Best places to eat in Asia: The ultimate list

Cutting edge food mixed with tradition - Asia offers an exotic mix of culinary delights.

BAR: THE BAR AT AMAN, TOKYO, JAPAN

The famous New York Bar at Tokyo's Park Hyatt, where soul mates Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray met in Lost in Translation, now has a serious rival: the sexy 33rd floor bar at the Aman Tokyo in Otemachi, which has views over the glittering city and the Imperial Palace gardens. The Tokyo hotel is first urban hotel from the luxury resort brand with the lofty Bar and Lounge featuring majestic 30-metre high ceilings and two meditative rock gardens, perfectly capturing the beauty of the Japanese aesthetic. See aman.com

COFFEE: JAKARTA, INDONESIA

It's not known as one of the world's coffee capitals, but one of the surprising things about Jakarta is that it a great place to get a caffeine fix. Top of your must-visit list should be the city's specialist roasters such as Giyanti, which sources beans from a range of Indonesian islands including Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, and the stylish Caffe Milano. Their iced espresso, made with cubes of frozen espresso, is simply irresistible. See giyanticoffeeroastery.com; caffemilanojkt.com

STREET FOOD: PHO BO VIEN THAP CAM, HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

This tiny, shabby store is usually hidden from casual view by the hordes of motorbikes inevitably parked out the front, as a steady stream of locals stops in for some of the best noodle soup in the country. As long as you're not put off by small plastic chairs and laminate tables that haven't been wiped down in a while, you can enjoy Pho Bo Vien Thap Cam's rich, delicious broth and tender beef or chicken pieces in the company of a friendly crowd. See vietnamtourism.com

See also: Where to drink craft beer in Ho Chi Minh

BAR: UOSHIN IZAKAYA, TOKYO

 

Eating well while doing good #thewaytheydo 🇯🇵 #uoshin #tokyo #culinaryexperiencefirst

A photo posted by Benedetta 贝妮 (@serendella) on

It's difficult to believe that this buzzing Tokyo izakaya is technically a bar. Though there's a wide array of sake available and the atmosphere is relaxed, the food at Uoshin is in the league of some of the city's finest restaurants. Here the focus is on fresh seafood, whatever the chefs can get their hands on – you might find steamed salmon head served in daikon broth, or minced crab meat fritters, deep-fried whole fish served with a little pyramid of salt, or perfectly fresh sashimi. Pair this with all-you-can-drink sake and you have yourself a good time. See tablelog.com

FOOD CENTRE: EATHAI, BANGKOK, THAILAND

On the lower ground floor of the swank Central Embassy shopping mall in downtown Bangkok, Eathai is a fabulous food emporium that brings together the rich culinary pleasures of the Kingdom of Thailand under one roof. The space is organised into free-flowing rooms ranging from casual to chow-down-and-run dining for the office crowds. There's also a cafe for the essential caffeine hit and a food hall with mangoes, galangal, ginger, lemongrass and all the other fresh herbs, spices, sauces and dried mysteries that go into Thai cooking, a shop full of cooking implements and a bookshop for the essential know-how. See centralembassy.com/eathai/

EXPERT'S CHOICE: BILL GRANGER, RESTAURATEUR

SHOP: YOROZU, FUKUOKA, JAPAN

A tiny two storey traditional building with a dramatic horse-shoed shaped bar downstairs that seats about eight. This stunning teashop is all about matcha. The tea master in a white lab coat whisks and creates the perfect matcha in a modern take on a traditional tea ceremony. It's mind-blowingly elegant and reverential: an oasis transplanted into the urban hustle and bustle of burgeoning Fukuoka.  Bill Granger's cafe and restaurant empire includes outlets in Sydney, Tokyo, London, Seoul and Honolulu. See jnto.org.au

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FOOD CENTRE: TIONG BAHRU, SINGAPORE 

EYFFMC Food court in the Tiong Bahru district of Singapore where exotic Asian dishes can be found. tra8cover-hot-food Tiong Bahru Food Centre Credit: Alamy

Food court in the Tiong Bahru district of Singapore where exotic Asian dishes can be found. Photo: Alamy

While budget diners are spoilt for choice in Singapore, with wallet-friendly options such as the Chinatown area and Little India drawing in big crowds of tourists, the local favourite is Tiong Bahru Food Centre. The neatly laid out array of street food vendors here offer everything from chwee kueh, a rice cake topped with preserved radish, to fish ball noodles, char kway teo, and Chinese-style roast duck. The only problem you'll encounter is choosing what to eat first – and getting up afterwards. See yoursingapore.com

