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Asian Food Trip: Seven Mouth-Watering Destinations

Gone loco for the new Chinese place around the corner? There’s more -- infinitely more! -- where that came from. Beyond chop suey, Asian food includes silky sashimi, scrumptious curry, mouth-watering satay, luscious tropical fruits, and much, much more. Take your taste buds on a food trip across Asia.

  1. Hong Kong. The Chinese experience is alive and well in the 'fragrant harbour,' with Cantonese, Szechuan, Shanghainese, and more specialties. The exotic is always in the limelight, with shark’s fin and bird’s nest soups, suckling pigs, braised eels, fried pigeons, and thousand-year-old eggs. Of course, there’s no leaving without a taste of dim sum, filled with such goodies as shrimp, squid, lotus paste and more, then steamed in bamboo baskets. Neither should yum cha, the art of tea drinking, be missed. A cup of yuanyang does the trick, a blend of tea, coffee, and milk that is distinctly Hong Kong.
  2. India. The spices of India launched the period of exploration. And no wonder; Indian cuisine consists of bold flavours that awaken the senses, and aren’t easy to forget. For breakfast, have some masala dosai, a crispy, thin pancake combined with anything from spiced potatoes to minced lamb. Biryani is a savoury rice dish loaded with cloves, ginger, mint, and other seasonings, combined with flavourful morsels mixed in, such as goat meat and eggplant. For dessert, have jalebis, pretzels steeped in saffron syrup. After meals, chomp on paan, a rolled combination of betel nuts, sugar, coconut, and spices.
  3. Japan. 'Masterful' perfectly describes Japanese cuisine, with numerous restaurants having earned Michelin stars, and chefs dedicated to their craft as if it was a religion. From the packaging -- an array of brightly coloured sushi aligned just so -- to the taste -- pure and clean -- connoisseurs can expect nothing less than excellence. Sukiyaki is a must-try, a noodle dish with a broth of rice wine, soy sauce, and sugar where thin slices of beef and vegetables are placed after being dipped into raw egg. During the New Year, osechi ryori is popular, said to bring everything from health to wealth to those who eat it. These are made of herring roe, salmon, shrimp, and more.
  4. Philippines. Lavish amounts of coconut, seafood, and meat are part of Filipino cuisine. With Spanish, Chinese, and Malay influences, there’s no telling what surprise will next hit your tongue. Kare-kare is a creamy stew with peanut sauce, vegetables, beef, and ox tripe. Topped with bagoong or shrimp paste, it’s a filling feast. Sinigang is a tamarind-based broth with meat and vegetables, sour enough to make you cringe with relish. Have halo-halo or “mix-mix,” a dessert you can customise by adding your choice of tapioca, beans, chick peas, plantains, jelly, custard, and milk over shaved ice.
  5. Singapore. There's amazing variety to be had in this small Southeast Asian city-state. The hawker stands for one, are filled to the brim with Indian, Chinese, and Malay dishes. 'A food orgy,' in particular, is what the locals promise you’ll have at the Newton Food Centre, at very low prices. Oyster pancakes, barbecued seafood, and popiah or spring rolls are just some of the goodies to try. A snack of roti, flat, unleavened bread, drizzled with condensed milk, then rolled up, will get you by until the next meal. Perhaps you’d like to pop into a kopi tiam or coffeehouse instead, for a quick nibble of toast with kaya or coconut jam with eggs, scented with pandan leaves.
  6. Thailand. A blend of sweet and sour is characteristic of the cuisine in Thailand, with lots of herbs, lime juice, and coconut milk thrown in. Pungent and distinct, these dishes are usually combined with fragrant rice. Curries contain generous amounts of chillies and coconut milk, with basil, eggplant, duck, fish, or vegetables. The quintessential pad thai remains a favourite, a noodle dish with chicken, chilli pepper, tofu, fish sauce, peanuts, and more. A bowl of green papaya salad is refreshing and cheap, topped with shrimp, peanuts, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice.
  7. Vietnam. Those eager for a dose of the unusual are sure to find it in Vietnam. Their medicinal wines contain such things as geckos, bees, and rats, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has even partaken in a meal of cobra. The fainthearted need not turn away, however, since there are loads of delicious soups, porridges, and rice dishes on offer. Com ga rau thom, for example, is mint chicken rice, while banh bao is a bun dumpling stuffed with barbecued pork and quail eggs. Sam bo luong is a dessert made of sticky rice, beans, longan fruit, seaweed, and lotus seeds.

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