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9 Underrated Asian Dishes You Probably Haven’t Tried Yet

Douhua

Ramen, dumplings, kung pao chicken, and dosas are all Asian dishes that many of us have loved and come back to time and time again. But there’s a world of underrated Asian dishes relatively unknown in the western world that beg to be savored. 

For natives of many Asian countries, many of these meals have nothing obscure about them. They’re beloved foods eaten regularly, and a central part of their dining tables. 

Ahead, we’re introducing you to some of our favorite Asian dishes you probably haven’t tried yet — but definitely need to check out ASAP! 

Salted egg yolk crab

1. Salted Egg Yolk Crab

Some people will do anything to get the perfect bite of food: Wait in line for a few hours, go grocery shopping at a half-dozen stores to get all the right ingredients, shell out a lot of money, or, if you’re craving salted egg yolk crab, you might be willing to go through the painstaking process of cracking a crab and digging out a single teaspoon of crab meat doused in a creamy spicy sauce. This effort is worth it for lovers of this dish, which consists of deep-fried crab paired with an umami-packed, fragrant, and slightly-sweet creamy sauce. Injuries are not unheard of while consuming this dish, but who hasn’t ever risked pain for love? 

Brinjal eggplant moju

2. Brinjal (Eggplant) Moju

I could probably say this about every cuisine lifted here, but I’ll say it anyway. Sri Lankan cuisine is unmatched, and this dish is just one example of the depth of flavor achieved by this south asian island country’s foods. Eggplant moju is sweet, spicy, savory, and is cooked with loads of eggplant strips, shallots, green chili, and mustard. It’s usually one of many dishes you might serve with curry and rice at a Sri Lankan table, though it’s also flavorful enough to have by itself with just a bit of rice. See also: onion sambol, kottu rotti, or lamprais for other amazing Sri Lankan dishes. 

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Popiah Basah

3. Popiah Basah

It’s a simple, almost snackish food that begs the question of why it’s not more widely prepared in the US. Made up of just a veggie “wet” filling, a thin wheat flour skin, and kuah (or Malaysian satay suace), this fresh vegetarian spring roll is an iconic Malaysian comfort food. You can have one on the go, as a meal on its own, or just as a bite between meals. The thing that absolutely makes or breaks a good popiah basah is the “wet” ingredients, which usually include steamed jicama, bean sprouts, fried shallots, and other vegetarian goodies. It’s often served with kuah or another irresistible sauce like a sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce which will make you wonder whether you’re just eating the roll for the sauce. 

Douhua

4. Douhua

Again, it’s safe to say that depending on your background, it’s very possible you’ve probably tried this dessert a good number of times already. In Taiwan, it’s one of the most popular desserts out there and is served with taro balls, mung beans, and brown sugar syrup. It’s a slippery, chewy, gelatinous sweet dish that is unparalleled in western cuisine. Just like oatmeal, however (okay, so maybe it is slightly “paralleled”), douhua is also available in savory form. Head up to northern China, and you’ll discover a douhua served with mushrooms, eggs, and bamboo shoots. In Hong Kong, it might be served with black sesame paste. If you’re salivating at the thought of this super versatile dish, then try researching your area’s dim sum restaurants and you might get lucky. 

Korean soon-dae

5. Soon-dae

For many, blood sausage might be considered an acquired taste, but for many Koreans, it’s an essential part of a street food rotation. Soon-dae is made by stuffing cow or pig intestines with steamed offals, glass noodles, and blood. The whole thing is then steamed or boiled and dipped in a salt and black pepper mixture or in a fermented shrimp sauce. Despite the gamey-sounding nature of this dish, it’s actually pretty fragrant and neutral-smelling and the fermented shrimp mixture will probably stink up the place more than your main dish. Growing up Korean, I remember my parents bringing back a warm styrofoam tray of soon-dae after every grocery shopping trip at the Korean market — I never loved it growing up, but now it’s one of those nostalgia-inducing dishes I crave as comfort food.

Nepalese Yomari

6. Yomari

Everyone knows Nepalese momos, but do you know yomari? These cone- and slightly fish-shaped sweet dumplings are the stars of Yomari Punhi, a festival that celebrates the end of rice-harvesting season. It’s also one of the most popular sweets in the Newar community, which consists of 50% of Kathmandu Valley’s population. Made with rice flour, the dumpling is filled with ground sesame nuts, ground nuts, coconut, and chaku (hardened molasses). According to Newari culture, the longer the tail of the yomari, the shorter the winter will be. 

Dahi Bhalla

7. Dahi Bhalla (or Dahi Vhada)

A favorite chaat (snack) of northern India, dahi bhalla is a sumptuous snack made of deep-fried lentil fritters drowned in a curd/yogurt sauce. And I really do mean drowned: If you’re not using enough yogurt to completely soak and obscure the fritters from view, then you’re not using enough. It’s usually prepared for all the main Hindu festivals, including Diwali and Holi. And if the idea of a deep-fried ball covered in a creamy sauce isn’t tantalizing enough: it’s also usually topped with a spicy green or sweet tamarind chutney and red chili powder. 

Japanese natto

8. Natto

Natto is probably one of those Japanese dishes that you’ve heard of many times, but have never gotten around to trying. It’s rank, it’s fermented, it’s slimy, and yes, it’s technically just fermented soybeans. It’s hugely popular in Japan, and usually eaten simply with some soy sauce and mustard and rice. According to one potential origin story, natto was “invented” when leftover warm soybeans, carried in a rice-straw mat wrapper, accidentally fermented into natto. Today, many Japanese women point to natto as the source of their ageless skin. In fact, a single serving of natto packs a ton of fiber, probiotics, vitamin K2 and nattokinase. This beloved Japanese side dish has drawn both devotion and ire, but you won’t know which camp you fall into until you try it! 

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Variety is the spice of life. Get all three flavors including Spicy Beef, Black Garlic Chicken, and Tom Yum Shrimp. You’ll be covered for all occasions. immi Variety Pack

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immi Variety Pack
Zha Jiang Noodles

9. Zha Jiang Noodles

Originating from the Chinese capital of Beijing, Zha Jiang Noodles (which literally translates to fried sauce noodles) consists of super chewy noodles tossed in a black bean sauce, diced pork or minced pork, and an assortment of vegetables. Traditionally, the sauce is made out of gan huangjiang (fermented yellow soybean paste) and tianmianjiang (fermented wheat paste), resulting in a funky, salty, and super savory paste that’s honestly making me salivate as I type. Zha Jiang sauce is seriously umami on steroids. This dish is so universally loved that it’s infiltrated Korean and Japanese menus, where the delicious black bean noodles dish has found many adoring audiences.