I never quite realised just how popular Asian Street food is until this collab, where in mere hours I already had 50 plus entries from travellers and bloggers from all across the globe. And while I obviously have a passion for writing about street food and Asia, I can say it was much more enjoyable just flicking through the photos and contributions of others. As I could happily scroll through photos of Indian food all day. Anyway, I have obviously shared my own lists of Asian food obsessions through this site (e.g. my 50 favourite Foods of Asia) which include all sorts of cuisine. So this is at least specific to street food, and it is unique in that it covers things that I would never consider eating; like insects, tarantulas, duck embryos, and my Asian food nemesis Stinky Tofu. Which is horrible for two obvious reasons: it stinks and its tofu. However, while there are 48 countries in Asia itself, this list will again be focused more on the more popular tourist regions of South, Southeast, and East Asia. Where I should point out one noticeable absence in the list with Laos. At the same time ‘Larb Pla Duk’ from Thailand would also be common in Lao Food, as well as Som Tam, And there are just many shared influences from both Thai street food and Vietnamese cuisine. (Check here for our guide to Lao Food).
Sometimes it can be hard to define street food, as almost all Thai food can be found served and eaten on the street in some way or another. But some foods are just more obvious than others. So to find the widest range of street food I would always recommend foodcourts and food markets, as they always have a wide and varied range of different street eats. Then there are the shophouse restaurants, again popular with seating options outside, and they often specialise in one or two noodles or rice dishes, or ‘ahan tham sung’ where you can order a range of popular stir-fry dishes off the menu. ‘Khao rad kaeng’ curry buffets are also popular street food option where they serve canteen style curries and stir-fries at a fraction of the prices of restaurant meals. Then there are just the surprises that are found on the streetsides along the way. Anyway, I could talk about street food in Thailand all day, and have shared 27 of my favourite Bangkok street foods here before. And there’s just plenty to explore on this site including Isaan food favourites, Lanna Cuisine of the North, and I’ll stop now.
By Roman of Roman Roams: I love Asian street food. And, the dish I love the most is Pad Thai, which actually means “Thai stir fry”. It is a typical Thai dish that you can find anywhere around Thailand and outside of the country. It became especially popular during the Second World War when there was a shortage of rice in Thailand, so the government was promoting rice noodles as an alternative. The dish is usually made of rice noodles, eggs, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, shrimps, garlic, tofu, lime, peanuts and some other ingredients that can vary. Being mainly a street food, you can also try Pad Thai in Thai restaurants for a more classy meal. Trying Pad Thai is definitely one of the best things to do in Bangkok. Have a tasty trip!
By Ros Cuthbertson of Frequent Traveller: Thailand has many wonderful street food dishes but one of my favourites would have to be Green Papaya Salad or Som Tum as it is called locally. I love Som Tum because it has a fresh sour, sweet, spicy and salty flavour that becomes addictive. Just add the crunch of green beans, peanuts and shredded green papaya and you have a dish made in heaven! Watching Green Papaya Salad being made is just as fascinating as eating the dish. Green papaya is shredded by repeatedly chopping a peeled papaya into fine julienne strips with a knife. It always amazes me how someone doesn’t lose a finger in the process. Garlic and chillies are placed into a tall mortar and ground to a rough paste with a long stick like a pestle. Palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice are added, the lime skin is also thrown in for extra flavour. Roasted peanuts, dried prawns (shrimp) and chopped tomatoes are added and pounded into the mix. (Here for our bit on ‘the best papaya salad’)
By Jorge & Cláudia of Travel Drafts: Khao soi is a traditional soup of the North of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. It is a delicious soup made of red curry paste, coconut, egg noodles and pickled cabbage on the side. As for the protein it can be cooked with chicken, pork or beef. At the end it is topped with deep-fried egg noodle, giving it a crispy texture. This curry soup is so delicious, it is one of our favourite Thai Dishes. You can easily find Khao Soi in street food stalls around Chaing Mai, just grab a boll and sit in front of the stall, normally they have chairs and tables. You will find several variations of Khao Soi, but the best ones have a rich thick curry broth. So yummy.
