Walking around crowded streets bustled with sidewalk vendors and motorbikes across Southeast Asia, visitors will immerse themselves into quintessential food paradise with a plethora of options. Under the overarching theme of a spicy punch and herbs, the culinary background throughout this subcontinent is based on the use of fresh indigenous ingredients and native cooking methods, making its own unique characteristics in each country.
What: A fish mousse with fresh coconut milk and kroeung, a type of Khmer curry paste made from lemongrass, turmeric root, garlic, shallots, galangal and finger root, or Chinese ginger.
Where: The Sugar Palm restaurant, Taphul Road, Siem Reap
How much: US $7.5
Nom Banh Chok
What: Noodles laboriously pounded out of rice, topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime, topped with fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens.
Where: Russian market, Phnom Penh
How much: less than US $1
What: A savory soup of meatballs and noodles often garnished with bok choy, wontons, tofu, crisp fried shallots and hard-boiled egg with endless variations.
Where: Bakso Lapangan Tembak Senayan, near Senayan City Mall, Jakarta,
How much: IDR 22,500-IDR 24,000 (US $1.6-US $1.7)
What: Meat skewers made of chicken, goat, mutton or rabbit, marinated in turmeric, barbecued and then eaten with hearty dose of peanut sauce.
Where: In front of Ragusa Es Italia, Jalan Veteran I, No. 10, Gambir, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10110
How much: IDR 23,000 ($2.3)/10 skewers
What: A stew comprising bean, eggplant, lemongrass, basil, chili, wood ear, mushroom, cilantro, green onion and locally grown vine called ‘sa kaan’ with optional meat (classically prepared with water buffalo meat).
Where: Khaiphaen Restaurant – 100 Rue Sisavang Vatana, Ban Wat Nong
How much: LAK 46,000 (US $5.6)
What: A salad of any kind of minced meat, flavoured with lime, garlic, fish sauce, mint leaves, spring onion and served with sticky rice.
Where: Lao Kitchen, 140/01, Unit 15, Rue Hengboun, Baan Anou, Vientiane
How much: LAK 36,000-LAK 65,000 (US $4.4-US $7.9)
Penang assam laksa
What: Thick rice noodles, vegetables, spicy mackerel based soup and a generous amount of shrimp paste, garnished with fresh mint, shallots, cilantro, cucumbers and sweet pineapple.
Where: Air Itam Market, 11500 Air Itam, Pulau Pinang
How much: Below RM4 (US $0.9)
What: A fragrant coconut-milk rice mixture, served with sambal sauce, fried crispy anchovies, toasted peanuts, and cucumber and cooked with screw pine (pandan) leaves. Depending on where you are in Malaysia, it comes with a variety of accompaniments such as hard-boiled egg, vegetables, lamb/chicken/or beef curry or seafood.
Where: Nasi Lemak Mak Wanjor, 8 Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kuala Lumpur 50300
How much: RM3 (US $0.7)
Apam Balik (Apom Balik)
What: A pancake-style snack with a sufficient amount of sugar, peanuts and the occasional sprinkle of corn.
Where: Wilson Teoh’s street food stall, Gat Lebuh Cecil 1, Penang
How much: RM0.7-RM 1.5 (US $0.15-US $0.33)
What: Meat (often chicken and pork) cooked in vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, soy sauce and other spices
Where: Abe, Serendra Plaza, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Manila
How much: PHP 390 (US $8.2)
What: A stew of fish, prawns, pork or beef soured by fruits like tamarind, kamias or tomatoes, accompanied by vegetables like kangkong, string beans and taro, and served with rice.
Where: Sentro 1771’s, Greenbelt 3, Paseo de Roxas cor. Legaspi Street, Ayala Center Makati, Manila
How much: PHP 200 for 100 gram (US $4.2)
What: An entire pig spit-roasted over coals, with the crisp, golden-brown skin served with liver sauce.
Where: Elar’s Lechon, 151 Quezon Ave., corner Speaker Perez Street, Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City, Metro Manila
How much: PHP 200-PHP 720 for 1 kg (US $4.2-US $15.1)
What: Fresh crab simmered in a base of a rich and spicy sambal with meat stock, lime and delicate ribbons of egg, eaten with mantou breads.
Where: Roland Restaurant, Block 89 Marine Parade Central #06-750, Singapore
How much: From US $388-US $488 per a set menu for 10 people including Chili Crab and other 7 dishes
Hainanese Chicken Rice
What: Steamed or boiled chicken served with atop fragrant oily rice and sliced cucumber as the token vegetable
Where: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, 1 Kadayanallur Street, #01-10 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore
How much: US $3
Tom Yum Gung
What: A soup packed with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.
Where: P’Aor, 68/51 Soi Petchaburi 5, Between Soi 5 – 7, Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok
How much: THB100 (US $2.7)
What: Stir fried rice noodles mixed with an egg, tofu, peanuts, shrimp, green onions, bean sprouts, garlic, pepper, fish sauce and lime juice.
Where: Pad Thai Thip Samai (Pad Thai Pratu Pi), 313 Thanon Mahachai, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok
How much: THB 80 (US $2.2)
Khao Niew Ma Muang (Mango sticky rice)
What: Glutinous sticky rice paired with fresh sweet mango and drizzled with rich coconut cream, sometimes topped with peanuts, toasted sesame seeds or fried salty mung beans.
Where: Thonglor Night Market, Sukhumvit Soi 38, Bangkok
How much: THB 60 (US $1.6)
Pho (Rice Noodles)
What: A salty broth with fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and some slice of chicken or beef.
Where: 49 Bat Dan, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi, Vietnam
How much: VND 50,000 (US $2.2)
What: A crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and rolled up in rice paper with fresh herbs and lettuce leaves.
Where: Banh Xeo, 46A Dinh Cong Trang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
How much: VND 70,000-VND 110,000 (US $3.1-US $4.9)
What: Fresh spring rolls using sheets of uncut noodles to encase fried beef, herbs and lettuce or cucumber.
Where: Huong Mai, 27 Ngu Xa, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
How much: US $2.2/ 10 rolls