Traveling the world isn't only about fun and games, it's about discovering new learning opportunities and living through novel experiences. Wherever your interests lie—whether it be in the food, the people, or the sights—Asia is one of the most enriching, the most inexpensive, and the the most fun places to be.
This past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to four different countries and had one of the best times of my life. Get ready to plan your own journey because after reading about the 25 best things I ate, I guarantee you'll have 25 irresistible reasons on why you need to plan a break as soon as possible.
1. Roasted Suckling Pig from Ho Kitchen Seafood
Whenever I'm in Bangkok, I always look forward to Sundays. It's the one day of the week where my entire extended family takes a break from their busy lives to gather together for brunch and when I can indulge in my favorite dish—roasted suckling pig.
Served similarly to Peking duck, the crunchy skin is separated from the meat and can be eaten alone or paired with a bao bun. The best aspect of this dish, however, is how the fat of the pork melts into your mouth after the complex flavors from the crispy skin are unleashed.
2. Foie Gras from Park Society at So Sofitel Bangkok
This controversial European delicacy may not be native to Thai cuisine but it was still one of the best things I had eaten during my trip. When paired with the tart berry compote and the crispy bread, each foie gras mouthful contained a dimension of rich flavors and diverse textures.
Moreover, just being at Park Society was an experience in itself. While there were no more than 10 tables in the entire dining room, this exclusive and intimate restaurant also boasts stunning views of Bangkok's metropolitan skyline.
3. Lemongrass Creme Brulee from New Star Beach Resort
The beachside dining experience that I had with New Star's Destination Dining was undeniably one of the coolest and the tastiest highlights of my Asia trip. That night, we literally ordered at least half the entire menu, since everything was so delectable, but if I had to pick only one dish to talk about, it would be the dessert.
Their crème brûlée was unlike anything I have ever had before and epitomizes everything that fusion cuisine should aspire to be. Its sumptuous texture and glassy crust was a homage to the French classic whereas the herby notes of lemongrass and the slight sweetness definitely originated from Thai tastes.
#SpoonTip: Although it's not listed on their menu, ask your waiter for their handmade marshmallows - they will rock your world.
4. Thai Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs from Cream Cafe
Vegans, vegetarians, and health food fanatics, eat your hearts out because this rice salad is a specialty meal that's rarely found beyond Southern Thailand.
Despite having visited Thailand almost every year, with the exception of one, this was the first time I had ever heard or seen of such a dish. Nevertheless, it was whimsically colorful, satisfyingly light, and extraordinarily inexpensive considering that it fed two.
5. Thai River Prawn from Hong Seng
Thai river prawns are somewhat of a hybrid between shrimp and lobster in their texture, size, and flavors but there is just something so much more satisfying about each bite.
Perhaps it's the sweetness or the melt-in-your-mouth texture but many would argue that it's the richness of the head fat. Regardless of whichever aspect you think wins, it's undeniable that Hong Seng provides some of the freshest catch since it's right along the river.
6. Fried Fish from Sabeinglae
While the Brits have their fish and chips and the Americans have their Filet-O-Fish, the Thais have their own version of fried fish. Split down the middle before being submerged into a vat of piping hot oil, this deep fried dish is unlike anything else.
Underneath the crispy skin, the meat of the fish is still firm, yet tender, and quite moist. In my opinion, it's best enjoyed with the seafood sauce which perfumes every bite with a bouquet of herbs.
7. Portuguese Egg Tarts from Kentucky Fried Chicken
Some people may categorize Americans who go abroad and order from American chain restaurants as uncultured, or perhaps even as ignorant, but I am one of those Americans and I couldn't disagree more.
Portuguese egg tarts are a popular treat all around the world but the ones served at Asian KFC's are just as good, if not better than, other specialized bakeries. The crust is flaky and rich in butter while the eggy custard filling is sweet and not too dense.
#SpoonTip: At less than 1 USD, these three bite poppers are also some of the cheapest in the market.
8. Rohito from Above Eleven
Since 20 is the legal drinking age in Thailand, some of my closest friends surprised me on my birthday with a night out at Above Eleven—an open air, roof top bar and restaurant—to commemorate this rite of passage into adulthood.
