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best cuisine in asia

5 Countries in Asia with Some of the Best Cuisine

Megan Monte
by Megan Monte

June 12, 2024

9 minute read

Asia is home to a vast array of diverse regions and nations. Its nearly 50 countries each have cuisines that reflect unique cultures, peoples, regions, climates, and influences. Within each cuisine exist variations and different takes, adding even more diversity to the massive continent’s culinary landscape.

With so many different flavours, culinary traditions, and types of foods in Asia’s various regions, it’s impossible to name one country as having the “best” food. The only way to determine which country’s dishes you like the most is to eat your way through the continent—a mission our tours can certainly aid you with.

That being said, a good place to start could be with a few popular dishes from several countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, India, Japan, and Singapore:

best cuisine in asia vietnam

1. Vietnam

Balance is central to Vietnamese cuisine. Texture contrasts—like crunchy and chewy—and harmony between sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and spicy flavours are found in many dishes. Generally fresh and light in flavour, Vietnamese food often includes ingredients such as fish sauce, basil, lemongrass, and mint. However, Vietnamese food can vary by region. A food tour, like the one included in our Kingdoms of Southeast Asia Tour, is a great way to sample Vietnam’s most renowned foods and lesser-known gems.

Vietnamese Food Overview

  • Is Vietnamese Food Spicy?

Vietnamese food isn’t particularly spicy, but some dishes, like those from central Vietnam, can bring the heat. Bún bò Huế is one example.

  • What Is the National Food of Vietnam?

Pho, or “Phở,” is often recognized as a national food of Vietnam. A noodle soup that traditionally comes with thin slices of meats and other add-ins, pho is enjoyed across the world. The dish’s English spelling, “pho,” is adapted from the Vietnamese term, “phở.” Despite the difference in spelling, the English pronunciation generally remains true to its Vietnamese roots: “fuh.”

  • Is Street Food Popular in Vietnam?

Streetside snacks and meals are certainly popular in Vietnam. Pho, light spring rolls, noodle bowls, and bánh mì are just a few of the many Vietnamese street food offerings.

Foods to Try in Vietnam

Pho

A quintessential Vietnamese dish, pho is a must-try. The base of the soup is a savoury broth often made with beef bones and simmered for hours. Noodles, thinly sliced beef or meat, and other toppings make for a comforting bowl.

Bánh xèo

Crunchy and chewy in texture, this savoury rice crepe is stuffed with a combination of delectable fillings like shrimp, bean sprouts, mushrooms, or chicken and served with a special sauce.

Gỏi cuốn

Gỏi cuốn, or fresh spring rolls, are the perfect healthy option when you’re craving something lighter. Vegetables, pork, seafood, vermicelli, and other fresh ingredients are wrapped in rice paper and enjoyed with a dipping sauce, such as a peanut sauce.

best cuisine in asia thailand

2. Thailand

Thai cuisine is defined by a blend of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavours. Soups, curries, noodles, savoury proteins, and salads are some popular dishes. Authentic Thai food often features fresh, aromatic ingredients like Thai basil, lemongrass, chilies, makrut lime leaves, and galangal, which is from the ginger family. Whilst many dishes are on the lighter side and incorporate vegetables, deep-frying and stir-frying are also popular cooking techniques.

Thai Food Overview

  • Is Thai Food Spicy?

Thai food is famous for being very spicy, thanks to certain chilies. Dishes like gaeng som are famous for their extra fiery kick, but there are also some dishes on the milder side.

  • What Is the National Food of Thailand?

Pad Thai, the world-renowned noodle dish, is often named as a national food of Thailand. Another beloved Thai dish is Pad Grapao, a stir fry of pork and holy basil.

  • Is Street Food Popular in Thailand?

Usually cooked-to-order, street food is abundant in Thailand. Noodle dishes, soups, grilled meats, and fried insects are a few popular finds

Foods to Try in Thailand

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is arguably the most widely-known Thai dish. Usually low on the spiciness scale, a sweet, salty, and savoury sauce coats a stir-fry of noodles, scrambled eggs, peanuts, bean sprouts, and shrimp.

Tom Yum Goong

This traditional Thai dish is a popular hot and sour soup that usually features shrimp. The broth can be flavored with lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, galangal, garlic, and chilli, among other seasonings.

Som Tam

Som Tam is a green papaya salad. Strips of green papaya are the base of this light dish, which can include chopped tomatoes and long beans. It’s commonly flavored with ingredients like palm sugar, lime, chilli, garlic, fish sauce, and peanuts.

best cuisine in asia india

3. India

Rich, flavorful spices are at the centre of Indian cuisine. Common ingredients include garam masala, cumin, fennel, cardamom, chilli pepper, mustard seeds, turmeric, and coriander—to name a few. Luxurious curries, marinated tandoor-roasted meats, fresh chutneys, delicious vegetarian meals, and soft naan bread are some of India’s most recognized offerings. But, a trip across the nation will quickly reveal the diversity of Indian cuisine, which can change in flavour, texture, and type based on where you are.

Indian Food Overview

  • Is Indian Food Spicy?

