My Top 11 Favourite Rice Dishes in Asia
March 11, 2020
“Rice is the best, the most nutritive and unquestionably the most widespread staple in the world.”
– Auguste Escoffier
Although I seldom eat rice dishes, I’ve still tried some really good ones in Asia. I’ve previously shared about my top 7 favourite Japanese rice dishes. There are too many delectable Japanese rice dishes, which is why I dedicated one entire post to it. This time round, check out my top 11 favourite rice dishes in Asia.
#1 – Nasi Lemak (Singapore & Malaysia)
Nasi lemak is a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. There are two types of nasi lemak you can find in Singapore – the Singaporean Malay variation and thee Singaporean Chinese variation. The former features a sambal that’s sweeter and not as spicy as compared to the ones in Malaysia. The sides includes ikan bilis (anchovies), peanuts and an omelette or fried egg. The latter, on the other hand, comes with a variety of sides that includes deep fried drumstick, chicken franks, fish fillet, fish cake, curried vegetables and luncheon meat. Sometimes the rice is also coloured emerald green with the use of pandan leaf extract. This also gives the rice a nice aroma.
#2 – Nasi Kandar (Malaysia)
Nasi kandar is a popular northern Malaysian dish, which originates from Penang. I’m glad I’ve tried this dish in Penang. Popularised by Indian Muslim traders from India, nasi kandar contains steamed rice served with a variety of curries and side dishes like fried chicken, curried beef, lamb, fried prawns or fried squid. The vegetable dish would usually be brinjal, okra or bitter gourd. Out of these three vegetables, I only eat the brinjal. After selecting your sides and vegetables, the rice will be generously drenched in a mixture of curry sauces.
#3 – Claypot Rice (Hong Kong, Singapore & Malaysia)
Claypot rice is traditionally cooked over a charcoal stove to give the dish a distinctive flavour. Some places serve it with thick, sweetened soy sauce and sometimes dried salted fish. Due to the time-consuming method of preparation and slow-cooking in a claypot, be patient as you’ll most likely have to wait around 15 to 30 minutes for your claypot rice.
When visiting Hong Kong, you must try Kwan Kee Claypot Rice (坤記煲仔小菜). The Beef Claypot Rice with Egg and the Preserved Sausages and Chicken Claypot Rice are the restaurant’s signature items.
#4 – Roasted Meat Rice (Hong Kong and Singapore)
Whenever I visit Hong Kong, I can never leave the city without savouring their roasted meats. You should have dinner at Joy Hing Roasted Meat (再興燒臘飯店). This is one of the most popular stalls in Hong Kong for roasted meats. From char siew (barbecued pork) to roasted duck to roasted goose to soy sauce chicken to sio bak (crispy roasted pork belly), the choices are aplenty. I ordered a 3-meats-combination rice set which came with char siew, roasted duck and roasted goose. The tender, succulent and juicy char siew was a winner! Unlike Singapore’s lean meat, the char siew here contains some fats which makes the meat so flavourful and gives the meat a nicer bite.
In Singapore, the strongest contender against roasted meat served in Hong Kong is this particular stall in Jalan Besar – Hong Kong 88 Roast Meat Specialist. Jayden and I love the char siew so much that we pre-order it annually without fail for Chinese New Year’s reunion dinner.
#5 – Bibimbap (Korea)
If you’re a stranger to Bibimbap, it’s a Korean word which literally translates to “mixed rice”. Sautéed and seasonal vegetables (namul), chilli pepper paste (gochujang), soy sauce, and a fermented soybean paste (doenjang) is presented beautifully atop a bowl of warm white rice. Just give this rice dish a good toss before savouring! When I visited Seoul, there was a particular stall at Gwangjang Market serving freshly prepared vegetables, so fresh that each mouthful is full of crunch.
#6 – Tendon (Japan)
Tendon is a Japanese traditional donburi dish which consists a bowl of rice topped with tempura. Tempura is a dish of deep fried shrimp, fish and vegetables. Tendon’s “ten” means tempura, “don” means donburi which is rice bowl. When I visited Kyoto, I had lunch at Nishiki Hirano, which specialises in tendon sets. The Special Tempura Rice Bowl set includes shrimp tempura, pumpkin tempura, eggplant tempura, sillago tempura, soft-boiled egg tempura, tempura shiso leaf, and eight different side dishes, served with rolled omelette and a Japanese soup. None of the tempura rice bowls I’ve tried in Singapore can compare to this delicious one found at Nishiki Market.
#7 – Banh Beo (Vietnam)
Similar to, yet slightly different from Singapore’s chwee kueh, Banh Beo is a steamed rice cake served in a small bowl with a wet topping consisting minced shrimp, pork, spring onion, and a dry topping made up of deep-fried Cao Lao noodles. It is affordably priced at 2,000 VND per bowl. Why not challenge yourself and see how many bowls are you able to stomach?
#8 – Pork Trotters Rice (Thailand)
I’m not sure where pork trotters rice originated from, but the one I had in Chiang Mai was amazing. While checking out the street food vendors who set up their stalls across the street of Chang Phueak, Chiang Mai’s North Gate, I stumbled upon one particular vendor dressed up as a ‘cowgirl’. The “Khao Ka Moo” (pork trotters rice) that she prepared had a good amount of fatty layers and lean meat. The gravy had a tinge of cinnamon and star anise flavours. Don’t forget to add the salted vegetables which are placed in huge containers at each table.
#9 – Lahpet (Myanmar)
When I was in Yangon, I had lunch at Father’s Office and tried the Lahpet (Burmese Tea Leaves salad) – a Burmese favourite local cuisine. The friendly owner studied culinary in Australia and is a qualified chef. Her rendition of Lahpet consists shredded pork, peanuts, eggs and tea leaves salad served with rice. The shredded pork here is very special because she marinated the meat with wine. She used a whole leaf instead of pounded ones as per tradition. The Lahpet here is also served with Burmese Balachaung, a condiment made with fried onions, shrimp, garlic, ginger & red chilies. It tastes quite similar to Singapore’s version of belachan. Imagine the explosion of flavours and textures in every mouthful – so delicious!
#10 – Minchi (Macau)
Macanese cuisine is unique to Macau. It’s basically a fusion of Portuguese and local food. If you’re one with a hearty appetite in the morning, go for minchi – a dish containing steamed rice, stir-fried minced meat and spices, topped with a fried egg. Both Jayden and I rank minchi as our top favourite Macanese food.
#11 – Braised Pork Rice (Taiwan)
The braised pork rice (魯肉飯) is my favourite Taiwanese food. There are two versions of braised pork rice. If you order the usual “lu rou fan (魯肉飯)”, you will get a huge slab of fatty pork belly with salted vegetables served on rice, and drenched in the flavourful gravy. The irresistibly flavourful fatty layers melted in my mouth, and made me go for a second helping. If you order “rou zao fan (肉燥飯)”, expect minced meat instead of the fatty pork belly. To be honest, I prefer the latter and usually order that.
Do you have other favourite rice dishes to share? Do comment below and let me know.