5 Best Culinary Cities in Asia

From cheap street food stalls and food courts to Michelin starred and traditional restaurants, variety awaits you in Asia. Asia is where foods like sushi (Japan), pad thai (Thailand), satay (Malaysia), Hainanese rice (Singapore), dim sum (Hong Kong) and bulgogi (Korea) were created.

Food and travel go hand-in-hand. The English writer, Virginia Woolf said: One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. Wouldn’t you agree, unpleasant dining experiences would totally ruin a vacation?

Are you planning a trip to the Far East and don’t know which are the best culinary cities in Asia?

Here are Travelmath’s 5 best:

Seoul, Korea

Seoul is 10 hours 52 minutes from Seattle, 14 hours 16 minutes from New York and 13 hours 35 minutes from Chicago. This city of over 10 million people is filled with street food stalls, restaurants, cafés and hole-in-the-wall eateries. You’ll never go hungry in Seoul.

Foods to try: grilled galbi (ribs), bibimbap (mixed rice), bulgogi (barbecue pork and beef), haemul-tang (spicy seafood stew), juk (rice porridge), odeng (fish cakes on sticks) and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes).

More information on food: Visit Korea

Read: 5 Things to Do in Seoul

Penang, Malaysia

The island of Penang, also known as Pulau Pinang is located in the northwest coast of Peninsula Malaysia. George Town, the island’s capital city is the second largest city in Malaysia. It takes one hour 39 minutes to fly from Bangkok and one hour 14 minutes from Singapore.

This multi-ethnic culture and heritage island offers food from the Malay, Indian, Chinese and Peranakan ethnic groups. Penang’s night market food stalls and street food stalls are among some of the best in Asia.

Foods to try: Penang laksa (spicy lemongrass noodles), mee goreng (fried noodles), roti canai, satay (grilled skewer meat), pasembur (Malaysian Indian salad with spicy peanut sauce), char kway teow (pan fried noodles), popiah (Penang spring rolls), Penang rojak (Malaysian fruit salad) and ice kacang (Malaysian shaved ice dessert).


Whether you are in food courts, night markets or five-star restaurants, you must try the Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore.

Singapore is located south of Peninsula Malaysia and it takes about seven hours six minutes to fly from Tokyo.

This island-city state is one of the cleanest cities in the world. It is easy to travel around Singapore and almost all Singaporeans speak English, also known as Singlish (English mixed with local dialects).

Foods to try: Hainanese chicken rice, bah kut teh ( pork ribs with herbs on rice), fish head curry, chili crab, fried Hokkien noodles, curry laksa (noodles in curry), yong tau foo (stuffed tofu), Kaya toast (toasted bread with coconut custard jam) with local coffee.

For the adventurous and curious: try durian!

Read 5 Things to do in Singapore


Tokyo is another culinary city in Asia. According to the BBC, Tokyo has over 160,000 restaurants and according to Bloomberg, Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants compared to Paris. And Japan Times reported that the city retained the world gourmet crown for eight straight years.

Tokyo is only 10 hours 48 minutes from San Francisco and 13 hours 23 minutes from Toronto, Canada.

Foods to try: sushi, tonkatsu (fried pork on rice), unagi (grilled eel), tempura, yakitori (skewered meat), ramen, shabu shabu (hot pot), okonomiyaki (savory pancake), soba and gyozo (dumplings).

Hong Kong

Hong Kong-style food is found in all Chinatowns around the world. One example is barbecue pork, roast duck and chicken hanging in the window of restaurants. Almost every street in Hong Kong, just like Seoul is filled with food stalls. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Hong Kong if you don’t like eating in food stalls.

Hong Kong is only 13 hours 16 minutes from Vancouver and three hours 42 minutes from Singapore.

Foods to try: dim sum, barbecue pork, roast ducks, wontons with noodles, fried fish balls, tong sui (sweet soup dessert), clay pot rice, egg tarts and pastries.

Read 5 Things to do in Hong Kong

Which are your favorite culinary cities in Asia? Let us know.

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