Besides the breathtaking view and the delightful company, one of the things I enjoyed most about my experience was the Rohito cocktail. Named after the restaurant's owner, the Rohito was a tango of whimsical flavors. The Grey Goose was strong but well balanced by the watermelon juice and the passion fruit puree.
9. Fried Crab Curry from Somboon Seafood
Much like how Ho Kitchen's roasted suckling pig is an annual tradition for me, so is the fried crab curry from Somboon Seafood. Whether you order it whole or shelled, the crab meat is sweet, tender, and the perfect accompaniment to this next level curry sauce.
#SpoonTip: They've expanded into more locations, and even have some impostors, but in order to ensure the best, always go to the one near Chulalongkorn University.
10. Fried Chicken From any Roadside Vendors
Whether it be chicken nuggets, chicken wings, roasted chicken, or fried chicken, this clucking creature is among one of my biggest weaknesses and my top cravings. So as a chicken connoisseur, I'm quite confident that Thailand has some of the best fried chicken in all of Asia—if not the world.
It's so good that people literally fight each other with tongs over their favorite pieces. Perhaps it's the exceptionally crispy skin and the way it seems to delicately crack and deteriorate with each munch or the succulent meaty inside that still retains its juices. Whatever it may be, you'll never be able to go back to Popeye's.
11. Truffle Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung
No trip to Taiwan can ever be complete without visiting Din Tai Fung—the Michelin star eatery who popularized soup dumplings all around the world. So for good measure, I ate here twice within my five and a half day trip.
While the classic xiao long bao's are a must-order, the truffle and pork xlb's will change your life. Each bite explodes with the richness from the pork and the earthiness from the truffle.
12. Rainbow Xiao Long Bao from Paradise Dynasty
If you're searching for an equally memorable soup dumpling experience in Taiwan, without the mobs of tourists and the absurdly long lines, then look no further than Paradise Dynasty.
This eatery serves up classic Taiwanese and Chinese fare but with a very modern twist. Paradise Dynasty's rainbow-colored xiao long bao were a showstopper and a gastronomical adventure that can not be compared. To find out more, read my in-depth article here.
13. Light Bulb Boba from Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken
Despite the impending typhoon and the unbearable humidity, my g-big and I were determined to find these novel creations. So after 30 minutes of walking around Ximending, and past the same blue shop on the corner at least four times, we finally found them.
So was it worth all the fuss? Definitely. Although bubble milk tea is practically everywhere, the ingenious packaging of these light bulb bobas makes for a great photo opp and a memorable souvenir - not to mention an #OnlyInTaiwan moment.
14. Mango Shaved Ice from Ice Monster
Due to its tropical climate and its dense landscape, Taiwan is often known as "The Fruit Kingdom." This is fitting considering that almost every fruit is always perfectly ripe and very sweet—mhm, I miss their pink dragonfruits and their mangoes.
Although the mangoes can easily be consumed by themselves for dessert, when paired with Taiwanese snow it's a perfect match—given the hot temperatures. Not only will you be satisfying your sweet tooth and cooling yourself down, but you won't be left feeling overly satiated.
15. Scallion Pancakes from anywhere
My very first time ever trying a scallion pancake was actually on a weekend trip to Boston with one of my best friends. Flash forward 1.5 years later and we're both in Taiwan, home of the scallion pancakes, scouring the city for the best of the best.
Although we can't definitively say that there was any one particular vendor who was better than all the rest, these chewy, flaky, and crispy delights are pretty much fool proof. Whether eaten for breakfast or as a late night snack, scallion pancakes are some of Taiwan's best street foods.
16. Egg Tart from Tai Cheong Bakery
There are very few things that I could regret from my Asian adventure, but if I had to choose something, it would probably be ordering only one egg tart from Tai Cheong Bakery to share between my friend and me.
Although I've mentioned egg tarts before, these golden treasures are on a completely different level. The crumbly crust is reminiscent of a buttery, shortbread cookie and the creamy egg custard center is rich and luscious. Nothing gets better than this.
17. Dim Sum from Tim Ho Wan
With each basket of dim sum only being around 3 to 5 USD, Tim Ho Wan has earned itself the title of being the world's most inexpensive Michelin-starred restaurant. Talk about redefining the meaning of #BougieOnABudget.
