Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by hungryoungwoman
My love for food and travel knows no bounds. it is surprising when someone asks me what my niche is and I say food and travel, only for them to reply that they are so different from each other. Actually, food and travel are interrelated. A lover of good food would never be a person of fine taste if they haven’t traveled enough to experience food from other cultures. This is why I make it a point to get down and write about food from different parts of the world like this long post on food cities in Europe and due to its popularity, now this post listing some best food cities in Asia.
Generally, food in Asia is very different from other parts of the world. Asian food involves lots of spices, mixes flavors of sweet and sour, and makes use of separate textures that would make any foodie think this is where the best food destinations are located.
I mean, have you even ventured through the streets of Bangkok sampling fresh fruits? Or, what about the hawker centers of Singapore where taste and affordability go hand in hand? Or or desi street-side food called chaat? Okay, drooling already!
Let’s get down to what you came for quick then!
15 Best Food Cities in Asia for the Ultimate Foodie
- Nagoya, Japan – Lena from Nagoya Foodie
Nagoya, the 4th largest city in Japan is a true foodie paradise. It is generally accepted that Japanese food is some of the best in the world, and Nagoya has some dishes that can only be found there.
While I recommend trying a wide variety of local foods such as Miso Nikomi Udon, thick white noodles stewed in a rich and dark Miso soup, or Tenmusu, mini riceballs filled with a single shrimp Tempura, my favorite dish in Nagoya is Hitsumabushi.
Hitsumabushi is a grilled freshwater eel on rice. And while your first reaction might not be all that positive, it really is a highlight for every foodie I have met so far.
What makes Hitsumabushi so special is the way it is eaten. You divide your dish into four servings. The first serving is enjoyed exactly how it is, hot eel in its delicious sweet soy sauce-based sauce with some rice. Add some condiments such as Wasabi and green onion to your second serving and see how the taste changes. I also recommend adding some Sansho, a special kind of spice that goes very well with eel.
The third serving is enjoyed by adding a Dashi fish broth to the eel and rice. This turns the dish into a kind of soup, changes the flavor again, and gives a completely different texture. Now that you have sampled these three different flavors your last serving of Hitsumabushi is up to you. Enjoy it however you liked it best, plain, with condiments, or with broth.
While you can find Hitsumabushi restaurants all over Nagoya, I recommend a small shop called Hitsumabushi Inou. They have a branch right outside Nagoya Station inside the Esca Underground Shopping Street
2. Penang, Malaysia – Julie from The Bamboo Traveler
If you’re a fan of the late, great Anthony Bourdain, then you’re probably aware that Penang is one of the premier foodie destinations of Southeast Asia. Its culinary reputation comes from its eclectic cultural heritage. You’ve got the Malay, Chinese, and Indian food cultures all mixed into one delicious city.
The best place to check out these traditions is at Penang’s night markets. There are over 20 of these markets on the island. They’re all open from around 6:00 pm to midnight. The easiest one for tourists to find is the Chulia Street Night Market, in the heart of the tourist center of Penang. But if you want to go a little more local, try the Maccalum Street Night Market, Jelutong Street Night Market, or Tanjung Bungah Night Market. Regardless of which one you go to, you’ll find rows of food stalls lining the streets, each one specializing in one or two dishes.
You order from a stall, sit down at a table nearby or in one of the permanent spaces that sells drinks, and wait for your food to be brought to you. It’s delicious, fresh, and cheap! And it’s a convenient way to sample a variety of foods. Some of the dishes you must try are the stir-fried noodle dishes like char koay teow, Hokkien mee, wonton mee, and the noodle soup dishes of Assam laksa (on the sour-side) and Nyonya laksa (on the coconutty-side).
Other dishes you shouldn’t miss are oyster omlettes, rojak (fruit and veggies covered in shrimp paste), nasi kandar (curry), popiah (spring rolls), and lok lok (barbecued skewers of meat and veggies) Check her out on Facebook here.
