16 Southeast Asian Foods Featured In "Raya And The Last Dragon" To Keep In Mind While Traveling

·10 min read

Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in the fictional land of Kumandra, which is influenced by several Southeast Asian countries.

A billboard in Hollywood, California, promotes the Disney movie "Raya and the Last Dragon"
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Many of those Southeast Asian influences can be seen throughout various foods in the movie, such as tom yum, shrimp congee, fish amok, dragon fruit, spring rolls, and beef rendang (a tender beef dish).

A large assortment of delicious and brightly colored Vietnamese dishes are spread on a table
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1.Durian

A member of Talon has sliced durian on his sword, while the leader of Talon carries two swords in her hands. Another person in the background carries bunches of flowers

Durian is first introduced when Raya describes the Talon tribe and a member belonging to Talon slices durian in half with his sword. It is sometimes known as the "king of fruits" in certain areas. This fruit with a tough spiky exterior is used in many savory and sweet dishes in Southeast Asia (like ice cream) in addition to being eaten plain or added to drinks.

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A woman holds up a durian

Durian has a particular smell that some may find pleasant or unsavory. The British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) considered durian to be "a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds." In some places like Singapore (among other countries), durian is not allowed on public transit. There are nine species of durian that belong to the genus Durio and produce edible fruit. Malaysia has 100 varieties of durian while Thailand has over 300 varieties of durian.

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2.Mangosteen

A bowl of mangosteens are in a basket on a wooden table with one having its exterior removed

Mangosteen is first seen when Raya and her father, Chief Benja, walk into the kitchen after Raya describes the different tribes that used to comprise Kumandra. It grows in many places, including in Southeast Asia.

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Raya and her father, Chief Benja, walk into the kitchen, which has mangosteens and dragon fruit

This juicy fruit is called purple mangosteen, but it can also be red, such as the mangosteen of Bến Tre in Vietnam. The purple or red exterior needs to be removed before eating, revealing its inside to be ivory white. It is described as tangy, sweet, and fibrous. Mangosteens can be eaten raw or found in teas, smoothies, or salads with chicken or shrimp (among many other dishes).

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3.Dragon Fruit

One dragon fruit is in a metal bucket tilted to the side. Two dragon fruits are on wood, and one dragon fruit that has been cut in half is also on the wood

Dragon fruit, while not exclusive to Southeast Asia, makes several appearances throughout Raya and the Last Dragon. Considering the title of this Disney movie as well as what the movie is about, dragon fruit, with its tough skin and green dragon-like scales, is an incredibly apt food to include.

It is known as geow mangon in Thailand and pitahaya, pitaya, or strawberry pear in other parts of the world. Its vibrant pink exterior and either equally bright pink or white interior sets it apart from many fruits. (Though there is yellow dragon fruit with a yellow exterior and white interior studded with black seeds.) With its small crunchy black seeds, the fruit is sometimes described as having the texture of a kiwi. The actual flavor, however, tastes like something in between a pear and a kiwi.

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4.Tom Yum

Raya looks up at her Ba while holding a bowl of tom yum soup he just made for her

After Raya enthusiastically discusses a few different ways to defend Heart, Chief Benja, or Raya's Ba, says to her, "Or how about shrimp paste from Tail, lemongrass from Talon, bamboo shoots from Spine, chiles from Fang, and palm sugar from Heart?" He places each ingredient in a soup as he names each one. "We'll poison them?" Raya inquires. Chief Benja smiles and chuckles good-naturedly. "No, we're not going to poison them, and we're not going to fight them. We're going to share a meal with them."

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Disney's head of story, Thai citizen and Los Angeles resident Fawn Veerasunthorn, became inspired when she learned how to make tom yum in a cooking class in Thailand. Combining kaffir lime leaves, chile peppers, lemon grass, shrimp paste, and palm sugar creates bitter, spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors that work harmoniously together in the soup and represent the lands of Kumandra harmoniously coexisting and working together side by side.  

Disney's head of story, Thai citizen and Los Angeles resident Fawn Veerasunthorn, became inspired when she learned how to make tom yum in a cooking class in Thailand. Combining kaffir lime leaves, chile peppers, lemon grass, shrimp paste, and palm sugar creates bitter, spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors that work harmoniously together in the soup and represent the lands of Kumandra harmoniously coexisting and working together side by side.

