The best food in Southeast Asia is found not in fancy restaurants, but in the carts and stalls lining busy streets and quiet alleys
If travel for you is more than exploring places what you naturally see in your everyday life, you need to try the street foods of the places you visit. And the streets of Southeast Asia are all about that. Apart from unseen places and meeting new people, Southeast Asia is a paradise for people who are ready to taste something new. Whether it’s discovering new dishes, or giving a tinge of flavour to your taste buds, these countries are a treasure trove of recipes of dishes.
A typical Thai rice and curry is one of the favourite among tourists in Bangkok. If you happen to visit the Jatujak Weekend Market, visit the stall called Prik Yuak, which is relatively smart compared to other places in the market. Its best dish is the rice vermicelli with fish ball green curry, which is always tasty. The fish balls in the curry are well rounded, without bones and not too hot, but perfumed with aromatic spices, fish sauce and palm sugar. Typical herbs such as Thai sweet basil and green aubergines make for a crunchy and delicious addition.
Pho is the most famous Vietnamese street food. Though it’s more popular in the northern part of the country, you can find steaming bowls of it in the city too. Made using fresh flat rice noodles, the dish has a good broth made from oxtail bones. It needs to be clear, not muddy and dark, and fragrant with beef, anise and ginger. You can serve this soup with several toppings of meat, adding spring onion, beansprouts, basil and a piece of lemon.
An addictive steamed dessert sold on the streets of Laos, Khao tom is made with a mixture of sticky rice, black bean and fresh coconut cream, which is then steamed in 4inch-long banana leaf parcels. The dish can also be made with ground rice powder and other ingredients can be substituted in the mix, such as peanuts. It’s affordable, filling and delicious, and widely available.
Laksa dishes come in many variety, but the Assam variety is one of the most popular, especially in Penang. While the delicious fish noodle soup may or may not have originated here, but it has been widely served and liked across the peninsula. It is made by placing thick rice vermicelli in the base of a bowl, adding chopped lettuce, cucumbers, mint, pineapple and onions and then pouring spicy fish broth over the top. The sourness comes from tamarind or, sometimes, sour mangosteen. If the sourness of the dish doesn’t get you, then the spice surely will.
Words: Patrick D’Souza