Southeast Asian cuisine has made a huge impact on American menus over the past decade. Now that the dishes of Thailand and Vietnam have achieved mainstream status, the island cuisines of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines are moving to the forefront. But their culinary stories are not so easily defined. Cultural demographics, colonial history, trade routes and diverse geography are just some of the factors that play into the differences between foods found in each country, city and even individual islands.
That being said, many dishes from the region are characterized by a lightness of preparation—fresh herbs, bright citrus, boiling and steaming. Incorporating distinctly Southeast Asian ingredients into sandwiches, soups and stir-fry dishes is a great way to introduce patrons to a new world of culinary adventure.