A travel agents guide of what to eat in Asia’s cultural hotspots.
Written by Chloe Hambidge
What to eat in Asia? Here’s a bite-sized guide to help you take in Asia’s tastiest trends. A trip to this culturally packed continent is an adventure for all the senses. As a luxury travel agency we understand the importance of balance, appreciate the finer things in life whilst immersing yourself in the cultures you rightly crave to explore. What better way to do this then by feasting on the creme de le creme of cultural delicacies. No matter where your jetting of too, we have just the right dish (and most definitely the right tour) just for you…
Travel to Tokyo– Kaiseki.
In Japan, dining isn’t just food, it’s an experience. And to experience kaiseki is to experience the epitome of the country’s seasonal and sensory genius. Made up of a perfectly acquired blend of fresh ingredients, preparation, setting and presentation witness masters at work. Kaiseki is a highly ritualized, aesthetically sophisticated dining experience which will kick the senses to life. It’s a type of haute cuisine which requires the finest etiquette and gratitude to the chef, who dedicate their art to creating the perfect combination of texture, colour and appearance. Some chefs focus more on the court and samurai cuisine, which is more ornate, while others place more emphasis on temple- and tea-ceremony cuisine, which is more refined and restrained. This delightful culinary adventure is broken into small intricate dishes each creating a sense of harmony and balance topped off with its eye-catching display. Kyoto is famous for its kaiseki, since it was the home of the imperial court and nobility for over a millennium- a wonderful place to experience this authentic delicacy is at ‘Gion Karyo’ located in the historic district of Kyoto which offers such beauty at a reasonable price and eases you in to this tasty art form with the bonus of being in an old Kyoto house.
The Heritage of Hong Kong– Dim sum.
Dim sum translating to “light snack” or in some places fondly known as yum cha meaning “with tea”. This heartwarming delicacy is renowned worldwide, but no one does it quite like Hong Kong. This city’s bustling vibrancy is evolving before our very eyes, and dim sum is something that will always stick alongside it- evolving from the traveller ritual of stopping for tea and snacks while on the road to transforming into what could be the world’s best brunch. These bite-sized beauties are typically served in precious steamer baskets, cherished by locals for being both delicious and satisfying, the word can also translate to “touching the heart”- which is something this snack, as well as the people behind it, are sure to do. Whether savoury or sweet, indulge in a range of flavours designed to tease and tempt the taste buds as they’re served in small portions to share and sample with every meal. Significant to Chinese heritage, this dish is celebrated for not only its delicate flavours but also its artful presentation and social dining experience. For a traditional taster, enjoy DimDimSum scattered around town in Hong Kong, serving these gorgeous titbits traditionally and deliciously. Or jump to the other end of the scale for the Michelin star experience such as Duddell’s and Fook Lam Moon offering elegance with an elaborate twist.
Kuala Lumpur flavours– Curry Laksa.
Once touching down in the intricate Kuala Lumpur, your senses will be on high alert, whether following your nose or your feet you will be lost wandering these eye-catching streets. Stroll by little hawker centers tucked beneath the immense shadows of towering sky scrapers until you stumble upon the true feast for the senses- curry laksa. Rich and creamy in flavours it will melt in your mouth, it truly is swoon worthy. A heady mix of spices and flavours from turmeric to shrimp paste, it’s a curry mix combined with coconut milk complimenting each other in a fiery-orange hue. Enjoy with noodles along with shredded chicken, shrimp, cockles, tofu puffs, bean sprouts and fresh chili and mint with a squeeze of lime, its an authentic dish you can make your own. It’s an only-in-Malaysia experience and its an immersion journey you definitely won’t forget. Throughout your wanderings be sure to hunt for Madras Lane, just off Petaling Street, here you will be overwhelmed by a flourishing of curry laksa stalls wafting flavours in your direction, each stalls offerings being as good as the next.
Boisterous Bangkok– Som Tum.
The streets of Bangkok are a welcomed sensory overload, towering scrapers juxtaposed by the slices of rustic street food carts below. It’s a metropolis of the future and a cacophony of the past, you will definitely find hints of this when tasting the intense som tum, green papaya salad. An explosion of flavour, you will almost feel whisked away from the bustling streets and completely transported, a tantalising cocktail of all things sweet, sour, salty and vibrantly fiery- it will send you down a spectrum of flavours. Extraordinary in every way, takes in tones and textures like never before. The almighty crunch of the peanuts, the fresh whiskers of carrot and pale green papaya topped off with the juiciest shrimp and plump tomatoes. This hearty munch is especially treasured in the heart of Bangkok, but can also be found in scatterings of street vendors all across Thailand. Considered a must have when visiting the city, indulge in this right of passage amid all the traffic and chaos, the dish itself is the epitome of these rambling street side shacks, so why not be overwhelmed but its madness and gladness. Enjoy this delicacy curbside at Jay So, or in the peace (in comparison anyway) of the restaurant Somtam Nua.
Sumptuous South Korea– Bibimbap.
With a dizzying array of flavours, bibimbap is like South Korea in a bowl. A meal sure to tick all the boxes bibimbap promises indulgence, made up of beef and sauteed vegetables such as shiitake mushrooms, spinach and eggplant piled onto a warm bed of white rice making you feel right at home in midst of exploring this rich and diverse country. Flavoured with spicy chili paste for a friendly kick and umami-rich fermented soybean past, topped with a raw or fried egg- it’s a little bowl of Asian heaven. Whether you dine on bibimbap Jeonju- style (in a cold bowl) or dolsot- style (in a piping-hot earthenware bowl), either way it will be a sight that feeds all your cravings, not matter the weather. Presented as kaleidoscope of ingredients fanned out across the rice, the display of the dish is part of the meal. Feeding the eyes, soul and belly. Created with longevity at its core, each ingredient has a specific reason for taking pride and place in the dish: chili peppers representing the heart, the green vegetables for your liver, the yellow of the egg yolk representing the stomach, the darker ingredients such as the mushrooms and soy sauce portray the kidneys and rice being for the lungs. It’s a heartwarming dish designed to give your insides a boost.
Tantalising Taiwan– Gua Bao.
A home away from home, dine on a ‘Taiwanese hamburger’ for a touch of comfort food. Presented as a hamburger with a delightful twist to celebrate where you are. The gua bao is made up of the perfect mixture of sweet and savoury. Made using a steamed bun which gives a chewy soft texture, complimented by the addition of pork, pickled greens, coriander and ground peanuts. The sweetness of the steamed bun mixes heavenly with the rich fatty pork in a way that only this street dish can portray. Taiwan sparked this love for gua bao as it has now reached across the border with vegetarian adaptations to go along with it. The burger is usually served with chilli sauce which is the perfect opposite to the sweet bun. Featured in the night markets, its like a glowing beacon attracting wanderers looking for a bite to eat, it would be rude not to join them.
Finding the best place to go amongst the biggest continent on our earth may sound daunting, at Atlantis all of our Senior Travel specialists have had the honour to explore most of these far flung wonders. For more information or queries surrounding tours, or a lavish break away, feel free to call or pop in and pick our brains on how to make all your travel dreams into a reality.