Southeast Asian Cuisine

What to Eat and Where in Southeast Asia

Eating street food in Asia is a local way of life. From quick snacks to entire meals, you can often find the cheapest meals and most interesting cultural experiences by skipping the tourist restaurants and instead visiting the ubiquitous carts that line the streets of Asia!

1. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Malaysia

Malaysia, specifically Penang, has some of the best food on offer in Southeast Asia. This paradise for foodies came about partially thanks to Chinese and Indian immigrants who brought with them new spices and cooking techniques.

Malaysian Noodle Dishes : A staggering number of tasty noodle dishes -- mostly Chinese in origin -- can be purchased from street vendors for less than one dollar.

Malaysian Indian Food : Malaysia's large Indian Muslim community offers delicious and healthy cuisine sometimes served on banana leaves -- a great choice for vegetarians.

2. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Vietnam

Vietnam, along with Laos, is one of the few culinary bastions left in Southeast Asia where travelers can still find good bread, cheese, and wine.

Baguettes, Pate, and Cheese Sandwiches: Take advantage of the remnants of French colonization -- you won't find decent bread in very many Asian countries!

Pho : Pronounced “fuuuh,” Vietnam's famous noodle soup is light and delicious.

Cao Lau : Found only in Hoi An , cao lau is arguably the rarest noodle dish in the world.

3. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Thailand

Thai food hardly needs introduction; pad thai, curries, and other fabulously spicy dishes have made their way around the world.

Pad Thai : A plate of flat, rice noodles served with egg, bean sprouts, lime, and optional crushed peanuts.

Thai Curries : Usually prepared with coconut milk and curry paste, Thai curries are sweet, spicy, and filling.

Papaya Salad : Known locally as som tam, papaya salad is a ride of texture and flavors. Crunchy, sour, sweet, spicy, and salty best describe this healthy salad.

Thai Street Food : Thailand has some of the best street food in the world. With prices around one dollar or less, an excellent dinner can be had by just grazing from food carts.

4. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Cambodia

Khmer food may not be as famous as that of their neighbors, but the dishes are unique and tasty. Food is commonly prepared with prahok, a fish paste which lends a unique flavor to curries and rice.

Amok: Cambodia's signature curry is typically prepared with fish, however, variants with chicken can be found. The meat is prepared in banana leaves and then seasoned with a blend of spices.

Bai Cha: A fried rice variant made with sausage and soy sauce -- certainly filling!

5. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Laos

Laotian cuisine is similar to food from neighboring Thailand and Cambodia, however, many dishes have their own unique, local twist.

Laap : Spelled a variety of different ways, laap is the national dish in Laos. Roughly chopped meat is blended with toasted rice and then seasoned with fish sauce and lime.

Ping Pa: Ping pa consists of marinated freshwater fish grilled slowly until it becomes dry and stringy. Ping Gai, the chicken variant, is smoky and addictive.

6. Southeast Asian Cuisine in the Philippines

Food in the Philippines is a fusion of Asian cuisine with many Spanish and European influences.

Adobo: Found everywhere in the Philippines, Adobo is meat or fish cooked slowly in vinegar and spices, then browned to a crispy finish in oil.

Pancit: Pancit is simply any noodle dish -- scores of variations exist -- with meat and vegetables.

Kare-Kare: Oxtail, tripe, and vegetables are added to a peanut-based broth to make this heavy stew.

7. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Singapore

Who would have guessed the tiny island state of Singapore to be one of the top food destinations in the world? Singaporeans certainly know how to eat! A large expat and immigrant presence means that practically any style of Western or Asian cuisine can be found.

Laksa : Singapore has their own delicious variant of the noodle soup laksa.

Char Kway Teow : This popular, Chinese street food dish consists of rice noodles fried to a dark brown in soy sauce. Meat, sliced fish cake, egg, and sometimes sausage are added to create the king of all fatty noodle dishes.

8. Southeast Asian Cuisine in Indonesia

With over 19,000 islands, it is not surprising that the food in Indonesia is as diverse as the people. Native spices such as nutmeg and cloves turn otherwise-lackluster dishes into something you will crave for months after.

Nasi Goreng : The national dish of Indonesia, this orange-colored fried rice is simple yet delicious.

Gado-Gado : Perfect for vegetarians, gado-gado is stir-fried vegetables in thick and sweet peanut sauce.

Tempeh : Fermented soybeans are compressed into cakes to create a firm-textured tofu with a nutty taste. The tempeh cakes are sliced and used in dishes as a meat substitute.

Source: [Part of the New York Times Company]

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