Wanderlust with Cynthia Rosenfeld: Local bites

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Food writing tends towards the latest restaurants or the world’s best (and usually most expensive) eateries. This has left me wondering where people really dine on a regular basis. With this thought in mind, I’ve begun compiling a list of my regular haunts around Asia, the places I would really visit if I had one night in, say, Bangkok. 

Were I there, you could find me at the shockingly inexpensive Kai Thod Jai Kee (137 Soi Polo, Wittayu Rd) for truly finger-licking chicken, deep-fried with Thai garlic showered on top. The plastic furniture is nothing worth Instagramming, but lines form nightly for the fowl and its famous shredded papaya salad, available extra spicy on request. Up north in Chiang Mai, I stick with simple at The Salad Concept (Soi 13, Nimmanhaemin Rd), started by two local sisters to help their father recover from cancer, which he did. I customise my salad with healthy, edible delights grown locally and wash it down with a fresh fruit shake. At Thailand’s opposite extreme, I head for the hills of Phuket near Patong where Lim’s (28 Phra Baramee Rd, Soi 7, Pa Tong, Kalim Beach) serves classic Thai cuisine, like winged bean salad and chicken with chillies and basil, to in-the-know Phuket expats and locals alike.

Work often takes me to Sri Lanka, where rice and curry dominates nearly every menu. When I crave lighter bites, I sneak off to Milk & Honey (44A Horton Place, Colombo 7), an inviting nook at the back of a children’s bookshop. Here, friendly staff slice and dice fresh produce from the market into healthy liquid addictions like my favourite beetroot, carrot and apple juice. Creative vegetarian wraps made to order leave room for vegan brownies and this town’s best chocolate chip cookie. Elsewhere on the Indian sub-continent, and hidden off the thronged streets near Jama Masjid Mosque in Old Delhi, Karim’s (16 Gali Kababian, near Matia Mahal) is a décor-free Mughal restaurant opened in 1913. Oven heated air hangs heavy, but the minced mutton kebabs with crushed green chilli and grilled tandoori chicken stay true to the tried and tested recipes of the 16th century. 

My Siem Reap days are spent among the 300-plus temples of Angkor, which is fine since my local, Miss Wong (alleyway behind Pub St, near Pithnou St), opens only after dark. This old Shanghai-inspired lounge serves classic and creative cocktails that accompany Hong Kong-quality dim sum, Singapore fried noodles and innovative fare. Best are the luscious barbeque duck sliders in plum and black bean sauce, served on a steamed Chinese bun with lettuce, tomato, onions and mayonnaise, which I liken to an American burger embracing the East. Another favourite for fusion is Hoi An’s Mango Room (111 Nguyen Thai Hoc St) where the owner, a former Vietnamese refugee who grew up along the Texas-Mexico border, now infuses native classics with fresh mangoes and passion fruits.

You might think by now I’d be stuffed. However, if it’s Sunday and I’m in Bali, I never miss brunch at Café Batu Jimbar (Jalan Danau Timblangan 75A, Sanur), for the delectable caramelised apple or banana pancakes and berry-infused smoothies, not to mention some of Asia’s best people watching.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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