3. Kathmandu, Nepal – Michelle from Full Time Explorer
Kathmandu often goes overlooked when it comes to its food scene, but this city has so much to offer. Nepal is an interesting country because it has over 125 different ethnicities. In Kathmandu, the capital city, you can find an eclectic mix of popular dishes from all over the country.
Dal baht is by far the most popular dish in all of Nepal. But, it can be made thousands of different ways. Dal baht is a large serving of rice with lentil soup on the side. Typically, it comes with a variety of meat curry, vegetable curry, spinach, spicy pickle, papad (poppadom), and yogurt. Two of the best restaurants in Kathmandu for dal baht are Jimbu Thakali Kitchen and Dal Baht Nepali Kitchen.
A popular street-side snack in Kathmandu is pani puri. Pani puri is a cream puff sized savory treat. It’s a light flaky dough with a mixture of spicy onions, chili, cilantro, chickpea, and flavored water. Just outside of Kathmandu Durbar Square is a small local restaurant tucked away down an alley. It’s called Tip Top and is the best place to get pani puri.
Another popular food is the famous Tibetan momos which are Nepali style dumplings with a spicy chutney dipping sauce. These can be made with chicken, vegetable, paneer, or buffalo meat. The best momo is served at the Tibetan refugee camp, but if you want a centrally located momo, try Momo Hut in Thamel.
For a sweet snack, try jeri which is a fried dough dipped in a sweet sticky sauce. These can be found at local stalls all over the city. For less than a dollar, it’s worth buying a few to share with friends
4. Taipei, Taiwan – Daniel from Taiwan Eater
Taipei has good food, great people and an amazing public transportation system that’s perfect for locals and travelers. The city is extremely easy to get around and can cost as little as USD 0.50 for the bus or subway.
Night markets are a popular spot for eating local food at low prices, but you can actually find Taiwanese food in small local restaurants and even the food courts at the malls in Taipei.
Some of the Taiwanese dishes you must try are:
– Fried chicken steak: A XXL fried chicken breast cooked perfectly and topped with a spicy seasoning (optional)
– Soup dumplings (xiaolongbao): Various fillings from shrimp, vegetables, and more. If you’ve been to Din Tai Fung, you’ve probably had xiaolongbao which originated in Taiwan
– Chinese pancake: A fried green onion pancake with your choice of toppings. It doesn’t taste like a traditional pizza, but the essence and structure are very similar.
– Stinky tofu: It smells, but travel is about taking risks and getting outside your comfort zone. You’ll find that stinky tofu tastes much better than it smells.
Each of these Taiwan dishes can be found for USD 1 – 3 and the portions are very generous. Check him out on YouTube here.
5. Macau, China – Christina from Travel 2 Next
There are several reasons why Macau is considered a leading foodie city in Asia. Not only does Macau have a unique indigenous cuisine (Macanese cuisine), but it also has a high number of Michelin-starred restaurants, and there is a range of excellent Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and French restaurants too. Michelin restaurants in Macau are very reasonably priced, and a meal at a three Michelin star restaurant costs less than in other cities.
With such a rich tapestry of culinary offerings, it’s not surprising that Macau is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in the field of Gastronomy. When visiting Macau, be sure to try typical Macanese dishes such as African Chicken and Minchee. African chicken is served in a spicy sauce while Minchee is a typical Macanese dish of aromatic ground beef, fried with onions and garlic, served with fried potato cubes, steamed rice, and a fried egg.
Coconut milk, tamarind, cinnamon, and shrimp paste are some of the ingredients that add flavor to Macanese dishes.
Popular Macanese restaurants include A Lorcha, Henri’s Gallery, Carlos, and Riquexo, and you’ll find Macanese dishes served in many Portuguese and Chinese restaurants as well
6. Shiraz, Iran – Ellis from Backpack Adventures
If there is one city in Iran where people know how to enjoy life, it is Shiraz and the food culture plays a big part in it. Shirazis not only love the fine arts and poetry but also a good meal whether it is a homecooked family dinner, a picnic, or a night out in a restaurant.