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Tom Yum soup and fresh spring rolls (among other dishes) are placed on a wooden table alongside chopsticks and spoons

Tom yum (which is also spelled as tom yam) is a Thai soup that usually contains shrimp, though it can have pork instead. In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, it can also include mushrooms, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, galangal, and fish sauce, depending on the recipe.

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5.Bánh Tét

Bánh tét is shown while Raya looks at the map Namaari shows her. Tuk Tuk is on Raya's left

Bánh tét is a Vietnamese dish that is shown when Raya and Namaari eat a meal together for the first time. The wrapped bánh tét is prominently viewable when Raya looks at the map Namaari shows her. Later on, at the very last river, Raya offers bánh tét to Sisu before the dragon magically materializes.

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Bánh tét, one of Raya's offerings to Sisu, is shown on the lower left of the mat. Leaf candles, a flower, and a map of Sisu are also on the mat

Vietnamese American screenwriter Qui Nguyen (who was co-writer along with Malaysian American screenwriter Adele Lim) had pitched bánh tét to appear in the movie and was especially excited about seeing it onscreen because it's his favorite food and also brings back fond memories of home.

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Unwrapped and sliced bánh tét are on a white plate while wrapped bánh tét are in the background

Bánh tét is a typically savory rice cake eaten during the Vietnamese New Year. This dish consists of glutinous rice, pork, and mung bean filling (though vegetarian variations omit the pork), which are rolled, wrapped, and boiled in a banana leaf (see #11). Once the bánh tét is fully cooked, the banana leaf is unwrapped, and the dish is cut into smaller portions.

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6.Lychee

Tuk Tuk is about to eat a lychee, which has its red exterior removed. A number of other lychees are in a basket, with most of them without their red exterior

Lychees are first seen when Tuk Tuk approaches a basket of lychees and eats one before rolling away to catch up with Raya and Namaari. (Please note that the image above does not capture the red color shown in the movie.) A lychee, which is also known as an "alligator strawberry," is a beautiful red-colored fruit on the outside with a brown seed and pearly white interior. Though the red inedible exterior seems tough, it is easy to remove by hand.

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Water is being poured over red lychees in a white bowl

While a lychee can be eaten by itself, it can also be put into juices, smoothies, cocktails, desserts, and fruit salads. Vietnam is the third-largest producer of the fruit.

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7.Jackfruit

Jackfruit is introduced when Sisu sees Raya and asks,

Jackfruit is introduced when Sisu sees Raya and asks, "Is that food? I was so focused on saving the world, I forgot to have breakfast today." After tasting it, Sisu suppresses her initial reaction and asks, "What is this delightful culinary treat?" Raya explains, "It's jackfruit turkey. I dried it myself."Later on, Raya chooses not to eat Boun's shrimp congee (see #8) and eats her homemade jackfruit jerky because she is worried Boun will poison her.

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Jackfruit in a clear bowl

Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the globe, with individual jackfruits capable of growing up to 100 pounds. Unripe jackfruit has a rather mild taste. Ripe jackfruit is firm to the touch and easily absorbs sauces. According to some, ripe jackfruit tastes like a banana, and some vegans think it tastes like pulled pork. The jackfruit leaf is used to wrap fermented sticky rice.

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8.Shrimp Congee

The two brown bowls of shrimp congee each have a wooden spoon in them

Boun, who is in charge of the Shrimporium, specializes in shrimp congee and places two bowls of shrimp congee before Raya and Sisu when they first arrive on his boat.

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Indonesian congee with shredded chicken is in a white bowl on a white plate. A white spoon is on its side on the white plate and touching the white bowl. A mat of two different blue hues is underneath the plate

Congee is rice porridge. Different variations can be found throughout many Asian countries, including those in Southeast Asia. Jasmine or long grain white rice can be used to make congee and is boiled to the chef's desired thickness and consistency. Pork, chicken, or seafood (such as Boun's preference for shrimp) can be added to the congee. Toppings can include green onions, julienned ginger, pickled radish, 1,000-year-old egg, and shallots, among other ingredients.

Bubur ayam, or Indonesian congee with shredded chicken, is pictured above.

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9.Thai Purple Eggplant

Tuk Tuk is about to eat Thai purple  eggplants

Thai purple eggplants are seen when Tuk Tuk is about to eat one while aboard Boun's Shrimporium. They are purple streaked with white, though there are many varieties of Thai eggplant that do not have the white streaks and are fully purple, white, green, or yellow in color.

