Last updated: 04:54 PM ET, Tue February 18 2014

Far East Eats: Sampling the Street Foods of Asia

Features & Advice | Cherese Weekes | February 18, 2014

Far East Eats: Sampling the Street Foods of Asia

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According to a survey performed by Hilton Worldwide, more than a third of leisure travelers visiting the Asia Pacific (APAC) appreciate destinations that cater to their appetites, and 92% of tourists in Thailand are deeply determined to take a bite out of local dishes and popular street foods.

The survey also showed that local street fare has become a deciding factor in the traveler’s daily activities.

But these are all numbers and statistics; what do they mean to the traveler? It means culinary travel in Asia has set the tone for its chefs to whip up local favorites that urge travelers to eat their way to the heart of its bustling streets. For this reason, we take to the epicurean pathways of Asia to explore history and culture through sizzling street eats.

Chunar (Kebabs)

Food connoisseurs of all stripes grace the vibrant junctions of Beijing for its peculiar culinary treats. Here, even the bugs are a delicacy. 

The kebab specialties are popular with food hunters all trying to get their hands on sizzling lamb, chicken, fish and beef kebabs, each equally as tasty.

For the adventurous, get ready to test your pallets with deep-fried scorpions, starfish, cockroaches and octopus prepared any way you want.

On the bright side, there’s no need for a knife and fork or a plate since kebabs are served on a stick, which means it is OK to just sink your teeth in as ravenously as you want. 

Just don’t mistake your lamb kebab for a tasty cockroach if you’re not an audacious eater.

Where to get it:

Wangfujing Street or Snack Street

Roti canai

Derived from Indian decent, Roti canai is thin-shaped bread made from flour, water or milk and fat. It is commonly consumed plain or dipped into different flavors of curries.

In true Malaysian form, silverware is completely useless when digging into this staple dish.  Just grab it with your hands and bite away.

Where to get it:

In the Mamak stalls of Kuala Lumpur 

Laska

Unique to Singapore, Laska is a dish so coveted, stall owners have been feuding for years over its original recipes.

The popular dish is a creamy, thick soup dressed in thinly cut noodles and flavored with cucumbers, tamarind and a blend of secret local ingredients making it easily slurped with a large spoon or chopsticks.

Make your mark in Singapore history and take your taste buds to the trenches of the Katong Laska War to see which recipe tickles your fancy.

Where to get it:

49 Katong Laksa at 49 East Coast Road; 328 Katong Laksa at 51 East Coast Road; and Marine Parade Laksa at 50 East Coast Road

Ci fan

Take a huge bite out of Ci fan, which a Chinese staple breakfast meal or more like a big ball of rice filled with a fried dough stick (you tiao), pickled-flavor vegetables, sugar, fried eggs and meat sauce.

Where to get it:

Stick to the corners of Nanyang Lu and Xikang for Ci fan’s most authentic recipes.

Pad Thai

The taste is all in the details when it comes to the savory flavors of Bangkok’s famous Pad Thai. 

The streets of Thailand become a musical stage where the crackle and banging of woks mean one thing to the culinary tourist — the smell of the beloved dish is not far behind. 

Cooked over an open fire, the noodles are simmered in the oils of shrimp, tofu and sometimes wrapped in an egg, depending on your style. 

Where to get it:

Khao San Road in Old City, Bangkok

Yakitori

Japan is dominated by an eventful history and countless religious temples, but it is also a destination where foodies can get a bite out of life.  The internationally known Yakitori (chicken barbecue) does not disappoint.  It is a tall stick of chicken grilled to perfection, then topped with a savory, tangy sauce bursting with flavor.

Once again, no need for silverware; your fingers are good enough.

Where to get it:

Kurume City, Fukuoka, Japan

Moo Dad Deaw

Strolling down the streets of Bangkok, it may be difficult to decide on a stall that has the right recipe to satisfy your appetite from its plethora of vendors. 

When in doubt, every true carnivore will appreciate moo dad deaw, a string of beef jerky dangling from food carts like clothes hanging on a line drying in the sun.

On the Thai meat street, this where you will find this hearty dish diced thinly, and drenched in soy sauce, the meat is them simmered of fried to create a rough texture.

Where to get it:

Petchaburi Soi 5, Bangkok

Stinky Tofu

You will definitely smell this specialty before you taste or even see it.  Stinky tofu, affectionately known as chòu dòufu, is a roadside dish comprised of mustard greens, shrimp, bamboo shoots, and herbs. 

For about two days it is seasoned in brine and later stewed, steamed or fried and topped in a rich brown sauce for that added touch.

It is believed among locals that the more rotten it smells, the better the taste, so hold your nose and dig in.

Where to get it:

Dundas Street, Hong Kong

Bo Kho

If you’re a fan of beef stew, then bo kho will quickly become a favorite.  It is a Vietnamese stew blended with ginger, curry, lemongrass, carrots, and ginger, and served with noodles and beef shank, chuck or flank chopped in bite-sized pieces swimming in brown gravy. 

As a popular Vietnamese treat the streets of the country like an open kitchen, allowing the yummy ingredients to seep through the air, filling every nook and cranny.

Served in a bowl, bho kho offers a taste of the Vietnamese flair with just one bite.

Where to get it:

Saigon, Vietnam

Som Tam

Som Tam is a spicy salad made from papaya, tomatoes and tamarind, combined with fish gravy and shrimp to give it that extraordinary taste.

If you’re treading the alleys of Bangkok, this traditional cuisine is only for those brave enough to taste its tangy flavors head on.  

Although it is prepared in restaurants, the stalls of Bangkok offer an authenticity and a fascinating show as its prepared hibachi style. A word to the wise: The more crowded the stall, the better the som tam.

Where to get it:

Som Tam Nua, Bangkok

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