Culinary Journey Around South-East Asia in Pictures

What’s so special about South-East Asia? Apart from smiley faces and low prices (sometimes ridiculously low prices), it’s food! We’ve been to few countries there and would like to show you what the food looks like. Every country has its own unique dishes and flavors  Come with us for a culinary journey around South-East Asia – in pictures!

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Vietnam

We cycled the full length of Vietnam and while we did, we stuffed our tummies with all kinds of goodness found on the street stalls and small family-owned restaurants.

Vietnamese soups
Vietnamese soups

Vietnamese soups have different tastes on every street of Vietnam, but two things in common – they are all fresh and healthy. They are served pretty much everywhere, so you can’t go far being hungry. Vietnamese soups are also so cheap that by eating them few times a day you will struggle to go over $10 a day budget. Cost of one is between 1 and 1.5 dollars.

All you can eat buffet in Hanoi
All-you-can-eat buffet in Hanoi

Not far from the Old Quarter in Hanoi we found this little place. Tourists were not eating there, even when sporadically a foreigner walked by, they did not look this way. It’s a shame, because in this lovely place (sorry, I don’t remember the name now) we had an all-you-can-eat buffet with some amazing things in it. It was the first time I ate some bugs. They were served the same way french fries are served in Europe. All this for 30,000 VND ($1.5) per person.

Vietnamese coffee
Vietnamese coffee

In my opinion, and without a doubt, Vietnamese coffee is the best in the world. It’s strong, sweet and tastes unbelievably good – especially with ice. Preparation is simple: small espresso-sized cup of Vietnamese coffee with the same amount of condensed milk, after mixing, all poured into a large glass full of ice. Such energy boost costs $1. Warning – it’s highly addictive! Agness is not a big fan of coffee at all, but once she tried Vietnamese coffee she couldn’t start her day without having one in the morning :-).

Street food - Vietnam
Street food – fried sliced potatoes with eggs

Ready to eat, hot or cold, street food is available throughout the country. We found it in busy cities and small villages. It’s like locals love to eat snacks wherever they go. Mostly fried, but that’s not a rule – fruits are also very popular. Prices range from 5,000VND to 30,000VND ($1=20,000VND).

Spring-rolls-like fried bananas in Vietnam
Spring-rolls-like fried bananas

Spring-rolls-like fried bananas are common and amazing in taste. Most common is honey banana which is usually sweeter than the bananas we got used to in the Western world. Spring rolls are also very important part of Vietnamese cuisine – variety is unbelievable.

Fresh fish
Fresh fish

Vietnam is long (over 2.5 thousand km) and wherever you are, you’ll never be too far from the sea. No wonder the main source of proteins comes from fish. Fish are served in all varieties and the smell of fish sauce is ever-present, everywhere.

Rice wine with snake and scorpion
Rice wine with snake and scorpion
Coconut wine
Coconut wine

Rice wine with snakes and scorpions is believed to give men “sexual strength” (effects similar to those of viagra). For ladies, there’s coconut wine. At least that’s what they say. Both are nicely packed and – least to say – interesting. Perfect gift on return back home.

Cambodia

We’ve spent 2 months in Cambodia – mostly in Siem Reap. While there, we had a chance to enjoy variety of dishes. Not always Khmer because this city is under such western influence. Nevertheless, here’s quite a few interesting and delicious foods.

Meat and greenery wrap - Khmer style
Meat and greenery wrap – Khmer style

I’m struggling to find a name for this dish. It’s a kind of meat and greenery wrap – Khmer style. Inside you’ll find some pork )at least I hope so) and extra salad stuffing. You should eat it with your hands by wrapping lettuce around and dipping it into the sauce provided. It’s really tasty, huge (look at the size), and extremely cheap. 3 of those cost 6,000 Riel ($1.5).

Omelette with cheese and baguette - 5 Sons Restaurant ($1)
Omelette with cheese and baguette – 5 Sons Restaurant ($1)
Heart-shaped fried rice with egg
Heart-shaped fried rice with egg

While in Siem Reap I spent quite a lot of time in a family-owned restaurant called “5 Sons”. The owner has five sons, hence the name, but the staff is mostly female. They provide free Wi-Fi, lovely atmosphere and probably the cheapest western-style breakfasts in town. That’s enough for me to spend there hours working on my laptop (yes, working on etramping.com). On the day of my departure, the lovely lady cook surprised me with a heart-shaped fried rice with egg (it doesn’t come this shape usually).

Fried dumplings with cabbage or sea-weed
Fried dumplings with cabbage or sea-weed

Main market in Phnom Penh houses a lot of food vendors and a great variety of Khmer delicacies. One of them is Fried dumplings with cabbage or sea-weed. It costs 5,000 Riel ($1.25) and is a must-try.

