Asia By Mouth: 12 Recipes to Take You Around the Region

Asia By Mouth: 12 Recipes to Take You Around the Region

As we wait for Asia to open up, there’s no better way to go there than making the region's food right at home

Hungry to travel again? As we wait for Asia to open up, there’s no better way to go there than making the region's food, right at home. It could be a gooey cinnamon hotteok pancake you munched on in the busy streets of Seoul. If you’re thinking of Hong Kong, you can’t miss having a bowl of steamed milk pudding in the city's crowded dessert shops. But don't stop there - watch some of the best travel shows that bring you right into Asia, from Malaysia's Jason's Market Trails, to Luke Nguyen's Vietnam Railways and more.

1. Spiced Thai Milk Tea: Thailand 

It's hard to imagine not sipping on this while walking through one of Bangkok's colourful night markets. But know what you can do in place? Make this and scroll through our Late Night Guides to Thailand, mark out spots to travel to once the world starts spinning again. This signature Thai Milk Tea street drink is aromatic and sweet with a tinge of bitterness and spice. Its interesting flavor is created from steeping a variety of spices that one wouldn’t normally put in tea – star anise, cardamom, clove and cinnamon stick. P.S. Don’t worry if you do not have all the spices, it will still turn out quite delicious!

2. Sweet Cinnamon Hotteok Pancakes: Korea

If you've ever been to Korea, you wouldn't have missed a steaming hot Hotteok stand. The flaky gooey pancake is typically stuffed with dark brown sugar, cinnamon powder and grounded nuts, and is one of the most popular street snack in the country, especially during winter. Make a plate of these and put on your favourite Korean drama, crazy reality show or follow the adventures of Korean-Polish single, Tony, as he travels in search of love (that's all in TLC's hit series Travel for Love).

3. Turmeric Spiced Soto Ayam: Indonesia 

A comforting chicken noodle dish that's slurped up on many Indonesian streets, Soto Ayam is a yellow spicy chicken soup with lontong (compressed rice cakes) or noodles. A grind of turmeric gives it it's clear yellow hue. Besides chicken and vermicelli, it can also be served with hard-boiled eggs, slices of fried potatoes. Occasionally, "koya", a powder of mixed prawn crackers with fried garlic or orange colored spicy sambal makes for a delicious topping. Make a warm bowl of this and immerse yourself in a series of blind dates adventures in Asia, including the Indonesian ancient kingdom of Yogyakarta. If you're planning a trip there, scroll through our Late-Night Guides to Indonesia

4. Gingery Chicken Rice: Singapore

This simple but extremely craveable Chicken Rice dish is Singapore's pride and joy. And around the world? It's celebrated. BBC once said that this dish is worth a 15-hour flight. The late chef Anthony Bourdain described it as “a light and beautiful thing” and more recently, Gordon Ramsay commented that one cannot underestimate the simplicity of this dish. Well, chicken rice, ordered with either roasted or white chicken on a bed of fragrant ginger infused rice and highly piquant chilli and dark soy sauce (some say the sauces make or break the dish) - will remind you of the city's hot and noisy hawker centres that sell that and a lot more good food. Make a pot of it and check out all the city's great restaurants and trendiest eats, for your next dining out plan. 

5. Juicy Chicken Katsudon: Japan

If you're ever hungry in Tokyo, food is around every corner. And the Chicken Katsudon is probably one of the most commonly available dishes you can order. Globally, it's one of the most recognisable Japanese rice bowls in the world, and it is easy to see why- it is the perfect balance between sweet and salty, filled with delightful textures, thanks to the crunchy fried chicken and fat grains of rice swimming in a creamy sea of egg. To fully enjoy this dish, go deep into Japan with Debbie Wong, as she hunts down a brilliant purple sweet potato in the country's longevity island of Okinawa.

