3 Gourmet Guides
If your travels are focused on following the world’s best bites, then consider enlisting the help of these victual virtuosos. By Diana Hubbell
Published on Aug 13, 2014
Intrepid foodies these days venture beyond the obvious to search for more authentic local cuisine. Leading the way are bloggers and fellow gourmands who offer private, bespoke tours that veer well off the beaten culinary path.
MARK WIENS, BANGKOK
Co-founder of the popular blog eatingthaifood.com, Mark Wiens specializes in steering visitors away from tourist traps and towards some of the city’s most interesting eats.
Mark Wiens's skillet double - whammy
WHERE TO GO “Surrounding fresh markets and on the outskirts of hospitals, universities or transportation hubs—these are often great areas for stumbling into delicious street food. Petchaburi Soi 5 is an entire street that is jam-packed with vendors in the evening. Wang Lang Market is great in the middle of the day, and throughout the maze of Chinatown’s back alleys are a few areas I especially enjoy.”
Food fever at Bangkok's Chinatown
MUST-TRY “A dish known as khao kluk kapi begins with rice that’s stir-fried with a hint of shrimp paste. Assembled on top of the rice are pieces of sweet pork, salty Chinese sausage, dry shrimp, omelette, sour green mango, diced shallots, Thai chilies and, finally, cucumbers and long beans. Practically the entire scale of what your mouth is capable of tasting is represented on a single plate. Khao Kluk Kapi Niyngow [+66 84 696 8797; Bt40], a small lunchtime stall located surprisingly close to Khao San Road, makes it very well.”
Flavorful khao kluk kapi
STAY AWAY FROM “A food cart that has a big handwritten sign for green papaya salad or pad thai is probably a cart you want to avoid, unless of course you want tame Thai food.” Contact Mark at migrationology [at] gmail.com; private half-day group food tours from US$70 to US$80 per person.
JENNY GAO, CHENGDU
Like any good Chengduren, Jenny Gao’s been a foodie since she could hold her chopsticks. In addition to writing for her blog, jingtheory.com, and appearing on the BBC, Gao leads visitors through the city’s tea houses and snack stalls, or to her own house for a home-cooked Sichuan meal.
Food blogger Jenny Gao
WHERE TO GO “You couldn’t avoid good food in Chengdu, even if you tried. There are small, family-owned restaurants that have been around for years. If there’s a line snaking out the door, that’s usually a good sign. Take a cue from what’s on other people’s tables and you can’t go wrong.”
Packed food stalls in Chengdu
MUST-TRY DISH “A classic Sichuan street snack, tianshuimian, which translates to ‘sweet water noodles.’ The best version is served up at Zhang Liangfen [39 Wenshuyuan Jie; RMB5], an age-old hole-in-the-wall across from Wenshu Temple in the center of town. You get a bowl of thick, chewy, hand-pulled noodles with an incredible elixir of sweet, savory and spicy sauces ladled on top.”
Sweet water noodles
ON THE HORIZON “There is a new trend in cultural preservation spawned by popular food documentaries in recent years such as CCTV’s A Bite of China, which is reviving interest among a younger generation in their cultural heritage. This spells a positive change that hopefully leads to more efforts to preserve, as well as push forward, Sichuan’s rich culinary identity.” Contact Jenny at jing [at] jingtheory.com; tours priced upon request.
VICTORIA MILNER, SINGAPORE
Though well-versed in the Lion City’s fine dining scene, the author of singaporefoodie.com is just as comfortable frequenting a hawker center for a humble plate of Hainan chicken rice.
Victoria Milner at work
WHERE TO GO “My favorite place to take visitors is Tiong Bahru—it’s a little enclave not far from the city but full of historical charm. You can visit the wet market to buy fresh produce, pop into a French bakery for croissant and then sample local pau [buns], all in the one wonderful little village. It is hard to choose, but my favorite hawker center is Maxwell Road.”
At Maxwell Road hawker center
MUST-TRY “A fish soup at a particular hawker stall in the city called Han Kee Fish Soup [Amoy Street Food Centre, Cnr. Telok Ayer St. and Amoy St., #02-129, 069111; S$6]. You’ll know it when you see it because the queue will weave around the center. Go before 11:30 a.m. on a weekday to avoid the afternoon lunch lines.”
A bowl of fish soup
MEMORABLE MEAL “Sitting down for a meal in Pulau Ubin, a little island just off the coast of Singapore is an unforgettable experience. It’s not fancy. In fact, you feel transported back a century as you eat wonderfully prepared noodles from a simple restaurant in a kampong that feels untouched by time and the scars of modern life.” Contact Victoria at victoria [at] singaporefoodie.com; private half-day group tours from S$50 per person, including all food.