Southeast Asia is world-famous for its mouthwatering cuisine, and for good reason. Come and explore these extraordinary flavors by eating your way through our list of the 30 best dishes that this region has to offer.
1. Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup), Thailand
Tom yum goong, an iconic, must-try Thai soup, is as popular as Thailand itself is among travelers. This clear soup, with shrimp as the main ingredient, combines quintessential Thai ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, fresh chilies (or chili paste), shallots, lime juice, and juicy shrimp.
If you can't handle spicy food, ask for a “mild” version.
2. Pad Thai (Thai-Style Fried Noodles), Thailand
Pad Thai is one of Thailand’s national dishes. It can be found on almost every street corner; it is available in noisy street stalls and Michelin-starred restaurants alike. It is a fried noodle dish which is usually made with shrimp or chicken, crunchy bean sprouts, eggs, onion, and finely grated peanuts. Travelers around the world relish its sweet and sour flavor.
3. Guay Tiew Reua (Noodle Soup), Thailand
Noodle soup is arguably one of Thailand’s most popular dishes. Guay tiew reua includes any type of noodle soup, of which there are many varieties. It can be made with chicken, pork, beef, seafood, or vegetables. The dish is topped with sugar, dried chili peppers, lime juice, and fish sauce.
4. Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup), Thailand
If you love coconut milk, make sure you don't miss out on tom kha gai in Thailand. It is an authentic Thai soup known for its intense galangal, coconut, and aromatic flavors. As the name implies, the base of any tom kha gai is coconut milk. It is usually seasoned with Thai ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, and galangal root.
5. Kao Pad (Thai Fried Rice), Thailand
Kao pad, also known as Thai fried rice, is a famous rice dish from Thailand, which is commonly made by street vendors and fine-dining restaurants alike. It is typically served with shrimp, chicken, pork, or beef, and seasoned with Thai chilies, fish sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice.
6. Khao Pad Sapparod (Pineapple Fried Rice), Thailand
Khao pad sapparod is a Thai fried rice dish made with pineapple. It is a quick, healthy, easy, and delicious meal. It is made with shrimp, pineapple, carrots, onions, and curry. Chicken can replace the shrimp, or both can be omitted to make the meal vegetarian.
7. Pho (Noodle Soup), Vietnam
Your trip to Vietnam is not complete without tasting pho, which is a traditional Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, noodles, chicken or beef, and fresh herbs. To complete the dish, you can add chili, lime, and hoisin sauce. Pho is traditionally eaten for breakfast and favored by almost all locals and travelers.
8. Bun Cha (Vietnamese Meatballs), Vietnam
If you visit Hanoi, don't miss out on bun cha. It is a specialty of Hanoi but can be found in other northern cities as well. Bun cha is made of pork meatballs, vermicelli noodles, and plenty of refreshing herbs. It is served with a traditional lime and fish dipping sauce.
9. Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich), Vietnam
If you’re in need of a quick meal, try the banh mi, which is a Vietnamese sandwich. Banh mi looks like a French-style baguette. It is typically stuffed with pork belly, fish cakes, meatballs, and the quintessential pickled carrots, daikon, and chilies. This Vietnamese sandwich has been consistently ranked among the world’s best sandwiches.
10. Goi Cuon (Fresh Spring Rolls), Vietnam
Goi cuon (Vietnamese spring roll) literally means “salad rolls.” Unlike fried Vietnamese spring rolls, these fresh rolls are not fried and are served cold. This is a fresh and healthy dish, consisting of thin rice vermicelli noodles, shrimp, pork, and an assortment of vegetables rolled in rice paper.
11. Banh Xeo (Crispy Pancake), Vietnam
Banh xeo is a Vietnamese savory fried pancake. It is made of rice flour, turmeric, and coconut cream, along with other ingredients. The filling includes pork, shrimp, diced green onions, mung beans, and bean sprouts.
This dish is available at most roadside stalls, local markets, and restaurants. To dine like a local, cut it into small pieces, roll it in rice paper or lettuce leaves, and dip it in a special sauce.
12. Nasi Kerabu (Blue Herb Rice), Malaysia
Nasi kerabu is a blue-colored rice. Don't let the bright color put you off: it comes from the petals of a local flower. This dish is traditionally served with fried chicken, salted egg, fresh herbs, fish crackers, spiced sauce, and fried keropok (‘crackers’).
13. Asam Laksa (Spicy and Sour Fish Noodle Soup), Malaysia
Asam laksa is a flavorful, tangy, and spicy Malaysian rice noodle soup. It is made with fish, tamarind, and torch ginger flower, and seasoned with fresh pineapple, cucumber, red onion, and shrimp molasses. It is found almost everywhere in the Penang state of Malaysia.
14. Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea Soup), Malaysia and Singapore
Bak kut teh is an amazing broth-based dish made with pork and multiple Chinese herbs. There are additional ingredients such as offal, varieties of mushroom, choy sum (vegetables), and tofu puffs. It is believed to have been brought from China into Malaysia in the 19th century. It can be found in Malaysia and Singapore.
15. Fish Amok (Fish Curry), Cambodia
Amok is a classic Cambodian (Khmer) dish, which is usually made with fish, although chicken and beef amok are also popular. Fish amok is made from some of the most mouthwatering ingredients, including lemongrass, chili, shallots, and coconut milk. Traditionally, it is steamed and served in a banana leaf.
16. Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork with Rice), Cambodia
Bai sach chrouk is one of Cambodia's simplest and most popular dishes. Street vendors often serve it early in the morning. Packed with the savory flavors from the marinade and the zesty flavor of pickles, this dish is extremely appealing.
The dish is made with pork, which is finely sliced and grilled. It is always served with white rice, freshly pickled cucumbers, daikon, and a bowl of chicken broth. You must definitely try this classic breakfast in Cambodia.
17. Khmer Chicken Red Curry, Cambodia
Khmer chicken red curry is a rich, flavorful curry made from chicken, coconut milk, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lemongrass, and kroeung(spice paste). Beef and fish can also replace the chicken. This curry is always served with bread.
18. Khao Niaw (Sticky Rice), Laos
Khao niaw is a staple food in Laos. It is traditionally steamed and served in small bamboo baskets called lao aep khao. To eat like a local, take a handful of sticky rice in one hand and roll it into a ball. Then, break the sticky rice ball into smaller portions, dip them in the sauce, and enjoy.
19. Laap (Minced Meat Salad), Laos
Laap, also lahp or larb, is considered the national dish of Laos. It is a type of minced meat salad, made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, or pork. It is usually seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice, fermented fish juice, rice noodles, and fresh herbs.
20. Papaya Salad, Laos and Thailand
Green papaya salad is typically made with shreds of unripe papaya. It is rich in flavor: crunchy, sour, sweet, spicy, and salty. You can find this dish all over Laos and Thailand, but it is made differently in each country.
The main ingredients in the papaya salad include unripe shredded papaya, chilies, lime, garlic, tomatoes, palm sugar, and fish sauce. All these ingredients are pounded together in a traditional mortar and pestle.
21. Adobo (Meat in Vinegar), Philippines
Adobo is a popular Filipino dish which can be found everywhere in the Philippines. It is made with pork, chicken, seafood, or vegetables, which are cooked slowly in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorns, and then browned to a crisp in oil. Adobo is often served with rice.
22. Kinilaw (Raw Seafood Dish), Philippines
The Philippines is surrounded by the sea. It is very common to eat fish and other seafood, and no list of Filipino food would be complete without Kinilaw.
Kinilaw literally means ‘eaten raw’. It is a raw seafood dish served all over the Philippines. The main ingredient is slices of raw fish marinated in vinegar. Additional ingredients include calamansi juice, salt, pepper, and chili peppers.
23. Kare-Kare (Oxtail and Tripe Stew in Peanut Sauce), Philippines
Kare-kare is a classic Filipino dish with a subtle taste. It is made with oxtail, tripe, vegetables, and a peanut-based sauce. It is usually served with steamed rice and shrimp paste. Pampanga may be known for the best kare-kare, but you can find this dish all over the Philippines.
24. Char Kway Teow (Fried Flat Rice Noodles), Singapore and Malaysia
Char kway teow is a popular noodle dish in Southeast Asia. It is a national favorite in both, Singapore and Malaysia. The main ingredients include flat rice noodles, meat, sliced fish cakes, egg, slices of Chinese sausage, and bean sprouts. All ingredients are stir-fried over high heat with light and dark soy sauce, chili, and other spices.
It is believed that the most authentic char kway teow comes from Penang in Malaysia, where this dish is commonly served on a banana leaf. But you’ll find many delicious versions in Singapore as well.
25. Chili Crab (Whole Crab in Chili Tomato Sauce), Singapore
If you want a taste of authentic Singaporean cuisine, you should not miss out on chili crab. This seafood dish is one of Singapore’s national dishes. It ranks at 35 on “The World's 50 Most Delicious Foods” list, compiled by CNN Go in 2011. The stir-fried crab is coated with a sweet, savory, and spicy tomato-based sauce. It is often served with steamed or deep-fried buns.
26. Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice), Indonesia
Nasi goreng is a classic Indonesian fried rice. It is a simple dish, which locals and travelers enjoy. It differs from other kinds of fried rice because of the sauce which stains the rice dark brown. The rice is often topped with a fried egg and served with fresh cucumber and tomato.
27. Gado-Gado (Salad with Peanut Sauce), Indonesia
Gado-gado literally means “mix mix.” This popular salad, consisting of lightly boiled and blanched vegetables, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, fried tofu and / or tempeh (deep-fried fermented soybean) cubes, and lontong (steamed rice cakes), is tossed in a peanut sauce dressing.
28. Babi Guling (Slow-Roasted Pork), Indonesia
If you are planning to visit Bali, Indonesia, don’t forget to sample babi guling. Bali guling, which directly translates to “turning pig,” is a spit-roasted suckling pig. The pork is tender, juicy, and imbued with garlic, ginger, and turmeric flavors that linger on the palate.
29. Mohinga (Rice Noodles in Fish Soup), Myanmar
Mohinga is considered the national dish of Myanmar. It consists of rice noodles served in a hearty, herbal, fish- and shallot-based broth, and seasoned with garlic, onion, lemongrass, and ginger. It is a must-have for breakfast in Burma.
30. Laphet Thoke (Tea Leaf Salad), Myanmar
Laphet thoke is a combination of soft, pickled tea leaves; crisp, roasted peanuts; other crunchy beans; toasted sesame seeds; and fried garlic. If you want, you can add dried shrimp and chopped tomatoes.
This salad is traditionally served in Myanmar on important occasions, such as parties, weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies. Nowadays, it is often served as the final course, at the end of a meal.
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