By Niyati Patege, Senior Student and 2022 Ponte Vedra Focus Scholarship Winner, Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School
The Northeast Jacksonville area is home to a variety of different cultures and identities providing a colorful backdrop to experience the diversity of the world. One of the greatest things Jacksonville has to offer is a rich, cultural food scene, particularly regarding its Asian cuisine. With a large Asian population, Jacksonville provides many local opportunities to appreciate the continent’s diverse food and flavor, and it will leave a lasting impression on your tongue.
Being Indian myself, I love Asian food of all types and I have compiled a list of what I think to be some of Jacksonville’s best Asian food. So, if you want to experience a new flavor of each part of your meal, keep reading for a delicious treat!
Drinks: Natural Kitchen Café
With a beautiful location in Orange Park, Natural Kitchen Café is the spot to get tasty boba tea. A popular Taiwanese drink with milk tea and squishy tapioca balls at the bottom, Natural Kitchen provides plenty of customizations to make a tasty and aesthetic-looking drink. From traditional teas to fruit smoothies, the opportunities are endless and, if boba isn’t your thing, they also have a variety of poke bowls and Hong Kong waffle ice cream that is just as delicious.
Appetizers: Hawkers Asian Street Food
A wonderful spot for a variety of pan-Asian cuisine, Hawkers has two locations: one on Riverside, and another by Neptune Beach. Sporting a fun and inviting atmosphere, Hawkers specializes in tapas, or small plates, as well as a variety of craft cocktails. Their Roti Canai is my personal favorite; a flaky Malaysian flatbread served with a flavorful curry sauce. Or maybe you’re in the mood for the Korean Twice Fried Wings that are crispy and made with spicy gochujang? Also delivering an assortment of yummy noodles and meat dishes, Hawkers is the perfect place if you are the type of person that wants to try a little bit of everything.
Main Course: Lemongrass Thai Bistro
An upscale Thai restaurant located on Southside, Lemongrass provides many Thai specialties including noodles, curries, seafood, and more. My personal favorite is their Drunken Noodles, a spicy, saucy noodle dish that satisfies every one of my cravings. From their Pad Kaprow to their Kiew Wan curry made with coconut milk, Lemongrass is one that never fails to disappoint. Their food is jam-packed with flavor and is very accommodating to meal customizations and dietary restrictions. Every meal at Lemongrass is made just a little bit better with their classic Thai Iced Tea on the side.
Vegetarian Option: 5th Element
Catering to different diets, Indian food is perfect for those who restrict their meat consumption, and none better is the place than the Indian restaurant, 5th Element. Located in Baymeadows, 5th Element provides classic dishes from all the regions of India. Many of their dishes are vegetarian and gluten-free while they also use 100% halal meat. Retaining the delicious flavors of traditional India, 5th Element’s Chole Batura, a puffy bread served with chickpea curry is my go-to order. Try a variety of dosas, a savory crepe served with potatoes and chutney, or indulge in their Paneer Kurchan, a curry made of shredded paneer doused in a tomato and heavy cream sauce. For me, 5th Element is the place I go when I am craving a little bit of my home country, other than my mom’s food of course!
Dessert: The Baker’s Son
A Filipino bakery located on Atlantic Boulevard is the perfect place to get authentic Filipino goods. Baked fresh every day, The Baker’s Son provides an assortment of sweet and savory items. They carry a variety of Ensaymadas, a soft, sweet dough covered in butter and sugar (my favorite is the ube ensymada), house a variety of traditional sweets such as Puto Flan, as well as provide a Filipino twist on other desserts. If sweets aren’t your thing, their Pork Siopao is bound to satisfy all your cravings with a flavorful pork mixture stuffed inside a beautiful, steamed pillow of dough. If you’re in the mood for something more adventurous, try their Halo-Halo, a drink made with shaved ice, condensed milk, jellies, jackfruit, ube ice cream, and other various mix-ins to make the perfect summer drink.
Asian food is my favorite cuisine because, in my opinion, it is the most flavorful food in the world. I love the diversity you get through each corner of the continent and the Asian culture surrounding food. Asian culture prides community and I find it most easy to do that over food, as it harbors a beautiful time for enjoying the things on your plate, as well as the people around the table, something Jacksonville captures very perfectly.
About Niyati Patege
Niyati Patege is a senior student at Darnell Cookman Middle/High School and The 2022 Ponte Vedra Focus Blog Scholarship Winner. Niyati hopes to be attending New York University, pending admission, or will be attending the University of Central Florida in the fall. “Writing and food are two of my biggest passions in life and I truly appreciate your recognition and assistance as I progress on my academic journey.”