Cold Weather Foods of Asia

November 26, 2014

As the temperature gradually declines, how you are going to stay warm during the cold months besides eating soup and drinking hot cocoa? Today we'll teach you about a handful of popular winter foods from Asia as alternatives, to vary your diet. These treats will warm you from the inside-out.

  • China, Taiwan, and Southeastern Asia

What could be more comforting than having a hot bowl of soup on a cold day? Hot pot could easily fulfill your craving and keep the chill off. This special dish is a simmering hot pot of broth and various raw and fresh ingredients to be cooked at the table with an assortment of dipping sauces. Common ingredients include thin-sliced meat, seafood, soy food products, vegetables, dumplings, and noodles. The broth base is the secret to how the food is flavored. With different dipping sauces, hotpot can be a diverse dish with a variety of different flavors.

Dual Chinese hotpot to enjoy two types of broth at once. (image source:


With time, regional variations developed with different ingredients and types of broth bases. The two most popular variations are the classic southern numb-and-spicy hotpot (麻辣鍋 ma la guo) with Sichuan pepper (aka. Hua Jiao 花椒) and the traditional northern sour-tasting hot pot (酸菜白肉鍋 suan cai bai rou guo) with pickled Chinese cabbage and thin-sliced pork belly. The numb-and-spicy hotpot originated from Sichuan. Unlike the intense spice from chili or jalapeño peppers, the Sichuan pepper’s unique aroma creates a tingly numbness in the mouth that stimulates the taste buds causing the sensation and taste to linger in people’s minds long after consumption.  People in the north follow the Manchuria tradition serving hotpot with their preserved cabbage and pork belly. The delicious balance between the sourness of the pickled cabbages and the fat of the pork belly paired so well that this cooking method soon became prevalent in Beijing and greater northern China.

The traditional northern style Chinese hotpot is known for the sour flavor brought from the pickled Chinese cabbage. (image source:


There are many popular options of stock to use. Some examples are Chinese herb, Japanese milk, Korean kimchi (김치)broth, and Thai lemon-grass base. With the fun and flexibility of the hotpot cooking method along with the various selections of ingredients and flavor, hotpot in modern days is seen as a social event for the Chinese.

Tofu pudding with ginger syrup, one of the most popular winter deserts in Chinese speaking countries. (image source:


Another winter food staple for combating the cold weather is ginger, a typical Chinese ingredient consumed largely during the winter months. Ginger tofu pudding (薑汁豆花  Jiang zhi dou hua), soft tofu pudding in sweet ginger syrup, is one of the popular winter deserts in southern China, Taiwan, and southeastern countries. The silky texture of the tofu pudding combined with the hot spicy ginger allows the warmth from the steaming bowl to smoothly flow and spread throughout your entire body.

  • Japan

Based on hotpot from China, Shabu-Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) is a Japanese twist on hotpot. It traditionally has a dashi (だし, cooking stock) base. The name is derived from the sound of the ingredients being stirred in the cooking pot. Ingredients popularity varies region to region but can include: thinly sliced meat and chicken, lobster, sirloin, shiitake, enokitake (榎茸 long, thin, off-white mushrooms), harusame (はるさめ glass noodles), tofu, and more.

Skillfully made taiyaki in a carp fish shaped mold! (image source:


Winter in Japan means you can look forward to a many things outside: hot drinks from outdoor vending machines, roasted chestnut stands (焼き栗), and the sweet potato man. If you happen to be walking through a shopping arcade or a district with high foot traffic there are chances you’ll smell something sweet in the air. There are sweet potato carts scattered throughout Japan selling yakiimo(焼き芋 roasted sweet potatoes). When the oven is open, the steam blankets the crowd. You can see people on the street tossing yakiimo between their hands and dividing them into pieces to share with friends. The sweet smell, the fresh roasted food, and the experience of sharing create true warmth between people on a cold day. Speaking of street food, how we can forget the warm, carp-shaped snack called taiyaki (鯛焼き)? The texture is a cross between a waffle and a cake. This delicious snack is great fun to make and to eat! The most common flavor is sweet red bean paste but fillings like chocolate, custard, cheese are available.

Oden (image source:


Another hugely popular Japanese dish that is suited for winter would be Oden (おでん). Oden is a type of stew that is both seen as Japanese family cuisine and is commonly sold from food cart vendors on the street. A variety of foods are slowly simmered in a light, soy-flavored broth which deepens the flavor of the dish. Oden is so popular and easy to consume (with sticks) that it started showing up in local convenience stores! Now, many Japanese people can share in the content feeling of going into the convenience store and grabbing some oden on the go. Some typical oden ingredients includes konnyaku (蒟蒻 a popular fibrous root vegetable), daikon (大根radish), chikuwa(竹輪), and tofu(豆腐). It now is sold with many more ingredients such as gobomaki (牛蒡巻き), tsukune(つくね), and octopus(たこ.) In some convenience stores it’s sold as cheap as 100円 (85 cents) per bowl!

Hot & Spicy Ddeokbokki is one of Korean's favorite street foods. (image source:


  • Korea In Korea, spice is the best way to warm up in the winter. Ddeokbokki (떡볶이) is a spicy-sweet dish made with soft ricecakes, fishcakes, and sweet chili sauce. It is commonly purchased from street vendors in Korea, but is increasingly popular in Korean restaurants in the US and Japan.
Dolsot Bibimbap (image source: Wikipedia)


Dolsot Bibimbap (돌솥비빔밥). This stone bowl dish is a signature of Korea that is hard to resist during the winter time. It consists of sliced beef, flavorful vegetables, and a runny egg on top with chili sauce paste. Served in a sizzling stone bowl, this dish always wows customers with its colorful and neat presentation and satisfies stomachs with nutritious ingredients. No matter which food you choose: eat up, warm up, and be happy. This year, may your winter be warm, fulfilling, and flavorful!

Teaching Tips & Activities: Crossword Puzzle

See how well you remember the vocabulary used with our Cold Weather Foods Crossword! crossword_winterfood