Destinations with the Best Food

Bowls of Taiwanese noodles via CNN

CNN polled FB and the people have spoken: “Top 10 Destinations for World’s Best Food”. Surprisingly Asia dominated the list. Maybe there are more Asian Facebook users. Or perhaps the people willing to take polls have a bias towards Asia? Who knows what the answers are, but it’s nice to see so many regular people take a fancy on Asia.

The winners in order:

  1. Taiwan
  2. Philippines
  3. Italy
  4. Thailand
  5. Japan
  6. Malaysia
  7. Hong Kong
  8. India
  9. Greece
  10. Vietnam

In Asia, I’ve never been to Taiwan or Vietnam but I can say:

Philippines: the Southern region has amazing food (Davao, Boracay) — lots of seafoods — and their take on ceviche called kinilaw blew me away. The adobo (Filipino staple) even tastes better when cooked down south. I think it has to do with the fresh ingredients available to them. My favorite ex boyfriend’s recipe for adobo and kinilaw is here.

Thailand: Last summer I spent a few weeks in Bangkok and loved every second of it. I was extremely impressed with the food. There’s a sort of food movement happening there and lot of ex-pats are contributing to the food industry with a focus on sustainability.

I was invited to a dinner event where Seven Spoons, an establishment owned by Americans and serves Mediterranean style food, collaborated with a craft beer distributor (Beervana) and local organizations / non-profits helping Thailand’s food ecosystem. For example, this dish:

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4th Course: Crusted Snapper with Lao dragon nut, paired with Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA

The Lao Dragon Nut was foraged in the deep forests of Northern Thailand. In rural areas, there are lumber poachers. Lumber poachers are locals who illegally cut and sell trees (mainly Siam rosewood) to the blackmarket of wood — mainly China. One of the organizations working to prevent poaching, takes poachers, teaches them how to forage rare foods and the org distributes to restaurants. Seven Spoons held the special dinner specifically to highlight these organizations and their efforts.

At the dinner, I met lots of people from the Bangkok food scene, and also learned what the chefs are experimenting with ex: hydroponics. And that’s just one of the many instances of Thailand’s surprisingly exciting food scene.

 

Malaysia caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting the food to be as good as it was. Lots of noodles and soups, grilled and skewered foods with loud flavors that shock the palate. Malaysian cuisine is based off the roots of the country: Malay, Chinese and Indian, there are noticeable influences from surrounding countries, mainly Thailand and Indonesia, with lots of curries, coconut, lentils, banana leafs wrapped foods, etc.

Hong Kong sadly did not impress me. I love dim sum but there is only so much dim sum a person can eat. Char siu is great but it’s too aromatic for me to consume frequently. I can live without eating char siu, especially when not home cooked. Homemade char siu tend to be less sweet for some reason. I’m just not a huge fan of meats sandwiched between the fluffy white bao buns or thick cut breads. Once in a while, they are delicious but I would rather not eat it consecutively. Fine dining restaurants are mainly fusion and I prefer the Japanese take of French or Italian vs HK’s. The Japanese versions tastes more refined. Different strokes for different folks.

India. I’ve never been to India but, have eaten lots of terrific Indian food. The Indian population is mighty large in the SF Bay Area where I was raised. New York where I lived on and off for over a decade, has lots of Pakistani influenced Indian and of course London, where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately,  is the capital of Indian cuisine. Through living in and visiting cities with dominant Indian populations and robust choices, I’ve learned Indian food is much more than curries and chutneys, na’an and samosas.

My favorite regional cuisine from my proxy knowledge, is Goan. Goa is on the coast of the Arabian Sea and was occupied by the Portuguese. The dishes are seafood centric with ingredients the Portuguese introduced such as potatoes, tomatoes, cashews and chili. Because of Portuguese colonization, Catholicism is the main religion vs. Hindu, so Goan cuisine doesn’t have restrictions like other regional Indian. Like pork! I love pork. One of my favorite curries vindaloo — a spicy vinegar based curry — also hails from Goa. When I get around to traveling India, Goa is going to be my first stop!

Vietnam is on top of my travel list. Again, in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles (where I split time between NY for about five? six?-ish  years) there is a huge Vietnamese population and I’ve been privy to some incredible Vietnamese foods. Pho, their answer to ramen, is of course the staple but beyond pho and banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches Vietnamese cuisine has French influence from the French occupation.

One of the first Vietnamese dishes I had, were garlic noodles with crab, from Thanh Long in SF. This was in the late 80s, early 90s when Thanh Long was a hole in the wall with rickety wicker furniture and lines that extended around the block. In 2015, the family expanded their empire and they now own an upscale version of the original restaurant Thanh Long called Crustacean, with restaurants in Beverly Hills and San Francisco. They also own two or three other restaurants sprinkled around Southern California. Since my introduction to Vietnamese cuisine by Thanh Long, I started expanding outside of the roasted butter crab with garlic noodles and found an amazing Vietnamese traditional meal of 7 course beef – which is really lovely by the way – then ventured onto single dishes. I love the main flavors of Vietnamese cuisine — lemongrass, ginger and cilantro. Can’t wait to visit Vietnam.

Wow, this turned into such a text dump and there’s still so much more to share. Oh well. I hope this helps someone – anyone? out there interested in food!

The original CNN piece is here.

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