Every time I shoulder my pack and head off to explore a new country, the first question that I always ask the locals is “What’s to eat?” As cliché as it may sound, I am always hungry for exotic and great tasting food! Of course, being a backpacker on a budget, these meals should be delicious yet cheap; this is why I have always loved street-food. I am currently on my way back to Asia, one of my favourite places in the whole world to explore, get off the beaten track and feast upon amazing cuisine.
Asia is, needless to say, a vast continent that epitomizes the true meaning of the word eclectic. With billions of people living in it, you can just imagine the diversity of cultures and traditions that shape not just their lifestyles but also their food flavors. To visit every country in Asia is a life-long ambition of mine but, at the moment, I am still a fair way off! I’ve been lucky enough to try all kinds of amazing foods on my travels but for every one I tick off my ‘must try’ list I always seem to end up popping two more on. Here are the 7 foods that are currently top of my ‘Must Try Foods in Asia’ list.
Famous not just in Malaysia, but also in Singapore, this noodle dish originates from China. Hokkien Mee is a prawn and pork based soup that coats and soaks a combination of fatty and soft egg noodles and clear vermicelli noodles topped with fish balls, prawns, spicy sambal, crispy golden fried shallots and a large hardboiled egg – in short, this is one heck of a meal which is a worthy contender for the best noodle dish in the whole of Asia. This dish is considered to be Penang’s top breakfast meal, but with its spicy and mouthwatering broth, a perpetually starving guy like me can have it at any time of the day.
Though Hujiao Bing may not look that exciting upon first glance, this meaty wheat bun still made it on CNN’s list of the best street foods in Asia. Honestly, I am really curious to try this one out, since it can be compared to meat pies or hot-pockets back home. These “pies” which are made of whole wheat and stuffed with minced meat and toasted sesame seeds, are baked in rustic clay ovens and have been around in Asia for hundreds of years.
Ok, now I might be technically cheating on this one as I have had Pad Thai about a hundred times; it is however probably my favourite meal in the entire world and so it shall remain upon my ‘Must Try’ list for many years to come. The dish itself seems to vary from country to country, heck, it even varies from street to street so it is always a bit of a surprise to see what you actually get. Pad Thai is a popular dish for backpackers; its cheap, quick and readily available. Despite its over exposure, Pad Thai still packs a punch some real punch. Different provinces in Thailand offers different versions of this popular street food. In a nutshell, this dish is made up of flat rice noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts, meat (shrimp, pork), omelet, lots of chili, fish sauce and lime juice, go heavy on the lime!
Peking Roasted Duck
China is definitely one country that people can’t get enough of, not just because of its size, but also because its food and food culture spans across the globe. One of the best dishes that one should not forget to try is a perfectly roasted duck which takes hours and even days to make. I’ve had roasted duck back home but, to be honest, I am pretty sure that the real deal will be even better. The crispy skin and its succulent meat is either wrapped in equally soft pancakes or just eaten as is, dipped in a rich sweet bean sauce. Be sure to give this dish a go if you are signing up to a China touring holiday.
As I write this, I am mere hours away from boarding a flight bound for the Philippines and so I am, undeniably, excited to get to grips with Filipino cuisine. Filipino cuisine is famous for being the melting pot of food styles and flavors from all over the world. Mostly influenced by its Malay, Spanish, Chinese and American heritage, the country is home to some of the world’s best meat dishes. Forget about complex sauces or weird ingredients, because all you have to do is to order sizzling pork sisig and, according to the Filipinos, you will be sorted! Made up of pork meat that is grilled and chopped finely, seasoned with chili, fish sauce, lime or calamansi and egg, this dish is considered to be one of the best dishes available in the Philippines.
Filipinos are totally obsessed with this savory meaty dish. Showcasing the ingenuity of the people, they took a certain Mexican adobo pork dish, added chicken pieces and tweaked it with the Chinese’ flavors of soy sauce and vinegar resulting in a salty, tangy, sweet and spicy masterpiece.
India is home to enough spices to kick even the most hardened curry veteran in the ass. In fact, their spice laden dishes will definitely give your taste buds a jolt and you will end up craving for more. I spent over a year in India and I have to say, there’s nothing quite like Indian food. One of my favourite street foods in India is Chicken 65. Although it is unclear where the “65” in the dish’s name came from, it does not take away the fact this deep fried chicken is a must try when visiting the country. The bright red colour comes from the gigantic handfuls of spices used to flavour the dish!
These foods can certainly make anyone work up a really insatiable appetite. So as soon as you have decided to explore Asia, do not forget to leave your diet at home and just enjoy yourself! For me, one of the best bits about being on the road is getting to try so many new and exciting foods!