10 Delicious Dishes to Try in Asia

by Gayle Keck

10 Delicious Dishes to Try in Asia

by Gayle Keck

Besides witnessing the sheer beauty of the surroundings, another amazing aspect of sailing through Asia is sampling authentic local cuisine. And thanks to quick options like street vendors (often called “hawkers”), noodle shops, and dim sum parlors, you won’t eat up too much shore time. In this slide show, we take you from South Korea to Myanmar, with lots of tasty stops in between. We tell you where to find great ramen in Tokyo, how to tackle soup dumplings in Taipei, and why fermented tea leaves will wow you in Yangon. Come along, and get ready to feast.

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Laska rice noodle / iStock / Jordanlye
Steamed shrimp dumplings
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1. Dim Sum

Port: Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, there are many more dishes to sample than at U.S. dim sum parlors. Order from the menu or choose small plates of delicacies from passing carts. Don’t miss baked pork buns, rice noodle rolls, and har gow, steamed dumplings with shrimp, pork, and bamboo shoots.
 
Where to get it: Tim Ho Wan (multiple locations) is our favorite, but Peking Garden (3 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui) is right by the cruise terminal.

Port: Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, there are many more dishes to sample than at U.S. dim sum parlors. Order from the menu or choose small plates of delicacies from passing carts. Don’t miss baked pork buns, rice noodle rolls, and har gow, steamed dumplings with shrimp, pork, and bamboo shoots.
 
Where to get it: Tim Ho Wan (multiple locations) is our favorite, but Peking Garden (3 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui) is right by the cruise terminal.

Ramen with sliced pork
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2. Ramen

Port: Tokyo

This just may be the world’s best fast food. Chinese noodles are served in broth that might be clear and light or rich and opaque, depending on the style. Toppings can include sliced pork, fish cake, seaweed, soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts, and green onion.
 
Where to get it: The huge food hall below Tokyo Station in Chiyoda, near the Imperial Palace, is home to many ramen shops.

Port: Tokyo

This just may be the world’s best fast food. Chinese noodles are served in broth that might be clear and light or rich and opaque, depending on the style. Toppings can include sliced pork, fish cake, seaweed, soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts, and green onion.
 
Where to get it: The huge food hall below Tokyo Station in Chiyoda, near the Imperial Palace, is home to many ramen shops.

Laksa with Prawns
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3. Laska

Port: Singapore

This spicy soup from the Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) culture includes rice noodles, chicken, and seafood, typically in coconut milk curry — but there are many variations. It’s the perfect lunch choice at a hawker center, which is like a giant food court.
 
Where to get it: Janggut Laksa, 328 Katong Laksa (multiple locations), or any hawker center.

Port: Singapore

This spicy soup from the Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) culture includes rice noodles, chicken, and seafood, typically in coconut milk curry — but there are many variations. It’s the perfect lunch choice at a hawker center, which is like a giant food court.
 
Where to get it: Janggut Laksa, 328 Katong Laksa (multiple locations), or any hawker center.

Green Papaya Salad
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4. Green Papaya Salad

Port: Ko Samui, Thailand

A street-vendor favorite, green papaya salad (known as som tam), is made by pounding lime, chilies, fish sauce, palm sugar, and shrimp paste in a mortar, then tossing in grated papaya, long beans, tomatoes, and sometimes peanuts. It’s a perfect example of the spectrum of Thai flavors.
 
Where to get it: Restaurants and street vendors across the island serve the dish. (As a hint, look for street vendors with long lines.)

Port: Ko Samui, Thailand

A street-vendor favorite, green papaya salad (known as som tam), is made by pounding lime, chilies, fish sauce, palm sugar, and shrimp paste in a mortar, then tossing in grated papaya, long beans, tomatoes, and sometimes peanuts. It’s a perfect example of the spectrum of Thai flavors.
 
Where to get it: Restaurants and street vendors across the island serve the dish. (As a hint, look for street vendors with long lines.)

Tea leaf salad at Monsoon
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5. Tea Leaf Salad

Port: Yangon, Myanmar

It sounds strange, but delicious tea leaf salad (called lahpet thoke) is made with fermented tea leaves, fried garlic, tomatoes, crispy fried peanuts, beans, dried shrimp, and chilies, all dressed in sesame oil, lime, and fish sauce.
 
Where to get it: Most restaurants serve it; we like Monsoon (85-87 Thein Phyu Rd.), an easy walk if the ship is docked in town.

Port: Yangon, Myanmar

It sounds strange, but delicious tea leaf salad (called lahpet thoke) is made with fermented tea leaves, fried garlic, tomatoes, crispy fried peanuts, beans, dried shrimp, and chilies, all dressed in sesame oil, lime, and fish sauce.
 
