Take your taste buds on a tour of Asia with Secret Retreats (Part 1)
For travelling foodies, nothing seduces us more than a tasty local dish and for sure Asia is a dream destination for all food enthusiasts (foodies) because if you know where to look, really tasty dishes and incredible local flavours can be found and enjoyed across every village, town and city.
Each country offers its own unique dishes, culinary traditions and intriguing ingredients that are hard to resist. Whether the hot and spicy dishes in Thailand, or the multi-cultural heritage of diverse flavours in Malaysia or the exquisite culinary experiences of Japan, Asia is absolutely the heaven of food with a seemingly endless list of flavours and dishes to enjoy.
If you’ve always dreamed of going on an ultimate food adventure around Asia then Secret Retreats are here to help you find some undiscovered culinary adventures. Let us share with you our pick of the top destinations in Asia for the gastronomical globetrotter to hunt down:
Taiwan is definitely a foodie’s paradise! The culinary philosophy in this country is very simple: Eat small and Eat often. Taiwanese food is certainly influenced by Chinese cuisine but with very much a local twist. A mash-up of the cuisines of Fujian and the southern provinces of China, with a Japanese influence in many of the dishes thanks to 50 years under Japanese rule. The cuisine relies on a wide range of classic Asian flavours such as soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, pickled mustard greens, chili peppers, cilantro, and basil. In the capital, Taipei, there are more than 20 streets dedicated to fantastic food adventures, so Taipei is definitely one place that a foodie cannot miss!
Mume’s chef-trio strive constantly to develop a deeper relationship with local producers in order to showcase the best ingredients that Taiwan has to offer. The chefs take great pride in introducing diners to foods they may have never tasted or even seen before. The team works closely with local farmers, fisherman, and local food producers to demonstrate the beauty of their products with the aim of supporting the local food supply chain and to decrease the carbon footprint that would come with using imported products.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Malaysian food scene is exceptional both on and off the streets. The country is filled with people of many different heritages which lead to what was probably the first fusion food scene in Asia. Each sphere of culinary influence has contributed to the country’s food culture making it truly one-of-a-kind. Kuala Lumpur is the bustling capital of Malaysia and boasts a diverse array of food options. A blend of Chinese, Indian, Thai, Malay and Western influences, the city boasts a long list of must-try cuisines. Make sure to try the curry laksa, a curried coconut broth filled with deep-fried tofu, bean sprouts, cockles, long beans and egg noodles, which is topped off with a spicy sambal.
Babe defines itself as ‘fun dining’ as opposed to ‘fine dining’ and enjoys the spirit of sharing a creative cuisine served as ‘Japas’ (modern Japanese tapas). Casual, imaginative and refined, with stunning views over the Kuala Lumpur skyline, Babe’s delectable cuisine can be experienced as both a la carte and tasting menus. The restaurant also features Malaysia’s # 1 cocktail bar with an enviable selection of sake, wines and cocktails ready to delight a multitude of tastes and desires.
Dewakan is a portmanteau of the Malay words ‘dewa’, to mean god, and ‘makan’, meaning ‘to eat’. The passionate and creative team at Dewakan honour and serve the bounty of the local lands, celebrating local farmers, fishers, and artisans. Chef Darren Teoh combines and connects indigenous ingredients and produce from Malaysia’s farms and jungles, mountains and seas, manifesting onto the plates as a culinary canvas.”
Japan, the home of Umami – the delicious fifth taste, has long been at the top of the food game. Dining, presentation, curation of ingredients is all a very serious business in Japan and very much a subject of national pride and importance. Really, when it comes to food specialties, nobody does it better than Japan with its dizzying variety of diverse, fresh, flavourful and beautiful dishes. Nagoya is certainly one of Japan’s most cosmopolitan cities yet also one that is often overlooked as just a stop on the bullet train for many visitors travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto. Though Tokyo has everything covered and Kyoto is the home of traditional dishes, Nagoya is not to be missed if you are a foodie. This city is arguably home to some of Japan’s best food. It has always been a popular destination for people in the know with some of the country’s best and most interesting culinary delights waiting for you to discover them.
RESTAU K YAMAUCHI
Restau K Yamauchi is a contemporary fine dining venue located in the city of Nagoya. Chef Kenichiro brings his unique talent and creativity to showcase an innovative cuisine that combines his classic French training with the use of Nagoya’s famed local, seasonal ingredients. The result is an original fine dining experience delivered across an ever-evolving menu and set within a harmonious relaxing ambiance in such a way that only a Japanese restaurateur can.
Southern Malaysia and Singapore
Southern Malaysia and Singapore are undoubtedly a nirvana for foodies. While Penang and Kuala Lumpur are very much on foodies’ radars, the city of Johor Bahru is often overlooked. A truly underrated foodies’ paradise this region’s cuisine has a strong Peranakan influence and offers the most authentic tasting Malay dishes thanks to recipes that have been passed down for generations. From Johor Bahru’s underrated food trail to Singapore, a one-stop shop for food enthusiasts. This area is a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Portuguese cuisines. Visit the famous hawker centers to take your taste buds on a tour of more than one platter, which should definitely include the iconic ‘Hainanese chicken rice’, ‘Hokkien prawn mee’ and ‘char kway teow’ stir-fried rice noodles…but leave some room for dessert.
Even the many shopping malls are home to gastronomic adventures in the ubiquitous food courts where the regions melting pot of cultures come together on the many plates available. Malay, Chinese, Indian and western influences are all evident, the problem is always one of choice…just too much to choose from! What of the Portuguese I hear you ask…well, any local will take you straight to their favourite vendor of Egg Tarts, the perfect dessert after eating your way around a hawker center or a shopping mall’s food court.
初 INITIAL CUISINE
初 INITIAL — This farm to table restaurant serves modern European cuisine with a Japanese twist. Chef Koh believes that the best ingredients always come from the local farms, so the emphasis at INITIAL is to always source the best fresh local ingredients from farmers and growers passionate about the quality of their produce. Everything has a beginning, and INITIAL is the start of a new and refreshing culinary journey.
Since opening in 2014 Labyrinth has received numerous international accolades for Chef Han’s creative mastery and his continuing quest to challenge the notion of inventive cuisine. Awarded a Michelin star in 2017, Chef Han carefully curates each menu to bring together an interaction of fun and nostalgia with the essence of classic Singaporean dishes creating highlights such as Siew Yoke Rice, Kaya Rojak, and his famous Chilli Crab.
Don’t forget to consult with the Secret Retreats Concierges to help you navigate the myriad flavours of Asia and ensure you don’t miss the ‘not to be missed’ and known only to locals ‘must dine or die’ restaurants and tables.