By Josh of the Lost Passport: Larb is a northeastern Thai style dish commonly found at Bangkok’s street vendors. The dish is based on a minced meat which is heavily spiced with chilli, mint, onions and shallots. Larb has a few variations such as pork, beef, chicken, and my favourite, catfish. The catfish is first minced up into small pieces then fried in a pot with water and a little bit of oil. The cooking method means the meat remains soft and juicy, not crunchy as if it were shallow fried. A whole handful of spices are added during the cooking process which makes this dish full on with flavour. You can ask for Larb Pla Duk to be as spicy as you like, or simply have no chilli at all. Finally, Larb Pla Duk is best enjoyed as any eastern Thai dish is, with a side of sticky rice. Roll up a small ball of sticky rice and eat with your hands for the traditional experience. Love street food? Be sure to find plenty more and the best places to eat in my Bangkok travel guide!
By Masha of Fingertip Travels: One of my favourite things to do in Southeast Asia is to try all the exotic fruits. They are so different from what I’m used to in the US, both in appearance and taste. It’s a challenge sometimes to even figure out how to eat them, so it’s like a puzzle with a delicious outcome when you solve it! Definitely try the rambutan (bright red and hairy), passion fruit (plum-sized fruit with a tart, aromatic, juicy middle), and lychee (small jelly-like fruit). My favourite tropical fruit, however, is mangosteen. A thick purple skin protects delicate citrus like segments. The segments are juicy, with the texture of a ripe peach. I love to buy a bag from a fruit cart or a street market and devour it. Here for more weird fruits.
By Michael Gerber of mscgerber.com: When travelling to Bangkok you will find Mango with sticky rice around every corner – and that’s good for you, as this street food is simply a perfect snack. The mangos in Thailand are known for their incredible taste and especially in combination with the sticky rice they are hard to pass. The sticky rice is usually made with rice (surprise!), coconut water, sugar, salt and tapioca starch. While the dish is incredibly easy to do on your own – it’s just not the same as getting it from one of the many local sellers, where a friendly smile is included in the price. Tip: Avoid buying the Sticky Rice in the most touristic places, as it is way overpriced there.
By Sharon of What The Saints Did Next: If you’re not afraid of bugs one of the best street foods to try in Bangkok are fried insects – they’re surprisingly tasty and nutritious. We got a selection of crickets, grasshoppers and bamboo worms from a street cart on Khao San Road, one that got a food safety stamp of approval through its line of local customers. The bugs are deep-fried, salted and tossed in a soy-like sauce which makes them crispy, crunchy (except the worms) and actually taste pretty good. Salty and nutty. The cricket legs require extra chewing. Interestingly, the protein content of crickets is said to be 2-3 times higher than its weight equivalent in beef and edible bugs are predicted to become a sustainable world food source in the future. Food for thought!
Love soups, or noodles or noodle soups? Then Vietnam is the perfect street food destination for you. At the same time, Vietnamese cuisine is really quite diverse, with the old colonial French influences of course, and there’s just a lot of healthy options to explore, with the abundant use of fresh herbs and veg in various street food dishes. (Meaning it’s not my forte). However, after 5 or so visits to Vietnam now, I still feel I am barely scraping the surface of Vietnamese street food, and this is proven by this quick list below. However I have tried to sum up some of the wider influences in Vietnamese cuisine in our Top Vietnamese Eats here, which goes well beyond the noodle soups.
By Yen of Swing Abroad: Probably the most well-known Vietnamese cuisine across the globe. Pho has been adored by travellers in Vietnam for decades and keeps travellers coming back to Vietnam. Pho is the national staple of Vietnam, usually taken as breakfast. A bowl of Pho is made of flat rice noodles, along with the broth consisting chicken oils, chicken slices, fresh herbs accompanied with lime wedges. Since Pho is so popular, it’s difficult to find a great one without several times of trails and errors. The best way to find out the best Pho in town would be following the locals. If there are many locals dining around the stall on stools, you wouldn’t want to miss that one. Want to know more about Vietnamese foods? Check out 8 Best Foods in Vietnam That Will Rock Your World.
By Markus of the Roaming Fork: Banh Mi is a well-known Vietnamese breakfast sandwich, with a French influence, that is a perfect kick-start to the day. The banh mi sandwich starts with the fresh baguette, which is crunchy on the outside and light on the inside. The actual ingredients of each banh mi can differ depending on the vendor, although the typical banh mi ingredients will include mayonnaise (or butter), a scrape of pate, pickled daikon and carrot, pork, coriander (cilantro), a slice of cucumber, a squirt of Maggi seasoning sauce, and if you are looking for an extra kick, a few small pieces of chilli. The banh mi sandwich, contained in the perfect package, is a tasty snack for the busy Vietnamese.