Shiraz has some of the friendliest people in the world. It is not unlikely that people will invite you over for dinner or to join their picnic party at the side of the road. The only danger you will face then is being overfed with delicious stews, sizzling kebabs, and heaps of saffron induced rice.
In Shiraz, you will find all the Persian classics such as Fesenjān (chicken in a walnut pomegranate sauce), Gheymeh (split pea tomato stew) and gormeh sabzi (meat with herbs stew). But, Shiraz has a lot of local specialities as well.
The most famous is Shirazi salad. A simple, but refreshing recipe of tomato, cucumber, herbs and lemon juice. For dinner, there is kallam pollo. A rice dish with cabbage and meatballs that is surprisingly delicious. Shirazis are experts in cooking rice to perfection.
Shiraz also does not disappoint in the dessert department. Faloodeh Shirazi is as sweet as it can get. It consists of thin noodle-like vermicelli with sugar syrup and rose water. A must try in Shiraz as well as the Shirazi saffron icecream!
Saraye Mehr in the bustling and colorful bazaar is one of the most tourist-friendly restaurants in Shiraz where you will find a lot of the dishes mentioned above. Other recommendations include Haft Khan and Qavam restaurant
7. Tokyo, Japan – Chelsea from The Portable Wife
With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, Tokyo is easily a top foodie destination in Asia.
Sushi is a beloved favorite, and you’ll find restaurants in Tokyo to suit every budget. If you can afford it, you should book at a high-end sushi place, where a master chef prepares and serves individual pieces to the 7-12 guests seated at the counter. For a fun (and cheaper) option, head to a Kaitenzushi restaurant, where diners grab whatever dishes they want off of a conveyor belt that runs in front of each seat. Dishes are usually color-coded to indicate the price tier (ex. green = 300 yen, red = 500 yen), and your server will add up your stack of used plates at the end.
Ramen is a staple in Japan, and the country’s best shops are located in the basement level of Tokyo Station. In fact, Ramen Street is one of the most famous things in Japan to do. There are eight stores on Tokyo Ramen Street, and each one has it’s own signature flavor, from Tsujida’s miso both to Rokushasha’s thick Tsukemen noodles.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Tokyo without trying some street food. Harajuku and Akihabara have an abundance of stalls selling everything from sweet crepes to savory Takoyaki, which are battered and fried balls of octopus meat. Be sure to sample Taiyaki, a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with sweet bean paste
8. Kannur, Kerala, India – Neethu from Our Backpack Tales
A beautiful coastal district in the state of Kerala in India, Kannur is known for its delicious food varieties. Kannur is known from some of its iconic tourist places serving authentic and innovative food in Kerala, Kannur is foodie heaven for all you non-vegetarians out there! From snacks to main courses, Kannur is the place to be if you want to taste some yummy Kerala treats!
The popular ‘Neychoru and Kozhi curry’ (Ghee rice and chicken curry) is one of the main delicacies to try when in Kannur. The Thalassery Biriyani comes next in line! It is believed that no one else can get those flavors right! Other meal options include ‘neipathal’ (deep fried rice pancakes) with beef curry and ‘irachichoru’ (meat-rice).
A cup of tea in the evening is just not done without some of those mouthwatering snacks. ‘Unnakaya’ is a popular deep-fried snack made of smashed bananas stuffed with cashew nuts, raisins, coconut and rice flakes in ghee with some cardamom.
The ‘Kozhikal’ (tapioca fritters) is a famous Thalassery street food, which is also loved by the locals and visitors alike.
The flavors of Kannur don’t end here since the list goes on and on! So, on your next trip to Kerala visit this coastal heaven and try some of these delicious treats! Most of these dishes are available in all restaurants. But the snacks are best enjoyed with a cup of tea at a traditional tea shop!
