The Best Food
Ahmed for Asiaweek Pictures.
The chef at Singapore's Ah Hoi's Kitchen doesn't normally
get this wet. But the chilli crab is always delicious.
the dish most associated with Indonesia? Where would you go in
Taipei to find the perfect beef-noodle soup? Asiaweek's intrepid
gourmets set out to find the answers. Here's what they came up
By Laxmi Nakarmi
Nearly two-thirds of large South Korean restaurants serve this
famed North Korean dish. Presented in a steel bowl, naengmyon
comes in two different styles. Mul naengmyon is served cold, made
with fresh beef stock that has been chilled. This variety includes
Hamhung naengmyon, from Hamkyung province and famous for the texture
of the noodles. Bibim naengmyon, the other main style, is for
those with high-endurance palates. It is served with a hot red-pepper
paste in place of the beef stock.
A couple of naengmyon restaurant chains are run by North Korean
defectors. These places often do nothing but the noodle dish,
occasionally even specializing in just one variety. But most large
Korean establishments will serve naengmyon together with one of
the famed Korean barbecue dishes, such as pulgogi (thin strips
of beef marinated in soy and sugar) or kalbi (spare ribs). The
place to go for a true naengmyon experience is the Ojangdong Hamhung
Naengmyon restaurant in Seoul. No reservation is required, but
expect a wait of 15 to 20 minutes. It will be worth it.
Ojangdong Hamhung Naengmyon, 91-10 Ojangdong, Chung-gu,
Cost: $20 maximum for two people.
By Wilhelmina Paras
Though considered an everyday Philippine dish, adobo chicken
and pork simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and peppercorns
is actually Mexican in origin. Most Filipinos will tell
you the best adobo is eaten at home. Still, a high-quality version
can be found at the Bistro Remedios in the bohemian district of
This restaurant offers a "picnic adobo" wrapped in banana leaves,
the way rural Filipinos traditionally prepare their packed lunches.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, the leaves impart
a distinctive fragrance and flavor to the dish. With its sumptuous
dEcor of canopies, mosaics and colored glass windows, the Bistro
Remedios captures the ambience of an affluent 18th-century Philippine
household. Surrounded by the nightlife, artisans, music and dancing
of Malate's busy Remedios Circle, the restaurant provides an island
of genteel serenity from which to watch life go by.
Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila.
Cost: $3.30 for a picnic adobo.
By David Hsieh
You can get Peking duck virtually anywhere in the capital nowadays,
at a greasy spoon in an obscure side street or at one of Beijing's
most renowned restaurants. But if you really want to enjoy the
full splendor of a 12-course Peking duck dinner, then it has to
be the main branch of Quanjude Peking Duck Restaurant, a venerable
state-owned chain. Situated at the southeast corner of the Hepingmen
intersection, Quanjude serves hundreds of excellent ducks a day.
Arrive early to secure a table or expect a long wait.
At the other end of the spectrum is Pianyifang, a no-frills establishment
where the dEcor, presentation and service hark back to the "best"
of the planned era. Don't leave it too late. This restaurant closes
early in the evening.
Hepingmen Quanjude Peking Duck Restaurant
14 Qianmenxidajie, Xuanwu District, Beijing. Cost: $180 for a
12-course dinner for 10 people, not including liquor and beverages;
$13 for one duck.
Pianyifang Peking Duck Restaurant
73 Tiantandonglu, Chongwen District, Beijing.
Cost: $9 per duck.
By Tan Su Yen
This mouth-watering dish of crab in a luscious tomato, chili and
garlic sauce is traditionally enjoyed at the congested seafood
restaurants on the East Coast. With its atmosphere of hustle and
bustle, Ah Hoi's Kitchen, near the Botanical Gardens, combines
the appeal of street food eaten under the stars with the creature
comforts of a restaurant. Its fresh Sri Lankan crabs deliver a
knock-out punch. Mop up the spicy, tangy sauce with mantou, or
deep-fried buns. Bibs are provided, as are enamel finger buckets.
Ah Hoi's Kitchen
Traders Hotel, 1a Cuscaden Road. Cost: from $16.
By Arif Mustolih
Taken from a beef round, this blackish-brown meat has a deceptively
firm appearance. On the inside, however, it is moist and tender.
A four-hour caramelizing process in coconut milk covers the meat
in an oily, glossy residue, and gives it a distinct sweet-savory
taste. At the Sabana Nasi Kapau restaurant in Jakarta, the meat
is marbled. The house's specialty is to enhance the dish with
spices and red kidney beans a highly successful addition
to the original recipe.
Sabana Nasi Kapau
J1 Melawi Raya No. 21-A, Blok M, South Jakarta.
Cost: 95 cents for rendang, rice, chili relish and cassava leaves.
By Murakami Mutsuko
Arrive early for lunch at the Midori-zushi restaurant in the Setagaya
area of Tokyo or you will find yourself getting a table
just in time for dinner. One of the great attractions is that
the seafood is delivered daily from the Tsukiji market, with the
catch displayed in glass cases in front of the counter seats.
Discerning customers can select the biggest or most appetizing,
and then watch as it is diced and delivered before their eyes.
