3 Shuwa - Oman's national dish, made with bone-in lamb or goat, or occasionally beef or camel.  Credit: Alamy Single use, traveler use only FEE APPLIES

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This dish is made for holidays and special occasions, but you can find it in fancy restaurants. Lamb (or sometimes other meat) is wrapped in banana leaves and woven palm baskets, then slow cooked for 24 hours in an underground pit with chilli and spices. The result is meat that falls off the bone and is fragrant. Shuwa is a convivial sharing dish served with rice. See

breath, burma

DER32X Mohinga Fish and noodle soup Myanmar Credit: Alamy Single use, traveler only

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There’s a good reason this bowl of creamy fish and rice noodles for breakfast is so popular: It’s filling, satisfying, and available everywhere. Stews are thickened with rice noodles and flavored with herbs and lemongrass; fish is sliced ​​or mashed rather than chunks. Sprinkle your mohinga with a splash of fried anchovies, shallots, cilantro and a generous splash of lime juice. See

Beshbarmak, Kazakhstan

Great dish bishbarmaka credit: istock one time only for travelers
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Popular dishes in Kazakhstan have blunt names: kurt, plov, shalap. But the national dish is likely to be beshbarmak: boiled meat served on egg noodles or thin noodles in a savory, peppery onion sauce. Lamb or horse meat is traditionally used, but beef is becoming more common. It is served in a large communal dish, with various cuts and textures assigned according to seniority. See

Buuz, Mongolia

BAHKEJ mongolian buuz Credit: Alamy Single use only traveler fee applies

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For travelers, there is no more satisfying snack than dumplings, and you can find them almost anywhere in Mongolia. Steamed buuz dumplings are filled with lamb or goat (sometimes duck or beef in high-end restaurants) and seasoned with onion, garlic and caraway seeds. You can knock them back like this, or eat them in lamb broth, but either way they’re warm, cheap, fatty, and filling. See


F04ECM Roast. South Indian Sri Lankan street food.  Credit: Alamy Single use, traveler use only FEE APPLIES

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There are several types of curry that are hailed as the national dish of Sri Lanka, but here are some differences: the ubiquitous toast, chopped on a hot pan, mixed with spices, vegetables, and perhaps meat, seafood or eggs, prepared Into a delicious, aromatic snack favorite. Although kottu originated in the 1970s, it is now ubiquitous, with the clink of chopping vegetables heard in every street market. See

AMOK, Cambodia

Traditional Cambodian Khmer fish amok curry meal credit: istock one-time use, traveler only

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Take the fish, add lemongrass, kaffir lime, spices, eggs and coconut milk, wrap it in a banana leaf and steam it. Hey presto, a delicious light curry meal with a custard like texture, best served with rice and chilli paste. Vegetables or squid are sometimes added to the mix. Restaurants often serve the frenzy in a coconut shell, and offer modern versions with meat or tofu. See


Authentic Ghormeh Sabzi Mutton Stew with Herbs and Beans closeup in a bowl with rice on the table.Horizontal credit: istock is only for travelers at a time

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This rich Persian herb stew is made with beef or lamb, kidney beans, onions, cilantro, fenugreek, parsley, and chives. The stew’s almost black exterior doesn’t inspire, but the herbaceous flavors are delicious. Variations may have added spinach or leeks and take on a green color. You eat it with rice or tahdig, which is crunchy brown rice at the bottom of the pot. Yum. see

Adobo, Philippines

EWY691 Chicken and Pork Adobo on Yellow Rice, Filipino Food Credit: Alamy Once for Traveler Fees apply

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Abodo is the name of a marinade of Spanish origin, although the cooking method may have originated in China. Adobo is usually made with pork or chicken braised in oil, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, ginger and garlic, and its rich, salty and slightly sour flavor is best offset with white rice. The cooking style works with anything from fish to vegetables, and there are many delicious variations. see

Brian Johnston has traveled courtesy of numerous tourist boards and tour companies.

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