Apparently, scorpions are really crunchy. Dared by her 10-year-old son, Alison Godfrey ate one whole off a skewer on Beijing’s Wangfujing street.
So much of Asia is about the chaotic colours, arresting aromas and storytelling surrounding its food. Whether it is a scorpion that you taste test in China or a spider from a street hawker in Siem Reap, it’s about immersing yourself in local favourites and trying new things as a family. Hop aboard this whirlwind tour of Asia’s delicacies, street food and classic dishes to figure out what you absolutely must try on your family holiday.
The milder tastes of Japanese cuisine suit younger palates that are not accustomed to spice or to heat. So does the novelty factor – cat cafes, owl cafes, robot restaurants and other themed eateries shake up your lunches and dinners.
You can go all out and challenge yourselves with the unfamiliar – slurp some chanko nabe or ‘sumo stew,’ munch on frog sashimi or salivate over takoyaki, fried octopus dough balls. Enjoy a smoky yakitori, a chicken barbecue skewer, or some tempura prawn and vegetables.
Grab okonomiyaki from a street vendor, as this thick, omelette-like pancake made with egg, shredded cabbage, special sauce and mayonnaise is a staple that must be sampled while you’re in Japan. Shabu shabu, thinly sliced raw beef which is cooked in a broth, is also delicious.
Don’t be afraid to eat some ramen, sushi or gyoza dumplings, even if it feels a bit like cheating – although you can find many of these dishes back home, they taste ten times better in their country of origin.
Cambodia (South East Asia)
South East Asia is also a foodie family favourite as the sweet and salty flavours are not too spicy for little tongues. It is also home to arguably the best street food and street markets in the world. We love Cambodia for its unusual snacking habits. On 60 Road in Siem Reap, for example, chomp on a sizzling snake or fish freshly grilled on a stick. You can also sample fresh jack fruit, lort cha stir-fried rice noodles, sweet French-style pancakes stuffed with banana and sugar and nom kachai, and deep-fried rice flour chive cakes.
The brave will enjoy the opportunity to down some crickets and tarantulas from market stalls or from Bugs Café in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s first insect tapas restaurant.
You might like to eat at one of SE Asia’s NGO restaurants. There is Manum in Siem Reap, with awesome crocodile burgers, and Koto in Hanoi, which serves a mean salad and Vietnamese spring roll. Both establishments help underprivileged street kids gain work experience and vocational training.
It is hard to know where to begin in India, as every corner of the country specialises in its own unique cuisine.
Kids will dig into biryani, an aromatic rice dish containing marinaded meat and long-time crowd-pleaser rogan josh, a curry made from lamb or goat meat that is popular in Kashmir.
Also from southern India, masala dose is a rice crepe containing a variety of curry and chutney fillings to choose from. Kids will love tandoori chicken, marinaded and then cooked in a tandoor oven, and you should try the real deal while you’re in India. If you need to turn down the heat, idli is a south Indian breakfast food. A round cake made of rice and lentils, it is nice and mild.
For dessert or a quick sweet snack, try some jalebi, which look a bit like orange pretzels. The wheat flour batter is cooked in hot oil and then dunked in sugar syrup.
Singaporean cuisine is a rich mix of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. The most famous dish in Singapore would have to be chilli crab, a messy and delicious meal available from street markets and restaurants alike.
Be sure to visit Satay Street night markets for skewered meats of all varieties. The Hawker Markets, clean and purpose-built food courts, offer diverse options from mild Haianese chicken rice to a hotter, steaming bowl of prawn laksa. In Little India, encircled by Kitchener, Jalan Besar, Sungei and Race Course roads, you’ll find huge portions of Indian food offerings as well as an exciting atmosphere. There are also sari shops, spice stands, galleries and temples to explore.
Some of the best meals you’ll eat will be straight off the streets, from the stands of hawkers and vendors. A friendly reminder – it is important in some areas of Asia to take sensible precautions. Avoid tap water and stick to the bottled stuff. Steer clear of raw foods, and use common sense to discern the most hygienic food stalls.