Many start by ordering sashimi (raw fish without rice) or sushi
(on a rice ball). To follow, there is a choice of melt-in-the-mouth
tuna, broiled lobster, soft, creamy scallop or firm Japanese "white
fish meat." And don't miss the miso (bean paste) soup with fish
chunks Midori's answer to France's bouillabaisse
served at the end of the meal. The service is energetic and efficient,
and the chefs across the counter are always happy to offer suggestions
to any overwhelmed customers. If you are looking for a particularly
quiet meal, Midori will provide private rooms for groups of eight
or more. There is no extra charge, unless you want your own personal
chef in the room with you.
1-20-7 Umegaoka, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0022.
Cost: $30-$50 for a substantial meal with beer or sake; up to
$18 for a set lunch of assorted sushi.
By Yulanda Chung
These delicacies are normally served in restaurants the size of
aircraft hangars, with the floor show provided by hardy old dears
pushing carts of food between the tables. But the Treasure Inn
seafood restaurant, on the top floor of a former wet market, provides
something completely different: nostalgia. The fish stalls and
butcher's shops have all been relocated, but diners can still
look up at the wooden roof and imagine the market noises that
used to echo through the building. The old colonial structure
also retains its original banisters, red-brick walls and large,
semi-circular windows, contributing to an atmospheric dining experience.
Recommended: the steamed rice-rolls and pan-fried glutinous rice.
3/F, Western Market, 323, Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan. Cost: $10
By Bradley Winterton
You won't get many Taipei people agreeing on the best place for
beef noodles but those in the know make straight for Chou
Ji, in the area of the railway station. The most popular choices
are fried noodles with beef (niu rou chao mian) or beef noodles
in soup (niu rou tang mian), both of which come in large and small
portions. This is a simple, though clean, neighborhood place,
with diners sitting on metal stools under strip-lighting in a
tiled room. For a poor man's cabaret, you can watch the noodles
cut into strips from the handmade base. Miss Julie, who speaks
good English, is always happy to help customers with their selection.
Chou Ji shuts not long after seven in the evening, so, alas, a
tasty late dinner is not an option here.
Lane 80, Han Kou Street, Section One, No. 12-5, Taipei. Cost:
$2 for a large beef noodles in soup, a little less for a large
fried noodles with beef.
By Sanjay Kapoor
If they are peckish late in the evening, many New Delhi food-lovers
head for the restaurant complex tucked away in the Pandara Road
colony of Lutyen's Delhi. Most of the restaurants here serve authentic
tandoori cuisine, but Pindi, situated in the right-hand corner,
A good tandoori chicken should have a slightly hard crust, acquired
in the tandoor or fiery oven, and a soft, juicy, well-marinated
core. Bite into Pindi's and you will realize instantly that here
is a chef who knows his chicken. Pindi also prides itself on its
service a legacy of its days as a dhaba, or Punjabi roadside
restaurant, when truck drivers would stop by for a quick bite.
The waiters are polite and hate to make customers wait
so you can eat the variations available and still be out in 40
116 Pandara Road, New Delhi, 110003.
Cost: $4 for a full tandoori chicken, $2 for a half-plate.
By Andrew Leci
Once served mainly for breakfast, nasi lemak (meaning fatty rice,
but don't let that put you off) is now eaten at any time of the
day or night. And with good reason, because it is more than just
one meal. One dish can comprise a number of elements, giving the
diner one different mouthful after another. Nasi lemak also comes
in a quite bewildering number of versions, from the roadside-stall
variety to the five-star hotel offering. Not surprisingly, the
price range is vast, reflecting the quality of ingredients as
well as the dEcor. (Overheads can be really low at an open-air
eatery where there is nothing overhead.)
The best version in Kuala Lumpur? That's a tough question, but
many people love the Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa in Kampung Bahru,
a predominantly Malay area in the heart of the city, cluttered
with roadside stalls and al fresco food courts. The diner (now
there's a grand word in this context) is offered a plate of rice
cooked in coconut milk, onto which can be added any number of
side dishes. They vary from day to day, but you're sure to find
chicken or beef rendang, sambal squid, fried and boiled eggs,
beef lung, spicy beef and potato croquettes. Meals are also accompanied
by chili sauce, which is pungent, sweet and aromatic, with a powerful
Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa has a legion of devoted followers, many
of whom turn up early (the place opens at 7.45 p.m. and closes
at 11 a.m.) and sit patiently at plastic-covered tables, waiting
for the management to shed light on matters by switching on the
fluorescent tubes overhead. There are more romantic places to
dine, it has to be said, but Malaysians are serious about their
food, and don't allow anything as trivial as lack of ambience
to spoil their appetite.
Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa
4 Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Bahru, 503000 Kuala Lumpur.
Cost: 80 cents for a plate of rice and a few condiments to $2.60
if you pile your plate high and sample almost everything on offer.
By Julian Gearing
Thais will suffer exhaust fumes and the roar of tuk-tuk taxis
to savor the country's best-known dish at roadside restaurants.
But tom yam (hot-and-sour soup) is best sampled at Mango Tree,
down a small soi (street) off Silom Road in the heart of Bangkok's
Set in an 80-year-old traditional Thai house, Mango Tree serves
up dishes that look as though they were taken straight from the
pages of the best Thai cookery books. The tom yam, which can contain
prawns (kung), other seafood, chicken or meat, comes with just
enough spice and lemon tang to suit even the most demanding of
palates. Lunchtimes tend to be quiet, but in the evening, when
traditional classical Thai musicians play, be sure to book in
37 Soi Anumarn Rachthon (near Coca Surawongse), Bangkok. Cost:
$2.40 (small) or $3.60 (large).
Write to Asiaweek at email@example.com