The Centerpiece: Celebrating Meat, Poultry, and Seafood in Asian Cuisine

The Centerpiece

A meat, poultry, or seafood dish always takes pride of place at the center of the Asian table.


Asians, especially the Chinese, have been dedicated hog lovers throughout history. Pork is popular because pigs are easy to raise and mature quickly. Pork fat, more commonly known as lard, adds unsurpassed flavor to many dishes, and pork belly is a favorite cut that’s gaining popularity in American kitchens.


When it comes to poultry, dark meat is generally favored over white. Whole chicken or duck is poached, steamed, or braised, and bone-in chicken parts are preferred.


In Asia, beef is a luxury reserved for special occasions because it costs more and is harder to find. When beef is served, economy cuts are often used.

Lamb and Goat

Lamb and goat show up too, most frequently in South Asian curries and casseroles.


Seafood also plays a starring role. Fish is the primary protein in many coastal communities and they aren’t sourced just from the ocean: freshwater marine life thrives in rice paddy fields, rivers, lakes, and streams. There are no qualms about heads or tails, and whole fish are enjoyed more than fillets. Larger varieties of shrimp, as well as lobster, are expensive and eaten sparingly.

Modern Influences

Today, lower prices and Western influences have made meat and seafood more accessible, especially in the United States. Steak is eaten widely; shrimp can be a weekly affair. But there is one constant—mothers and grandmothers count on easy-to-make dishes that can be prepared in large quantities to feed their families.

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