When we backpacked 8 Southeast Asia countries, we made sure we tried all local meals and signature dishes of each country. We loved trying new foods as we find food a huge part of exploring a country and its culture. We have listed our favorite and the must try Southeast Asian food dishes.
1. PAD THAI
Found in Thailand, but also in surrounding countries like Laos and Cambodia. Pad THAI is obviously from Thailand, but the other countries have taken on this food as well!
What’s in it: rice noodles, chicken, bean sprouts, carrots, green onions, scrambled egg, crushed peanuts, and a peanut sauce and soy sauce :) Loved to squeeze a dash of lime in it. MMM… our favorite and probably the most known Southeast Asian food dish!
2. ANY CURRY OF KIND
Found in pretty much in all of Southeast Asia, primarily in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and of course, Malaysia. Curries differ per country.
What’s in it: It all depends, usually it’s a mix of veggies, a choice of meat, coconut milk and tons of spices. I usually went for a mild chicken one, while Jack always got a spicy curry. Popular curries include spicy beef red curry, Thai green curry, and Penang Curry. Best eaten with a side of rice.
Found in Cebu, Philippines. It is available in other parts of the Philippines, but it’s most famous in Cebu!
What’s in it: It is basically the tastiest and juiciest suckling pig with the best crackling we have ever tasted. Best eaten with a fresh, cold San Miguel.
4. MIE GORENG WITH SKEWERS
Found in Indonesia and in all college dorm rooms as the fake, tasteless version.
What’s in it: stir fired noodles, veggies, a fried egg, side of prawn crackers, pickled veggies, and 2 tasty chicken skewers with satay sauce.
5. FRESH GRILLED FISH
Found in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Anywhere where there is fresh water… We don’t really trust Mekong fish…
What’s in it: just fresh grilled fish, with garlic and a side of rice. You should try to fish for your own dinner, it’s delicious and so rewarding!
6. DUMPLINGS AND DIM SUMFound in China and Hong Kong. There are several different types of dumplings and dim sum found throughout Asia, but the Chinese ones were our favorite!
What’s in it: little ravioli’s filled with veggies, pork, chicken, beef- your pick! Each type are made differently; they can come in a soup, pan fried, or doused in soy sauce. Check out the cheapest Michelin star restaurant located in Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan, serving up the best and cheapest dumplings!
7. SHABU SHABU
Found in China and Hong Kong. It is a Japanese dish but it was prevalent in China and super enjoyable.
What’s in it: thinly sliced beef or pork cooked quickly with vegetables in boiling water and a dipping sauce. The water boils and cooks all the meats and veg and gets its flavor from that!
Found in Vietnam. It is a delicious and filling staple found in Vietnam. We learned how to make this in our Vietnamese cooking class!
9. PORK BUNS
Found in China and Hong Kong.
What’s in it: These steamed buns are filled with sweet porky goodness. It’s airy, fluffy, and sweet. We couldn’t do more than 2 each, but they are so tasty!
10. FRESH SPRING ROLLS
Found in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Our favorites were in Vietnam–we even learned how to make them!
What’s in it: chicken (or whichever meat), carrots, lettuce, garlic, onions, mushrooms, vermicelli noodles, stuffed in a rice paper wrapping with a tasty soy/spicy/sesame dipping sauce. It can be fried, but we preferred the fresh ones!
11. BAHN MI
Found in street stalls in Vietnam. So simple, yet so wonderful. The fluffy baguette comes from the french influence in Vietnam.
What’s in it: Bahn Mi’s are Vietnamese baguette rolls. You can put any type of meat, typically pork, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and mayo. For $0.50, these sandwiches were awesome and easy to carry while visiting the city.
12. MANGO STICKY RICE
Found in Thailand, mostly in Northern Thailand.
What’s in it: sticky rice, with sliced mango, and coconut milk drizzled on top. This was my birthday cake. Because it’s that good!
13. Fried Pancakes
Found in street markets in Laos.
What’s in it: Everything your heart desires. It’s a pancake fried in butter, filled with anything you could possibly want. Naturally, we went with nutella and banana.
14. Coconut Pancakes
Found in Northern Thailand. We got ours in Bangkok at the floating markets!
What’s in it: it is just coconut pancakes, plain and simple. They tasted best warm and we always ate them with bananas! BEST.COMBO.EVER.