Where to get it: Most restaurants serve it; we like Monsoon (85-87 Thein Phyu Rd.), an easy walk if the ship is docked in town.

Din Tai Fung in Taiwan
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6. Soup Dumplings

Port: Taipei, Taiwan

Xiao long bao are also known as Shanghai soup dumplings — but the most famous purveyor of this Asian delicacy is based in Taipei. Ground pork, chicken, or crab is encased with broth inside a dough wrapper, then steamed. Nip a hole in the dumpling, suck out the soup, then eat the rest.
 
Where to get it: There are several locations of Din Tai Fung (No. 194 Second Section, Xinyi Road) across town.

Port: Taipei, Taiwan

Xiao long bao are also known as Shanghai soup dumplings — but the most famous purveyor of this Asian delicacy is based in Taipei. Ground pork, chicken, or crab is encased with broth inside a dough wrapper, then steamed. Nip a hole in the dumpling, suck out the soup, then eat the rest.
 
Where to get it: There are several locations of Din Tai Fung (No. 194 Second Section, Xinyi Road) across town.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng
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7. Chả Cá Lã Vọng

Port: Hanoi, Vietnam

This dish of fried, turmeric-marinated fish is served over rice noodles, with piles of fresh herbs. It originated at a grubby, 100-year-old dive restaurant by the same name, but now you can find the dish all over town — though most imitations don’t live up to the original.
 
Where to get it: Chả Cá Lã Vọng (14 Cha Ca) is the classic spot. 

Port: Hanoi, Vietnam

This dish of fried, turmeric-marinated fish is served over rice noodles, with piles of fresh herbs. It originated at a grubby, 100-year-old dive restaurant by the same name, but now you can find the dish all over town — though most imitations don’t live up to the original.
 
Where to get it: Chả Cá Lã Vọng (14 Cha Ca) is the classic spot. 

Bibimbap at Gogung in Seoul
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8. Bipimbap

Port: Seoul, Korea

The fun-to-say name translates as “mixed rice,” and this dish typically contains white rice topped with beef and vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, cucumber, daikon radish, spinach, sprouts, and tofu. It’s seasoned with sesame oil, red pepper paste, and sesame seeds, then all mixed together into a bowl of deliciousness.  
 
Where to get it: Gogung (Chungmuro 2-ga 11-1, Jung-gu, Myeongdong) is a bit touristy, but it serves many varieties of bipimbap. There are also Bon Bipimbap shops everywhere, which are great for a quick bite.

Port: Seoul, Korea

The fun-to-say name translates as “mixed rice,” and this dish typically contains white rice topped with beef and vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, cucumber, daikon radish, spinach, sprouts, and tofu. It’s seasoned with sesame oil, red pepper paste, and sesame seeds, then all mixed together into a bowl of deliciousness.  
 
Where to get it: Gogung (Chungmuro 2-ga 11-1, Jung-gu, Myeongdong) is a bit touristy, but it serves many varieties of bipimbap. There are also Bon Bipimbap shops everywhere, which are great for a quick bite.

Chicken rice
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9. Chicken Rice

Port: Hainan, China

Amid Asia’s many spicy cuisines, this mild dish (served with chili sauce on the side) is the perfect comfort food. Poached chicken drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce is served atop white rice, accompanied by a bowl of poaching soup.
 
Where to get it: The dish is served throughout Southeast Asia. In Hainan, you can find it at street vendors. Or splurge and dine at one of Yalong Bay’s beach resorts.

Port: Hainan, China

Amid Asia’s many spicy cuisines, this mild dish (served with chili sauce on the side) is the perfect comfort food. Poached chicken drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce is served atop white rice, accompanied by a bowl of poaching soup.
 
Where to get it: The dish is served throughout Southeast Asia. In Hainan, you can find it at street vendors. Or splurge and dine at one of Yalong Bay’s beach resorts.

Char Kuey Teow
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10. Char Kuey Teow

Port: Penang, Malaysia

A hawker favorite, this dish has flat rice noodles stir-fried with prawns (and sometimes other seafood), bean sprouts, egg, sausage, fish cake, soy sauce, and chilies.
 
Where to get it: You can find it at hawker stands and many restaurants, including Tek Sen (18 Lebuh Carnarvon).

Port: Penang, Malaysia

A hawker favorite, this dish has flat rice noodles stir-fried with prawns (and sometimes other seafood), bean sprouts, egg, sausage, fish cake, soy sauce, and chilies.
 
Where to get it: You can find it at hawker stands and many restaurants, including Tek Sen (18 Lebuh Carnarvon).

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