Indian cuisine is abundant in bold spices, but whilst some dishes come with high heat levels, others don’t. Chilies are incorporated in many Indian dishes, but their flavour profiles vary, and some Indian foods don’t include chilies at all.

  • What Is the National Food of India?

Some might consider Khichdi, a popular comfort food, to be the national food of India. Many variations exist, but at its foundation, khichdi is a flavorful meal of lentils, rice, and aromatic spices.

  • Is Street Food Popular in India?

India has a vibrant street food culture. Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata are only a few of the cities known for their delicious streetside snacks and meals.

Foods to Try in India

Butter Chicken

Indian cuisine includes many different curries, one of which is Butter Chicken, or murg mackhani. Typically red or orange in colour, this curry consists of chicken and a spiced sauce made with tomato and butter. It’s usually on the milder side of spicy.

Biryani

Biryani is a dish of fluffy rice, meat, and aromatic spices. Whilst there are multiple ways to make biryani, it’s traditionally made through a slow cooking technique called “dum cooking.” Marinated chicken is layered in a pot with par-boiled rice and other additions. The pot is then sealed with dough, and the food cooks over a low fire.

Tandoori Chicken

In this dish, chicken marinated in yogurt and spices is roasted in a cylindrical clay oven, called a tandoor. The result is juicy, tender, and flavorful chicken that’s oftentimes red in colour.

best cuisine in asia japan

4. Japan

Whilst many of us are familiar with Japanese sushi, it’s only one small part of this island country’s fare. Traditional Japanese cuisine is informed by a dietary culture called “washoku,” which prioritizes a connection to nature. Dishes feature fresh, seasonal ingredients from both land and sea and are intertwined with various celebrations and festivals. With a focus on artful presentation, food in Japan often looks as incredible as it tastes. And, although there are many ways to enjoy Japanese cuisine, our Japan: Past and Present journey brings you the perfect Japanese food experience with a diverse multi-course kaiseki meal.

Japanese Food Overview

  • Is Japanese Food Spicy?

Japanese food usually isn’t very spicy, especially when compared to Thai food.

  • What Is the National Food of Japan?

Curry rice is considered a national food dish of Japan. Eaten regularly by many, it consists of a tasty curry served over rice, just as the name suggests.

  • Is Street Food Popular in Japan?

Street food is an important part of Japanese culture. Tokyo’s Tsukiji Outer Market is a great place to try gyoza, ramen, and more from a variety of vendors.

Foods to Try in Japan

Sushi

Whilst sushi is beloved across the world, there’s nothing quite like having it in Japan. Traditional Japanese sushi is known for being simple. A roll might just consist of rice, fish, and nori, and it may be dipped in soy sauce before eating.

Tempura

Another recommended dish is tempura. It usually consists of lightly battered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables and can be a side dish, main dish, or topping.

Ramen

This Japanese noodle dish comes in many variations but generally involves a flavorful slowcooked bone broth, noodles, tender meats, and other add-ins.

best cuisine in asia singapore

5. Singapore

Both noodles and rice are mainstays of Singaporean food, which is influenced by various cultures, including Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, Western, and Indian. Noodle soups, curries, succulent meats, spicy sauces, and stir-fries are just a few of this melting pot’s diverse offerings. The country is particularly known for its “hawker culture,” a practice of community dining. “Hawkers” prepare delicious foods to serve to people at hawker centers, which are open-air complexes filled with vendors and food stalls.

Singaporean Food Overview

  • Is Singaporean Food Spicy?

Singaporean food can be spicy, due to the variety of cultures that influence its cuisine—and the hot chilies that make their way into some dishes.

  • What Is the National Food of Singapore?

Hainanese chicken rice is considered by some to be Singapore’s national food. This classic dish consists of fragrant rice, poached chicken, and sauces.

  • Is Street Food Popular in Singapore?

Thanks to Singapore’s hawker culture, there are plenty of affordable streetside food options available. It’s a great way to try popular dishes like chilli crab and Hainanese chicken rice at a lower price.

Foods to Try in Singapore

Hainanese Chicken Rice

A classic Singaporean food, this dish features tender, poached chicken over aromatic rice withdelicious dipping sauces.

Chilli Crab

Chilli crab is a cooked hard-shelled crab served under a healthy serving of sweet, salty, and spicy tomato sauce. It’s a popular find at hawker centers.

Char Kway Teo

This stir-fried noodle dish is typically made with rice noodles, bean sprouts, eggs, seafood, and other add-ins, and cooked with a sauce that’s savoury, sweet, and spicy.

Experiencing Culture and Food Firsthand in Asia

These five countries—and their popular dishes—offer only a taste of Asia’s diverse and complex food culture. This enormous continent encompasses various regions and is home to an abundance of distinct cuisines, flavours, cooking techniques, and traditions that exceed any list. And whilst some plates can be sampled anywhere in the world, the best way to experience and understand the culture behind them is to do so in their origin.

Authentic culinary experiences are a unique component of our tours. They introduce travellers to incredible food, whilst also fostering deeper connections with the people, history, and customs of a place. If you’re ready to try the flavours of a new destination, visit our website to book your next adventure.

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