Before making my way to Dubai 2 years ago I spent 6 years wandering around Asia, from Thailand to Korea and back again. Sampling a huge variety of food from the sublime to the ridiculous. Even attempting to eat crickets in Vietnam, I proudly managed 2!
Since leaving Asia I have had a deep craving for a number of the dishes I tasted on my travels. Luckily Dubai is an international hub for cuisine and I have been able to get my fill of Tom Yum soup.
So here are my favourite Asian cuisines and where to find them in Dubai.
Of course the most famous Vietnamese dish is Phở (pronounced ‘fur’), either Ga (chicken) or Bo (beef), and it is also one of my favourites. However, finding a Phở, which is actually full of flavour can be a challenge.
The Blue Jade at the Ritz Carlton on JBR is up to this challenge, with chefs from around the world including a Vietnamese head chef; their Phở dish is divine. With heady scents of ginger, coriander (cilantro) and lime, this bowl of soup will bring back memories of sitting in the narrow streets close to Hoàn Kiếm Lake on little red plastic chairs.
Some will be forgiven for thinking that Phở is the only Vietnamese dish around, and they couldn’t be further from the truth. Their cuisine is rich and varied, changing as you travel down the country. I love the Vietnamese rolls. They are full of fresh vegetables and herbs, with a strong taste of tamarind leaves and ginger. The steamed roll selection at Lao at the Waldorf Astoria is superb. The tastiest of which are the xôi cuộn tôm hùm, for those of you who don’t read Vietnamese, these are little lobster rolls wrapped in rice paper and flavoured with carrot and chili pickles, healthy and delicious!
I spent 4 years living in Seoul Korea and can honestly say Korean food is one of my favourite cuisines. Homely, tasty, packed with garlic and perfect for large groups to sit and eat together.
There are so many good Korean dishes, however, the best has to be삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal), which is a thick pork bacon, cooked in front of you on a coal fire and then dipped in sesame oil, 쌈장 (Ssamjang) and wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Completely moreish!
Sonamu is Dubai’s only Korean fine dining restaurant; in the Asiana Hotel in Deira it has an interesting, classic and diverse menu. In true Korean fashion Sonamu offers set menus, where you can enjoy a multitude of small dishes. Try everything from their sautéed raw halibut with wasabi sauce to marinated short ribs. Unfortunately there is no pork on the menu; however, the beef grill is worth a try. Authentic and varied this really is a taste of Korea.
Thai food can be so hit and miss in restaurants, with some places choosing spiciness over taste. However, a few restaurants in Dubai have achieved the perfect balance.
As I mentioned earlier I love Tom Yum soup. I cannot speak highly enough of the bowl I tasted at Benjarong Thai restaurant in the Dusit Thani hotel. The menu is created by the talented head chef Naruemol Poolkuan, and the soup is simply delicious, the perfect blend of sour and spice complementing the juicy prawns.
I do sometimes struggle with spice, which proves to be tricky when navigating Asia! So one of the dishes I always enjoyed eating was Phat si-io, also know as Pad See Ew. This dish has a sweet nutty taste, with stir fried flat noodles a sticky and sour soy sauce and little gems of cashew nut and chicken. Tasty and filling!
If you are looking to be a little adventurous then head over to Thiptara at the Palace Downtown Dubai. Enjoy their delicious Pad Thai Goong, noodles with fresh shrimps and peanuts. This restaurant has an authentic Thai menu complete with stunning evening views of the Dubai fountains.
Malaysian cooking is diverse and picks up elements from so many different cultures: Chinese, Indian and Filipino, this makes Malaysia one of the more interesting countries in Asia to visit. After spending several years in Kuala Lumpur with my family I became addicted to Nasi Goreng, spicy and salty rice with chili and fried prawns with an egg! A staple in Malaysian cuisine.
Although there aren’t any dedicated restaurants to Malaysian fine dining in Dubai, there are plenty of places offering Malay dishes. Peppercrab at the Grand Hyatt Dubai has a fusion menu of Singaporean and Malaysian. With mouthwatering beef rendang and wok fried crab, seriously great Asian inspired food!
Beachcombers at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel has a pan of Asian cuisines menu including a few delicious Malaysian morsels. Try the vegetarian option Popiah Goreng, crunchy vegetable spring rolls in sweet chili sauce and Kepak Yam Goreng Berempah, a traditional Malaysian dish of fried chicken in aromatic spices with a spicy Sambal. I recommend you try as many dishes as you can manage to really appreciate the complexity of this cuisine!