If travel for you is not about exploring the beautiful places beyond what you naturally see in your everyday life, then maybe you need to try the street food in Southeast Asia. Apart from unseen places, and meeting new people, don’t we love to eat, too? Whether it’s discovering new dishes from countries with totally different tastes, or just sharing with new found friends, food is definitely something we need and love to learn more about when traveling.
I’ve already been more than a year traveling around Southeast Asia. I’ve been visiting different countries and living for a few months in Southeast Asia, too. I can tell you that food is not only cheap, and delicious, but it also reveals a lot about what people believe in, in these area of the world. If you are planning to travel long in Asia, and food is an important focus of your trip, then read on. I will tell you all about my top 40 favorite street food in Southeast Asia.
Need tips about how to plan a long Asian trip? Check the ultimate guide in planning a long trip here
Now, before we head on to the juicy (literally) part of this post, you have to know that this post doesn’t aim to isolate important topics on food and health surrounding our society today. Asia, particularly, the Southeast, is one of varied and exotic culture, much more different than a lot of us in the Western world. This post will focus on what you can find in the streets, and what locals eat that are not only cheap, but also, a part of their ordinary, everyday life, which is an important focus of the way of travel of a budget and backpack traveler. I integrate with the everyday culture of people, and I stay traveling with less money than what people usually think about when traveling over seas. This post doesn’t aim to expose anything, and especially to give other views on food and diet less importance. I share my experience in the hopes of anyone planning to travel to Southeast Asia to have ideas on the street food choices they have here.
And now, let’s go start the food trippin’!
How to Eat Safe when Munching Street food in Southeast Asia
Try to eat where the locals go.
If you see local people trying to buy street food in Southeast Asia, follow them! It’s usually a good signal of a great street food place. Locals know the most popular street sellers. It usually means that the food is delicious and it’s safe.
When you see a long queue, check it.
People who are cooking outside the streets are usually selling fresh food. And when their place is full of local people, you can make sure that the food is delicious. It doesn’t matter that the food is “street food”. You can surely go for it! Try it and have your own personal experience!
Try to make sure that they are using gloves for cooking.
When I see that a cook is cooking clean, I usually trust them more. Some ways they do that is by using gloves when cooking, preparing, and touching food to be served. You can also check in some places if they are washing vegetables properly before preparing your food.
Places which are cooking their food in front of you
It’s usually a good sign when they cook the food in front of you, or somewhere you can see, than when the food is already prepared and cooked beforehand. You are hitting 2 birds in one stone! You can watch them how they cook their food, and at the same time, you can make sure that they are cooking the food well, and that they are clean.
Avoid raw vegetables, fruits, and tap water
I think that you need to be more careful with tap water than thinking hard about eating already-cooked street food in Southeast Asia. When you are traveling, and you get diarrhea, it is usually the case of bad tap water. You will need to be careful not only in drinking tap water, but also in eating smoothies or water service in local food places. Usually, you just have to look if there are other people and regular customers eating in a particular local place. If there are a lot, and the place is clean and tidy, and the food is covered and preserved properly, these are good signals that the place takes care about the food and the people who eat there.
Where the students eat
Street food stalls that are close to local schools and universities are often really safe, especially if you see long queues of children lining up to buy. You will also find mobile food stalls that open especially when children are about to leave the school. These food are usually prepared fresh or are cooked in front of you, in mobile stoves and bicycles that can carry food stalls.
I’m always bringing my antidiarrhea pills, just in case. I’ve been using the pills a couple of times. I’m not an iron man hahaha. When you go for street food in Southeast Asia, there will be a few times that you’ll feel something in your stomach. Now there are not fatal issues. It is very usual that if you are eating these kinds of food for the first time, that you’ll feel weird when you eat them. Or, if you have been into a totally different diet in another country, or at your home, and you travel, you’ll stomach will have to get accustomed to the new food. In most of the cases, nothing will really happen. A good suggestion is that even if you succumb to the regular street food of the country you’re visiting, try to balance it out with water, or some cooked vegetable dishes, so you can still have a balanced diet.
In the many times I have traveled and eaten street food in Southeast Asia, I will tell you that I have had stomach pains two times at the most. Really, you won’t even know if it’s exactly the food. Sometimes, it’s because of the “flavor”. With me, I realized that if I am eating too much spicy and greasy food continuously for days, I will feel a little bit uneasy. You just need to know that you shouldn’t be alarmed or too picky at every single food you eat, or people will feel weird. Take the necessary precautions and know that if other people are eating, that you are fine.
If ever you get diarrhea in some cases, and it doesn’t go away for a couple of days, go visit a doctor. You can also check with your travel insurance about different options you have when going for a doctor’s visit while traveling in another country.
