There are many reasons to be excited for a pending trip to Southeast Asia – the different cultures, the people, the incredible landscapes and not to mention the stunning sunsets.
But let’s get real, when we’re travelling to Asia there’s only one thing on our minds: the food.
We’ve put together 17 dishes that you might have sampled elsewhere in the world, but that you must have when travelling throughout Southeast Asia.
A combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine, Laksa is a spicy noodle soup commonly found in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia
2. Pad Thai
Originating in Thailand, Pad Thai is a dish available at most street stalls and restaurants across the country. It’s made of stir fried rice noodles and served with either chicken, fish, seafood, pork and sometimes vegetables alone.
Vietnamese noodle soup of rice noodles, broth, herbs, onions and meat, generally chicken or beef.
This mince meat salad flavoured with lime and fish sauce is the national dish of Laos. Can be made with duck, chicken, beef, pork, fish or mushrooms.
5. Durian Fruit
Native to Southeast Asia, The Durian is regarded as the ‘King of the Fruits’. The thorn covered husk is home to a distinctly odoured, edible yellow flesh.
6. Spring Rolls
Spring rolls will differ from region to region, made with meat or vegetables and wrapped in rice paper, either served fresh or fried.
7. Cao Lau
Originally from Hoi An, Cao Lau is a Vietnamese ‘mixing dish’ made of rice noodles, local greens and pork.
Roti is a light and flaky flatbread that originally came from the Indian subcontinent. This common base for many Malaysian dishes can be filled with well-seasoned onions, eggs, vegetables, meats or cheese, fried and served with a dal, or curry dipping sauce. Remove all of the fillers, and you’re left with roti canai, a simple yet popular dish eaten by pulling apart pieces of roti bread and dipping it into the accompanying curry sauce. Its simplicity allows one to appreciate the subtle oil and lightness of the bread and rich flavours of the sauce.
Hainanese chicken and rice is a Singaporean street meal and comfort food. Served wrapped in paper, this dish comes exactly as the name describes, with steamed chicken on top of a pile of rice, served with a little bag of light chili sauce to pour over it. The rice is not a mere accompaniment to a well-seasoned chicken, though. It is also cooked in chicken broth with onions and other seasonings, providing big flavour to a dish with essentially only two components.
Banh mi sandwiches are a common Vietnamese dish that combines the traditional flavours of the country with its French colonial heritage. Originally made of pâté on a baguette, banh mi’s ingredients today run the gamut from pork sausage and cold cuts to shrimp to eggs – or some combination of the above. Common toppings include coriander, jalapeño, daikon radish, carrot, cabbage, cucumber and chili. Add some mayonnaise or soy sauce on top, and you have a delicious meal to go.
In the springtime, mangoes are plentiful in Thai markets and the demand for mango sticky rice is equally high. Fresh slices of sweet, yellow mangoes are paired with coconut milk and sticky rice, a glutinous form of the grain. Its rich sweetness belies the simplicity and healthfulness of this dessert that comes together from only three whole-food ingredients.