As a first-year international student from Hong Kong, one of my first missions when I arrived in Baltimore was to find some Asian food choices. Whether I’m feeling homesick or adventurous, I’ve found there are plenty of Asian restaurants near campus to fill that need.

Here are my findings after one semester:  

1. Orient Express

10-minute walk from campus 
Orient Express on 3111 St. Paul Street

Located on St. Paul Street—about a block from campus—Orient Express is a Chinese restaurant specializing in Szechuan cuisine. Szechuan food is known for its distinctive mala spice, which elicits a feeling of numbness. For those who lack spice tolerance, fear not, for there are plenty of non-spicy Chinese food staples available. Speaking as a person who did not grow up eating spicy food, the spice level at Orient Express is perfectly acceptable. Still, I highly recommend embracing the spice because that’s where the restaurant thrives. My favorite dish is the chicken with Szechuan pepper, which masterfully combines spice with incredible crispy chicken. If you are up for something more unconventional, I also recommend the beef lungs in chili sauce. I know what you might be thinking but hear me out. What’s college without trying something new? The texture of the beef lungs works wonders with the chili sauce, and this appetizer is just so refreshing. 

2. Kajiken

8-minute walk from campus
Kajiken on 7 E. 33rd Street

I did not expect to try a new Japanese dish for the first time in Baltimore. At Kajiken, you can eat their signature dish, aburasoba. This is a noodle dish similar to ramen, except without broth. This simple structure allows the umami-flavored sauce to truly pop. The homemade noodles have a great texture as well. I would recommend ordering the homura aburasoba, Kajiken’s top-selling dish. I enjoy it because it provides an amazing kick of spice (I have become a true spice appreciator after depriving myself for many years). 

3. Sakoon indian fusion

10-minute walk from campus
Sakoon Indian Fusion on 3105 St. Paul Street

First, I would like to preface that I am not an expert on Indian food, and I will not pass judgment on the level of authenticity of any Indian restaurant. With that in mind, Sakoon is a good place for those just starting to explore Indian food. It has all the popular choices like butter chicken that comes with delicious garlic naan (I haven’t seen anyone go wrong with garlic naan yet). When choosing your spice level, the waiters hilariously and helpfully ask you to specify whether you mean on the Indian or American scale. Sakoon also provides a lunch buffet seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. I’ve read they serve unlimited mango lassi as part of the buffet. Everyone should absolutely take advantage of this if given the chance.

4. Ekiben

20-minute walk from campus / 10-minute shuttle ride 
Ekiben on 911 W. 36th Street

I’ve always been wary of fusion food and whether it can be greater than the sum of its parts. But Ekiben proved me wrong. An Asian-fusion restaurant, Ekiben serves one of the best buns/sandwiches I have ever tried. My go-to order, the Neighborhood Bird, is an innovative combination of Taiwanese curry fried chicken, spicy sambal mayo, and a soft bun. There are not enough words for me to rave about this incredible mixture of flavors. It’s truly something I could have never imagined without experiencing it firsthand. For the vegetarians out there, my friend has not stopped thinking about their tofu. I also recommend you grab the drinks available; I couldn’t stop raving about the iced tea I had. So don’t walk—run your way down to the nearby neighborhood of Hampden for Ekiben.

5. Bodhi Corner

20-minute walk from campus / 10-minute shuttle ride
Bodhi Corner on 3500 Chestnut Ave.

Bodhi Corner is a Thai restaurant that’s also in the Hampden neighborhood. Not to be the most basic person ever, but my Thai food order has always been pad thai. Speaking as someone who has eaten a lot of pad thai, Bodhi Corner serves one of the best. The sauce is a strong and exquisite balance of sweet and savory. I also tried panang curry for the first time there and I’m adding it to my repertoire of Thai food orders. I can’t wait to return to continue to explore the large and diverse world of Thai cuisine.