Eating in Asia
Southeast Asia is a gourmand’s dream – you can find delicious, quality meals everywhere from 5-star rooftop bars to food carts on the side of the road. The options can be overwhelming, though, if you don’t know how to navigate, and the tourist’s fear of “Delhi belly” is a concern that keeps many from taking chances. On the other hand, if you keep an open mind, you’re likely to discover a new favorite dish. To avoid the dreaded FOMO – fear of missing out – make sure you try each of these outlets at least once.
Popular among Thailand’s mall culture, food courts offer variety, affordability, and comfort. You’ll be able to find any variety of Asian cuisine, from Indian curries to Chinese dumplings, and everything in between. You’ll also notice several Western imports, including the notoriously imperial fast food chains. Try to steer clear of those infamous golden arches, but don’t feel too guilty if you fall victim to a at some point. Most long-term travelers do. Food courts are always a solid option, but if you’re seeking more adventuresome and unique cuisine, you’ll want to head outside.
Street food and hawker centers
Most heavily populated roads throughout Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore will bloom with food stands as soon as the sun goes down. Don’t be fooled by dodgy appearances – these carts will often provide the most memorable meals of your trip. Even if you can’t read the signs, you’ll be able to recognize the popular stands by their lines. Let smell and adventure guide you to a meal you don’t recognize. If you’re itching to try some out-there Asian delicacies – crickets, snake, tarantula and the like – these are the place to do it, though beware – many of these are overpriced gimmicks, marketed to tourists and no longer representative of the local cuisine.
Houses and homes
But even street food is marketed heavily to tourists – if you want to get a feel for what locals really eat, head to their homes. To do this, head to Withlocals.com, where individuals and families in cities across the globe offer to host guests in their family for an authentic meal with their new international friends. The website is similar in concept to AirBnb or Couchsurfing, but tailored to address your taste buds.
If your budget and lifestyle allows, the fine dining scene in southeast Asia will not disappoint. World-famous chefs are making their mark in Bangkok, Taipei, and Singapore with fusion restaurants that cater to those with the most discerning tastes. Head to Above Eleven in Bangkok to enjoy Peruvian and Japanese delicacies while overlooking the city skyline on the 39th-floor rooftop garden. In Hong Kong or Singapore, try Xi Yan for a 12-course gourmet Chinese feast.