In the USA we joke that “There is nothing more American than Chinese food.” Asian food has become so westernized that the word “authentic” carries little weight. Here’s an easy solution: go to Asia and get the real deal. Better yet, read our guide to the top 5 cities for Asian food.
Shanghai, China (Soup Dumplings)
According to legend, a street vendor invented soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) in the late 19th century. Today the dish is the most iconic food in China’s most iconic city, Shanghai.
Xiaolongbao has a delicate skin that covers a meat or vegetable-based filling. It’s traditionally prepared in Xiaolong, small bamboo steaming baskets.
Near the City God Temple, you will find Nan Xiang Xiaolong Mantou. The restaurant is more than 100 years old and a favorite of both newcomers and seasoned veterans.
Bangkok, Thailand (Street Food)
The best Asian food isn’t always served on a silver platter.
Bangkok is famous for its food stands with delicious and affordable renditions of classic Thai cuisine. Som Tam (papaya salad), Pla Pao (fish barbecued in salt), and Sai Krok Issan (sour Issan sausage) are some of the most popular dishes.
Running this gauntlet of food stands is now considered something of a rite of passage for visitors. It’s a fun and delicious way to get in touch with the culture while meeting some of the locals.
Tokyo, Japan (Sushi)
Sushi is among the most well-known Asian foods. Everyone is a sushi expert these days, but you don’t know sushi if you haven’t been to Tokyo.
For starters, sushi in Japan is much thicker and larger than the kind served in most other parts of the world. And the volume of restaurants is unparalleled. There are 5,000 sushi restaurants in Tokyo, compared to 500 McDonald’s and 260 Starbucks.
The style of restaurants ranges from “conveyor belt sushi” to high-end shops. Needless to say, you could spend your whole life getting your fix in Tokyo, the world’s sushi capital.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Pho)
Ho Chi Minh City is the epicenter for Pho. A “noodle-soup nirvana”, pho consists of broth, rice noodles called banh pho, a few herbs, and meat. Pho is so prevalent in Vietnam that it’s common for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
One popular Pho joint is “Pho 2000”, known for Bill Clinton’s visit there in the year of, you guessed it, 2000. Another is Pho Hoa – The Family Dynasty One, renowned for its longstanding family ownership and cherished family recipe.
Seoul, South Korea (Korean Barbecue)
Korean Barbecue, or gogi-gui, is another traditional Asian food that has exploded in popularity in recent years in the West.
In Seoul, a waiter brings a charcoal platter to each table and guests order cuts of meat. Guests have the choice of grilling themselves or having it grilled for them.
The most common form of barbecue is bulgogi, usually made from thinly sliced marinated beef sirloin or tenderloin. Like sushi restaurants in Tokyo, styles of Korean Barbecue vary widely. You can find everything from dive restaurants to duck into at 3:00 am to fine dining for your anniversary.