Asian Food Primer: Introduction

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

A quick guide to Asian foods

by David Johnson

Asian Foods Guide

Common ingredients and popular dishes of various cultures.

East Asia

Pacific Region

South Asia

Southeast Asia

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In the 1950s, Asian food meant chop suey and fortune cookies to most people. Today that has all changed. A rich and increasingly authentic variety of Asian foods are available all over the United States, at restaurants and in supermarkets.

America's increased sophistication about food in general has been fueled by new tastes acquired while traveling overseas, and by the growing number of immigrants living here who have created a market for the food they left behind. The popularity of vegetarianism has also sparked interest in Asian cooking.

Cherries and Oranges Get a Boost


Probably the two most important contributions to American agriculture were the development of the Bing cherry and the Florida orange. A Chinese horticulturalist working in Oregon, Ah Bing, bred the red, sweet Bing cherry that is now an American favorite, while in Florida Lue Gim Gong experimented with oranges, perfecting a variety that was resistant to frost and able to grow in Florida.

A Wondrous Variety

There is no one Asian diet any more than there is any one American or European set of foods. Peanut and coconut mixtures of the tropical Southeast, Indian curries, barbecued beef of Central Asian steppes, familiar Chinese stir-fried dishes, and Japanese sushi—it's all very different and yet it's all Asian.

Use the "Asian Foods Guide" at right to read about the foods of various Asian cultures.

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