If travel is all about exploring the rich history and local culture of the places you visit, to have a great travel experience you have to indulge yourself in the diverse activities that those places have in store for you. One of the best ways to do this is to delve mouth-first into the local delicacy and wow your tongue with all the pleasant taste of popular foods.
If you’re currently visiting or planning a trip to Southeast Asia, then you absolutely have to try the food. The hustling and bustling street food vendors are an integral part of the daily life of Southeast Asian countries. You can get an insight into the ingredients and spices Southeast Asians use in their food when casually conversing with the local people.
These are the top street foods which you cannot afford to miss in your next expedition there:
1: Boat Noodles (Kuay Teow Reua) – Bangkok, Thailand
To visit Bangkok and not have Boat Noodles should be considered a crime. These small bowls of soup noodles served with a sprinkle of the key ingredient (pig’s blood) has a rich history and cultural aspect attached to it. This dish was originally served from the boats of the huge canal network that Bangkok used to have, and thus the name. While having pig’s blood in their bowl of noodles may discourage some people, the blood gets cooked almost immediately. It comes in touch with the hot broth and gives the dish a unique creamy texture which you’ll only find in Bankok cuisine.
While there are vendors selling boat noodles at almost every street corner of Bangkok, ‘Doy Kuay Teow Reua’ near Victory Monument is one of the best places which continues to serve this dish in its original form.
2: Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) – Thailand
Green Papaya Salad is an extremely flavorful and spicy salad made primarily with green papaya, Thai bird’s eye chili and shrimp paste. The dish originates from the North-eastern or Isan region of Thailand. However, you can find varieties of this dish all over Thailand. If you want to taste this dish in Bangkok, you can head over to a place called Som Tam Jay So, which serves a replica of the various versions of Som Tam you will find in the Isan region.
3: Stir-Fried Pork with Holy Basil (Pad Kra Pao ) – Thailand
This is a staple food of many office goers and local people of Thailand, and in Bangkok, you will find some of the best versions of this dish. The street food vendors of Bangkok have taken this everyday dish to a mouth-watering level, and while visiting Bangkok, you cannot waste an opportunity of tasting this delicious stir-fried dish. It is served with a side of fried egg and steamed rice. Just mix the rice with a bit of meat and egg, and you’ll be in taste heaven.
4. Sticky Rice (xôi) – Vietnam
The Vietnamese know how to prepare rice in various ways. In the streets, you would find the sticky rice that could have a sweet or salty taste. There is the sticky corn rice (xôi b?p), common in northern Vietnam that is comprised of softly cooked corn mixed with rice then topped with green mung bean and tasty fried shallots. This style of preparation makes it sugary. The salty one (xôi m?n) is comprised of rice, dried shrimp, green onion, and Chinese sausage stirred with oil and flavored with soy sauce.
Explore rice in Vietnam and find out what it tastes like when various ingredients are is mixed with it. You will be surprised.
5. Roll Cake (Bánh Cu?n) – Vietnam
Just like a sandwich in the west, Vietnamese like to get creative with whatever they put in rolls of food. This is evident in their popular roll cakes known as (Bánh cu?n). The rolls are made of thin slices of baked dough. There are two different styles of roll cake that you would come across in the streets. There are those filled primarily with pork meat known as (bánh cu?n nhân th?t) and those filled with steamed rice served with spicy fish sauce, bean sprouts and herbs known as “bánh ??t” (wet cake). They are normally sold on moving carts. If you spot one, hurry up and catch it before it gets away!
6: Green Tea Salad (Laphet Thohk) – Myanmar
At the street side tea stalls of Myanmar, you’ll often find various salads that you can have with your tea. Among those, the unique and popular salad is the Laphet Thohk. It is a salad made with pickled tea leaves, peanuts, tomatoes, green chilies, lime juice, and different sauces. The end result is a very unique, tangy, spicy, saucy mixture, which you must try while you are in Myanmar.
7: Chinese Style Barbeque – Yangon, Myanmar
The Chinese colonies of Myanmar play a huge part in its culture and history. So your journey to Yangon will be incomplete if you don’t pay a visit to the Chinatown of Yangon. The 19th street of Chinatown, which is popularly known as the Barbecue Street, is famous for its street food vendors selling Chinese-style barbecued goodies. Just grab a table, order whatever looks nice, have a beer and indulge in the action-packed environment.
8: Pork/Chicken Adobo – Philippines
This may be the most popular dish of the Philippines, and you really need to try it while you’re there. Tender pieces of meat marinated in vinegar and soy sauce, this dish is easily available on the street side, and it is a great experience to have this famous dish in its homeland.
9: Banana-Q – Philippines
All you sweet lovers must not miss the opportunity to taste this extremely popular evening snack of the locals of the Philippines. The dish is made with a local variety of banana called ‘Saba,’ which is coated in brown sugar, deep-fried and then skewered on a stick like a piece of barbecued meat. You can find this dish everywhere throughout the Philippines, especially during the evening time.
10: Balut – Philippines
This might not be the most appetizing street food you can have while you’re in the Philippines, but it is almost certainly the most unique one. Balut is a developing duck embryo, still in its shell, boiled and eaten in one gulp. It is considered an aphrodisiac by the locals, and though not for the faint-hearted, still it is one of the most unique street food experiences you can have in the Philippines.
That’s my list of awesome street foods to look for as you go about your adventure in Southeast Asia. If missing something feels free to share here.