Weird and wacky items can be found in night markets all over Far East Asia, with Korea, Japan, China, and even Taiwan all claiming to have the most interesting street food. Let’s take a pictorial tour of the “delicacies” you may encounter and then we can decide which country wins the argument!
In Japan, street food is called Yatai. Of all places I have travelled, Japan seems to have the widest selection of roadside snacks. Your best bet to find some amazing street food is actually in Osaka (the birthplace of takoyaki), but Kyoto and Tokyo are also hotspots for a bit of amazing street food. In the capital, you should check out Nakamise-dori in the Asakusa region (just outside Sensoji Temple) and of course the famous Tsukiji Fish Market for some fresh seafood! In Kyoto, I think the ultimate place for street food would have to be Nishiki Market, but I loved the street-side vendors outside the Fushimi Inari Shrine, where delicious tako and kare pan could be found very cheaply! Aside from the typical Japanese street food favourites, you should also look out for dango and shioyaki, as both are delicious and no backpacking adventure in Japan is complete without experimenting with at least one of them! And of course, you could even try out a regional burger from McDonald’s if you’re desperate…or not.
Wangfujing Night Market (or Wangfujing Snack Street) in Beijing really serves up the weirdest street food, with scorpions and locusts, as well as the odd lizard thrown in for good measure, being perfectly normal for an evening meal among the tourists who are congregating in the area. Suspiciously, not many Beijingers seem to be experimenting with these bugs…I guess they aren’t as stupid as the tourists! You can find nicer stuff at Wangfujing Snack Street too, such as candied fruit (Tanghulu), but the general rule here is that if it once crawled, jumped, or slithered, then you can find it here on a stick! Other nice areas of China for street food include Nanjing Road in Shanghai and Kuanzhai Ancient Street in Chengdu.
Shilin Night Market is known all over the world for its tasty street food and is probably the best night market of its kind in Asia. You can find a lot of seafood here, including some very large squid and starfish! Make sure you try the Taiwanese sausage and wash it down with some Bubble Tea (known locally as “Boba”). Read all about my adventures at Shilin Night Market!
Surely the most fatty type of street food I have encountered is the Potato Hot Dog which I found near Itaewon in Seoul and also a much soggier version in hipster Hongdae. You need to careful when you eat these as there is no way of knowing how long ago they were cooked, so make sure you eat from a reputable seller! Aside from those calorific snacks, you will also find traditional favourites like kimbap or ppeontwegi. When walking around Myeongdong or Hongdae, you may encounter a few Korean fried chicken outlets, too, and coupled with a nice bottle of Soju, this could be a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the streets! Read all about my experience in Myeongdong!
So that completes my look at the street food of Far East Asia! Which delicacies tickle your fancy? Please check out my Snack Attack and Foodporn series of blogs for more information on foods of the world!