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3 Street Food Meccas In Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is known for many things in budget traveler circles, from blissful beaches comprised of blinding white sand to eco-trekking tours that take you into pristine jungles, as well as the friendly local people that you meet along the way.  One thing that most people rave about when they arrive home though is the food.  Everywhere in Southeast Asia, mouth-watering dishes purchased from $15 USD and up at home can be had for the equivalent of $1-2 USD on the street.  While the food in most places across the region is an excellent value, there are specific places where the quality and value of this food is exceptional.  This blog post will outline three places you must include on your itinerary if you are a foodie traveller.  Even if you aren’t a foodie … rest assured, these places will turn you into one!

1) Penang, Malaysia – A port city in Malaysia at the intersection of Indian, Chinese, Malay, Arabic, and European cultures, the concoctions created in this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the stuff of legends.  Have a full Indian feast, with meat, rice, dhal, and buttered naan bread for $3-4 … you’ll cry when you have to pay closer to $20 for this back in the West!  Sample the Malay tradition of Nasi Kandar, where various meat curries are spooned over rice, with fried eggs, seafood, and any number of selections from the buffet tray. Wonton Mee is a spicy noodle dish that will have your palate singing with flavour and heat, while the sour and savoury taste of Penang Laksa will seal the deal in your mind that Penang is one of the Meccas for foodies worldwide.

2) Bangkok, Thailand – Easily the Thai kingdom’s largest city at 12 million souls, food from every corner of the country can be found in the streets and narrow sois of this heaving megalopolis.  Savour a plate of Pad Siew, as the paper thin but large rice noodles melt in your mouth, your choice of meat juices as you bite down on it, and the healthy mix of kale and morning glory make you feel good about your choice of dish. The deceptively spicy som tam (papaya salad) cleans out your sinuses, while the sweetness of the fruit provides the payoff to the heat you are experiencing. To finish your evening meal, the unique Thai dessert Khanom Krok combines cooked coconut pudding with a topping of fried shallots for a strange but interesting twist to the third course of your street meal.  There are an infinite number of Thai street dishes to be had, so dive in and try as much as your stomach can handle!

3) Hanoi, Vietnam – Of all the varieties of street food in Southeast Asia, Vietnamese food is certainly the least talked about, but is no less impressive.  Start with a steaming bowl of Pho, beef or chicken noodle soup, from a vendor for $1 USD or less.  Next, sample some Bun Cha, which is charbroiled pork belly, coated in a variety of sauces and then served over rice vermicelli, and often with crispy spring rolls!  Finally, with acres of coffee fields in the nearby highlands, Vietnam has no shortage of cheap, but outstanding coffee.  Have a street barista brew you a strong cup to your liking, and sit at a chair and table designed for a child, as you watch the hectic street life of this fascinating nation go by!

Of the many fascinating places to eat food in Southeast Asia, these cities stand head and shoulders above the rest.  Make visiting these places a priority, and you’ll come away with a greater appreciation of what truly makes a great meal!