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A large number of Thai purple eggplants are violet and streaked with white

These Thai purple eggplants, shown in the picture above, are violet and streaked with white, and they're sold at a street market on Lantau Island.

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A large number of Thai purple eggplants are shown that are a lavender purple color

These particular Thai purple eggplants are a mostly lavender purple color, while some other Thai eggplants are white.

Thai eggplants (i.e., the green-white varieties) can be eaten in Thai salads, red curry, green curry, kaeng tai pla (a southern Thai curry), and nam phrik (which is a Thai chile paste). Aside from Thai dishes, Thai eggplants are also used in Cambodian and Indonesian dishes.

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10.Mango

A mango and a green leaf are on a wooden plate. The mango has been sliced open with part of it cut into cubes. Underneath the wooden plate is a green towel with thin dark-green, white, and reddish-brown stripes

Mangoes originated from the area between northeastern India, Bangladesh, and northwestern Myanmar. The exterior of this fruit can be green, yellow, or orange colored. It varies widely in size, shape, and sweetness. Mango juices and smoothies are consumed as drinks, while unripe green mangoes are sometimes eaten in a salad with dried shrimp and fish sauce. Green mangoes in the Philippines are eaten with a salty shrimp or salty fish paste called bagoong.

Ripe mangoes are used to make Malaysian mango chicken, while ripe mangoes in the Philippines are used to make mango cake (among many other dishes in various countries). The shaved ice dessert can sometimes be accompanied by condensed milk and mangoes.

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11.Banana

A young Cambodian girl smiles as she sells fresh bananas in a village close to Siem Reap, Cambodia

While many are familiar with eating bananas for breakfast or banana split ice cream for dessert, bananas are also used for various Southeast Asian dishes such as a Lao tapioca pudding dessert with bananas and a Malaysian fried mashed banana fritter called kuih kodok (ideally pisang awak with black-colored seeds in the bananas should be used, though some have used Dole bananas successfully). Fried bananas or pisang goreng is common throughout many Southeast Asian countries.

Bananas themselves are not only used in dishes, but their leaves are as well, for dishes such as Vietnamese bánh tét (see #5) and Cambodian fish amok (see #16). Another example is a Laotian dish involving sticky rice with coconut (see #12) in a banana leaf.

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12.Coconut

Little Noi drinks a coconut while sitting on coconuts. An Ongi is eating dragon fruit amidst bunches of bananas. Another Ongi is eating durian surrounded by a large pile of durians. A woman watches Noi. Another woman watches the third-smallest Ongi

Coconuts originated between Melanesia and the western Southeast Asian region (i.e., the central Indo-Pacific area). Today, about three-quarters of the globe's coconut supply comes from the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. In Southeast Asia (among other places), coconuts are not only consumed as a drink, as Little Noi demonstrates above, but also in coconut milk rice, coconut milk pudding, and savory dishes such as laksa, beef rendang (see #13), and fish amok (see #16). The Malay word for coconut is "nyior" (also spelled "nyiur"). The Tagalog and Chamorro word for coconut is "niyog."

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Coconuts and Thai snacks are being sold at a street stall in Tak, Thailand. The coconuts have been sliced so buyers can easily drink from them. The coconuts are a mostly white in color with a bit of green toward the bottom

Coconuts from India versus those from East Timor, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia are genetically very different. Coconuts in the Philippines are genetically closest to coconuts in the Americas, which were probably brought by sailors in 2250 BP at the very least.

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13.Beef Rendang

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14.Nam Prik Pla Tu

15.Spring Rolls

Twenty-five spring rolls and accompanying dip are in a white rectangular container

Vietnamese spring rolls or gỏi cuốn can be seen in the credits. It is also a dish that Veerasunthorn mentioned is in the movie. Although vegetarian spring rolls can be made, it traditionally is made with meat (e.g., chicken or pork) or seafood (e.g., crab or shrimp). Thinly sliced carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms (e.g., oyster or wood ear), herbs (e.g., cilantro or basil), and other ingredients are usually wrapped in rice paper to which water has been delicately applied and used as a way to seal the rice paper wrap.Different dipping sauces can be used for this brightly colored, fresh-tasting dish. One typical dipping sauce involves fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar (though other variations also include garlic, chiles, and lime instead of vinegar). Another typical dipping sauce involves peanut butter, chile, sugar, and hoisin sauce.

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16.Fish Amok

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