How much does street food in Southeast Asia cost?
This the best thing when you are traveling in a low budget in Southeast Asia. These street food meals are starting from just $0.5 and no more than $4. It depends on how much food you need to feed yourself. I have tried and regularly eaten a lot of street food in Southeast Asia that taste amazing, same or even better sometimes than in a restaurant.
Top 40 dishes Street Food in Southeast Asia
Strange street food in Southeast Asia
1. Chicken Feet
You can find the chicken feet street food in Southeast Asia in Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia,Vietnam and the Philippines. They are usually fried then covered with flavored sauce. You can find also find some boiled in soups and later deep fried. It’s perfect to share this meal with cold beer. Prices are $2-3.
You can find insects in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar as streed food in Southeast Asia. They are usually fried and eaten by adding pepper powder. This snack is perfect to share with a beer. Despite of the aspect, it takes crunchy and good. Prices are from $0.50-2.
You can find sisig in North (Central Luzon) Philippines. It’s one of the most famous street food in Luzon. Pork sisig is coming from the ears and head. They fried and mixed with onions. They usually add chili and calamanzi. Prices are from $1-2.
4. Stinky Tofu
It’s the most famous street food in Taiwan. You can find stinky tofu in every street market. It’s easy to find, just with your smell, you will get with it. They usually fried and they share with chili or penaut sauce. No worries about the smell, it tates good. Prices are from $3-4.
5. Chicken Butt
It’s easy to find chicken butt to eat when you go for street food in Southeast Asia. There are barbecues where they sell chicken butt. They will serve in a stick and enjoy it! It´s really tasty! Prices are from $0.5-1.
6. Dog Meat
I found this food in North Vietnam and South China. They usually eat for the celebration of The Chinese New Year. Fried meat and share with spicy sauce. Prices ?? Sorry, I didn’t buy this dish.
You can find balot as street food in Southeast Asia in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines. It’s a developing duck embryo which is boiled and eaten in the shell.
You can find this fruit in Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. It’s coming from Durio tree. Cut the fruit, get the durian and don’t eat the seed. It’s smelly but it’s very tasty. You will get dirty eating this fruit. Prices are from $3-4 kilo.
Exotic Fruits in Southeast Asia
This tropical fruit you can find in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. It’s easy to eat, peel bite and remove the seed. It’s very sweet. Prices are from $1-3 kilo.
10. Jack Fruit
You can find jack fruit in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It’s coming from Jack tree. It’s chewy and sweet. Prices are from $3-4 kilo.
11. Red dragon fruit
It’s very similar to Dragon fruit. But instead white color, it has an intense red color. Prices are from $3-4 kilo.
12. Sugar Apple
I found this fruit like street food in Southeast Asia only in the Philippines. It’s very similar to Chirimoya. When you peel the fruit is white with a black seed. It tastes sweet and it´s very liquid. Prices are from $2-3 kilo.
13. Purple Mangosteen
You can find this fruit in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. It´s very sweet. Prices are from $2-3 kilo.
You can find this dish in the Philippines. Noodles mix with vegetables and chicken. It’s served for breakfast and it’s served at parties. Prices are from $0.5-1.
15. Shan noodle
You can find this street food dish in Myanmar. Rice noodles with chicken, peanuts and chilli flakes. It’s served for breakfast. Prices are from $0.5-1.
16. Pork Barbecue
Pork Barbecue you can find as street food in Southeast Asia almost everywhere. My favorite one was from Myanmar. Prices are from $0.5-1.
You can find this dish in the Philippines. Noodles mixed with boiled egg, pork and shrimps. You can have this dish at any time of the day. It´s my favorite dish in the Philippines. Prices are from $1-2.
You can find Lechon in the Philippines. The most curious thing, they eat with their hands. Once is cooked they put in a big stick and people start getting lechon with their hands until is finished. Prices are from $2-10.
You can find empanadas in the Philippines, they are typical from the North. It’s made by a dough with vegetables, chicken or meat inside. It’s fried in hot oil. Price are from $1-2.
20. Pad Thai
You can find pad thai as street food in Southeast Asia in Thailand. It’s the most famous dish in Thailand. Fried noodle rice dish mixed with vegetables, chicken or shrimps. Prices are from $1-2.
You can find this street food in Southeast Asia in Cambodia, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore. It’s a spicy soup hot and with flavours. Prices are from $2-3.
You can find dumplings in Taiwan. This food that consists of small pieces of dough wrapped around and filling with potatoes, vegetables or meat. Prices are from $2-3.
23. Oyster Omelette
You can find this omelette in Taiwan. They usually eat for breakfast. Eggs are mixed with oysters. It´s served with spicy or chilli sauce. Prices are from $2-3.
