A food guide to the re­gion

Penny Wat­son presents a menu of 16 must-try dishes in the re­gion.

Paradise - - Contents -

Food and travel of­ten go hand-in-hand and there’s noth­ing quite like try­ing an iconic dish in the des­ti­na­tion it hails from. Taste-test­ing any one of these 16 dishes, from

roti canai in Kuala Lumpur to chilli crab in Sin­ga­pore, will cre­ate mem­o­ries on the road and gas­tro­nomic yearn­ings that could last a life­time.

1 Pa­pua New Guinea : mumu

Mumu, one of PNG’s na­tional dishes, is named after the tra­di­tional in­dige­nous method of cook­ing in a ground oven whereby the food is wrapped in ba­nana leaf and buried in a hole filled with hot coals and slow cooked. Us­ing this method, mumu is a one-pot won­der where pork or chicken are slow-cooked with taro root and sweet potato, an as­sort­ment of greens and co­conut milk. It is eaten like a casse­role and is com­monly served at cel­e­bra­tions, given its cre­den­tials for feed­ing a crowd.

2 Shang hai: soup dumpling

If there’s one thing you should be able to or­der in Man­darin Chi­nese, it’s xiao long bao. This so-called soup dumpling is the guide by which any dim sum eatery is judged. The round pas­try par­cel with a lit­tle twist at the top should be gos­samer thin but strong enough to hold a mouth­ful of ex­ot­i­cally rich broth and a meaty pork mince mid­dle. To eat it suc­cess­fully, poke a lit­tle hole in the top with chop­sticks to re­lease the hot steam, driz­zle it with soy vine­gar and ginger, then del­i­cately trans­fer it from soup spoon to sali­vat­ing mouth in one go.

3 Ma­cau : Por­tuguese egg tart

If cus­tard and egg are your thing, lis­ten up. Ma­cau’s egg tarts, with a creamy yel­low cen­tre and outer lay­ers of flaky, but­tery pas­try are a hy­brid recipe com­bin­ing Por­tuguese pas­tel de nata (egg tarts) and English cus­tard tarts. They’re dubbed ‘Por­tuguese egg tart’ by lo­cal Chi­nese to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from the lo­cal treat. The story goes that in the late 1980s, An­drew Stow of Lord Stow’s Bak­ery in Ma­cau in­vented the much-im­i­tated recipe. It has now be­come an ed­i­ble icon.

4 Kuala Lumpur : roti canai

Don’t be dis­ap­pointed if you strug­gle to get this au­then­tic Malaysian dish for lunch or din­ner. In­tro­duced by the Ma­mak In­di­ans and em­braced by the en­tire Malaysian pop­u­la­tion, roti canai is a ubiq­ui­tous break­fast dish con­sist­ing of a round of fluffy, flaky-edged golden roti flat­bread that is served with a side of curry (usu­ally a Malay curry) or a dahl. It of­ten comes on a par­ti­tioned metal dish. Use your (right) hand to sweep it through the curry and maybe a lime pickle, be­fore pop­ping it in your mouth.

5 Fiji : Kokoda

It makes sense that an is­land na­tion’s most-favoured dish comes from the seas. Kokoda is a fish dish sim­i­lar to the Peru­vian ce­viche. It is made his­tor­i­cally from Span­ish mack­erel, but nowa­days the more com­mon choice is fresh raw snap­per, which is roughly diced and mar­i­nated in lime juice, left to chill then com­bined with fresh co­conut, cap­sicum and red onion. Other riffs on the recipe in­clude onion, chilli, tomato, spring onion and co­rian­der, de­pend­ing on what’s in the fridge. It is served in a small bowl and eaten as an en­tree.

6 Auck lan d: An­zac bis­cuits

An­zac bis­cuits are among a cu­ri­ous list of culi­nary icons – the pavlova be­ing an­other, that Aus­tralia and New Zealand claim own­er­ship to. 'An­zac' stands for Aus­tralia and New Zealand Army Corps and the way history tells it the golden bis­cuits, made chiefly from mix­ing oats, golden syrup, sugar, flour and co­conut, were a never-fail recipe to send to sol­diers abroad dur­ing World War 1.

7 Sin­ga­pore : Chilli crab

One of Sin­ga­pore’s tasti­est and messi­est meals, Sin­ga­pore chilli crab is whole mud crab stir-fried in a thick and oozy sweet tomato and chilli-based sauce, and topped with co­rian­der, chilli sliv­ers and spring onions. De­spite the name, it’s usu­ally not unso­cia­bly hot. It’s es­sen­tial to eat it with your hands, mak­ing sure to suck all the sauce from the crab shell when the meat has gone. Most eater­ies will pro­vide hot wa­ter with lemon, or a mound of nap­kins for face wip­ing.

8 Bali: sate lilit Sate lilit

(or, sa­tay, in Malaysian) is a Ba­li­nese favourite with many per­mu­ta­tions. The more com­mon is pork minced with a heady mix of herbs and spices, in­clud­ing galan­gal, chilli, ginger, turmeric, black pep­per­corns, cloves, nut­meg, co­rian­der seeds and tamarind, to form an aro­matic paste. The paste is then moulded around a sug­ar­cane stick, or skewer, and cooked on a bar­be­cue, grill or hot coals. Don’t be tempted by peanut sauce, sate lilit’s flavours shine through on their own.

