Business trips often feel like a case of all work and no play – but even if you find yourself chained behind the laptop for most of your time away, you’ve still got to eat… and what better way to get a true taste of whatever city you’re in than with a delicious bite or two! Rather than filling up on yet another generic hotel buffet, we’ve rounded up some of the most quintessential eats in a host of Compass Office cities from the around the world.
HONG KONG: DIM SUM
You can’t come to Hong Kong and not try dim sum. Literally translating as “touch your heart”, it’s no surprise that so many visitors fall in love with this assortment of traditional steamed dumplings, baked buns and other small sharing dishes. This mid-morning meal originally began hundreds of years ago in China with roadside teahouses serving snacks to hungry, tired travellers… a feeling that many modern-day hungry, tired travellers can probably identify with!
One of the cheapest Michelin-starred eateries in the world, Tim Ho Wan is a local dim sum favourite that has since expanded into a highly popular restaurant chain with locations throughout the city – meaning you’re never too far away from getting a fix of their famous baked barbeque pork buns (char siu bao). With plenty of other dim sum staples like prawn dumplings (har gow), rice rolls (cheung fan) and turnip cake (lo bak go) all available for around HK$30 per dish, there’s no excuse to leave hungry here.
SINGAPORE: CHILLI CRAB
What better way to spice up a work trip than with a delicious serving of chilli crab? This iconic Singapore dish was invented in the 1950s by Cher Yam Tien who sold it from a mobile pushcart, and features stir-fried crab drenched in an all-too addictive thick, sweet but spicy tomato and chilli sauce – often served alongside steamed or fried mantou buns to mop up every drop of that gravy!
Take a break from the grind by hitting Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, which serves up one of the best – and spiciest – chilli crabs in town. This seafront restaurant is also the inventor of another take on the iconic dish, black pepper crab; a perfect choice for those that can’t handle the heat. Get your hands dirty and dig in!
SHANGHAI: XIAO LONG BAO
If you’ve never had a xiao long bao before, prepare yourself for a pretty life-changing experience! China isn’t exactly short of dumplings but these soup-filled delicacies – supposedly invented by a street vendor back in the 19th century – have become something of a Shanghainese icon. Each morsel is a little piece of culinary magic, thin dumpling skin filled with tender minced pork wrapped with solid meat aspic, which then melts to create the soup once the dumpling is steamed. Figuring out how to eat one is a feat in itself, but don’t forget to dip them in Zhenjiang vinegar with ginger slivers to add just the right note of acidity.
Whilst there are plenty of xiao long bao specialists with long histories in Shanghai, local hole-in-the-wall Jia Jia Tang Bao has developed a reputation for being one of the best in the city – and has the long lines to prove it. Try the variety with crab roe for a tasty twist on tradition, but don’t leave it too late… this shop closes each afternoon as soon as that day’s fresh batch of dumplings has sold out.
HO CHI MINH CITY: PHO
Originally sold by roaming street vendors in the early 20th century, debate rages over the exact origins of pho – but what we are certain about is that it’s absolutely delicious! Vietnam’s most famous culinary export consists of rice noodles in a flavourful meat broth with herbs and thin slices of meat, although there are many regional variations; in general, northern pho uses wider noodles with more green onions and simple garnishes, whilst southern “Saigon pho” has a sweeter broth, bean sprouts and more fresh herbs.
With so many pho choices in Ho Chi Minh City, you can’t really go wrong – but if you’re a beef lover, Pho Le is the place to go, where a steaming hot bowl of good-quality plentiful beef, a rich slightly-sweet broth and a mountain of fresh bean sprouts and herbs awaits. Add a twist of lime and a splash of chilli sauce and you’ll soon be in pho heaven.
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