See also: Guide to eating at Singapore's hawker stalls

NEIGHBOURHOOD: YAOWARAT, BANGKOK, THAILAND

Bangkok, Thailand - February 8, 2016: People buying at street food stall in Yaowarat Road during the celebration of the Chinese New Year Chinatown Bangkok Thailand tra8cover-hot-food YAOWARAT, BANGKOK Credit: Istock

People buying at street food on Yaowarat Road. Photo: iStock

For a spicy, sweet, salty and sour smorgasbord of almost everything that Bangkok does well, the area around Yaowarat Road, home of Bangkok's Chinatown, is the place to be. You'll smell Yaowarat before you see it, as the scents of hundreds of different cooks preparing their nightly specialties wafts through the humid air. Upon arrival you'll see the crowds, and you'll see the street food with vendors selling fried noodles with crispy BBQ pork and fresh seafood being grilled over hot coals. See tourismthailand.org

EXPERT'S CHOICE: LUKE NGUYEN, CHEF

MARKET: BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA

Eating live squid and the freshest sea urchin at Jagalchi seafood markets in Busan South Korea. This is the best known seafood market in Korea; 50 per cent of the country's seafood comes from here. You can't get fresher than this. See visitkorea.org.au  Luke Nguyen is a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and host of the upcoming SBS TV series, Street Food Asia.

LOT 10 HUTONG, KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

 

🐷 Pigging out properly #Canto style!!

A photo posted by 🐰 Petit Lapin 🐰 (@petite_lapin) on

What if you could collect all of the best street food vendors from around your home city and house them in one area? That's what Malaysian entrepreneur Dr Francis Yeow has done with Lot 10 Hutong, the hawker centre to conquer all hawker centres. In the basement of a shopping complex in central Kuala Lumpur, it is amazing. We're talking smoky KL-style fried hokkien noodles, or fish balls made to an almost 100-year-old recipe, or Chinese steamed pork buns, or char kway teo, or Cantonese-style roasted duck. See visitkl.gov.my

BAR: PALLADIO, NARAIN NIWAS PALACE, JAIPUR, INDIA

Strutting peacocks welcome you into the Narain Niwas Palace heritage hotel's Bar Palladio, which tells you exactly what kind of establishment this is. Take a seat inside among the distressed, candlelit opulence of frescoed ceilings and blue and white floral wallpaper, or head into the garden to dine in the blue and white tents beneath the mango trees. They're the perfect spot from which to nibble the Italian-inspired fare (spaghetti carbonara and a glass of prosecco, perhaps?), or simply spy on the glamorous locals sipping and supping in the moonlight. See bar-palladio.com

EXPERT'S CHOICE: MICHAEL HILL-SMITH, WINEMAKER AND CONSULTANT

PEPPERED CRAB AND A TIGER BEER AT EAST COAST SEAFOOD CENTRE, SINGAPORE

A quintessential Singapore experience, it makes Singapore's other famous crab dish, chilli crab, look pedestrian in comparison. See yoursingapore.com Michael Hill-Smith is a Master of Wine, co-founder Shaw + Smith and Tolpuddle Vineyards and wine consultant for Singapore Airlines

STREET FOOD: VADA PAV, MUMBAI, INDIA

Every Mumbaiker's favourite street food snack is vada pav, a spiced potato cake served up by vendors city-wide. This is a treat that's far greater than the sum of its parts. Boiled mashed potatoes are spiced, coated in batter and then deep-fried; the resulting dumpling of deliciousness is then stuffed into a bun, slathered in chutney, laced with fresh coriander, and served up hot and tasty. These little street eats are devoured pretty much 24-7 across Mumbai. See maharashtratourism.gov.in

BAR: 35 STEPS, TOKYO

 

Omega-3 tears of joy :') #mackerel #webeJUNGin 🐟

A photo posted by Stephanie Jung (@stephaniejung) on

While plenty of Tokyo's smoky, raucous izakayas – drinking dens dedicated to sake and food – can seem intimidating to first-timers, 35 Steps in Shibuya is anything but. Rookies are welcomed with a smile, before being sat down at the bar surrounding the huge kitchen and then treated to some of the izakaya's specialties, from sashimi to deep-fried prawns to the delicious piece de resistance: a fillet of mackerel that's blow-torched at the table. See gotokyo.org

See also: Tokyo: The world's best small bar scene

EXPERT'S CHOICE: ALLA WOLF TASKER, HOTELIER

WEN SHU MONASTERY, CHENGDU, CHINA

Surrounded by buildings first constructed around 600BC, the delicious banquet here is cooked and served by monks at simple wooden tables. The curved Chinese roofs seen from the upstairs window of the room, the sounds of a Chinese opera rehearsal in the grounds outside, the Chinese chatter coming from the tea garden add to the experience. See gochengdu.cn Alla Wolf-Tasker is culinary director and co-owner of The Lake House in Daylesford, Victoria.

