Food and drink

Local Experts Reveal the Newest Asian Food Trends

Flash in the pan or here to stay? Asia’s foodies reveal the dishes and drinks currently trending in seven cities

Hong Kong SAR 

The Trend: Omnipork

Charmaine Mok, Editorial director of Food and Wine of T.Dining

Charmaine Mok

Editorial director of food and wine, T.Dining@supercharz

What it is: A new plant-based pork product made with non-GMO soy, pea protein, shiitake mushrooms and rice by food tech start-up Right Treat.

Why it’s trending: After the launch of plant-based meat patties from companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, Omnipork was very well-received in Hong Kong – thanks to the city’s appetite for pork and growing awareness of the environmental impact of eating meat.

Omnipork dishes
Credit: Mike Pickles

How it tastes: It’s incredible how right the texture and flavour of Omnipork is. While it may not work so well in mimicking whole pieces of pork, it works excellently in any recipe that calls for pork mince.

Where to find it: In shengjianbao (Shanghainese pan-fried buns) at King of Sheng Jian, steamed dumplings at Ming Court at the five-star Cordis hotel, and even in local cha chaan teng icon Tsui Wah, where it features in a classic baked Bolognese sauce on rice or spaghetti.

Shanghai, China

The Trend: Healthy hotpot broth

Danyi Gao, Chef of Shake and Bun Cha Cha

Danyi Gao

Chef of Shake and Bun Cha Cha and winner of the popular cooking competition series Chef Nic (2017), @高丹艺Danyi

What it is: Hotpot has always been popular in Shanghai. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more restaurants serving healthier broth options, including a variety of Chinese herbal soups – the fish maw chicken broth is especially popular.

Why it’s trending: Diners are becoming more health conscious, and they’re now seeking out less oily broths to go with their favourite meats and vegetables.

The fish maw chicken broth
Left credit: Joyce To; Right credit: Linda Chen

How it tastes: The fish maw chicken broth – which is full of collagen and is said to be good for the skin – is very popular among women. Some even drink a bowl of it before adding in other ingredients.

Where to find it: Shanghai welcomes many new hotpot restaurants each year. The hottest recent opening must be Lou Shang on Maoming Nan Lu. You need to make reservations months in advance, and sometimes you’ll see people lining up for tables at 2am.

Manila, Philippines

The Trend: Local artisanal chocolates

Emmanuel Damian, Food Blogger

Emmanuel Damian

Food blogger,, @emmandamian

What they are: High-quality, bean-to-bar chocolates that are proudly made with cocoa beans from Davao.

Why they’re trending: Many of these homegrown chocolate brands have worked with social media influencers for cross-promotions. Aside from the usual dried mangoes, these chocolates make great souvenirs for family and friends.

Filipino artisanal chocolates

How they taste: Ranging from sweet and flowery to fruity, Filipino chocolates are just as good as other overseas offerings. The turon-flavoured dark chocolates by Mabuhay are my favourites. They bring back memories of my grandmother, who loved this traditional deep-fried banana treat. 

Where to find them: Everywhere, from lifestyle shop Kultura Filipino to chains like Mister Donut, where you’ll find the Cacao Bits doughnut made with Auro Chocolate.

Mumbai, India

The Trend: Tandoori chai

Sanjyot Keer, Chef and founder of Your Food Lab

Sanjyot Keer

Chef and founder, Your Food Lab@sanjyotkeer

What it is: Masala tea served in a piping hot earthen pot, which has been heated up in a traditional Indian charcoal oven.

Why it’s trending: The process of heating up the tea in a tandoori oven caramelises the sugar while adding smoky notes. The drink has also become an instant hit on social media.

Masala tea served in a dipping hot earthen pot heated up in a traditional Indian charcoal oven
Credit: Debdeep Mukherjee

How it tastes: I think this is a gimmicky way of serving masala chai that does not actually elevate the drink. This is a classic example of something becoming famous on social media that may not have longevity in the future.

Where to find it: Chai La Tandoor Chai is where tandoori chai was originated. But you can now find the drink in many teashops across Mumbai.

Tokyo, Japan

The trend: Uniku

Yuma Wada

Founder of Ninja Food Tours, @ninjafoodtours

What it is: A combination of uni (sea urchin) and niku (wagyu beef), where fresh uni is wrapped in raw or cooked wagyu or served on top of wagyu sushi.

Why it’s trending: Uni and wagyu beef are both delicacies in Japan, so the combination of both ingredients is a luxurious experience.

Itamae Sushi Edo Japan
Tokyo Weekend Blog

How it tastes: Japanese people like contrasting textures, so this pairing of soft, fatty beef with a smooth, creamy uni centre or topping is a luxurious, melt-in-your-mouth treat.

Where to find it: Sushi Saisho was the first restaurant to start serving uniku in Tokyo, but the popular dish can now be found at various local restaurants around town, including Tsukiji Imazu, Itamae Sushi Edo and Maruushi Meat.

Uniku is a combination of uni and niku where fresh uni is wrapped in raw or cooked wahyu or served on top of wagyu sushi

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Trend: Bubble tea, South East Asian-style

Eunice Martin Lim, Photography and food stylist

Eunice Martin Lim

Photographer and food stylist, @euniceeunny

What it is: Chewy tapioca pearls (known as boba) cooked with molasses and topped with silky smooth milk tea in a myriad of flavours.

Why it’s trending: Since its arrival in Malaysia over a decade ago, bubble tea has adapted to local tastes – durian is one of the most popular flavours here.

South East Asian-style bubble tea
Getty Images/iStockphoto

How it tastes: It really depends on the flavour and quality of the tea and milk powder. I’d actually recommend the traditional teh tarik (pulled tea), which is also much cheaper.

Where to find it: SS15 Subang Jaya is known to locals as Bubble Tea Street. Visitors can find more than a dozen famous bubble milk tea shops here, including Tiger Sugar, Xing Fu Tang and SugarMummy.

Tiger Sugar at Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Credit: Summer/ Tiger Sugar/ SS15 Subang Jaya, Malaysia

Jakarta, Indonesia

The Trend: Nasi ulam

Filipus Verdi

Food blogger,

What it is: A Malay rice dish topped with a mix of herbs like lemon basil, grated coconut, peanut granules and semur (a sweet gravy-like stew). Toppings like beef jerky, omelette, perkedel (potato fritter), fried tofu and prawn crackers can also be added.

Why it’s trending: Unlike nasi lemak (steamed coconut milk rice), nasi ulam is a dish that’s a bit harder to find. Over the past year, however, many local food bloggers and vloggers began singing its praises and the dish is experiencing a sort of revival.

How it tastes: 
Just like other Indonesian dishes, nasi ulam has many textures and flavours – the crunchiness from the peanuts and vegetables, and the rich sweetness from the beef jerky.

Where to find it: Few restaurants offer nasi ulam. But if you want an authentic version, head to Glodok – Jakarta’s Chinatown – and look for Nasi Ulam Misjaya and Nasi Ulam H. Nana.

Food stalls with Nasi ulam
Credit: Moses Sihombing
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