Southeast Asia is a melting pot of culinary discovery. While it is simple and often inexpensive to dine at restaurants throughout the region, many locals believe the best foods on offer can only be found literally on the street – by street hawkers. These hawkers often specialize in a single dish or a style of cooking. From Indonesian to Thai to Vietnamese, a journey through Southeast Asia promises an adventure for the senses.
Here’s a sampling of some must-try street foods in Southeast Asia:
Satay in Singapore
Satay (skewered meat that is seasoned and grilled) is a local’s favorite dish. Served with rich peanut sauce as a condiment, each order comes with rice cakes, cucumbers, and onions. Patrons can choose from chicken, beef, mutton, and duck as their selection1. Each stick of satay is grilled to perfection upon order. The cook places the satay over charcoal fire until well-cooked. Each meat is marinated with spices overnight prior to cooking3. Each bite has a lingering smoky taste. In Singapore, satay can be found at most hawker centers3. Each stick costs 70 cents (US$0.50)2 on average. Patrons can request for a variety of satay as a combination in a platter upon order.
Gai Yang in Thailand
Gai yang (grilled chicken that is marinated with herbs and spices) is a Thai street food classic. The cook will smash the chicken to tenderize the meat and grill the meat over low heat for two hours4. The chicken is chopped upon serving for diners’ ease of consumption. Each order comes with a spicy Thai chili dipping sauce for an extra oomph in flavor profiles. The best way to complete this dish is to pair it with a serving of traditional Thai sticky rice4.
Banh mi in Vietnam
Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich served using baguettes, vegetables and meat) is a must-try dish in Vietnam. Banh mi is representative of a fusion cuisine where Vietnam meets France5. One of the longest impactful influences of French rule in Vietnam was their baked foods5. The baguette was introduced to Ho Chi Minh City during the French colonial period and eventually became widely popular in the whole country5.
Easily available at all street vendors and cafes, banh mi is sold as affordable as 15,000 Vietnamese Dong (US$0.70). Customers can enjoy different variations of banh mi. From seafood to chicken, most eateries offer a variety of options to cater to diners’ requests. Accompanying ingredients include cucumber slices and pickled carrots. The sandwich is finished off with common condiments such as spicy Vietnamese chili, mayonnaise and cheese. Banh mi was also featured by Lonely Planet among the top 10 World’s Best Street Food5.
- Seth Lui. (2017). 8 Best Satays In Singapore That Will Satayisfy Your Skewered Meat Obsessions. [online] Available at: http://sethlui.com/best-satay-singapore/
- The Best Singapore. (2017). The Best 5 Satay in Singapore. [online] Available at: http://www.thebestsingapore.com/eat-and-drink/the-best-5-satay-in-singapore/
- National Library Board. (2005). Satay. [online] Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_888_2005-01-10.html
- Look Inside Thailand. (2017). THAILAND STREET FOOD: GAI YANG. [online] Available at: https://lookinsidethailand.com/street-foods-gai-yang/
- The Straits Times. (2016). Banh mi, queen of street food. [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/banh-mi-queen-of-street-food