We ate a lot of amazing food in 2015. I wish I could share photos of all of them, and encourage people to search for those dishes during their upcoming travels. Instead, I’ve come up with a list of the absolute BEST foods to eat in Asia in 2016.
Okay, so maybe we didn’t eat all the food in Asia during 2015, but we ate a good many fabulous meals. Enough that I can put together a pretty good roadmap of what to eat in Asia. These dishes tend to focus on Hong Kong, India, Osaka, Seoul, Thailand, and Vietnam, because that is where we spent most of our time in 2015.
Some of the best foods to eat in Asia can be found at luxury dining establishments, but even those tend to be higher end versions of dishes that can be found at street side stalls as well. These dishes can be found at every price point.
And, instead of just sharing my photos of the dishes to eat in Asia, I am actually sharing links to the With Husband In Tow Instagram account. I am doing this not only to encourage you to check out all our food photos on Instagram (there’s a lot, and they are yummy), but also because the Instagram photos include links to the restaurants and locations where we actually ate these meals, making them easier to track down during your travels in Asia in 2016.
Check out the With Husband In Tow Podcast, where we talk about some of our best meals in Asia in 2015!
Best Foods to Eat in Asia – Hong Kong
It’s hard to say exactly what my favorite city is in the world to eat, but Hong Kong is certainly up there.
While eating at dim sum at Dynasty Restaurant at the Renaissance Harbour View Hong Kong, we were promised “the best damn pork in Hong Kong.” The person who promised this doesn’t even like pork. She just likes the pork at Dynasty. She was right. This char siew, or roast BBQ pork was tender, juicy, with not a hint of fat. Most important, the outside of the pork was perfectly caramelized.
It’s easy to find char siew at roast pork and goose shops all over Hong Kong, but this was, simply, the best pork in Hong Kong.
We ate some amazing high end meals in Hong Kong this year, but we also ate at some cooked food centers and mom and pop shops as well. One of the dishes we ate over and over was sautéed eggplant with ground pork. One of the things I love about Chinese food, particularly in Hong Kong, is that more often than not, a vegetable dish seems to always have pork in it. Vegetarians beware. Pork lovers unite. This dish can be found all over Hong Kong, but this one in particular was from the Bowrington Road Cooked Food Center near Wan Chai.
Char siew is popular anywhere there is a Chinese population, including Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. We had amazing BBQ pork wanton mee in Singapore. It’s also easy to find in Hong Kong. But, what is very popular in Hong Kong, which is harder to find elsewhere, is roast goose. It’s a must try dish in Hong Kong. Although this version was from the Four Seasons Hong Kong, it can be found at a lot of the same roast meat houses where you find char siew. Just look for the goose hanging in the store front window.
Best Foods to Eat in Asia – India
I love Indian food. It’s one of my favorite cuisines. When traveling in India, I expected to find all of my favorites, like Paneer Makhani and Vindaloo. What I was surprised to find, though, was how many dishes we tried that were entirely unfamiliar to me. These dishes just don’t seem to make the menus of India restaurants around the world. The perfect example of trying new Indian dishes was this Moghul-style slow roasted lamb shank we ate in Agra. The chef marinated the lamb shank in yogurt and spices, and slow cooked it until it fell off the bone. The result was similar to pulled pork in its texture. Then, the chef recreated the look of the shank by placing the meat around the bone. I could not eat enough of this dish, and have been craving it ever since.
Another example of Indian food that I was not familiar with is the street side snack called chaat. Usually a form a fried or puffed bread, chaat is filled with potatoes, lentils, and herbs, and slathered in yogurt sauce and chutneys. They can be bite sized, where a snack would often include a half dozen individual bites. Or, they can be larger, served on a plate, and covered with toppings. We ate some amazing chaat while eating in Mumbai and Agra.
The last of the Indian dishes you need to eat in Asia is tandoori chicken. The tandoor is a large oven, that looks like a metal vat. It’s hot as heck, and is used to cook meats, vegetables, and most important breads. Although we’ve seen one in use, I still can’t get my head around how everything cooks so well in there. Tandoori chicken is a staple on most Indian menus. In this case, I am suggesting it as something to eat, really, because I just loved how these chickens we ate in New Delhi seem to be dancing.