You can find this dish in Malaysia and Indonesia. Satay consists of sliced chicken, goat, beef, pork grilled at barbecue. My favorite satay is served with peanuts sauce. Prices are from $2-3.
25. Nasi Lemak
You can find this dish in Malaysia. It’s served for breakfast, you can find wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s rice cook with coconut milk. They add sambal (spicy sauce) anchovies and boiled egg or fried. Prices are from $1-2.
26. Kolo Mee
You can find this street food in Southeast Asia in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Noodles are cooked and served with fried mixed garlic, white vinegar miced pork and onions. Prices are from $2-3.
27. Masaman Curry
You can find this dish in Thailand. This stew is made of meat mixed with potatoes, coconut milk, onions, peanuts, cashewnuts and chili. Prices are from $2-3.
You can find soto in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia street markets. It’s one of the most famous Indonesian dishes. It’s a soup composed of broth, meat and vegetables. Prices are from $2-3.
You can find Bakso in Indonesia and Malaysia. The meetballs made from beef. It’s usually served in a bowl of beef broth with noodles. egg, tofu and vegetables. Prices are from $2-3.
30. Noodle soup Laos
You can find this soup in Laos street markets. This big noodle soup with meat, vegetables and spicy sauce is served in a big bowl. Prices are from $1-2.
31. Lao Lao sandwich
You can find this sandwich in Luang Prabang in Laos. It’s the Laos version of the French baguette. They fill the bread wih vegetables and meat. Prices are from $1-2.
32. Bahn Mi
You can find this sandwich in Vietnam. It’s the most famous street food in Vietnam. It’s simple, just addding vegetables, meat and sauce to the bread. Prices are from $1-2.
33. Som Tam Spicy Papaya Salad
You can find this salad in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. It’s made of green beans, lime, papaya, peanuts, shrimps, tomatoes and mixed with chili. Prices are from $1-2.
Refreshing in Southeast Asia
34. Fruit juice
Fruit juice, you are gonna find everywhere in Southeast Asia. This is one of muy favorite watermelon juice. Just try all of them. Prices are from 0.25-1.
Smoothies are in every country in Southeast Asia too. My favorite smoothies are mango and papaya. Prices are from $2-3.
Desserts in Southeast Asia
This dessert is easy to find as street food in Southeast Asia in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. The ingredients are coconut milk, jelly noodles made from rice flour, ice, creamed corn, grass jelly and palm sugar. Prices are from $1-2.
It’s the most popular dessert in the Philippines. The ingredients are kidney beans, sugar palm, coconut, ice cream, purple yam and evaporated milk. Prices are from $1-2.
38. Banana Pancake
This dessert is the most popular in Thailand. The pancake is made with flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, egg and milk. Once it’s mixed, it’s fried in the pain adding banana, condense milk and nutella. Prices are from $2-3.
39. Mango Sticky Rice
This is my favorite street food in Southeast Asia! You can find it in Thailand. The ingredients are mango and sticky rice and adding coconut milk on the top. Prices are from $2-3.
40. Bread an ice-cream
This strange dessert is from the Philippines. You can find especially at Christmas time. Sweet bread with ice cream.
There you have it guys, top 40 street food in Southeast Asia that you definitely need to try. Exotic, neat, tasty. Food is so much varied, especially when you go to countries who have very different culture and customs. When you travel to these countries, or any foreign country for that matter, food is definitely a must-try. Getting yourself acquainted and infused to the things offered by these new countries and foreign lands will help you discover so many things about them, and most importantly, about yourself. Find a friend, talk to the cook, or enjoy the food by yourself. Love the experience.
Want more food guides like this? Let us know in the comments and we’ll be sure to add it to our line of posts! If you want to know more about street food in Southeast Asia, you can also check our favorite Thai food here. If you want to have a street food experience in Bangkok, check this post.
Want to read more travel guides about Southeast Asia? Read our guides on how you can travel to Thailand and visit Taiwan with an extremely low budget. If you want to visit beaches, hundreds of small islands, and experience paradise, you might want to visit the Philippines, too. My recommendation? Relax in Myanmar. Myanmar is one of my most memorable Asian travel experience, so you will surely love it.
Did you like any dishes mentioned in the post? My favorites are Pad thai (no. 20) and Mango with Sticky Rice (no. 39). What about you? Which dish made you hungry for an Asian travel?
If you liked this post, make sure to give it some juicy love by sharing it to your friends. If you have questions, ideas, or any comments, fire away in the comments section! I’ll make sure to answer them all.
And like always, stay free, and travel the world now. It is possible. VERY possible.