From the remote steppe of Mongolia to the thick jungles of Thailand, Asian food has such an incredible range of flavors and styles. The bazaars and market places are where you should go to get a really full experience of the cuisine. They’re also places where you’ll bump shoulders with an array of hill tribes, ethnic groups, wonderful national dress and local characters.
- Donguwa Bazaar, Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
These impressive daily markets become riotous on Sundays when a kaleidoscope of people in scarves and berets descend on the covered arched walkways. Uigur food in the form of skewered meat and bread is available from stalls but there’s also an incredible array of nuts, dried fruits and spices and a popular milky ice drink.
- Merkuri market, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
You could find a horse head, yak cheese or even an imported luxury item like caviar at this food market in central Ulaanbaatar. There’s also plenty of fruit and vegetables making it the place to stock up on your groceries.
- Penang, Malaysia
You could be in Penang for many reasons, but one is probably to taste the amazing rice noodle dish laksa. Many claim it comes from this town although in Penang it’s a sourer version to the coconut ones enjoyed in the west.
- Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Eat yourself silly in the roadside stalls, open air restaurants, hawker stalls and food bazaars in this area. Selections of food provide a real gastronomic adventure from Chinese delicacies to Portuguese food, Malaysian satay, Japanese seafood and exotic cuisine from North and South India. There’s also a magnificent variety of cakes, pastries, fruits and sweet drinks.
- Marina Jaya Ancol, Jakarta, Indonesia
This port area serves up fabulous seafood and other local and international specialties in a location near Pantai Carnaval. Watch the yachts, motor and sailboats go by as you dine; then walk it all off on the beach afterwards.
- Floating markets, Bangkok
Thais take their food very seriously, even when they are bartering for produce over the watery canals of some of Bangkok’s floating markets. For visitors it can be touristy but it’s also noisy, crowded and fun. Give your taste buds a zing from the choice of snacks, fresh fruit or vegetables and noodles usually sold by toothless village women.
- Hawker Centres, Singapore
Singaporeans are obsessed with food and they have plenty of options – a recent poll showed there were 3,725 restaurants and 17,080 hawker stalls. Food here is also cheap and really fresh. Crab is Singapore’s unofficial national dish and while you could go to the East Coast Seafood Centre, a cluster of restaurants facing the Straits of Singapore, the cheaper and more authentic places are hawker centers. Newton Circus on Cavenagh Road is a must and Chijmes on Victoria St has a complex of bars and restaurants set around an old convent.
- Chinatown, Bangkok
Want a grin like a Chinatown cat? Look no further than Bangkok’s answer to the culinary arts. It can be basic and ramshackle but the choice from legions of street side stalls and restaurants is unbelievable. Choose from skewered meats, seafood, noodles, beverages and sweets.
- Muang Sing, Laos
For a close encounter with the ethnic hill groups of northern Laos, visit this lively weekly market on Sunday. The village people come to sell fruits, vegetables, meats and crafts. Some of the local specialties include fermented soybean paste wafers and a variety of local sweets made from sticky rice and coconut.
- Dong’anmen night market, Beijing
These street stalls have bits and bobs from all over China, a perfect way of tasting your way across the nation while only walking a fifth of a mile. It’s also cheap as chips for a scorpion or snake on a stick, octopus, all manner of seafood, meat and various odd looking deserts like fried ice cream.