Foods Worth Traveling for: Asia and the Pacific (Slideshow)
It’s said that the Australian dessert called lamington was created when Lord Lamington’s maid accidentally dropped some sponge cake in chocolate icing and dipped it in coconut. Whatever its true origins, the cake is a true Australian icon, so much so that there’s a designated National Lamington Day each July.
Australia: Meat Pies
The flashy neon lights and long lines at Sydney's iconic Harry's Café de Wheelscontrast with the origin of meat pies, which date back to the Neolithic times. The outdoor stand makes classic meat pies, as well as new variations that draw locals and visitors alike for the flaky crusts and fillings like beef with peas and mash, and chicken and curry.
Bangladesh: Ilish Pulao
Ilish pulao, also known as pilaf, is typically served at family events such as weddings. It is made with seasoned rice with pieces of small ilish fish on top. Ilish fish is very common in Bangladesh and can be smoked, steamed, or baked with mustard seeds, chiles, ginger, turmeric, and other spices. Kasturi is one of the best places to try it is in Dhaka.
Bhutan: Ema Datshi
A good place to try the hot, spicy, and cheesy ema datshi is Plums Café, in Thimphu. There, locals and visitors will find traditional ema datshi — made with chile peppers, cheese, and cayenne and served with herbed rice — and other Bhutanese dishes.
Ambuyat has the consistency of thick paste and is sticky and starchy. This nearly flavorless Bruneian specialty is made from the pith of sago palms and is usually eaten with bamboo sticks called candas. To add flavor, dip it into a variety of sauces made from sour fruits. Try it at Aminah Arifrestaurant in Kiulap, a local favorite.
This classic Burmese dish, which can be found on almost every street corner and in nearly every restaurant, is made from rice, noodles, and fish broth. Though mohinga is usually eaten for breakfast, locals say there isn't really a bad time to eat the dish. Head to Yangon (formerly Rangoon) for a bowl at Green Elephant.
Cambodia: Amok Trey
Amok trey is made of steamed fish with coconut milk and lots of herbs and spices. After the fish is seasoned, it is steamed in banana leaves. This dish is often called a curry quite often because of its saucy texture, not because there are any curry powders in it. You can find amok trey in many Siem Reap restaurants, but Khmer Kitchen is regarded as one of the best.
China: Peking Duck
This Chinese specialty is known all over the world, but it is still appreciated in its homeland. Peking duck, a crispy duck served with pancakes and spring onions, was invented in Beijing and locals still argue over where you can find the best version. One of the better options can be found at Quanjude in Beijing.
Jiaozi is a traditional Chinese dumpling that's popularity has spread into Nepal, Japan, and other parts of Asia. It is made using ground meat and vegetables that are wrapped in a thin piece of dough. The dough is then crimped closed and it's then steamed, boiled, or fried. Sample jiaozi at Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu in Beijing.
Tofu can be found all over the world and comes in many different varieties. It is said that King Liu An created Tofu in China about 2,000 years ago. Tofu is low in calories but high in protein and can be used in sweet and savory dishes, depending on the variety used. Try the fried tofu at Huguosi Snack Restaurant near the Huguosi Hotel in Beijing.
China: Hong Kong: Char Siu
Originally Cantonese, char siu is flavored barbecued pork that has become a specialty in Hong Kong, and throughout other parts of Asia. Many of the char siu restaurants in Hong Kong hang their meat specialties in the window to show off for passersby. Hong Kong's Joy Hing's Roasted Meatarguably serves the most famous plates of it.
Pulling noodles is an ancient Chinese art, the skill of which is demonstrated by seasoned masters in the back kitchens of noodle shops throughout Northwestern China. The noodles are typically made fresh and served in a beef broth, and watching noodle makers stretch the dough into perfectly long, thin strands is an experience in itself.
China: Macau: Minchee
Minchee, also spelled minchi, is a fusion of Portuguese and Macanese flavors. It is made of stir-fried ground pork with soy sauce and onions, topped with a fried egg. Macau's O Porto Interior is the ideal place to try a well-done local classic such as minchee.
Idli is one of the most popular and iconic vegetarian items to order off an Indian food menu. It is a Southern Indian lentil and rice pancake that is eaten for breakfast or as a snack paired with chutney and spices. Try them at Bangalore's Om Murugan Idli Shop.
