They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and you know what? We think there’s some truth to that! In fact, a great way to having the best vacation is to eat your way through the destinations! The world is an oyster when it comes to different cuisines and cultures, and what better way to experience a city’s culture and tradition than to eat like the locals do?
We’ve curated a few unique cuisines and gourmet experiences across Asia – in particular, Hong Kong, Korea, and Thailand, that’ll satisfy your taste buds and give you a whiff of each destination’s unique culture.
Source: Serious Eats
1. Cha chaan teng
If there is one favourite that is unique to Hong Kong’s identity, it would have to be the Hong Kong teahouses, also known as ‘cha chaan tengs’. Born under the influence of Western cultures in the 1960s and 1970s, cha chaan tengs serve affordable hybrid Hong Kong-Western style dishes such as instant noodles with luncheon meat and pork floss, pineapple buns with luscious butter slabs, and the always popular milk tea! Almost a cult, locals and tourists alike flock to these establishments that are decked out in eclectic blast-from-the-past-like décor. Just make sure you’re in for a fast ride – these teahouses run an efficient and speedy service in typical Hong Kong fashion to ensure that customers get and finish their meals in record time to allow room for the next waiting customer. Take a walk along Jordan or Central Hong Kong to find a few popular teahouses and dig in! Though not a cha chaan teng, another place worth a visit is Lin Heung Tea House, one of the oldest tea houses in Hong Kong (established in 1926, to be exact) which serves excellent dim sum!
2. Roasted goose
If you’re after something a little more meaty and savoury, roasted meats (and in particular, roast goose) may be just up your alley. You’ll be able to find restaurants around the city with juicy and crisp roasts hanging at the front windows. Sink your teeth in the smoky yet tender meat, accompanied with rice or noodles topped with a rich and flavourful gravy. Some of the restaurants started their humble beginnings in the early 1950s and have continued their traditional recipes – roasting the geese in charcoal ovens to bring out the best flavours. It is truly a feast for the senses and is ubiquitous in the city’s streets.
3. Rooftop restaurant bars
While you may just be roaming the streets of Hong Kong amidst the flurry of fast-paced pedestrians, don’t forget that sometimes, the best things are at the top. The city is home to an array of chic rooftop restaurant bars, offering the best escape high above the wild pace of the streets below. And what’s the best part? You get an amazing view of the city and bay to boot. Be it either on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, be sure to catch the ‘Symphony of Lights’ music and laser show that takes place at the Victoria Harbour nightly at 8pm. A couple of bars worth checking out are SEVVA, found at the top of Princes Building, and Sugar at the East Hotel.
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Samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup, is one of Korea’s famous traditional dishes. Although you would think it’s best eaten in the winter, Koreans love consuming this in the sweltering heat of the summer as well. Traditionally, samgyetang is eaten on sambok days – the three hottest days in Korea. This sumptuous dish consists of a whole young chicken stuffed with glutinous rice in a Korean ginseng broth. The fun part is you get to season the soup yourself with salt, pepper, and even soju! Also, as some restaurants specialising in samgyetang are often fashioned to look like hanoks (traditional Korean houses), it’ll truly be an immersive Korean experience! Iconic restaurant, Tosokchon Samgyetang, is one to look out for!
Away from the traditional ways to eat chicken is chimaek (‘chi’ for chicken and ‘maek’ for maekju, Korean for beer). The marriage of two of the best things, though both did not originate from Korea, it’s become embedded deep into Korean culture. While some argue that there is a specific type of cooking to classify what a Korean-style fried chicken is, eateries have created a myriad of new techniques and flavours, ranging from wholly roasted, charcoal grilled, marinated with sweet and spicy sauces, or even honey and garlic. Locals love it and either eat out or order delivery to tuck into fried chicken with ice-cold beers. In fact, it’s become such a cult that there is a whole festival dedicated to it in Daegu called the ‘Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival’. To hit the spot, try Oksang Dalbit, Hanchu, and Gyeyeolsa Chicken.
3. Korean food delivery
Seoul is fantastic and filled with a variety of food options, but one of the best things is Korean home delivery. If you’re ever tired from a night out and too hungry to step out, fret not, as the food delivery is affordable, quick, and even comes with a full set of tableware and cutlery. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about cleaning up as the delivery person comes back later to pick the dishes up! If you can’t read Korean, fret not! Ynot and Bird Riders provide a list of food delivery services in English.
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1. Khanom bueang
After a day of shopping, sometimes you just need a little fuel to keep yourself going. A popular sweet and savoury Thai snack is khanom bueang – also known as Thai crispy pancake. This light snack is thin and crisp, and made from rice flour and drizzled with coconut cream. Have your pick from a range of fillings such as shredded coconut, chocolate, shredded shrimp, and even eggs! A perfect mid-shopping re-fuel snack!
2. Seafood by the road
If there is one thing that screams affordability and deliciousness, it would have to be seafood along the streets of Bangkok. Along the sides of the busy streets, you’ll find Thai street food restaurants with grills filled with an array of enticing seafood fare. Cheap and tasty, popular choices are the barbecued fish and seafood. One of the famous is pla pao – Thai salt-crusted grilled fish. The trick is to remove the skin and eat only the smoky fish meat that has been grilled over a charcoal-fuelled fire. Dipped in the stores’ homemade Thai chilli sauce, pla pao is bound to spice up your taste buds!
3. Floating markets
While walking along the streets of Bangkok will provide you with a taste of the city’s vibrant culture, another unique option is to take a trip down to the floating markets – a great symbol of the Thai rural life and a semi Venice of the East. Throughout the busy canals, you’ll find vendors selling all sorts of food, product, and trinkets out of their boats, making it an interesting display. Sample from a wide selection of cooked food, from grilled seafood, to even boat noodles! This delicious broth of noodles comes with either roasted or ground pork, or tender stewed beef, and is a simple yet sumptuous fare to enjoy along the canals! Check out the following floating markets – Talin Chan, Bang Nam Pheung, and Amphawa.
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