9. Hanoi, Vietnam – John from The Hangry Backpacker
Hanoi is one of the best foodie cities in Asia. The capital of Vietnam is busy, chaotic and overwhelming to the senses. The best part of this sensory overload is food.
Vietnamese food is some of the best in the world. As a food-minded traveler, Hanoi is one of my favorite cities to explore through food. The most famous food in Hanoi is phở, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup. It deserves to be recognized, as phở varies across Vietnam and that in Hanoi is unparalleled. Banh mi is another famous choice. These simple sandwiches are exquisite.
Aside from the famous dishes, Hanoi has some great lesser-known options. Bánh Đa Trộn is my favorite food in Hanoi. It’s not easily found, but there are a few great places to check out with some local insight. Bánh Đa Trộn is a bowl of noodles (no broth), sausage-like fish patties and crispy bits, prepared in a fish paste. It doesn’t sound especially intriguing, but it is heavenly!
Other delicious foods to eat are a Vietnamese hot pot, which is a great foodie experience in Hanoi, and banh cuon, and mushrooms rice batter rolls.
No matter what you eat in Hanoi, street food is king. It’s very popular and extremely cheap. And in between the street food stalls are hundreds of locally-owned, high-quality restaurants. Hanoi is an excellent destination for a hungry traveler and an easy choice for one of the best foodie cities in Asia. Check him on Facebook here.
10. Bangalore, India – Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
As an IT hub, Bangalore is one of the wealthiest and most developed cities in India, and consequently has one of the best restaurant scenes. In addition to incredible Indian food, including both southern Indian and northern Indian dishes, you can also taste other ethnic cuisines from around the world which easily makes it one of the top foodie cities in Asia.
Anywhere in India is always going to have plenty of vegetarian options, but Bangalore really stands out as the best Indian city for vegan foodies. The very first fully vegan restaurant in the country, called Carrots, has been a huge hit ever since it opened a few years ago. Offering up a mix of Indian and international dishes, Carrots also promotes fair trade and organic farming. Be sure to try their baked aubergine mushroom platter.
Want to explore Bangalore? Check out our Karnataka Itinerary for first-timers!
Since the opening of Carrots, three or four more 100% vegan restaurants have come onto the scene, in addition to dozens of vegetarian eateries. Of the latter, one not to miss is Go Native, a farm-to-table café that sources all its produce from organic farms on the outskirts of Bangalore. This is a great place for health-conscious eaters to try healthier versions of traditional south Indian dishes. For example, the paddu, stuffed with chili, corn, and onions, is absolutely divine!
11. Hong Kong – Lily from Lily Wunders
Hong Kong, a city known for its skyscrapers and fast-paced lifestyle, has one of the highest density of restaurants in the entire world.
When it’s time to celebrate, Hong Kongers eat dim sum. Or when it’s the weekend. Or anytime, really. Dim sum is so ubiquitous that it’s become a symbol of southern Chinese food. Dim Sum isn’t a dish in and of itself – rather, it’s a collection of dumplings, buns, and other hand-made bite-sized dishes served on small plates and bamboo baskets, meant for a group to share. Although every neighborhood will have its own best dim sum joints, the most famous dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong are Maxim’s at City Hall and Lin Heung Tea House. Order har gow (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (dumplings). Get the chicken feet if you’re feeling brave (the savory-sweet sauce is addictive!).
Roast meat, or siu mei, is a genre of meat roasting that includes complicated marinating and roasting techniques. If you’re visiting Hong Kong and see poultry strung up by their legs, dangling in windows, you can be sure you’re in a siu mei restaurant. Served with a plate of white rice, there isn’t a more satisfying 40 HKD (5 USD) lunch in town. Cheap joints include Joy Hing in Wan Chai and Yat Lok in Central.
