The countries of eastern and southeastern Asia have a culinary tradition that stretches back over thousands of years. Rice was first cultivated in China in Neolithic times and still forms the foundation of most East Asian cuisines. Rice and wheat noodles are also popular. Pork, chicken and seafood are favored proteins, supplemented by a wide variety of soy products. Vegetables add nutrients, flavor and color to dishes, with a dizzying array of cabbages, greens, onions, sprouts and mushrooms put to good use.
While many of the ingredients used in cooking are the same or similar throughout, the method and style of preparation varies widely. The Japanese favor simple and delicate dishes, whereas Koreans prefer the fiery punch of chilies. The Vietnamese keep their cooking clean and light, while in Malaysia, rich and full-flavored curries rule the day.