Heading to Asia? There are some delicious dishes you may have heard of already and some you’ll need to leave the Western world to try.
Here are my 25 favourite Asian dishes – they’re all tasty, all cheap and best eaten on a street stall while chatting to the locals…
1. Fresh spring rolls, Vietnam
A healthy take on fried Chinese spring rolls, these beauties are wrapped up with a sheet of rice paper and stuffed with pork, prawns, cucumber and delicate rice noodles.
2. Panang curry, Thailand
This dish is a little lesser known than pad Thai and red and green curries, but no less delicous. It’s made with ground peanuts and coconut milk for a rich and creamy flavour – I can’t get enough.
3. Tandoori chicken, Malaysia
Indian food is a huge part of Malaysian culture and Little Indias can be found in almost every town. Tandoori chicken has never tasted better than when seasoned with spicy dips and a squirt of lemon and wrapped in a warm roti or naan.
4. Laksa, Singapore
Laksa is popular in both Singapore and Malaysia. Outdoor hawker markets are the perfect place to enjoy a steaming bowl of the coconut-infused noodle soup whilst soaking up the atmosphere.
5. Paneer Palak, India
Featuring paneer cheese and a spinach-based sauce called palak, this dish is a staple in India. Meat isn’t eaten as readily as it is at home so vegetarians will be in their element.
6. Seafood barbeque, Myanmar
In Burmese capital, Yangon, it’s all about 19th Street. Here you’ll find an abundance of outdoor restaurants serving charcoal-cooked meat, veg and seafood. I picked out a fresh fish which was tossed up with fried greens, served with a spicy dip, and washed down with a cold beer. I was on cloud nine(teenth).
7. Crab, Cambodia
Kep in Cambodia is a beach town known for its fresh seafood. Here you can get whole crabs from $3 seasoned with ingredients such as coconut, chilli and lime.
8. Nasi lemak, Malaysia
I discovered this dish on my first day in Malaysia and I’m so glad I did. It’s always cheap (I’ve had it for 20p) and is a mix of rice, peanuts, anchovies, a boiled egg, cucumber and chilli paste. Mix it together for a good time.
9. Momos, Nepal
The signature dish of Nepal. Veggie momos were my favourite but they also come filled with chicken or fish. The soft parcels are served with pots of spicy dipping sauce and make an ideal snack or small meal.
10. Bibimbap, South Korea
Meaning ‘mixed rice’, Bibimbap is a staple Korean dish featuring seasoned veg, spicy chilli paste, meat and a fried egg. Asian perfection.
11. Kottu, Sri Lanka
Imagine an especially delicious chicken wrap (in roti naturally), placed on a plate, cut up into small pieces, mushed up a bit, drizzled with hot sauce and various seasonings and voila – kottu is served.
12. Masala dosa, south India
I loved curry-based north Indian food but was ready for a break by the time I got down south. Dosa is light and refers to a crispy pancake-like shell served with spicy dips, mango chutney and cottage cheese. Always cheap, always tasty.
13. Ramen, Japan
Meat, noodles, seaweed, seasoning, a tea-stained egg (not sure why it needs to be tea-stained) and a hearty broth. Always a winner. Japanese people slurp loudly to show their appreciation while eating so make sure you do the same!
14. Tom yum soup, Thailand
It’s sour, spicy, light and full of prawny goodness. What’s not to like? Tom yum soup is good for lunch or dinner and health-wise, it’s pretty good for you too.
15. Nasi campur, Indonesia
Nasi campur is what is served at ‘warungs’ (street buffets) around Indonesia. Pick mini portions of different dishes such as meat, veg, fish, peanuts, skewers etc and pair them with a serving of rice.
16. Bun cha, Vietnam
A northern Vietnamese dish found in Hanoi, bun cha features slow cooked pork balls in a tasty broth, served with a side of rice noodles to dip. BUN appetite!
17. Portuguese egg tarts, Macau
The Chinese city of Macau was colonised by the Portuguese so you’ll find all kinds of delicious Nandos-style chicken restaurants, plus warm and gooey custard tarts. CNN voted them the 16th most delicious food in the world in a run-down of the top 50 so it seems I’m not the only fan.
18. Fish amok, Cambodia
‘Amok’ refers to the process of cooking food in a banana leaf and this Khmer dish adds fresh fish and coconut cream to the equation – you can’t lose.
19. Thali, India
Never paid more than 50p for Thali; never needed to. It’s essentially lots of little dishes – usually cottage cheese in the middle and portions of Bombay potatoes, lentils, rice and curry around it.
20. ‘Khao Jee’ baguettes, Laos
Courtesy of French invaders, baguettes came to Laos and have never left. In Luang Prabang they’re known as ‘Khao Jee’ and street vendors stuff the warm rolls with chicken, avocado, chilli sauce and coriander. Pair with a fresh fruit juice and your lunchtime is sorted.
21. Sushi, Japan
Sushi in Japan is a little different to what we have at home: you won’t find avocado hand rolls but you will find plenty of seafood such as crab, eel, squid, salmon, scallops and whitebait. Fish fans eat your heart out.
22. Claypot dishes, China
Clay pot cooking is a favourite in China. Ingredients such as pork, chicken and aubergine became extra flavoursome as they’re slow cooked in their juices, and are served piping hot.
23. Pho, Vietnam
It wouldn’t be an Asian food blog if pho didn’t get a mention. Plenty of places at home are on to this dish and you’ll often find it in restaurants for £10 upwards. Yet in Vietnam, it’s a staple on every corner which will never cost more than £1 despite being packed full of flavour, spices, coriander and ‘bo’ (beef) or ‘ga’ (chicken).
24. Gado gado, Indonesia
Keyword: satay! Fried greens, tofu, bean sprouts and egg are drizzled in it and it tastes so good. Sometimes served neatly as above; sometimes in a delicious, messy pile. Veggies take note 😍
25. Anything on a banana leaf
What is it that makes food taste better when served on a banana leaf? This picture was taken at an Indian eatery in charming Malaysian town, Melaka, but you’ll find banana leaf plates all around Asia, particularly in Indonesia and India. Aromatic and washing up-free!
Tried all these? Read about my 9 most unusual eating experiences in Asia (spoiler: selfie coffee!)
Thanks for reading!
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Check out some of my other Asia posts:
- 10 places to get off the beaten track in Asia
- A guide to eating in Indonesia
- The ultimate Vietnam travel guide
- The backpackers guide to Malaysia
- 10 things to do in Laos that aren’t tubing
- The islands not to miss in the Philippines
See you next time for more adventures,