Hong Kong is a noodle-loving city, and one of the most well-loved varietals is beef brisket noodles. Springy fresh noodles are served in a bowl of long-simmered beef bone broth, with strips of tender beef brisket on top. Famous local spots to grab a bowl are Sister Wah in Tin Hau, or popular Kau Kee in Sheung Wan, which also serves a completely irresistible curry version of the dish with texturally perfect beef tendon. Check her on Instagram!
12. Lahore, Pakistan – Samantha from Intentional Detours
Lahore, Pakistan isn’t just a city that has good food. It’s a city that lives and breathes food… and Lahoris are proud of it! Almost all restaurants are open DAILY until 2-3 am and it’s not uncommon to see young families out for a bite after midnight. There are thousands of eateries in the city, with every budget, taste, and style in mind. From street food stands dishing up salty crunch corn, to Sunday morning breakfast spots serving up some delectable chole bhature or halwa puri (fluffy bread paired with a slightly spicy chickpea sauce or a sweet confectionary topping), to western-style cafes like the famous Hotspot that know how to make an Oreo cheesecake – Lahore has it all- literally.
If you find yourself heading to this epic foodie city, there are some quintessential Lahori dishes (and spots) that just can’t be missed. Though a bit of an adventurous choice, you can’t visit Lahore without trying some paaye. Paaye is a juicy, fatty delicacy of none other than goat hoof- simmered in a frothy spicy sauce and often paired with a thick, doughy piece of naan bread.
Tawa chicken – braised chicken meat soaked in a spicy sauce – is another must-eat, and from experience is best tried at Shah Chicken Tawa Roast inside of Lahore’s Walled City. This foodie paradise is also known for its chaapli kebab (minced mutton-meat patty chock-full of spices), and Haleem (a thick stew with shreds of beef/chicken stirred into a thick lentil and barley concoction).
My favorite dish in Lahore is simpler than all of the above, but still extremely tasty. What might it be? One word: Tikka. Tikka is basically just barbecue, of beef, of chicken legs, of mutton pieces– and boy can Lahoris tikka! Such shops and restaurants can be found in all corners of the city. Expertly spiced and juicy as can be, tikka is best paired with some raita (desi-style yogurt) and of course, naan bread. If you’re looking for some superb chicken tikka, Ashraf Fresh Tikka in the Gulberg section of Lahore has definitely got you covered.
These are just some of the thousands of foodie delights Lahore has to offer- though certain famous spots are worth the intentional trek to, rest assured that anywhere you go in the city, you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy each and every craving. Check her on Instagram!
13. Chiang Mai, Thailand – Melissa from Nomad Life 101
Chiang Mai is a big foodie destination without a question. Its most famous local specialty is the Khao Soy (Khao Soi), and it’s better to try it once than talk about it hundreds of times. It’s the Northern Thai dish made of crispy and soft egg noodles in a rich creamy coconut curry broth to which you can add chicken, beef, shrimp, or fish. It usually comes with a fresh lime wedge, shallots, pickled cabbage, and roasted chili on the side. The best spot for the most delicious Khao Soy is Khao Soi Khun Yai, located in the Old City next to Wat Kuan Kama.
But that’s definitely not all! Chiang Mai has a lot of food markets and restaurants that will be suitable for both meat lovers and also vegans or vegetarians. Some of my favorite local markets are Ton Payom behind Chiang Mai University and Chang Pheuak Gate (North Gate). They both have a big variety of food, however, one is open mainly through the day and the other one through the night. For the healthier options, local cafes are the best places to go and cafe culture is a big thing in Chiang Mai, especially because of the many digital nomads based there
14. Singapore by Hungryoungwoman
Singapore is a foodie haven and I wouldn’t be wrong if I say the country has some of the best food in the world. This is mainly because of the melting pot of cultures present in the country that does wonders for its development and give food a new meaning.
