With Christmas drawing ever-closer, you’d be forgiven for feeling homesick and craving the creature comforts that come from knowing your surroundings like the back of your hand. However, the more you get to know your surrogate city, the more you’ll uncover the wealth of comfort food dishes to satiate your taste buds and tide you over until your next flight home…
Though Hong Kong’s winters are mild-mannered compared to their British counterparts, the temperature does drop significantly from summer to winter, and expats and locals alike find themselves in need of warming winter dishes. One such dish is congee – a soup made from boiled rice and broth, topped with your choice of meat or fish and garnishes. Congee and wonton noodle shops are found across Hong Kong, and you never need to walk too far before you find one.
Beijing residents are accustomed to harsh winters, with frequent bouts of frost and snow and the near-promise of biting winds. Because of this, it’s understandable that one of the region’s favourite comfort food dishes packs a bit of a punch – hot and sour soup is made from ginger, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and shredded pork. The hot and sour components come from a hit of vinegar and white pepper, added at the end of the cooking process.
Xiaolongbao consist of a pork meatball wrapped in a delicate dumpling skin. These self-contained morsels have become synonymous with Shanghainese cuisine the world over. Served piping hot, the dumpling contains a liquid broth inside. Be mindful of your eating technique, though – newbies have been known to scald themselves on many an occasion.
A popular addition to dim sum meals, Chiu Chow dumplings are steamed with minced vegetables and pork. What makes them stand out from other steamed dim sum dishes is the surprising addition of peanuts inside.
Chicken soup is thought to be good for the soul the world over, though the Thai version is arguably more exotic than most. Tom Kha Gai is a coconut milk-based soup flavoured with lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and chilli, giving it a bit of a bite while remaining mild enough for most tolerance levels. It’s served with sliced chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes, among other garnishes.
When it comes to comfort, few things are more satisfying than a good omelette. Across Thailand, they’re eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner, but with a twist – compared to their European counterparts, the Khai Jiao is much larger and fluffier (owing no doubt to the lashings of oil they’re wok-fried in), and filled with a minced pork stuffing.
There’s nothing quite like a hearty stew rarely fails to lift the spirits, and Bak Kut Teh is one such nourisher. This rich, meaty pork rib soup cooked slowly and infused with garlic, cinnamon, cloves and fennel. It’s found across Malaysia and Singapore during both breakfast and lunch.
Arguably one of Indonesia’s most famous exports, Nasi goreng ticks all the comfort food boxes – simple, filling, and eaten across the nation. Simply translating to ‘fried rice’ in Bahasa, the additions of meat or prawns, egg, and a sweet soy sauce make transform this from a run of the mill bowl of rice to a distinctly Indonesian dish.
Beef noodle soup has become an iconic representative of Taiwanese cuisine. Though there are many variations, traditional bowls contain beef shank or brisket chunks, served in a dark, soy-sauce broth flavoured with heady spices like star Anais. The broth is poured over noodles and green vegetables.
For adobo, meat (commonly pork or chicken but also sometimes seafood) is stewed in soy sauce, garlic and vinegar, resulting in a rich brown sauce. Always served with rice, this is thought to be one of the national dishes of the Philippines. Different regions serve their adobo with slight variations (some wet some dry, some with the addition of other ingredients like fruit).