We visit an Asian food hall in Birmingham’s Chinatown with Dinosaur Maki & bento boxes

Asia Asia Food Hall on Pershore Street in the Chinese Quarter in Birmingham, next to the Bullring shopping centre, offers an authentic far east food experience

From Vietnam to Thailand and South Korea to Japan - you can enjoy some of the most tantalising tastes of these far away lands in this acclaimed venue in Chinatown.

Asia Asia Food Hall was named among the top 20 food halls in the UK by Enjoy Travel last year, and it’s got so many fans all over Birmingham.

It was my first ever visit on a Saturday afternoon and I was excited to discover what all the fuss was about after hearing rave reports. Located next to the Bullring, it wasn’t too difficult to find, and occupies two floors of a former 1960s office block.

Its popularity was evident as soon as we made our way up the steps to the first floor and were greeted by a bustling dining room, buzzing with chatter and colourful food stalls stacked along the walls.

At the top of the stairs, before we entered, we checked out the Top Up Counter and the Drinks Bar. You purchase a card before you enter the food hall and that is what you use to pay for your dishes. If you use cash to buy the card, you are refunded the money you don’t spend before you leave. There’s a cashpoint at the side if, like me most of the time, you don’t have any cash with you.

The team were so friendly and helpful, explaining how the food hall works. They suggested we put £15 to £20 on each card to enjoy the restaurants.

I must admit, the venue was smaller than I imagined. But it offers a fantastic opportunity to explore some authentic Asian food that you might not usually choose.

We set about exploring the menus at each of the restaurants on the first floor. Luckily all of the choices had English translations.

There were options for Korean food, Japanese and Vietnamese - all prepared freshly with so many amazing choices.

It took some time to take it all in. Perhaps it was a blessing that the food hall actually wasn’t any bigger than it was after all.

After we had taken a look around we headed up to the second floor to find out what was up there - although we had heard that the second floor wasn’t as popular as the first.

On floor two we found traditional malatang (a type of Chinese street food which originated from Sichuan), there was also Bangkok street food and BBQ and dumplings. It was so difficult to make a decision - these sounded just as good as floor one.

But somehow we headed back downstairs and both me and my friend opted for Japanese food from Sakura. I think it was the amazingly long sushi dishes that caught my eye when we first looked around the diners that convinced me that this was the way to go.

I chose Dinosaur Maki, with maki being a type of sushi roll made by wrapping sushi rice and other ingredients - in this case fried prawns Tobikko and mayonnaise in a sheet of seaweed called ‘nori’ - topped with avocado (£14.68). It was a plate of joy. Full of colour and so nourishingly wholesome. Not cold, like horrible refrigerated supermarket sushi, just nicely room temperature with a tasty soy dip on the side - and it was topped with Ikura (salmon roe sometimes called red caviar).

What a treat - so soft, the slippery avocado melting into the softly satisfying rice with a crispy coated prawn adding a whole new depth of flavour and protein.

The Ikura topping added a wonderful sharpness to each bite. I even managed to eat most of it with chopsticks - but there were plenty of steel forks available too.

My friend opted for a Chicken gyoza & prawn katsu bento. It looked amazing - such generous portions, and I was advised it was equally satisfying.

We selected a couple of drinks from the bar while we waited for our food to be cooked. Once we had placed our orders we were given a ring fob to let us know when it was ready. The bar had so many options - many in Chinese with English translations. There were alcoholic drinks alongside soft drinks. We both opted for soft drinks. I chose a melon soda, which was a very interesting green colour. All part of the experience!

So if you are in the mood for a food adventure, but don’t want to get on a plane - or wait for Luna New Year, then get on a bus or a train or a tram and take yourself off to Asia Asian in Chinatown, Birmingham, for an authentic far east food feast. Here's a few pictures from our visit:

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