Food is a huge part of culture no matter where you go, and for some of us, it can make or break a vacation. Here in Hong Kong we are lucky to be surrounded with some of the best street food cities in the world. Take your pick — the options are endless.
Taipei is one of those cities that you keep going back to. It’s both quiet and buzzing, sophisticated and casual. The food scene is top-notch, with each district putting on snack-driven night markets every day of the week. With some crossover in the cuisine, it’s not unlike what Hong Kong could have been like if hawkers were enabled to thrive. A walk down Roahe Night Market, Shida, Ningxia, Huashan or even overrun Shilin will reward you with an ultra affordable feast of oyster omelettes, red bean cakes, waffles, stinky tofu and more.
Must-try: The obvious staples include bubble milk tea, aka boba, pork belly bao, and stinky tofu. The not quite as obvious? Try beef noodle soup, Hujiao bing (pork and scallion biscuits), and dreamy salt-and-pepper fried chicken.
Read More: Check out Insider’s Guide to Taipei for more foodie inspiration.
In terms of sheer abundance, Bangkok is hard to beat. Every street seems to be flanked with hawkers and rough-and-tumble stalls serving up obvious staples like mango sticky rice, pad Thai, green papaya salad, tropical fruit juices, and sweet banana-filled crepes. The city’s so big that you won’t be able to bite off a tiny portion on one trip, which just means you should keep going back for more.
Must-try: Comfort food comes in the form of wide flat noodles stir-fried with veg and protein in a super hot wok. Assuming you need to cool off in the Bangkok heat, grab an iced black tea with condensed milk and hit the town.
Say what you will about Singapore’s ultra sterile atmosphere but you can’t argue with the food, even if it’s technically not on the street. The dishes take influence from a mix of Malay, Peranakan, Chinese and Indian — making them infinitely interesting and packed full of flavor. There seems to be an open-air hawker center on every corner, so you can get your fill of kaya toast, satay, Hainan chicken and Katong laksa wherever you go.
Must-try: Hokkien mee noodles! Rojak! Chili crab! Just don’t stop eating the entire time you’re there.
All of Japan
No we’re not exaggerating. From frenetic Tokyo (Jiro Dreams of Sushi, anyone?) to the weird and wonderful eats in Okinawa, and everything in between, Japan has some of the best food in the world in easy access izakayas, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, ramen shops and mobile food stalls called yatai serving up everything from skewers to gyoza and sushi.
Though it’s not always on the top of the to-do list in Japan, Fukuoka is actually a foodie hotspot among domestic travelers. With more than 150 open-air food stalls, you can thank Fukuoka for rich and savory tonkotsu ramen, topped with pork belly, hard-boiled egg and pickled veg.
Must-try: Try it all obviously. But if you find yourself in Fukuoka, don’t leave without trying spicy pollack roe, called mentaiko, which can be eaten solo or as a topping on pretty much anything.
The coastal city of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia, is a cross between India, China and Malaysia, with big airy markets where you can sit down on a plastic stool and just eat for hours. There’s fresh seafood thrown in to the mix, plus lots of flaky roti flatbreads, nasi kandar curry buffet, mountains of shaved ice kacang, and char kway teow stir-fried noodles. For breakfast, start the day off with a few slices of grilled kaya toast smothered in coconut butter and served with strong, milky coffee.
Must-try: Unlike its creamy Singaporean equivalent, assam laksa in Penang is a sour and spicy laksa in a clear fish broth. Add a hard-boiled egg and go to town.
We’d be remiss if we talked about street food and didn’t mention Hanoi. The northern city is home to an excellent combination: Southeastern spice paired with French techniques. The result? You’ll find everything from fragrant pho noodle soup to decadent bánh mì sandwiches, grilled squid, light and airy lettuce wraps and bun cha (grilled pork belly and rice noodles).
Lots of the dishes in Hanoi revolve around a combo of fish sauce, fresh herbs, cilantro, lemongrass and chili — all using market fresh ingredients. If you have time to make a food pilgrimage across Vietnam, we also highly recommend the food in Hoi An, where more fresh feasts await.
Must-try: In Hanoi, the bun cha is said to be a must, as is pho since you’re in its hometown and all. Wash it all down with some sweet, milky coffee and some sticky rice to boot.
If you’re heading to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, then you’re in for a serious treat. The city’s home to incredible dishes that take influence from Chinese Muslims. The Muslim Quarter is where you can try it all, where frills-free restaurants and street food hawkers serve charcoal-grilled lamb kebabs, cold sesame noodles, and delectable grilled quail eggs on a skewer.
Must-try: Flaky crepes infused with scallion, pork and fried egg? Yep, you’ll want to grab a jian bing guo zi for breakfast. Another specialty are the guan tang baozi that are reminiscent of xiao long bao soup dumplings but served with Sichuan chili and vinegar sauce.