10 Best Food Markets in Asia Slideshow
February 2, 2011
From custom wok dishes in Beijing, to fresh seafood in Hong Kong, we'll show you where to eat in Asia.
Beijing, China: Dong Hua Men Night Market
Open only at night and on weekends, Dong Hua Men features a row of unusual food stalls selling an array of Chinese treats, ranging from exotic skewered scorpions and seahorses, to more familiar spring rolls, dumplings, and candied fruit. You can also choose amongst a variety of raw ingredients to create your own custom wok dish, upon request. Don’t read Mandarin? No worries; all stalls display what they are selling English, too.
Shanghai, China: Old Town God Temple Snack Street
Some of the most well-known (and loved) eateries in Shanghai line this busy snack street — essentially a street lined with food vendors — one of the largest in China. Following in the style of the nearby ancient Yuyuan Garden, each of the restaurants along the street are designed according to Ming and Qing dynasty architecture. Freshness is paramount in Chinese cuisine, and menus are dictated by what is most fresh in the market. Most Shanghai favorites are sold here, including fried or steamed stuffed buns, fried chop rice cakes, and cream spiced beans, in addition to other Chinese regional favorites.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Jalan Alor
A lively street running into the center of the Golden Triangle, Jalan Alor comes alive at night with the sights and scents of open-air food stalls and sidewalk cafes, some of the best in the city. Opening around 7 p.m. and running until the wee hours of the morning, there is something for every appetite here, from sugarcane juice to crispy pig intestines. One of the best dishes is the grilled fish.
Wondering which stall to eat at? Follow the long lines of locals, as they know what is best.
Bangkok, Thailand: Chatuchak Weekend Market
Also known as the Jatujak or JJ market, this market was once only popular amongst traders and wholesalers; now the 35-acre market is a must-visit place for travelers too.
While one can purchase a wide array of merchandise and food at the vendors and stalls at the Chatuchak market, it is also worthwhile to stop at the Aw Taw Kaw market, a more upscale market just a mere 10-minute walk away. There you can buy fresh produce and juices (of which, the refreshing tamarind drink is a favorite), and nibble on the small, round fermented pork sausages. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of Thai movie stars walking by with their entourage.
Siem Reap, Cambodia: Old Market
Representative of a traditional Asian market, the Old Market is where you can purchase some the best quality produce, meats, eggs, utensils, and more in Siem Reap. During the day, the action is centered around the market, which opens in the early morning (so come early for the best products). At night, the focus moves over to Pub Street, along which some of the city’s most popular establishments are located.
Once the place to go to for nightlife, Pub Street is transitioning into more of a dinner destination, as it is home to a variety of establishments serving international cuisines ranging from Khmer and Thai to French and Italian. The street, shut off to cars in the evening, comes alive late at night as the restaurant patrons sit outside and wander from shop to shop. Many nightlife hot spots have left, but if dancing is your thing you can still rock out to music at the Angkor What? Bar and the Temple Club until the early morning hours.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Ben Thanh Market
Centered in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the Ben Thanh Market is home to over 20 street-side eateries and a wide array of mouth-watering smells. At night, hundreds of people gather there — about 60-70 percent local, which indicates that there is very good, fresh food served — to try the best dishes in the region, including Pho noodle dishes from Hanoi, steamed cakes in banana leaves, grilled seafood, barbecued pork, and crispy rice cakes from the Mekong Delta.
Taipei, Taiwan: Shilin Night Market
Of all of Taipei’s night markets, the Shilin Night Market is the most famous (and a favorite of the locals). After sunset, the shops and stalls open, kind of like a giant flea market packed with people, and remain open until just after midnight. While you can shop for clothing and housewares, the market is best known for its food and gourmet snack options. Favorites include sausage wrapped in glutinous rice, oyster omelets, and bubble tea. Be alert when standing in line at stalls; you don’t want to get run over by bikes going through the thick crowd — it’s not illegal there!
Tokyo, Japan: Matsuzakaya Ginza
Established nearly 400 years ago, Matsuzakaya is the first department store in Ginza, and the first store In Japan that did not require people to take off their shoes when entering. Matsuzakaya sells an array of men’s and women’s clothing, housewares and pet accessories, but also features a whole floor dedicated just to food — kind of like Harrods in London. From gourmet foodstuffs and products, to dine-in areas serving traditional Japanese cuisine like sushi, tempura, tonkatsu, and soba noodles, there is something for every taste and palate. In the summer, they open a beer garden on the roof that serves drinks and tabletop lamb barbecue, if you need a break from shopping.
Singapore: Tiong Bahru Market
A visit to Singapore would not be complete without a stop for a meal at a hawker center. These outdoor food centers, usually covered and cooled with fans (vs. a food court, which is indoors and air-conditioned), are long famous in Singapore for serving the largest variety of high-quality, regional fare. Reopening in 2006 after a brief renovation during which ventilation systems were added for food stall exhaust, Tiong Bahru features an array of stalls where people can each choose what they want to eat, from roast pork, to fluffy pancakes and stir-fried prawn noodles, then sit together in the communal dining areas. Worried about eating out of a food stall? Don’t be. These markets are impeccably clean and well-looked after by the health inspector.
Kowloon, Hong Kong: Temple Street Night Market
While the Temple Street Night Market is fun for bargain shopping and people watching, it is best known for the really good — and inexpensive — food served at the stalls and cafes. Opening in the late afternoon, the wondrous rows of brightly lit stalls come alive at night, when people come to choose from a large assortment of super-fresh seafood (so fresh, it’s still twitching!), noodles, and hotpot dishes. When choosing where to dine, look for a stall with lots of locals dining there; they know their food and will go to where the quality is best.