9 Hong Kong : eg waf­fles

The de­li­cious doughy aroma that em­anates from road­side stalls in Hong Kong comes from one of the city’s much-loved street snacks, the egg waf­fle. The eggy leav­ened bat­ter, sweet­ened with sugar and con­densed milk, is cooked in a mould shaped like lit­tle round eggs, which is turned dur­ing cook­ing to en­sure that the fin­ished prod­uct is crisp on the out­side and puffy and soft in­side. Mod­ern in­car­na­tions in­clude choco­late, strawberry and black sesame, but the orig­i­nal is still the best, es­pe­cially when eaten while strolling through Wan Chai Mar­ket.

10 Viet­nam : bahn mi

Plenty of street cor­ners in Ho Chi Minh City boast a lit­tle stall sell­ing bahn mi. The fresh and crusty, white sin­gle-serve baguette, cut length-wise, is smoth­ered with pate and but­ter, then stuffed with pork sausage (or bar­be­cued pork), pick­led car­rot, cu­cum­ber and co­rian­der. Bahn mi has its In­dochi­nese ori­gins to thank for the com­bi­na­tion of both Viet­namese and French culi­nary de­lights. The baguettes are mostly eaten at break­fast and served wrapped in a small slip of paper. Grab your­self a street stool and tuck in.

11 Syd­ney : smashed av­o­cado

Aus­tralia’s cafe set loves smashed av­o­cado al­most as much as barista cof­fee. The break­fast and brunch main­stay, which has risen to fash­ion only in the past decade, is a sim­ple but de­lec­ta­ble com­bi­na­tion of whole­some in­gre­di­ents. Thick-sliced, oven-baked sour­dough bread is toasted and topped with a gen­er­ous por­tion of forkedthrough sea­sonal av­o­cado, qual­ity fetta, a gen­er­ous squeeze of lemon juice and a scat­ter­ing of sea salt. Co­rian­der, chilli flakes and a driz­zle of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil are rec­om­mended op­tions.

12 Pohn­pei : Mi­crone­sia pud­ding

Also known as gua­ma­nian pud­ding (and latiya in the lo­cal Chamorro lan­guage), Mi­crone­sia pud­ding is a sim­ple and tra­di­tional dessert that can be likened to Eng­land’s bread pud­ding. A cus­tardy mix­ture is made from evap­o­rated milk, but­ter, sugar, vanilla and eggs, then poured over a yel­low cake or pound cake, with fresh ground cin­na­mon then sprin­kled on top. Vari­a­tions on the pound cake in­clude vanilla cook­ies, madeira cake, lady fin­gers or even an­gel food cake. It is served cooled among friends and fam­ily.

13 Van­u­atu : sim­boro

Starch-based dishes made from veg­eta­bles that are home-grown in gar­dens and agri­cul­tural plots are pop­u­lar in Van­u­atu. Sim­boro, a more sim­ple ver­sion of the na­tional dish laplap, is a bit like a Greek dol­made. It’s made from sweet potato, which is finely grated, then wrapped in the lo­cal ‘is­land cab­bage’ or a chard-like leaf be­fore be­ing sim­mered in co­conut milk. Starch vari­a­tions in­clude taro, cas­sava and plan­tains, which soak up the flavour of the co­conut. It can be eaten as a snack in hand, or in a bowl along with the co­conut ‘soup’.

14 Tokyo : ra­men Ra­men

may well have been in­vented in China (it’s heav­ily de­bated), but Ja­pan has well and truly taken own­er­ship in mod­ern times. The heavy and nour­ish­ing broth-based soup (at a pre­mium when a whole pig’s head has had a dunk­ing) is filled with all kinds of good­ness de­pend­ing on the re­gion it hails from. In­gre­di­ents in­clude wheat noo­dles, par­boiled eggs, slices of pork or beef brisket, shred­ded sea­weed and spring onion. Miso and soy notes can be de­tected in the broth. It’s served in an over­sized bowl with chop­sticks and a spoon. One bowl is a meal in it­self (so no need to or­der that tempt­ing side of gy­oza).

15 Hawaii : poke BOWL

Poke bowls are one of the big culi­nary trends of the past two years, per­haps not sur­pris­ingly so in Hawaii where the Hawai­ian-Ja­panese fu­sion dish has long reigned supreme. A poke bowl is tra­di­tion­ally a dish of rough-chopped raw fish (usu­ally tuna or salmon and some­times oc­to­pus) served salad-style with tomato, sea­weed, scal­lions, nuts, condi­ments in­clud­ing soy sauce and sesame oil, plus a sprin­kle of chilli oil and sea salt. To­day, any­thing goes and poke bowls – pret­tier than ever – might be topped with tofu, chif­fon­ade radish, a sprin­kling of seeds and a gar­nish of micro-herbs.

16 Sri Lanka : kokis

Kokis is a Sri Lankan deep-fried snack or dessert. Made with rice flour, co­conut milk, egg and sugar, with a sprin­kle of turmeric giv­ing it a bright yel­low colour, the dish is a hand-medown from Dutch colo­nial times. A dec­o­ra­tive mould (of­ten in the shape of flow­ers or but­ter­flies) is heated with oil, pressed into the bat­ter, then the re­sult­ing shape is shaken into oil for a crispy fin­ish. The ed­i­ble treat is such a nov­elty it takes cen­tre-stage at oc­ca­sions and cer­e­monies, es­pe­cially Sin­hala and Tamil New Year.

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