Cook Asia’s favorite dishes with these Southeast Asian diplomats

Published September 17, 2020, 7:10 AM

by John Legaspi

The ASEAN Ladies Foundation, Inc. explores the plated treasures of Asia via the online series Flavorful Journeys.

Food is the best way to know one’s culture. While visiting places, seeing beautiful horizons, and trying on traditional costumes can make you fall in love with a country, nothing can make you feel more at home in a foreign land than warm hospitality served with its best dishes. Even though traveling internationally is still a wishful conversation the world is having, thanks to the global pandemic, there is still a way for us to revisit our favorite spots in the world or discover new ones right in our kitchen.

This is what the ASEAN Ladies Foundation, Inc. (ALF) wants to highlight at its festival this year, multicultural food prepared, cooked, and taught by Asian diplomats from various nations.

To celebrate the ASEAN month, the non-profit organization, in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and PXP Energy Corporation, launches a series of cooking videos that showcase beloved national recipes from different countries.

Dubbed as Flavorful Journeys: Exploring ASEAN Cuisine, the culinary series shows that learning about the cultures of neighboring countries is not always limited to physical travels abroad. Thanks to the power of the internet, foodies and home cooks can have a fun opportunity to cook as the locals do, and also learn a little bit about the history of each nation’s cuisine. 

Noticing that a lot of people on lockdown have become more creative and productive in the kitchen, the foundation members, led by chairperson Maria Lourdes Locsin of the Philippines and ALF president Linda Rahmanto of Indonesia, thought of an interesting and inspiring way to highlight home cooking from their respective countries. 

Maria Lourdes Locsin

“Food brings people together. We noticed that a lot of people have become creative and productive in the kitchen, especially during this pandemic,” says Lourdes. “So we thought that creating cooking videos highlighting some of the most beloved dishes from our respective countries was a good way to share a little bit of home with everyone.”  

Linda Rahmanto

“With the cooking videos, we wish to gift everyone a taste of our countries’ culture. We do hope people will be inspired to bring our culture into their own home,” Linda adds. 

Here are the dishes selected by the members of the ALF, as they wish everyone a “flavorful journey” this ASEAN month:


Ambuyat is a delicacy that is mostly made of ambulong or sago. Starchy and gelatinous, ambuyat is eaten with chandas or bamboo forks and dipped in a variety of sauces to add flavor. Typically, the dish is shared by family members, a representation of Brunei’s close-knit familial culture.


Trey amok or steamed fish curry is a dish commonly served during Cambodia’s Water Festival. Looking like a boat on a river, the dish is made by marinating the fish with curry paste, putting it in a cup made out of banana leaf, and cooked in water above boiling. It is served with jasmine rice on the side and a dollop of coconut cream.


Ayam bakar bumbu rujak or grilled chicken in rujak sauce has a combination taste of sweet, tangy, and spicy thanks to palm sugar, chilis, and shrimp paste. Another thing the country is sharing with the world is its recipe for jamu kunyit asam, an herbal drink Indonesians take to boost their immune system. 


If you’ve seen the movie Spiderman Homecoming, then you should know what larb is. Larp or larb kai is Laos’ version of a chicken salad. What makes larb different from other chicken salads is the inclusion of khao khua (burnt rice powder) and padaek (fish sauce), giving it a nutty and salty taste.


Ayam masak merah literally means chicken cooked in red sauce, and by red sauce, it means tomato sauce. Ayam masak merah is typically served during Malaysian holidays. The chicken is first marinated in turmeric and fried before being slowly braised in a tomato gravy spiced with ginger, clove, cinnamon, star anise, and shredded kaffir lime leaves.


Mohinga or the Burmese rice noodle soup is enjoyed as “all-day breakfast” in Myanmar. The soup features rice vermicelli and fish paste-infused broth with banana tree stem, lemongrass, and catfish as the star of the dish. It is sold by trishaw peddlers much like the pares by the mami vendors in the Philippines.


Who doesn’t like adobo in the Philippines? It is a Filipino favorite dish and there are many ways to cook it, depending on where you are. For Flavorful Journey, it is just right to feature the traditional adobong baboy at manok with a little twist through the addition of gata (coconut milk). Apart from the sweet and salty blend of the adobo, the Bicolano version is presented in a color made more vivid by annatto seeds oil.


Hokkien mee is a distant cousin of the pancit. It closely resembles our pancit palabok. The dish is a mix of rice and yellow noodles, stir-fried in a wok with egg and seafood. There are two ways to cook the noodle dish. The wet version is where a gravy is poured over the noodles, while the drier one left the stock to simmer and be absorbed by the noodles.


Tom yum goong is a hot and sour prawn soup that is among the most recognizable Thai cuisine in Asia. The key ingredients of the soup are lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili paste, fish sauce, and prawns, making a pot full of exotic Thai flavors made creamier with evaporated milk.


Goi cuon or fresh spring rolls are a popular appetizer in a Vietnamese feast. Healthy and tasty, they feature the fresh produce of the country mixed with boiled pork and fried shrimps. It is dipped in a flavorful sauce made of peanut butter and Hoisin sauce.

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