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Asias Lesser Known Culinary Cities

Lizzie Williams

Posted: 30th June 2015 11:42

Asia is blessed with some of the tastiest and most distinctive foods in the world, and heading there yourself is the perfect way to sample it first hand.  Although the best food can often be found in traditional villages where regional favourite have been cooked the same way for generations and prepared with fresh ingredients, for more exotic and more exciting fare, or simply a break from the local staples, you should head to one of the major cities – thankfully, these too produce amazing food.

Tokyo alone has more Michelin stars than any other city on the planet, Bangkok’s street food is so ubiquitous that some flats are built without kitchens, and Delhi is arguably the greatest culinary city in the world.  However, if you don’t have time to fit these into your itinerary, don’t worry; there are plenty more to choose from, with amazing international variety as well as delicious local treats.  Here are our favourite lesser known culinary cities in Asia.

Seoul – South Korea

There is a wide variety of international cuisine available in Seoul.  South Korea’s economic expansion, the growth of tourism, and increasing number of South Koreans indulging in international travel have all broadened the variety of food Seoul has to offer.

Restaurants opened by kyopo (the local word for ethnic Koreans born or raised elsewhere), have bridged the culinary gap between South Korea and the rest of the world.  Many South Koreans who had emigrated to the USA have now returned to establish businesses in their home country, bringing influences from all over the world with them.

This is not to say that traditional Korean restaurants have disappeared – they haven’t.  The extensive competition serves only to ensure that the standard of catering in the city remains high everywhere, making it the perfect place to sample some amazing Seoul food.

Taipei – Taiwan

Taiwanese cuisine is an eating experience that caters for sight, smell, and touch as well as taste.  At some point in history the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese have all landed on Taiwan’s shores and left some influence on Taiwanese cooking.

Like New York, Taipei is a city that never sleeps and offers whatever kind of dining experience you are looking for.  Imported foods are readily available but are very expensive and fresh, local food is readily available on nearly every street in the Taiwanese capital.  Night markets have street vendors selling a huge variety of snacks and something for every palate or whim can be purchased from any of the noodle bars, restaurants, cafés and diners found all over the city.

Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia

As a growing city, Ulaanbaatar’s culinary scene is on the up.  Just over a decade ago the available cuisine reflected a reluctance to try anything new, rarely straying from traditional meat, dairy and fat dishes. 

Greater tourism, however, has enticed more foreign chefs and there can now be found several eateries offering international cuisines to tourists.  Sri Lankan, Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese restaurants have all proved to be huge successes, and opened the flood gates for a rapid revolution in Mongolian attitudes to cooking.

Vegetables, still virtually impossible to grow in Mongolia, tend to be imported so the good news is you’re unlikely to order sprouts by accident.  The bad news is that you’ll probably want to; sheep’s heads are harder to swallow.

Osaka – Japan

While it is Tokyo that draws the big crowds with its food scene, it is Osaka that really benefits from the arrangement.  While Tokyo’s food scene is sensational, dynamic and fashionable, catering to people with more money than sense, Osaka can stick to tried and true traditional recipes that local Japanese clients love.  As a result, its sukiyaki, takoyaki, okonomiyaki and kushi-katsu can claim to be the best in the entire country.

Shinsekai district in particular is famous for its delicious sushi restaurants where you can try the real deal without paying Tokyo’s extraordinary prices, and Osaka was among the first places to embrace the now famous teppanyaki method of cooking.  It is still possible to visit a Misono Steakhouse (the first company to use the technique), although it’s not cheap.

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