Blogger reveals biggest mistakes Americans make when eating in Asia

Stephanie Lee, based in Los Angeles, is a travel writer who blogs about her incredible adventures around the world. Health, food and culture are only a few of the topics she covers frequently.

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Lee considers herself Asian American and grew up in a traditional Chinese household. In a recent column for Thrillist, she detailed these experiences, relaying the difficulties of growing up in two vastly different cultures.

"I learned firsthand many of the little things that can be flubbed at the dinner table, which often led to a lightning-fast thwack on the wrist with chopsticks -- or worse, a stern stare-down," Lee wrote.

In the post, she offers valuable insight for Americans traveling in Asia, who may not be aware of these differences.

In Asia, food is more than just "food". "It's often a symbol of prosperity, honor, longevity, and togetherness. As such, you'll encounter dozens of rituals and cultural subtleties around eating and drinking that are rooted in superstition, upholding deep respect for your elders, and cultivating an honorable self-image." she explained.

Related: A chef reveals the power of Asian cooking

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Check out this slideshow to learn cooking tips from Top Chef's Josie Smith-Malave.

Image Credit: David Moir, Bravo

Don't Rush It

"I think the biggest mistake [people make in the kitchen] is that everyone rushes their food," says Josie Smith-Malave. Many people don't realize that if you are trying to sear something, the pan has to be hot. You have to turn the dial above "medium," especially when working off an electric burner which takes a bit longer than a gas-burning stove. If you start cooking before your pan is hot enough, you "are just steaming [your] food," she says. "Patience is so key in cooking."

When it comes to deciding when your food is done, Smith-Malave recommends letting it be just a little longer than you'd expect. "Smell the food, look at the food; you have to use all of your senses when you are cooking."

Image Credit: David Moir, Bravo

Experiment with Ginger and Chilies

"I love ginger," says the cheftestant. "It is so great for you, it is peppery, it has a nice amount of acid, it has a unique flavor and it adds a freshness to food." Smith-Malave also recommends playing around with cilantro and scallions which are also great for you and chilies which "get your blood pumping."

Image Credit: David Moir, Bravo

Give Asian (especially Filipino) Cuisine a Try

"Asian cuisine is probably one of the fastest cuisines you can put together," she explains. "You can charge it with plenty of bold flavors, and you can do it and cook everything in a very short amount of time. It is still delicious, authentic and beautiful."

The chef, who is part Italian, Puerto Rican and Filipino, finds that Filipino cuisine is the most under-represented in the U.S. In her experience, you can find home-style Filipino restaurants but Filipino eateries that are truly "elevated" and few and far between.

Check out some of our favorite Asian recipes to follow.

Image Credit: David Moir, Bravo

Grilled Eggplant with Ginger Sauce

Dress up tender Asian eggplant with a vibrant fresh-ginger sauce that would also be wonderful with steamed fish or poached chicken.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Ginger Sauce

Seared Tuna Steaks with Citrusy Soy Sauce

Amp up your tuna by adding a zesty citrus soy sauce.

Get the Recipe: Seared Tuna Steaks with Citrusy Soy Sauce

Crisp Asian Salmon with Bok Choy and Rice Noodles

Enhance broth with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and garlic and use white-rice noodles instead of black (they're easier to find). Cook the noodles briefly to keep their texture firm.

Get the Recipe: Crisp Asian Salmon with Bok Choy and Rice Noodles

Sesame Roasted Mushrooms & Scallions

Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of mushrooms. Here they are paired with full-flavored sesame oil, ginger, garlic and scallions. Using a variety of mixed mushrooms makes this dish special (and delicious). Serve with Ginger-Steamed Fish with Troy's Hana-Style Sauce and rice noodles.

Get the Recipe: Sesame Roasted Mushrooms & Scallions

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It makes sense, then, why a lot of these customs seem to be focused on politeness and respect. Many Americans, whether lazy or just uncoordinated, use chopsticks as "spears" -- attempting to pass dangling noodles or pieces of meats with their sticks -- but don't. Lee explains that learning how to use chopsticks takes practice, but that doesn't mean you should use it like you would a fork.

Additionally, "when you pierce food with chopsticks, you mean to offer this food for the dead," Lee wrote. Korea and Vietnam aren't strict with their chopsticks -- but other countries, like Japan, are.

If someone serves you food on your plate, you better eat it -- even if you're full.

"It's a sign of endearment to be given food, especially the "best" parts of something. If someone makes the effort to serve you, hold your plate or bowl with both hands to humbly receive the food and at least try it -- even if you secretly don't want it," she said.

Another aspect of Asian culture is respecting elders -- such values are reflected in these traditions. You should wait for everyone to arrive, especially the elders, to start eating. But there's a fine line. Some countries, like Vietnam, might find it offensive if you wait, because the food gets cold.

You can read Lee's full column here -- but we're sure to bring a printable version next time we go overseas.

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