India: Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori chicken comes from northern India, but it is really a national specialty. A tandoori is a type of oven that is used to cook flatbreads and meat dishes. Naan and tandoori chicken, which is marinated in yogurt and spices prior to being put in the oven, are the most common dishes made with this kind of oven. Various menu items made with the tandoori oven can be sampled at Bukhara in Delhi.
India: Vada Pav
Vada pav is everyman’s food in Mumbai, a ubiquitous street snack eaten by all ranks of residents. Vada pav resembles a burger, but is actually a fried potato patty, stuffed between pav (bread roll) and topped with chutney. Follow the locals to stalls such as Graduate Vada Pav at Byculla orAram Milk Bar.
Though vindaloo has been coined to mean any fiery hot curry dish, at its origins it’s a curry of spices and pork from the Indian state of Goa. Goa was once a settlement of Portugal, and vindaloo is said to have been inspired from the Portuguese dish of carne de vinha d’ alhos, or pork with wine and garlic.
Indonesia: Nasi Goreng
It isn’t clear whether or not Indonesians customized classic Chinese fried rice to make their famous dish nasi goring, but it's a local favorite. It is usually enjoyed as a flavorful street food topped with sweet soy sauce, tamarind, chile peppers, egg, chicken, and shrimp. Try nasi goreng for yourself at the famous seaside La Lucciola in Seminyak.
Satay is reportedly inspired by Arabic shawarma and Indian kebabs. It is made from meats such as beef, mutton, lamb, chicken, and for non-Muslims, pork. Some say that the best versions of this dish come from street vendors, but you can try some of Bali's finest at Denpasar Badung Traditional Market in Bali's capital.
Japan: Japanese Curry
Japanese curry is not the same as Indian curry. It is made from a thick vegetable-based sauce and meats such as beef or deep-fried pork. It is typically served with rice, udon noodles, or bread. The Japanese eat it for any meal of the day and it is found in almost every home and restaurant. A good place to try it at is Manten in Tokyo.
Japan: Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodle soup is usually made of ramen noodles served in beef or fish broth and also includes toppings like sliced pork and spring onions. One popular ramen shop in Tokyo isIppudo. However, deciding which ramen shop can truly be named the best is a hot debate among locals.
Sushi can be found all over the world, but its home is Japan and it can be found everywhere in the country, from Michelin-starred restaurants to street markets and everywhere in between. One of the most famous sushi restaurants in Tokyo, which opened in 1936, is Ginza Kyubey. A three-Michelin-starred option is Sukiyabashi Jiro.
Laos: Larb with Sticky Rice
Larb is a term for a traditionally Laotian-style meat salad served with a special ground toasted rice and sticky rice. It is usually made with pork, chicken, beef, or duck and mixed with mint, chiles, and vegetables. Try it at Makphet, a traditional restaurant in Vientiane.
Malaysia: Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak is considered the national dish of Malaysia and can be eaten with any meal. It is a rice dish that is cooked with coconut cream and topped with meat or fish. The most important ingredient is the pandan leaf because it infuses the rice with a unique flavor. Madam Kwan's Restaurant is known for its nasi lemak, and is one of Kuala Lumpur's best-known restaurants.
Buzz is a very important part of Mongolian history and is traditionally eaten at home during Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian New Year. Buuz are steamed dumplings filled with meat such as beef or mutton and flavored with salt, garlic, onions, fennel, and herbs. During Tsagaan Sar, restaurants such asHishig Mongol 2 in Ulaanbaatar will also serve the dish.
Nepal: Dal Bhat
Dal bhat is a typical Nepalese dish. Lentils (dal) and rice (bhat) create the base of the dish and are combined with potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, spinach, and other vegetables to complete the meal. It is served with a crispy cracker. Sample it at Kathmandu's Third Eye Restaurant.
New Zealand: Pavlova
Pavlova was officially declared to originate from New Zealand in 2010. Before that, there was much debate about whether it belonged to New Zealand or neighbor Australia. The dish, a light meringue dessert topped with fresh fruit and cream, is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Many locals enjoy it at Euro in Auckland.
New Zealand: Bacon and Egg Pie
Bacon and egg pie can be found at many locations throughout New Zealand, butLittle & Friday is a favorite among Auckland locals. This savory pie is made of a flaky crust that's filled with bacon, egg, and sometimes onions, peas, tomatoes, and cheese.