Like you would with any other restaurant, you have to try their cheung fun, har giow, siu mai. According to my friend, however, the Lo Mai Gai was one of the tastiest that she has ever encountered.
18. Roasted Goose from Yat Lok
Despite being a Michelin-starred restaurant, Yat Lok does not heed to the overly formal traditions of fine dining. This family owned-restaurant seats their customers at shared tables and is primarily frequented by locals rather than tourists.
The price is relatively inexpensive compared to their rivals and the dishes are served in a simple way, usually over a bed of noodles or rice, to highlight their infamous roasted goose. Goose is a bit fattier and richer than duck but still maintains a similar complexity of flavors.
#SpoonTip: Go early as they do have a limited amount of roasted goose that they prepare each day.
19. Hong Kong Egg Waffle from Lee Keung Kee
According to my friend, since it was about 10 am on a Tuesday, the queue for this iconic waffle stand was relatively short compared to most other days. Luckily for us, we were in and out in just about seven minutes.
For those of you who have never experienced a Hong Kong egg waffle, they're very light, not too sweet, and usually eaten as a snack or a dessert. Moreover, each egg can be broken off and compared to the crispy shell, the inside is mostly hollow with a bit of fluffy chewiness.
20. Fried Tofu from Yuet Wah Wui Seafood
Tofu is a very misunderstood food. Its harshest critics will proclaim that the white substance lacks flavor and depth. Nevertheless, Yat Lok's take on the ingredient was innovative and ingenuous and will undoubtedly transform everyone into tofu fanatics.
The exterior of each fried morsel was warm and crispy—like biting into a chicken nugget—whereas the interior revealed the silky soft interior with just the slightest hint of soybean. This contrast of textures was so whimsical and something I wish I could have all the time.
21. Donburi from Nijo Market
Many guides reiterated Sapporo's fish market as being one of the most ideal places to indulge in some fresh, high-quality seafood. After wandering around by myself, one of the local shop owners (Takashi) kindly gave me a tour of the block, pointing out where and what was good.
Per his recommendation, I opted for a bowl of donburi with an assortment of seafood and it was pure heaven. The raw ebi (shrimp) was wonderfully sweet, the uni was golden and creamy, and every other slice of fish was firm and meaty.
#SpoonTip: Nijo Market is open until 6:00 pm but a lot of the restaurants supplied by Nijo's vendors will close well before noon so go early.
22. Genghis Khan from Daruma Honten
Genghis Khan, otherwise known as Jingisukan in Japanese, is a dish that is very reminiscent of Korean BBQ. Rather than having all of the side dishes and the various cuts of meat, however, the holy grail to this Hokkaido delicacy is mutton.
For those that don't know, mutton is the meat of an adult sheep. Although this may may be intimidating, I never found Genghis Khan to be game-y. Instead, there's this next-level richness and this deep complexity from the meat that's just so satisfying.
23. Bottled Melted Cheesecake from Le Tao
This Otaru institution is most famous for serving up their Double Fromage—a frozen cheesecake—but among their many Western confectioneries, the bottled melted version of their iconic household treat was the one that impressed me the most.
While it was devoid of the traditional graham cracker crust, the textures and the flavors of this dessert were very similar to crème brûlée but with a hint of dairy from the world-famous Hokkaido cows. Essentially, it was a mashup of my two all-time favorite sweets.
24. Hokkaido Soft Serve from Anywhere
Thanks to its lush farmlands and its expansive countryside, Hokkaido houses some of the happiest cows in all of Japan. As a result, this northern island is renowned for its dairy products and there are soft serve shops situated at almost every corner.
Having tried a myriad of flavors—in fact, I ate at least one soft serve during my six day stint—the best combinations I had encountered were a lavender flavor and a melon flavor from the flower field's vendors. Literally, nothing could be more iconic.
25. Yubari King Melon from Anywhere
Did you know that an entire Yubari King Melon in Japan can fetch at least 35 USD? In fact, this particular breed of melon is recognized around the world as being one of the most expensive fruits available on the market.
Nevertheless, once you get over the fact that a single slice can cost you about 8 USD, you'll understand why. Each bite oozes with a concentration of this naturally sweet and aromatic perfume that is unparalleled to any other melon.
#SpoonTip: I used to hate cantaloupe but I love the Yubari King Melon.