One of the best things you can do for your diet is to invest time in learning how to cook Asian food. Why? The dishes typically served in traditional Asian homes are packed with vegetables, legumes, a minimal amount of meat, and if cooked at home, have less oil, sugar, and salt than meals served at your local Chinese Take Out.
While stir-fries are a great way to treat your family to a nutritious and filling meal, you should also consider Asian side dishes. Think of these as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai tapas.
We’ve searched the web for the most delectable and easy Asian side dishes. You’re guaranteed to make some mouths water at mealtime, so get cooking!
17 Easy Asian Side Dishes
Asia covers a large area of the globe that is rich with food lovers and connoisseurs. The flavors of the East are endless but here are a few tasty Asian side dishes to get you started.
1. Cold Cucumbers with Chili
Chinese-style cold cucumber salad for those who want something crunchy and tart to start a meal. You can have it as an appetizer or as a side dish.
Cucumbers are refreshing and tossed in a garlicky, vinegar emulsion, you won’t be able to eat just one. Top this with a chili sauce and this healthy cuke salad will become a staple at dinnertime.
2. Stir-Fried Bok Choy
Boy Choy is a leafy green that is easy to cook and delicious with some garlic and soy sauce. The recipe is simple and easy to reproduce.
Basic ingredients you can find at any supermarket will do the job. While many supermarkets these days carry boy Choy, if you have the pleasure of going to a Chinese supermarket you can try swapping out the boy Choy for some choy sum, another Chinese leafy green.
3. Spicy Thai mango salad
Something about the flavors of Thai food is so appetizing that it can make you feel happy and warm on the inside. Maybe it’s the hot chilis mixed with garlic or the splash of lime juice over cilantro, whatever it is a spicy Thai mango salad will always hit the spot.
Try this vegan version of the salad or go all out and add shrimp or chicken to this flavorful salad.
4. Spinach Ohitashi
Ohitashi is a technique used in Japanese cooking that means infusing a vegetable with umami flavor. A classic preparation of this dish uses spinach.
The Japanese have a wonderful tradition of adding small side dishes to their meals. The variety cleanses the palate for other foods. The spinach in this dish is lightly cooked and steeped in dashi broth. The unique flavor is a must-try for fans of Japanese cuisine.
5. Scallion Pancakes
In China, this is a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime food. The warm flaky flatbread is cooked in hot oil to give it its crispy texture.
The addition of the green onion gives it that extra special flavor that is irresistible. You’ll want more of this after you finish your first so make sure you save room for this delicious bread.
6. Kimchi Pancakes
When we think of pancakes we usually think of butter and maple syrup. Well, think again!
This “pancake” is a perfectly delectable side dish for those who need a little extra something to go with their Korean BBQed meat. The kimchi is cooked into the batter and spices everything to perfection.
7. Egg Fried Rice
Chances are you’ve tried fried rice. Well, if you thought it was difficult to make or that you needed a ton of ingredients to create this perfect side dish, you were wrong!
Egg fried rice is probably the most simple yet satisfying version of this classic Chinese side dish. Rather than throwing lots of vegetables and meats into your rice, simply crack a couple of eggs into your rice when cooking.
8. Sesame Noodles
You can serve this side dish warm or cold and have your guests raving. The creamy Asian peanut sauce goes well with the noodle of your choosing. Try egg noodles, spaghetti, or udon (as mentioned in the recipe link)
Sweet, nutty, and a little spicy, this Asian side dish is great for parties and summer BBQs.
9. Japanese Potato Salad
You may be surprised to know potato salad is a staple in many Japanese homes. It’s easy to make and keeps everyone, including the kids, satisfied.
Japanese potato salad is a little different from your typical American version. It’s slightly lighter (less creamy) and usually has the addition of corn and diced carrots.
Japchae is a Korean glass noodle made of sweet potato starch and mixed with a handful of vegetables and sesame oil. A great side dish that can double as a main, this Korean comfort food is loved around the world.
Japchae is easy to make. With the addition of spinach, carrots, and egg, it’s not only nutritious, but it will also fill your belly.
11. Spring Rolls
Crispy, crunchy, and perfectly bite-sized, spring rolls are the little brother of egg rolls. Filled with vegetables and fried to perfection these will fly off your dinner table.
The vegetables you use can vary but will usually begin with a base of cabbage. With most recipes, you can guarantee your vegetarian friends will have a special treat when they come over for dinner.
12. Summer rolls
Not to be confused with spring rolls, because they’re nothing alike, summer rolls are an absolutely perfect hot weather snack.
This handroll is stuffed with raw vegetables and wrapped in rice paper. It’s not fried and eaten just like that! Kind of like a salad wrapped in a super-thin burrito wrapper.
13. Homemade gyoza
Gyoza is another name for a fried dumpling. Pan-fried to perfection, these meat-filled pockets work well as a side dish or appetizer.
They may seem difficult to make but they’re actually really easy. The meat stuffing is essentially a meatball recipe and the round wrappers can be bought pre-made at your local Asian market.
This is truly a Japanese comfort food that people have been serving in bento boxes and midnight diners for as long as you can imagine.
Tamagoyaki is a rolled omelet that is purposely flavored to be both sweet and savory. After the egg is cooked using a crepe-like technique, they’re served like portions of a jelly roll.
15. Tomato egg drop soup
Soups are great side dishes because they don’t fill you up too much and leave room for your main course. A well-known and easy-to-make Chinese soup is an egg drop soup with tomato.
The addition of tomato to this salty and slightly sweet soup adds vitamins and minerals and a subtle sour flavor.
16. Hot and sour soup
If you’re looking for a soup that has a little more punch that’s slightly heartier, you’ll love making a hot and sour soup from scratch.
You have many options with this soup. If you like it a little more sour, add more vinegar. If you like it meaty, add pork. And if you want it vegetarian, stick to tofu and shitake mushrooms.
17. Sweet red bean soup
Okay, we’re cheating a little because this is not a traditional side dish but rather a dessert. But because of the popularity of this Cantonese-style sweet soup, it really can be called a side dish or “finisher” to the perfect meal.
If sweet beans sound weird to you, give it a try and be surprised by the sweet fragrant flavor of this bean, also called adzuki.
If this list doesn’t tempt your palate, thousands more Asian side dish recipes will. Look for your favorite ingredients and find the right one for you. You won’t regret it.
With the variety in Asian food, there really is no cap to what you can serve at mealtime. From tofu to Japanese fried chicken (large), the palate is left to wonder when creating home-cooked Asian meals.
If you’ve not tried making them, don’t delay. They’re easier than you can imagine and tastier than you thought possible.