While sightseeing and shopping may be at the top of most people’s lists when traveling, for others (myself included), it’s all about diving head-first into the local cuisine. If you’ve ever let your taste-buds travel to the Far East, you’ll be all too aware that Asian cuisine is amongst the tastiest – not to mention cheapest – in the world. To get a sense for the regional spices, fresh flavours and unusual ingredients, you’ve got to go there and seek out some of the region’s best dishes. To save you some searching, we’ve listed our top five must-try meals in Asia and the best places to try them.
Pad Thai in Thailand
Pad Thai is now recognised as one of Thailand’s national dishes, which is no surprise. The spicy and zesty meal is made by stir-frying flat rice noodles with eggs and seafood, and then seasoning it with fish sauce, garlic, chilli and lime juice (see a Celebrity Cruise’s version). While the dish can be found throughout the country (and even the rest of the world), Bangkok is THE place to try the dish in all its traditional and delicious glory.
For many, the local street stalls are where you’ll find some of the most delicious and authentic Pad Thai. The city’s famed restaurant Thip Samai is revered for serving up legendary Pad Thai. The secret to their success? They cook the dish on charcoal, giving it even more flavor.
Dim Sum in Hong Kong
Hong Kong may be known for its remarkable skyscrapers, neon lights and temples, but it’s also home to some amazing restaurants, food stalls and markets. With pretty much everything and anything on the menu here, it can be a little overwhelming. If you order just one meal in Hong Kong though, it should be the Cantonese dish of Dim Sum. Originally served as an accompaniment in tea houses in the Chinese province of Guangdong, the perfectly steamed parcels of tender meat, vegetables and seasoning have become a favorite for many tourists.
There are many variations of Dim Sums available from dumplings to buns and even sweet pastries. Some of my favourites though include the steamed barbeque pork bun known locally as Cha Siu Bao, and steamed prawn dumplings called Har Gau, which are sweet and delicious. For the best Dim Sum in all of Hong Kong, Lung King Heen restaurant specialises in the Cantonese classics and has even been awarded three Michelin stars! If you’d rather try something lower key then head to the hundreds of food stall around the city that serve freshly made buns and dumplings throughout the day.
Gulai in Indonesia
Bali might be better known for its incredible green landscape, turquoise sea and white beaches, but it’s also a fantastic destination for food. For many, trying deep-fried insects is all part of the experience, but if you’re not feeling quite brave enough, then the standout dish to try is Gulai.
This delicious Indonesian curry was first served up in Sumatra, but has since become a well-loved dish around the world. Today you can choose from a wide range of meats to have in your Gulai from chicken to beef, mutton as well as fresh fish and seafood. The meat of choice is then seasoned with a range of spices such as turmeric, galangal and lemongrass and then cooked with sliced cassava and coconut milk.
Beef Rendang in Malaysia
Rendang is a slow cooked dry curry made up of ginger, kaffir lime and many other delicious spices, all cooked together with coconut milk and tender beef. Is your mouth watering yet? Native to Malaysia, the dish was originally made using water buffalo meat, but as that was quite a lot tougher to eat than beef the dish had to be cooked down slowly, leaving the coconut milk to evaporate. Today, Beef Rendang is enjoyed as a celebratory meal, making it an ideal choice for when you first arrive in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur.
Chilli Crab in Singapore
Singapore has long been known as a foodie city, consistently at the forefront of modern dining. No matter what the trends though, there’s one dish that will always be the city’s beloved signature – Chilli Crab. With Chilli Crab’s spicy seasoning and curry like sauce, it’s not difficult to see that Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisine has influenced this dish. A favourite amongst Singaporeans, and often referred to as the country’s national dish, Chilli Crab is said to have been invented by street vendors in the 1950s. Since then it’s grown in popularity and can now be found in many of the restaurants in Singapore. For some of the city’s best servings, head to the seafood restaurants along East Coast Park.
These great dishes are just a small sample of the great food you can enjoy on a cruise holiday to Asia. If you’re salivating at the thought then take a look at the different ports of call you’ll be able to explore.
(This post originally appeared on Celebrity Cruises’ UK Blog.)