By Marianne of Mum on the Move: Bun Cha is one of Hanoi’s most famous street food dishes and you will find it all over the city. Pork patties are grilled over a smoking barbecue (you can usually spot a bun cha restaurant by the billowing smoke outside) and served in a tangy soup, accompanied by a plate of white rice noodles, with fresh herbs, lettuce and chillies. The pork in the Bun Cha is insanely delicious – they grill it over hot coals until it is almost caramelized and the resulting sweet smoky flavour is incredible. Vinegar from pickled vegetables in the soup help to cut through fattiness of the pork, while the lettuce and herbs add freshness to the dish that is so characteristic of Vietnamese cuisine.
By Rachel from Adventure and Sunshine: Banh Xeo is a savoury pancake from Central Vietnam. The pancake is made with a mixture of rice flour, water, coconut milk and turmeric. But what makes Banh Xeo so memorable is how it is fried. The pancake mixture is added to a pan and topped with a range of fillings. Popular fillings include prawns, pork and spring onion. The pancake is then folded over and cooked until crispy on both sides. The best Banh Xeo are very crispy, so if you are making it yourself, ensure the oil is extra hot and cook it well. Once crispy, cut the pancake into smaller pieces, add bean sprouts and fresh herbs before wrapping it in lettuce or a rice paper. Perfect as a snack or as part of a larger meal, it is served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce Delicious!
By Whitney of Designs For Travel: Hanoi is an incredible destination in Vietnam and has some of the best street food in the country. Ca phe trung is a must try for anyone travelling to Hanoi, especially during the cool winter months. “Egg coffee” was invented by Mr. Nguyen Giang in the 1940’s while he was working at the famous Sofitel Metropole Hotel. Ca phe trung is a liquid dessert, tasting like a warm creme brulee with coffee. It’s made by whisking an egg yolk with sweetened condensed milk and poured over strong coffee. The best place to enjoy this delicious and rich drink, is at Mr. Giang’s original cafe at 39 Nguyen Huu Huan street, in the Old Quarter.
By Allison of Eternal Arrival: One of the best things to do in Saigon is to enjoy the delicious street food scene, and one of my favourite dishes is Vietnamese bun rieu cua (written bún riêu cua with Vietnamese diacritical marks). This classic street food dish is a noodle soup made of a tomato and crab stock, rich with seafood flavours and bright with acidity from the tomatoes. Every version of the dish is a little different, but you will always find tomato, crab paste, rice noodles, green vegetables, tofu, and bean sprouts. Often, you’ll also have pork rib, meatballs, and for the brave, congealed pig’s blood called huyết (though you can ask them to leave this out). Toppings of various herbs such as shredded banana blossoms, perilla, and mint are commonly served on the side. It’s delicious and hard to find outside of Vietnam, so give it a try when you visit!
By Jackie Szeto & Justin Huynh of Life Of Doing: When you’re travelling through Vietnam, try xoi (xôi in Vietnamese). Xoi is sticky rice that is enjoyable at any time of the day from breakfast to dessert. There are two types of xoi – a sweet dish with beans or fruits (xôi ngọt) or a savoury dish with chicken or fish (xôi mặn). The rice comes in various colours such as green, purple, and yellow due to the plant extracts (pandan leaf for green). Our favourite is the sweet xoi as you receive a ball of rice topped with crushed peanuts, dried coconut, sugar, and salt. To find it, look for street vendors that have steamers showcasing their colourful rice. It’s a cheap and filling meal starting at 10,000 VND ($.40 USD).
Singapore / Malaysia
Sorry to bunch these two together, but you will find very similar cooking cultures in Malaysia and Singapore along with a mix of Indian, Chinese, and Malay cuisines. In fact, almost all of the list below are interchangeable between both countries; only maybe with slight differences in dialect e.g. Roti Canai (Malaysia) is pretty much identical to Roti Pratha (Singapore), and Nasi Padang is like the Singapore equivalent to Nasi Kandar (or Campur). In short, this short list of street foods can be found relatively easy in both Malaysia and Singapore. (Note, glaring omissions from Singapore include Hainanese Chicken Rice and Fish head curry)
By Nisha and Vasu of Lemonicks: Pronounced as Chanai not Kanai, Roti Canai is a very popular traditional Malaysian dish. A dough is prepared for Roti canai by a mixing wheat flour, salt to taste and oil and by repeatedly kneading it. More oil is added, and dough is folded before putting aside to let the mixture rise before the process is repeated. The Roti canai is flat with crispy exterior but fluffy inside. The Roti canai in Malay literally means flatbread, which is an accurate description of the food. There are many versions of the roti chanai from plain to other varieties such as eggs, sardine, banana etc. It is generally served with lentil daal or other types of curry. It can be had at any time of the day, but is commonly eaten for breakfast along with a cup of Teh tarik. A must try.