Turning instant noodles into a dish - Khmer style
Turning instant noodles into a dish – Khmer style

If I tried to use instant noodles to cook a dinner in Europe I don’t think anyone would want to eat it. Nevertheless, frying instant noodles in Cambodia is very common and socially acceptable practice. Believe me or not, it actually tastes really good. It costs from 2,000 Riel to 4,000 Riel ($0.5-$1) on the street.

Pineapple fried rice and egg
Pineapple fried rice and egg

Unusual plate made out of pineapple filled with fried with egg, and pineapple of course. All this for $2. Tastes as well as it looks.

Laos

In Laos I spent one month trying various culinary specifics. To my liking, there was a lot of spicy food. Laos has a lot to offer for food-lovers!

Lao curry and sticky rice
Lao curry and sticky rice

Lao curry and sticky rice is what I found to be the most delicious dish in Don Det (4,000 Islands). Spicy enough to feel the heat, but not to the point of burning. A great composition of ingredients topped up with sticky rice (I have no clue how they make it to stick so tightly).

Fruit shakes
Fruit shakes

Fruit shakes come in many varieties, since there’s so many different fruits to choose from. Best part is the price, usually between 8,000 and 10,000 Kip ($1-$1.25). For this price you can enjoy a lot of these every day and still stay within budget.

Fried rice and egg
Fried rice and egg
Fried rice and egg
Fried rice and egg

Fried rice and egg is my favorite choice when I don’t understand the menu. It’s also easy to explain, even with hand-gestures.

Anyone wants Mocha?
Anyone wants Mocha?
Red curry in Vang Vieng
Red curry

In Laos, curries are on most menus. Variety includes red, green, yellow, Lao curries. What’s the difference, I don’t know. All cost between 15,000 and 40,000 Kip ($2-$5).

Thailand

Last, but not least, Thailand – with its cuisine known around the world. Some claim there’s no need to travel t Asia to try Thai food, but I doubt it. The balanced flavors and amount of love in each dish makes this country quite a culinary journey.

Pad Thai
Me and Agness enjoying our Pad Thai

Probably the most famous Thai dish, a lovely mix of noodles and vegetables with meat or eggs. Hard to miss, even if you were to spend one night in Thailand. In Bangkok it costs 30 Baht ($1) and the price does not vary too much throughout the country.

Crepes, sweet or with meat
Crepes, sweet or with meat

Although at first sight it looks like a pancake, it’s far from that. I wouldn’t even try to describe the taste since each one can be different, depending on what it’s topped up with. Certainly worth a try.

Papaya salad
Papaya salad

A good alternative to Pad Thai is papaya salad. Simple composition with powerful taste. Usually available for $1 – $2.

Yellow curry
Yellow curry

Spicy-food lovers will love this one. Somewhat different from Lao version, i’s apparent where the name comes from.

Agness eating scorpion (we have it on tape)
Agness eating scorpion. We have it on tape and it’s available on our YouTube Channel which is in Polish language
Bugs to try are available in most touristy areas
Bugs to try are available in most touristy areas

Agness is the master of bravery when it comes to eating strange things :-).

Beer is what tourists consume the most
Beer is what tourists consume the most
Spring rolls
Spring rolls (my favourite) – a set of 3 big or 4 small costs $1
Mussels in fried egg
Mussels in fried egg – around $2 per one
Seafood salad – $1 per one serving
Fried dumplings – $0.25 per one
Deep fried dough – 5 for $1
Vegetable noodles – $1 per plate
Mini grilled sausages – $0.5 per one stick
Grilled corn – $1 each

Streets of Thailand have a lot to offer. The variety is enormous and the choice not easy. From meet to vegetables, from sweet to spicy, from bugs to western style foods. Wherever you are in Thailand, you won’t be hungry and you’ll always something food you’ll fall for.

What’s your favorite SE Asian food? Share your experiences in comments!

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Cez Krol
Cez Krol
I’m always positive and never bored – there’s just so much more to see and experience! I began my journey around the world in 2011 with just $400 and one-way ticket to Asia. Still going and blogging today. You can typically spot me working on a laptop or rock climbing.
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67 thoughts on “Culinary Journey Around South-East Asia in Pictures”

    1. I can’t wait to see you and your boyfriend on the road! So excited for you guys. I look forward to seeing your “favourite Asian food” gallery on your website. I bet you will have an awesome time. Don’t stop EATING! :-)

  1. Well thank you for making my mouth water and miss SEA! Look at all those food you’ve eaten, I won’t be surprised if people come all the way to SEA just to eat :)

    1. HAHA good point! You are welcome :). I also miss SEA a lot these days and need to stick with Chinese cuisine right now which is not that bad. You should already know how much we love eating :):) and coming all the way to SEA just to eat is our pleasure :)

