If you are a fan of Asian cuisine, why not embark on a culinary journey and experience the authentic tastes of different countries and cultures this year. There are plenty of hidden gems in Asia you will need to see to believe. Whether you’re keen on street food, or want to learn some traditional recipes, you might start looking for destinations to put on your food map. From real Indian cuisine in the North of the country to tasting rice balls in China, there are plenty of tasty experiences awaiting. If you are undecided which country’s food is your favorite, you can find some tips by reading the below list of culinary cities.
Image via Jezael Melgoza
If you are keen on five-star restaurants, you will find plenty in Tokyo, Japan. There are more Michelin Star restaurants in Japan than any other country, and this tells you a lot about the love of food embedded in the culture. From sushi places to modern pork cutlets, you can try some of the best seafood dishes in Tokyo. There is always something going on in this city, and - if you are bored with looking at and climbing the skyscrapers that made modern Toyo famous, you could find a hidden gem dish in a local pub or an elegant rooftop restaurant. Whatever your appetite and budget is, Tokyo can cater for your needs.
2. Fukuoka, Japan
In case you would like to familiarize yourself with the street food offerings of Japan, you must visit Fukuoka, where you’ll find over 15 open food stands to try. These stalls, called yatai look like miniature restaurants, and most of them have a folding-up structure. Open all day, until late at night, you can always find something new and hot to ease your hunger whenever you are taking a break from sightseeing and shopping. These restaurants offer great soups and finger food, such as Tonkotsu ramen, a broth-like dish, or yakitori, resembling traditional chicken skewers.
3. Hanoi, Vietnam
The Vietnamese culture is rich in traditions, and food can change if you move just fifty miles up or down the map. To get a real taste of the country, your best bet for a culinary holiday in Vietnam is visiting Hanoi, the birthplace of some of the most popular dishes in the country. The first food item you must get your hands on is Bun cha, or sliced roasted pork belly. As with every dish in Vietnam, you will be served a selection of side dishes and condiments. If you try Bun cha in a restaurant, expect to get deep-fried spring rolls and rice vermicelli.
4. Jaipur, India
Image via Ravi Shekhar
Also called the “Pink City”, Jaipur is one of the cultural centers or the North of the country. The famous Asian chef, Vivek Sing lived and worked in the city in the 1990s. If you are after a traditional Rajahstani curry, you will find many restaurants serving it on the rooftop. The Pink city’s downtown is pretty at night, and - as only pink buildings are allowed - the light shining on the houses looking from the rooftop restaurants will provide you with a unique photo opportunity.
5. Bangkok, Thailand
Image via Wanaporn Yangsiri
There are more than one reasons to visit Bangkok. While it is a popular scene of bachelor parties and cultural tourism, you must taste the city to fully embrace its traditions. You will find that lemongrass is a popular ingredient, and is added to most of the dishes; hot or cold, sweet or savory.
Whether you are on a business trip or looking for a place to call your home after retirement, Singapore has plenty on offer. From great entertainment and nightlife, to elegant restaurants, street food, and friendly people, you are sure to fall in love with the country. In case you would like to experience the best of Singapore’s hospitality, you can find a room for rent in Singapore and find out for yourself what makes locals smile all day. You will be glad to know that the food safety and hygiene regulations in the country are among the strictest, and this applies to street food, as well as dishes served in five-star restaurants. Try the Chili crab, one of the signature dishes of the country, often served with toasted buns. If you are hungry after a long day of roaming the streets, you will always find a place serving Satay; marinated skewers with peanut sauce.
7. Chengdu, China
Spice lovers will feel at home in Chengdu. The fiery cuisine offers more for the tastebuds than any other Chinese destination. The good news is that if you overdose on the spices, you will always find a teahouse where you can compensate for the burst of flavors. You can find chillied chicken, as well as duck tongue, and plenty of strange vegetables to try the first time.
8. Jakarta, Indonesia
There are plenty of reasons you should visit Jakarta. First of all, it is full of culture and traditions. Second, you can taste Asia in one city. The country’s cuisine has borrowed several dishes and modified them from its neighbors. Move between provinces, and you will find a completely new palette of dishes altogether. You can find street food, modern Indonesian restaurants, and international diners as well.
One of the most popular food destinations, Burma has some truly unique dishes you should try. Why being famous for the Rohingya crisis in the past few years, the country is welcoming and traditional at the same time. You can try Mohingya for breakfast, a fish soup with fritters. The Burmese version of the Byriani is also delicious; with chicken slow cooked and mixed with spices and rice. When you’re on the streets, don’t forget to pick up some Pe Byouk (boiled peas) with fresh bread. A deep fried stuffed tofu is another popular street food option, and has chillies, vegetables, and a spicy sauce on top.
10. Penang, Malaysia
Street food is called hawker food in Penang, and it is very colorful. You can taste the influence of different cultures in every dish, when you visit the Nyonya district and try its cuisine. You will not only find individual vendors lining the streets, but also hawker centers where you can try everything you always wanted to taste. If you are looking to sit down, there are great local coffee shops to accommodate your more traditional taste. Try Wonton Mee, made with noodles, soy sauce, green chillies, and Chinese kale. Lor Bak is minced pork served with two different dipping sauces, and resembles spicy meat balls.
11. Seoul, South Korea
The bad news is that you might find it hard to find street food in Soeul; street carts are illegal. However, vendors are hard to deter, and they often set up their pop up covered trucks in busy shopping districts. If you are hungry for some authentic food, ask a local for directions to “Pojangmacha”, and follow your nose. If you are looking for an evening meal in the restaurant, you must try soyu, a spirit that is often consumed alongside with meals. Try the rice cakes called Ttekbokki, or Odeng (tasty fishcakes) and Gamja-dog, a corn dog with a Korean twist.
12. Xi’an, China
While this spot in China is most famous for the finding of the Terracotta Warriors, its culinary scene is also worth a mention. The Muslim influence is clearly visible in the city, and you can find small restaurants on every corner, offering cheap and high quality traditional dishes. Visit the Muslim Quarter to explore some of the best lamb dishes, or the night markets to find authentic street food. Try Majiang liang pi, or sesame noodles with a black sauce, served cold. The Xi’an version of lamb kebabs is called Yang rou chuan, and is a traditional Muslim street snack. One of the must-try dishes is the Babao meigui jing gao, or rose mirror cake. It is made of sticky rice, and served with a sweet sauce.
13. Manila, Philippines
Image via Bash Carlos
Manila offers the perfect scene for fine dining and street food as well. Most dishes offered by street vendors are deep fried, and you can find some supers weet desserts to die for on every corner. The must-try dish is Balut, or fertilized duck eggs. While this might not be for everyone, if you are looking for a unique taste, you might give it a chance. For a more familiar cuisine, you can try Kwek Kwek, or battered hard boiled eggs. The brave can even get their hands on barbecued intestines, called Isaw. I case you would like to play safe, try the fish balls instead.
Food lovers will find something to fall in love with in every corner of Asia. If you have been thinking about a culinary holiday in Asia, pick one of the above destinations, and eat like the locals for a while. Whether you prefer street food or fine dining, Asia will meet your expectations. There is no better way of exploring a country’s traditions, customs, and culture than tasting its food and eating with locals.
This is a contributed post.