Best Foods to Eat in Asia – Thailand
Thailand has some of the best street food in the world. Hands down. It also has luxury dining options, which often offer contemporary versions of traditional Thai food. I always hold the Four Seasons to higher level when it comes to food. Dining at the Four Seasons should be a treat. It certainly was when we dined at the Four Seasons in Koh Samui. One of the reasons was this amazing banana blossom salad from KOH Thai Kitchen. Banana blossoms are the leaves that surround the banana. Something that is usually discarded in the US, they are often sliced into strips and added to salads in Vietnam. This one in Koh Samui was, therefore, a surprise. When I first saw banana blossom (or banana flower) salads on menus in Southeast Asia, I really didn’t know what it was, so I tended to steer clear. Don’t! Track it down. They are so refreshing in the heat of Southeast Asia.
While staying at one of our luxury villas in Koh Samui, we ate this amazing pomelo salad. Pomelo is similar to grapefruit, but a lot less tart. It is a fruit that I never tried back in the US. It was not until we were living in Bali that I had my first pomelo salad. This pomelo salad, prepared by the staff at Mandala Beach Villas in Koh Samui, was mixed with shredded chicken, Thai spices, cashews, and fried shallots. You don’t need to rent a luxury villa to try pomelo salad though. They even made a great pomelo salad at the Nikki Beach Koh Samui Sunday brunch.
Who would have thought that two of my best Thai foods to eat in Asia would be salads? To balance that out, pad kra pao is one of Eric’s favorite dishes, made with ground pork, Thai basil, and chilis. It’s served street side all over Bangkok, in most Thai restaurants, and the food court on our block. We eat this weekly. It’s a must try dish when visiting Thailand. This version, though, was prepared by Chef Julian at Nikki Beach Koh Samui. Although generally made with pork (moo) or chicken (gai), this one was prepared with tender ground beef.
Best Foods to Eat in Asia – Vietnam
When thinking about what to eat in Vietnam, everyone instinctively thinks Vietnamese pho, the famous beef noodle soup. It’s a staple of the Vietnamese diet and can be found all over the country. But, there are a few additional dishes that are worth eating when traveling in Vietnam. Another staple dish in Vietnam is banh mi. It’s the Vietnamese sandwich, served on a French-inspired baguette. Often found street side for about $1, they can be layered with various kinds of pork, including pate. Ask for one topped with a fried egg, dried pork, and pork floss, for the full experience.
The next dish is popular in Central Vietnam, and in particular in beach areas like Danang. They are clams, of differing sizes, grilled and sprinkled with fried shallots, drizzled with chili oil, and topped with crushed peanuts. It’s amazing to see them cooked, because they are prepared with such precision. Each clam is individually topped and placed on the grill, and then delicately removed from the grill to be served on the plate.
One more Vietnamese dish to eat in Asia is something so simple, and often overlooked by travelers: sliced cucumbers. It might not be exotic, but when served with a bowl of salt and pepper, a fresh lime to squeeze on top, and some chilis for spice, they make the perfect beer snack on a warm Vietnamese day.
But, our final food to eat in Vietnam has to be roast sucking pig. We’ve eaten a lot of roast pig, from babi guling in Bali to suckling pig in Barcelona. This version in little Dong Ha, Vietnam, though, is simply the best. The skin is perfectly crisp, the meat tender. For this one, I won’t share an Instagram photo, but instead a full video. That’s how good this pork is.
Best Foods to Eat in Asia – Seoul
For me, our visit to Seoul was all about Korean BBQ. Over a week, we ate BBQ several times, in several different places. From a 24 hour Korean BBQ joint across from the Courtyard Marriott Times Square to the fancy Maple Tree House, we ate a lot of BBQ. The process involves ordering some raw meat, which is cooked table side, with various condiments, including fresh garlic and pickled veggies.
We ate Koran BBQ with some friends near Times Square at a fun BBQ joint, which involved a massive flat grill loaded with meats, vegetables, and seafood.
At Maple Tree House, we ate marbled Wagyu beef, served with various pickled spiced vegetables and herbs. It was a perfect end to our time in Seoul, particularly with a good amount of cold sochu!
Best Foods to Eat in Asia – Osaka
Osaka is one of my favorite cities to eat in the world. There is a noted difference between the commercial capital, Tokyo, and Osaka. Osaka has a reputation for work hard, play hard, and that involves eating. A lot. Obviously, sushi should be on any traveler’s list of foods to eat in Asia, but one of the specialities of Osaka is okonomiyaki. We learned how to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake during a cooking class in Osaka. But, it’s easy to find at a lot of restaurants surrounding Dotonburi.
What am I missing from our list of best foods to eat in Asia in 2016? A lot! There are so many more dishes that we ate during 2015, and a lot of dishes we have yet to try ourselves. In 2016, we will be in Thailand, and most likely South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and who knows where else our travels will take us. In the comments below, let me know what we are missing, and what we need to try!