  2. Wow Cez I can’t believe how cheap the food is through Asia! Jen and I went to Kuala Lumpur and found it to be cheap but not like this. We had a whole fish like your one which was fantastic. I would love to try the coffee too :)

    1. The food is ridiculously cheap indeed. You can easily survive for $5 per day being full all the time, no kidding. That’s one of the reasons we love SEA :):)

  3. We ate almost everything in this post! The pineapple rice in Siem Reap? Delicious! And just as Agness, I don’t really like coffee, but I would do anything for a Vietnamese coffee right now. It’s soooo good!
    In Thailand I really like the thick fried noodles, they are kind of sweet and squishy. I love them, just had a plate full! :)

    1. Welcome to the club Angela. I wish I had a cup of Vietnamese coffee every morning. Chinese green tea isn’t my favourite one but that’s what I drink nowadays being in China. I know which thick fried noodles you mean – they were so delicious, but not as good as a huge plate of Pad Thai with a tone of peanuts on the top :):)

  4. MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I miss Asian food, and Asian prices! (Although it’s not too bad for me because my dad is a Chinese chef and does a lot of Asian Cuisine – but still, it’s not as good as when I’m actually in Asia (sorry dad!). You’ve really whet my appetite with this post – I love how fresh and healthy Vietnamese food is; how spicy and flavoursome Thai food is; and how indulgent Malay food is!

    Hope you’re having the best time in Asia (my favourite continent!) X

    1. I bet you’re asking your dad to cook something Asian now. My father was a chief (although not Asian) a few years back and there’s hardly anything better than his cooking (imo). We are now indulging ourselves in Chinese food and loving the experience. We have amazing time and wish you the same!

  5. What a yummy post! :)
    We are in Thailand at the moment (we’ve only been here for 4 days) we might take some suggestions from this post and try some of the food mentioned. So far we had green curry, Pad Thai and the Thai sweet pancakes and loved them.
    I wouldn’t mind to try the papaya salad, we haven’t seen any as yet, I’m sure we’ll find some in Bangkok.
    Thanks for the tips!

    1. I’m happy that you’re in Thailand and on a search for great tasting food. Quite frankly you’re in the perfect place for this. Have not tried green curry in Thailand (only in Laos), but I bet I missed out on something special. Have fun in the land of smiles! Are you coming around to Hong Kong or China?

  6. Delicious post! Btw, the “fried sliced potatoes with eggs” is actually fried rice flour cake with eggs :). We called it “bột chiên” (meaning “fried dough”). I love it too!

  7. Great post! You’ve included a lot of my favourites. Boring as it is, I think sticky rice in Laos is my top pick. I love the texture, and how the locals ball it up in their hands, and dip it in the rest of their meal.

    1. Yo read my mind Jess! I’m one of my favourite snacks:) they do it here in China as well, so it’s not as good as Laotian sticky rice unfortunately :(

  8. This all looks so incredibly delicious!! And I’ve been reading so much about Vietnamese coffee lately – I can’t wait to finally try it!

  9. Very nice round up of SE Asian food. I just returned from Vietnam and Cambodia and have been missing the food. I miss the noodles and seafood in Vietnam and the fried rice in Cambodia. And yes, the prices — they’re amazingly inexpensive! I agree you can always avail of good Thai food everywhere in the world., but there’s nothing more special than eating them in Thailand.

  10. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    Most of these all look delicious and some very interesting. I can’t believe how cheap all the food you found throughout SE Asia. I love Thai food so I would love to go eat all those street food in Thailand. Since I’m Filipino, I’m gonna have to say Philippines food for favorite :) Great compilation post with mouth watering pictures. Kudos to Agness for being such an adventurous eater :)

    1. Thanks Mary. Never tried Philippines cuisine, but hoping to do so very soon. I guess it’s much more expensive than SEA food.

  11. Looks delicious and so incredibly cheap.. well everything except for scorpion on a stick and fried bugs.. pass!

  12. I’m sooooo bloody hungry now!hahaha!
    For me the best food in SEAsia was Indo…there was the most amazing little Indonesian buffet place in Kuta that served up heaps of amazing things at dirt cheap prices!
    …nothing better than some good post surf feeds!

    1. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never had Indonesian food before :) then I can tell you if Thai cuisine is still my favourite one :)

  13. So much good food, so little time. Asian food is the best :) , especially Indonesian food (and no, I’m not bias at all ;))

  14. I love Vietnamese spring rolls and pad thai! :-) so bummed I didn’t have the chance to eat friend grasshoppers when I was visiting Thailand last month..
    Among my other favorites are Malaysian nasi lemak, teh tarik, and Indonesian food especially those of Padang & West Java. You should try them, it’s really good~

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