Two weeks in Asia surprisingly left me with a huge craving for Mexican food! I am normally a big fan of Asian cuisine, but I’ve never tried to eat it 24/7 for two weeks straight. Only a few days into our trip I wasn’t sure how much more rice I could handle. And I felt a little guilty about it, but on our very last night there, which was in Hong Kong, we actually went out for Italian food! How silly is that? Silly or not though, it was some of the best ravioli I’ve ever had in my life (my husband had total entrée envy). So I guess what they say is true…Hong Kong has amazing food to offer no matter what you are after.
This trip was of course a tour of Asia though, and we had the opportunity to sample lots of amazing local cuisine as well. We were fortunate enough to visit Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Hong Kong on our travels and here are the highlights from each location…
My cousin is currently working abroad in Singapore so that was our first stop.
One of the first things I noticed was all the amazing tropical fruits that I’d never seen before. I enjoyed trying everything from dragon fruit to longan fruit to lychees to passion fruit. And I loved seeing these options almost everywhere we went because I knew they were native to the area and probably locally sourced.
Singapore felt like a melting pot of cultures and, like Hong Kong, offers a wide variety of cuisine possibilities (except for Mexican LOL). One traditional Singaporian meal we tried was Nasi Lemak, and it could easily be found in what they call “hawker stalls,” which is basically an outdoor food court (pictured). Nasi Lemak is a chicken and rice dish with a deep fried egg on the side. And apparently this dish is all about thesauce so the better the sauce the more popular the food stall.
We loved experiencing the vibrant culture of Thailand and while we were there we of course came across plenty of traditional dishes like pad thai and green curry. I was particularly surprised though to learn of their love for fried chicken legs. I thought it was just a Southern thing, but apparently the Thais are big fans as well. You can see what I mean in the pictured picnic spread above that was served to us during an “elephant ride” excursion, which was quite the experience by the way. The wrapped up bamboo leaves each contained different flavored rice dishes including some sweet ones for dessert. This was one of my favorite meals on the trip!
Aside from riding elephants we also spent the day at a Thai Farm Cooking School, which was located on an organic farm! On the way there we had the opportunity to check out one of the local food markets (pictured). Enclosed supermarkets are also available, but most locals shop at the individual vendors in these open-air markets on a regular basis. And when I say “regular” I mean daily. Apparently you won’t find many Thais stocking up on a week’s worth of groceries all at once like a lot of us do here in the U.S. They like everything very fresh and just like some of the other Asian countries we visited “fresh” sometimes means still alive.
We mainly went to Indonesia to experience some of the best scuba diving in the world, so we pretty much only stayed and ate at our hotel (which was all inclusive). They served us a variety of food with a heavy Asian influence including the pictured traditional Indonesian spread. Sometimes the language barrier prevented me from fully understanding what I was eating and this was one of those occasions! One of my husband’s favorite dishes while we were there was a delicious Indonesian beef broth soup (from the airport) that tasted as though it was flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Like Singapore, Hong Kong is well known for its amazing cuisine, a lot of which has a strong Chinese influence. In both cities we enjoyed “dim sum” for lunch (pictured). You can either order a bunch of little dim sum dishes off the menu or more traditionally the dishes are transported around the restaurant on little carts so each table can make their selections. Some common dim sum offerings include steamed BBQ pork buns, shrimp and/or pork dumplings, and egg rolls. We loved being able to try so many different flavors at one meal!
We also saw a lot of “moon cakes” for sale (pictured above). These expensive, handmade cakes come out annually in celebration of the Chinese “Mid-Autumn Festival,” which happened to be around the time we were there. The cakes come in all sorts of flavors, but I was told that the “lotus” version is the most traditional.
Food that might be unusual in the U.S. is commonplace elsewhere including: fried bugs, frogs (pictured above – these are sold live and not next to that set of knives by accident), organs like livers and hearts, skinned chickens with heads and feet still attached, swallow birds’ nests (made from bird saliva), snakes, bats, rats, and even cats and dogs. We also came across our fair share of unusually flavored chips and crackers including a variety of seafood flavors (pictured).
While I do believe traditional Asian cuisine is generally better for you than some American food (think burgers and fries) it was hard to come across whole grains on our trip. The rice and noodles were pretty much always white, and if by the off-chance we came across some “whole-grain” bread it was not even close to 100% whole-wheat. With that being said, I couldn’t help but notice that obese Asian people are pretty much non-existent so apparently they are doing a lot of things right. Aside from the refined grains portion of their cuisine (and the occasional deep fried dish) I felt most everything else was “whole” including lots of fresh produce, meats and seafood.
Our entire trip was one big adventure, and I feel extremely lucky to have experienced it! We missed our daughters so much though and being away from them for two weeks felt like an eternity. But I knew how much I would enjoy telling our children all about the “other side of the world” and showering them with dozens of little foreign gifts once we got home safe and sound. And after almost 80 hours of total combined travel time (to/from home and to/from each country) and more airplane food than I care to remember I feel like I never want to go anywhere other than home again! Well, at least at the moment and hopefully the next time we decide to leave the country our daughters will be old enough to join us and truly appreciate what we find once we get there. In the meantime we will just continue teaching them about different food cultures in our own kitchen!