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!
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 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.
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.
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 :-).
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 is my favorite choice when I don’t understand the menu. It’s also easy to explain, even with hand-gestures.
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).
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.
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.
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.
A good alternative to Pad Thai is papaya salad. Simple composition with powerful taste. Usually available for $1 – $2.
Spicy-food lovers will love this one. Somewhat different from Lao version, i’s apparent where the name comes from.
Agness is the master of bravery when it comes to eating strange things :-).
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!