Filipino adobo, not to be confused with Spanish adobo, is a popular long-cooking dish made with meat, fish, or vegetables that are marinated in vinegar, garlic, oil, and other spices. Some consider it the unofficial dish of the Philippines. Adobo To' in Pasig City or The Aristocrat in Manila make excellent versions of this dish.
Lechón is a whole suckling pig roasted over charcoal, and while it is served all over the world, it is a Filipino specialty. Anthony Bourdain even featured it on an episode of No Reservations filmed in Manila, where he claimed the lechón he tried there was the best he'd ever had. Because lechón is time-consuming and requires an enormous amount of effort, it is usually seen at festivals or special occasions. However, Manila's General's Lechón serves it year-round.
Singapore: Chilli Crab
Chilli crab is sold on almost every street corner and café in Singapore. The dish is made using mud crabs, which are stir-fried in a thick tomato and chile sauce. However, the dish is not all spice; the sauce is actually rather sweet. Try it at Long Beach Seafood.
Singapore: Hainanese Chicken Rice
This dish is originally from China, but it was adapted and is now prepared in a specific way in Singapore. In the Singapore adaption, the whole chicken is boiled in a pork stock with garlic and ginger. The rice is cooked in coconut milk and everything is topped with a spicy chile sauce. It can be sampled atTian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice.
South Korea: Kimchi
Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made with various vegetables and seasonings. It is the national dish of Korea and there are many different variations. The vegetables are usually used in stews, fried rice, and soups. Gwanghwamun Jip in Seoul is a good place to try it.
South Korea: Bulgogi
Bulgogi is a Korean dish that is made of marinated, grilled lean beef and served with rice and mixed vegetables. The name literally translates to "fire meat" in English. the dish has a long history that reportedly dates back to 37 B.C., but you can sample it today in Seoul at Bulgogi Brothers restaurant.
Sri Lanka: Rice and Curry
Rice and curry is one of the most popular combinations in Sri Lankan cuisine. It can be accompanied by meat, vegetables, or pickles, and the type of rice varies, as there are more than 15 different types on the island. Sambols, a version of an Indian pickle, is commonly served with rice and curry and can be flavored with chili powder. Head to the Nor Lanka Hotel for an upscale rice and curry experience.
Taiwan: Beef Noodle Soup
Beef noodle soup is one of the most commonly served dishes in Taiwan. Depending on where you get your soup, the broth varies from darker to clearer, and everyone in Taiwan has an opinion about which version is the best. Commonly made with stewed beef, broth, vegetables, and noodles, the soup is often served alongside other dishes like braised tofu and seaweed. There many variations available, such as Sichuan-style, which is spicy, and Northern-style, which has a clear broth. Try this dish at the famed Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup Restaurant in Taipei.
Thailand: Khao Soi
This traditional soup originally belonged to the Chinese and was introduced to Thailand by immigrants. Since then, the Thai people have made the dish their own. Khao Soi is a salty noodle soup made with fried noodles and spicy coconut curry, served with slices of lime and chile paste. Although it is available almost everywhere, one highly recommended spot is Kao Soy Nimman in Chiang Mai.
Thailand: Pad Thai
This ubiquitous Thai dish is meant to be sweet, salty, and sour all at once with ingredients like radishes, peanuts, egg, and dried shrimp adding to its flavor. Although pad thai dates back to ancient Siam, it truly gained popularity after World War II. The dish can be easily found throughout the country, but for an authentic Thai experience, try it at We’s Restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Thailand: Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
Thailand: Tom Yum Soup
Tom yum soup is hot and spicy dish made with vegetables, shrimp, and mushrooms. Flavors like lemongrass, Kaffir lime, galangal (Thai ginger), chile peppers, and fish sauce are also used to give the soup its restorative quality. For a good version of the soup, try Bo.lan in Bangkok.
Vietnam: Gὀi Cuốn
The Vietnamese version of spring rolls, gὀi cuốn, is a popular snack and appetizer. Made from light and airy rice paper, gὀi cuốn are stuffed with shrimp, pork, and plenty of fresh herbs, then dipped in fish sauce.
This dish is the quintessential noodle soup. The soup consists of rice noodles, seasoned with lime and mint, and sliced beef or chicken. Eat some of the best pho at Pho Hung in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam: Thit Kho
You might need a local connection to try thit kho, a dish most often prepared in home kitchens throughout Vietnam. The humble stew of braised pork and eggs is Vietnamese comfort food at its finest.