DIM SUM: LIN HEUNG, HONG KONG 

tra8cover-hot-food LIN HEUNG, HONG KONG

Lin Heung, Hong Kong. Photo: Alamy

AN3PMX Lin Heung Cake Shop & Restaurant Hong Kong. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown. tra8cover-hot-food LIN HEUNG, HONG KONG

Lin Heung Cake Shop & Restaurant Hong Kong. Photo: Alamy

Take everything you know about the way dim sum, or yum cha, works, and chuck it out the window. Because at this 120-year-old institution, the system is simple: if you want it, you go and get it. Diners at Lin Heung will jump out of their seats to run after food carts, grabbing all the good stuff and waving their stamp cards in the waiters' faces. As a dining experience, Lin Heung falls somewhere between a rush and a riot, but the food, and the fun, make it easily worth your while. See discoverhongkong.com

BREAKFAST: MOHINGA, YANGON

Yangon, Myanmar - August 5, 2011: Food stalls at Yangon downtown. tra8cover-hot-food Credit: iStock

Food stalls in downtown Yangon. Photo: iStock

Every Yangon citizen's favourite breakfast is mohinga – a hot, sour soup of catfish and fermented noodles in a turmeric-laced broth that's slurped on pavements across the city every morning. The best way to sample mohinga is by looking out for the street vendors who tramp through the city on foot, balancing pots of broth and trays of noodles and fish on a large wooden beam resting on their shoulders, dealing out the morning's succour to the hungry masses. See myanmartourism.org

NOODLES: AFURI, TOKYO

FCM8N8 Bowl of pork ramen at Afuri, Tokyo, Japan tra8cover-hot-food AFURI, TOKYO Credit: Alamy

Bowl of pork ramen at Afuri, Tokyo. Photo: Alamy

It's a surprise to find that the way to order one of Tokyo's best bowls of ramen noodles is by pressing the buttons on a vending machine. But that's the system at Afuri, a chain of ramen joints that goes big on quality, and small on service. Yes, the ordering box can be a little tricky to decode. But once you've pressed the right buttons, paid your money and handed over your ticket, you'll end up with one extremely tasty bowl of noodles. See afuri.com

EXPERT'S CHOICE: LUKE NGUYEN

STREET FOOD: HOI AN, VIETNAM

A woman selling Cau Lau, a local noodle specialty on a street sidewalk in Hoi An, Vietnam. tra8cover-foodnew

A woman selling Cau Lau, a local noodle specialty on a street sidewalk in Hoi An, Vietnam. Photo: Jeremy Villasis

In Hoi An, in central Vietnam, the produce for the street food comes from the surrounding organic farms and markets – not within 100 miles, but 50 miles. Must-try dishes are cau lao, white rose, mi quan, thit heo nuong cuon, dau pho, fried wonton with crab, and the cheapest fresh beer in Vietnam. See vietnamtourism.com

EXPERT'S CHOICE: BILL GRANGER

MARKET: GWANGJANG MARKET, SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

When I first started going to Seoul in preparation for our opening, I made a beeline for the Gwangjang market, the biggest in Seoul. You can eat bibimbap or tofu kimchee dumplings but my absolute favourites are the mung bean pancakes at Soon-hee Bindaetteok. The beans are ground on a huge mortar in front of you and fried in oil like a fritter, and served with pickled chopped onion. See visitkorea.org.au

STREET FOOD: BADEMIYA, MUMBAI, INDIA

It's the extremes and contradictions lying at the heart of Mumbai life that simultaneously shock, disturb and draw you into the city. And nowhere can these be more keenly observed than at BadeMiya street stall, one of India's most famous eateries. Here, in a grotty laneway behind the Taj Mahal Hotel in upmarket Colaba, you'll find millionaires in their Bentleys lined up alongside street kids, mangy dogs, office workers and tourists. They're all here for the same thing: the Seekh kebabs which many say are the very best in Mumbai, cooked here on open-air charcoal grills since 1946. See bademiya.com

CONTRIBUTORS: Larissa Dubecki, Michael Gebicki, Ben Groundwater, Ute Junker, Nina Karnikowski, Kerry van der Jagt, Craig Tansley, Lee Tulloch

See also: 10 countries with surprisingly good food

See also: The best country in the world for food

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