6. Purple Yam Halo-Halo: Philippines

Fly to the Philippines from home with a dessert in hand and these places to go. This dessert's one that can cheer the crabbiest of characters –the sprightly and colorful Halo Halo (or Haluhalo to some), is a popular and traditional Filipino dessert. Perfect for the tropics, this dessert is essentially a concoction of crushed ice, topped with ingredients such as sweetened beans, jackfruit, sweet potatoes, and smothered with evaporated milk. Here, we give you a modern take to the classic Halo Halo!

7. Nem Nuong BBQ Pork Meatball Sticks: Vietnam

Chances are that if you're in Vietnam, you'll be going through soupy beef broths, fresh salads and countless sticks of grilled meat, like this one. Nem Nuong, or Vietnamese BBQ Pork Meatballs is a wildly popular dish in Southeast Asia, found in the frozen aisle of many Asian supermarkets but we really recommended making them from scratch –it’s quick, easy and fun for the whole family! Have it as a snack, or a meal wrapped in rice paper, noodles or even in a sandwich. Plus, for a total Vietnamese experience, follow celebrated chef and host Luke Nguyen as he hunts down the best food across the country in Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam

8. Szechuan Mala Mushroom Noodle Soup: China

Steaming hot and spicy, the Mala Beef Noodle Soup is the ultimate warming dish for a cold winter’s night. And in China, winters are long and freezing. It is incredibly aromatic, thanks to the liberal use of garlic, ginger and Asiatic herbs such as star anise, cloves and, of course, the Chinese peppercorn. Fair warning though, you might end up perspiring so make sure you have more than a couple of napkins at hand. Go beyond this household noodle soup dish into a whole range of Chinese delights with Adam Liaw's Destination Flavours China.

9. Chicken Curry Roti Jala: Malaysia

Roti Jala, a tasty curry-spiced net-like crepe, is a must-have in the family during Ramadan meals of Iftar and Sahur. Now, this one’s a gluten-free version that uses liquid aminos in place of soy sauce. In all under half an hour, make this perfectly paired spicy curry to satisfy your Malaysian taste buds. Take the meal further into Malaysia with top Malaysian guide Jason Yeoh, as he seeks out the best Malaysian food that's often found on the streets

10. Garlic Butter Naan: India

India's a culinary hotbed of many things, great curries, delicious vegetarian food, and pillowy naan bread. Now, if you’re looking for naan that’s soft and puffy, charred and crunchy- look no further. Knead a roll of flour, sugar, salt, cold sour yoghurt and yeast to get a doughy Indian flatbread you can keep munching on. It’s so good on its own, but really a star when you drizzle on sizzling garlic, melted butter (or ghee), and dipped into curried sauces, runny tomato blends or spiced meats. Take a trip through India with more great Indian-inspired dishes here.

11. Steamed Ginger Milk Pudding: Hong Kong

Besides dim sum, the other very Hong Kong thing to do is to sit down in a crowded dessert shop (after dinner, preferrably) and order some sweet soup. This one, the Ginger Steamed Milk Pudding is a classic that's guaranteed to make you fall “love-in-first-sight/smell/taste”, if you haven't already tried it. Made predominantly of egg white and milk custard, and infused with the pungent flavor of ginger, this silky white pudding is the perfect summer dessert, served chilled, after a heavy meal! Fun fact: Ginger is known to be good for blood circulation and digestion. As you slowly spoon through your pudding, read through a delightful piece by chef and host Debbie Wong, where she writes about her experience celebrating Chinese New Year in Hong Kong and Canada, the latter the place of her youth. 

12. Brothy Beef Noodle Soup: Taiwan

If you're walking along a Taiwanese street, you'll probably be hit by a waft of strong savoury, brothy Beef Noodle Soup - sooner or later. It's an everyman's dish in the island, and made of simple ingredients - fresh noodles, beef parts, chopped coriander, spring onions, and pickled greens in a deeply nourishing beef broth that many drink by the bowl. Root vegetables give the broth a natural sweetness, and many add carrots (chunks, rather than sliced) and radish - which soaks in all the savoury goodness of the beef soup. 

Can't wait to travel again? We've got a whole list of Asian destinations, for your where-to-go-what-to-eat plans. Where are you going next? 

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