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Food and travel goes hand in hand. Whenever someone comes back from oversea trips, he will tell you what a wonderful holiday he had and before you know it, he will start scrolling through all the food photos on his iPhones to show you all the delectable local delicacies he ate during the trip. I am one of them.

In partnership with Cathay Pacific, I have already given you a little sneak peek into my travel suitcase and showed you what I can’t travel without. So for this second post , I am going to share some of my favourite  hidden food spots in Asia that I think you should visit if you haven’t already. So here goes:

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宽窄巷子 KUAN ZHAI XIANG ZI

Chengdu, China

Chengdu is famous for two things – panda and street food. Chengdu has the best street food in China or more commonly known as “small eats” (xiao chi – 小吃). Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China, it is the fifth most populous city in China. You will find most of the food here in Chengdu is numbing hot, the signature ‘mala’ flavour (the numbing sensation form the Sichuan peppercorn) is what Sichuan is famous for. I love my spicy food, but there is always a price to pay the next day! T.M.I?

There are many areas where you can find great street food scenes in Chengdu with all within walking distance. Jingli Road is a popular street food area amongst the locals and tourists. There are food stalls set up in a clean and organised environment. But my favourite area is Kuan Zhai Xiang Zi, translating to “wide and narrow lanes”, an upmarket area where you will find plenty of street food plus also restaurants that serve classic Sichuan dishes.

Must try – Dan Dan Mian (Sichuan spicy noodles), Long Chao Shou (wontons with chilli oil), Liang Fen (cold mung bean noodles), San Da Pao (sweet glutinous rice flour balls).

There are two daily direct flights a week from Hong Kong to Chengdu, flying Cathay Pacific’s sister carrier Dragonair, that will get you from one destination to the other in 2 hours and 40 minutes. A trip from Sydney to Chengdu will see you leave Sydney at 10am, arriving 22pm local time, with under 14 hours travelling time including a stopover in Hong Kong.
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Even the panda is having a great time munching bamboo shoots at the Chengdu research base of giant panda breeding.

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Spicy beef noodle soup

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The amount of chillies and Sichuan peppercorns used in the Sichuan dishes are utterly insane. Approach at your own risk.

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Street food galore here in Chengdu, you can eat to your heart’s content

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Dan Dan Mian

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After mixing the chilli paste with the noodles. Brace yourself for a wild ride!

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San Da Pao – the three big sweet glutinous rice flour balls are prepared theatrically with three loud bangs. A fun food to eat.

 

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Osaka, Japan

Japan is one of those countries that I can keep going back and will never get sick of it. Every time I come back to Japan, I always find something new and exciting to discover. When comes to food, I love Osaka the best – street food in particular. You can’t come to Osaka and not try their signature Okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake). My favourite past time is to pull up a stool at any stalls on Dotonburi street and chow down some tasty street food. It used to consider impolite to eat and wander down the street at the same time in Japan, but how things have changed. Now you will find this city offers a lot of snack food like steamed buns, fried potato twirls, grilled squid and my favourite, the takoyaki (octopus balls) which you can just grab and go.

Whilst Osaka is famous for its Udon noodle, but I much prefer a hot bowl of ramen in thick tonkotsu broth. It is the ultimate winter comfort food. If you like to mingle with the locals, then go into any of the shoebox-sized yakitori restaurants for some grilled meat on skewers and wash it down with local beers. The lost in translation scenario makes the conversation with locals even more interesting.

Must try – okonomiyaki (savoury pancake), takoyaki (octopus balls), udon noodles, ramen, sweet potatoes coated in toffee and all the quirky food!

Cathay Pacific has at least five daily direct flights from Hong Kong to Osaka.
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a sad panda steamed bun filled with black sesame paste.

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I can eat ramen any time of the day and year!

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A typical food scene around Dotonburi area.

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Osaka is famous for the snack food which you just grab and go.

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Fresh wasabi, hard to come by but is a must try in Japan

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Grab a grilled whole squid and munch it down while walking down the dotonburi street like you just don’t care

 

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The lantern street in Hoi An

Hoi An, Vietnam

Last but not least, one of my favourite hidden food spots in Asia has to be Hoi An in Vietnam. It feels like travelling back in time, Hoi An still has that old charm where many heritage houses beautifully preserved and locals still dressed in the traditional long dress and conical straw hats. Food here is diverse and unique to this area. Pho (vietnamese beef noodle soup) is usually eaten for breakfast, but go for the Pho Dac Biet for all the extra trimmings including beef balls and offals. Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) is a signature dish to this region that you simply can’t miss.

Hoi An is another street food paradise where you will find snack food at every corner of the streets. You can grab a crusty Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) any time of the day, or sit on a tiny plastic stool and enjoy a glass of refreshing Che drink to beat the heat. If you are a daring eater, then perhaps give the hot vit lon (fertilised embryo egg) a go. I had it, and probably never again.

Vietnam is one of my favourite countries to visit in South East Asia, I love this place so much that I am even hosting a Food & Photography Tour to Vietnam in May this year and everyone is welcome to join me. It will be an epic 12 days of eating, cooking, learning, and more eating.

Must try – Bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup), banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Banh Xeo (crispy pancake filled with pork and prawns), Vietnamese coffee, pho bac biet (beef noodle soup with the lot).

Cathay Pacific’s sister airline Dragonair flies five times a week from Hong Kong to Da Nang. The flight time from Da Noi to Hong Kong is 2 hours.
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Start the day with a big bowl of Pho Dac Biet, Vietnamese beef noodle with the lot.

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A papaya salad with a twist, with added chewy pork rind.

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L to R: a glass of colourful che iced drink; Pull a stool and join the locals at the food stalls in the wet market for breakfast or lunch

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Best street food in Hoi An, Banh Mi.

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The pancake of the east, Banh Xeo. Inside the cripsy tapioca flour pancake is filled with herbs, pork and prawns.

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So there you have it, hope you are drooling over all the yummy food and making plans to go visit these hidden food spots in Asia in near future. There are so many other places that I haven’t been and so many hidden food treasures yet to be discovered. Hong Kong and Taipei are right on the top of my must-visit list!

If you are travelling to any of these destinations in the near future, please do keep in mind that Cathay Pacific does offer flights to all these destinations without costing an arm and leg. Not to mention the Chinese food onboard, and the Noodle Bar in Hong Kong lounges! That way you can save the money for more food adventures! It’s a win win situation! Remember to post a photo of your recent travel adventure on Instagram/Facebook and mention me as well as #lifewelltravelled to get a chance at winning a trip for you and your friend to Hong Kong!

So what is your favourite food destination in Asia?