I’ve lived in Asia for a decade and traveled over much of it. I’m also a food fanatic so, in every Asian city I travel to, the first thing I check out is the food. These five Asian cities though are the best places in Asia for food, if not in the world. Food in these five cities is cheap and delicious, and the variety of tastes and quality of food is beyond compare.
The concept of eating is actually different in Asia than it is in the west and that’s why Asia has five of the best cities for food in the world. Asians love food much more than westerners do and they eat more of it too. Food is also not something that you stop eating at 6pm in Asia.
In most Asian cities, the time to really eat is early morning breakfast before you go to work, a long lunch at mid-day break or late at night – midnight or 2am, when the bars have closed, you’ve drunk too much, and you really need some food to soak up some of that alcohol. Asian cities have restaurants, street stalls, night markets and a hundred other places scattered everywhere that will serve food to a hungry patron at almost any time of the day or night. From early breakfast to a late dinner, these top five Asian cities have some of the most delicious food in the world available – all the time
Bangkok – Bangkok is truly a glutton’s gourmet. In fact, I’ve yet to find another city that has such amazing food – anywhere. Try eating at Bangkok’s famous food courts in local shopping malls, at stalls set up by the side of the street complete with plastic tables and chairs, or just pick up some food on a stick – chicken, insects, pork, fruit, fried fish cakes – from a street cart.
Bangkok offers everything from the cheapest street food (5 baht, about 15 cents, will buy you a homemade ice-cream, some meat on a stick, or fried bananas), to a bowl of curry and rice at a market stall, som tam (papaya salad) at a food court, or any type of five star food available in any western city. Bangkok is also famous for its many popular Japanese restaurants, its areas of delicious cheap Indian food, and even Italian, Mexican or Lebanese food, cheaper than almost anywhere else in the world.
Don’t forget the fresh Thai fruit too, or the just-squeezed fruit juices that you’ve probably never seen or heard of anywhere else. Bangkok, over any other city, is easily the best city in Asia (if not the world!) for great food.
Kuala Lumpur – Malaysians, like Thais, love food so, don’t be surprised when it’s everywhere. I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur at least 10 times and, after Bangkok, it’s still my favorite Asian city for food. One of my favorite places for food is, surprisingly, the food court at the upscale KLCC mall, underneath the famous Petronas Towers.
Here, you can get excellent Indian food for hardly any money, Chinese, Italian, Malay, American, and Thai food, just to name a few international cuisines. There are also some of the cities most upscale restaurants and coffee shops here, if you want to go to the other extreme.
Also, don’t forget to head to Chinatown for some of the best Chinese food around (especially at the food stalls and outdoor food courts that appear all around Chinatown at night). Check out the Chinese tea shops too with any kinds of tea you want, dim sum, and Chinese snacks or go to the Bukit Bintang area if you like Middle Eastern food. I also love The Coffee Bean (yes, the famous California coffee shop) as they have wonderful sandwiches and salads and the city’s best lattes.
Hong Kong – I’ve found Hong Kong to be expensive for food but it is delicious and sometimes you just have to pay a bit more for quality and taste.
Hong Kong is famous for its fusion of Chinese food and western food served from hawker stalls to some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world. Peking Duck is available everywhere in Hong Kong as is Dim Sum, the famous Chinese steamed dumplings and buns. Hot Pot restaurants, where you cook the food yourself in a steaming pot of broth in the middle of the table, are also popular in Hong Kong and, don’t forget, also try one of the many Indian restaurants that have popped up around the city.
Or go to Soho and eat at one of the fashionable western pubs or restaurants (I had wonderful six topping nachos and beer here the last time I was in Hong Kong). Or try a bowl of steaming Chinese noodles or some rice porridge and Hong Kong coffee for breakfast, or buy pastries at a Chinese pastry shop (completely cheap and delicious).
Make sure too that you check out the many Chinese food markets around the city, especially Wing Lok Street, where you’ll see stalls and stalls of bird’s nests, or Dried Seafood Street where, of course, they sell every kind of dried seafood imaginable.
Hanoi – I think I ate my way through Hanoi on my first trip there. Sitting on a little plastic stool at an even tinier table, I gorged on noodles, pineapple, river crabs, rice with a spicy meat topping, or French bread sandwiches stuffed with western and Vietnamese ingredients. Don’t forget to go down one of the many side streets to eat at a food stall there, or into a little hole in the walls noodle shop, for some of the best ‘pho’ or noodles in Asia.
Hanoi also has a caf, Moca Cafe, that serves the most delicious breakfasts, brunches and dinners. Try the pancakes, spring rolls, Indian food or one of the many wonderful sandwiches. Moca Cafe also serves some of the best coffee in the city and is located on a street that’s cool and hip.
Beijing – One of the best Asian cities for food has to be Beijing. Chinese food is one of the most popular of the world’s international cuisines and Beijing has every type of Chinese food imaginable. Start off with Imperial Court Food, food that’s based on similar foods that used to be only given to China’s emperors. Beijing also has thousands of dim sum restaurants where you can grab baskets of dim sum off passing carts and wash them all down with some fresh Chinese tea.
Beijing is also famous for its Peking Duck, said to be some of the best in the world, and also for Hot Pot – the food you cook yourself in a steaming pot of broth and then dip in one of many delicious sauces. There’s even Mongolian hot pot in Beijing, often called the father of all hot pots.
Finally, don’t forget the noodles, rice dishes, BBQ, or Beijing snacks – fried insects on a stick, noodles in bean sauce, pea flour cakes, and more.