I experienced a mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese food which all becomes Singaporean food. If you want the best food in Singapore, I suggest going to one of its numerous hawker centers. This is the strongest place for the Asian food market as you get taste and affordability together. I was happy to experience so many new dishes while I was there planning my Singapore budget itinerary. Read on to know about my full stay there.
Even if you are spending only 2 days in Singapore, you must absolutely check out the food scene!
Some main dishes to try are the Laksa, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mee Hoon Goreng, and Nasi Goreng. If you want more choices, then you should read this list of what to eat in Singapore
15. Hoi An, Vietnam – Heather from Raulerson Girls Travel
Hoi An should be on your bucket list for visiting. if you are a foodie person, this town has several dishes that are unique for Hoi An and Vietnam.
There are the white rose dumplings that are made from translucent white dough filled with spiced minced shrimp and bunched to look like white roses.
And for the non-meat eaters, there is the Pomelo Salad. This salad is amazingly sweet and spicy at the same time. This salad was a dish that I made in a cooking class in Hoi An. The salad has onions, mint, prawns, fried shallots, coconut milk, lime juice, chili sauce, sea salt, and black pepper. But the uniqueness in making the salad is how you have to remove the skin of the pomelo. You have to cut it like an orange and peel the skin off all in one piece. It is not as easy as it sounds! I happened to be the only one out of the whole class that was able to do it without breaking the peel.
Besides these delicacies, you can find all sorts of street food among the vendors in the daily night market. The street food tends to run more exotic than what is offered in Thailand or Laos. You can find full Lobsters, Octopus, Squid, and even Frog Legs. And with the exchange rate favorable in most countries, you can try multiple foods very cheaply in Hoi An. Which makes this a fantastic Foodie City for you to bring your taste buds and explore. Check her out on Instagram!
Asia surely has some of the best food cities in the world! If you have visited any of the above cities or feel that a foodie city is missing out, let me know! I would love to add more to this list and help other foodie travelers 🙂
Until then, happy eating! xx
P.S. If you want to save and read later, here are some pinnable versions 🙂
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19 thoughts on “15 Food Cities in Asia for the Ultimate Foodie”
Mmm.. I love Asian cuisine! I lived in HK for a couple of months and it was such an adventure in terms of food – you could literally find the best eats from all over the world!
Wow so many delicious looking options! Makes me want to book a flight right now!
I’ve been trying out more Asian restaurants around me recently, and now I’m dying to visit Asia just for the food! I’ll be saving all these locations for later!
I miss Asian food so much! But so much of their cuisine consists of meat dishes….and it’s hard to find vegetarian or vegan choices. Hopefully one day they will broad their cuisine to include non-meat substitutes.
Patti, you obviously need to research a bit more. India is predominantly vegetarian and has thousands of vegan options, much of south east asia has incredible options for vegans/vegetarians, yes, even JAPAN! They have come leaps and bounds the last decade.
Haha! I just sent this to my boyfriend because we’re planning a big East Asia trip during the Olympics and want to eat our way through it all! Looking forward to trying so many things!!
Mmmm definitely miss those road stalls in Georgetown, Penang! Soooo good! Kathmandu (where I lived for a year) is also one of the best places for delicious food!
Loved your post, I loved that you showed such a great variety of Asian cuisine.
Food goals right here. I’ve been to some of these places like Vietnam and Thailand and I loved everything I ate. But there are so many on this list I still really need to try. India would be the dream
My tummy growled while reading your article! Awesome!
All of these cities are amazing!! I would love to revisit Kathmandu and Taiwan again for a proper food trip with friends who can introduce me to more dishes especially. I would also like ot go to Macau as well!
Yes, I especially love Asian food because of such different textures and flavors they add in the dishes. Need to go specially for a food trip again!
You have written a terrific list! Your photos are gorgeous! I’m impressed! Your blog is probably one of the most detailed one I’ve ever read! Thanks!
Thank you so much!