Southeast Asia is known for many things: its melting pot of cultures, its beautiful scenery, the warmth of its people, and so much more.
But one of its most talked-about characteristics is undoubtedly its sheer variety of mouthwatering food. It is a known fact that its people are so passionate about their food that it’s often a hotly-debated topic, especially when it comes to pinpointing where a particular dish originates from.
If you want to take your tastebuds on a quick culinary trip around Southeast Asia, you can’t go wrong with these!
In Indonesia, you can find bakso everywhere – from mobile cart vendors to streetside stalls to restaurants. The local version of a meatball, it’s made from meat paste such as chicken, beef, or fish. It’s usually served in a bowl of steaming hot soup, alongside fixings such as noodles, bean sprouts and tofu.
Singapore: Chili Crab
Considered the “King of All Crab Dishes”, Singapore’s chili crab is a messy, yet oh-so-satisfying meal. Mud crabs are normally used for the dish, and is doused in a thick tomato-chili sauce that hits just the right balance of sweet and savoury.
Thailand: Tomyum Goong
The aromatic blend of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers come together to make this world-famous hot and sour broth. While there are many different versions of tomyum, the most well-known is tomyum goong, made with prawns.
Vietnamese street food has grown in popularity over the years, with pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) its main star. Consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and sliced or shredded meat, this wholesome dish has all the hallmarks of comfort food. The more common version that we’re all familiar with comes with thin slices of beef and vegetable garnishes.
Cambodia: Fish Amok
This classic Khmer dish is essentially steamed curried fish, where chunks of fish are added to a savoury custard made with curry spices and coconut milk. It’s a popular dish during the annual Water Festival, known in Cambodia as Chaul Chnam Thmey.
Malaysia: Nasi Lemak
There’s nothing more quintessentially Malaysian than nasi lemak – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Malaysian who doesn’t like it. The dish has it all: fragrant rice infused with coconut milk, often served with a piece of deep-fried chicken and a side of fried ‘ikan bilis’ (local anchovies) and peanuts, a hard-boiled egg sliced in half, cucumber slices, and last but not least, the ‘sambal’ (spicy chilli paste).
This colourful, Instagram-worthy Filipino dessert is a welcome refreshment on a hot day. It’s mainly made up of shaved ice and evaporated milk, while its toppings can vary. You’ll normally find it served with a scoop of purple yam ice-cream.