Char Kway Teow, Singapore
By Josie of Josie Wanders: Delicious street food is everywhere in Singapore, and Char Kway Teow is one of the most popular. Traditionally a working mans’ food, this is a dish of flat noodles, tossed in a wok with some Asian greens, fried egg, and bean sprouts. It is usually served with your choice tofu, prawns, chicken or char siu pork, but cockles and fish cake are also common in Singapore. Sauces vary slightly from stall to stall, but usually it will include fish sauce, soy sauce or kecap manis. The noodles are tossed quickly and over high heat to give a delicious smoky flavour.
By Claire of Backpacking Bella: One of the most satisfying things to do in Malaysia is to visit one of its bustling street food centres, sit on a plastic chair and tuck into a steaming bowl of laksa. Here, eating is considered a national pastime. Descendants of early Chinese migrants, who settled in Malaysia around 500 years ago, created this spicy noodle soup recipe that is still widely enjoyed today. Chicken, prawn or fish is bathed in a spicy broth along with rice vermicelli, which you slurp up with chopsticks or a spoon. Sambal chilli sauce gives the dish its kick, which is tempered by coconut milk, along with sweet and sour notes of tamarind, garlic, galangal and lemongrass. It’s easy to see why laksa is ranked one of the world’s top 10 best foods. Any time of day or night, this is comfort food you will want to reach for again and again.
By Warren Dobe of Sling Adventures: Going out for crab in Singapore is one of the most iconic pastimes in this small Asian nation. The most well-known dish being Singapore Chilli Crab. Yet dig a little deeper and you will uncover a rival recipe, the unique white pepper crab, served exclusively at the ‘No Signboard’ hawker-style restaurant. The crab is served fresh from the tank priced on weight and you are welcome to choose your crab should you wish. It all started back in the 1970’s when Madam Ong Kim Hoi pioneered the selling of seafood at the Mattar Hawker Centre and added her unique white pepper-based seasoning. This drew in crowds looking for her stall with no signboard. A franchise was born and you can still get the authentic hawker experience at the original restaurant on Geylang Rd.
By Keri of Little City Trips: Satay is a great favourite street food delicacy for many people in Singapore and is the focus of many a craving for Singaporean clubbers on their way home in the early hours. Diced marinated meat (usually chicken, beef or prawn) is skewered onto bamboo sticks and grilled over hot charcoals. Satay is traditionally served with raw onions, cucumber and a spicy peanut dip. You can find Satay in hawker centres all over Singapore, but Lau Pa Sat is the most popular. Boon Tat Street here closes to traffic in the evening and becomes known as ‘Satay Street’ with all the satay vendors churning out smoke from their stalls and vying for hungry diners’ business.
Bren of Bren on the Road: Kaya Toast is a super popular snack in Singapore and Malaysia, which is as simple as it is delicious. Take two slices of lightly toasted bread, spread them with generous servings of kaya jam and cold butter, and enjoy! The secret, of course, is in the kaya jam, which is a sweet jam made from coconut and egg, and when paired with full-fat butter is quite divine. Think of it like Singapore’s peanut butter and jelly – they’re great on their own, but together they’re triply special! It’s often served with a couple of soft-boiled eggs and a cup of coffee and often eaten for breakfast, but you’ll find people enjoying it at all times of the day, even as a midnight snack.
By Donovan of Money Saving Daddy: My favourite drinks in Singapore are this 2 drinks. Sugar Cane Drink and Ice Milo. Milo is like a chocolate malt drink which is specifically for the Asian Market. You can get this almost all the stores that sell drinks in Singapore. And to have a better taste, we usually add more powder on top. We call it the Milo Dinosaur. This cost SGD 2-3. Sugar Cane juice, freshly squeezed by a custom-made machine to get you the juice. Add it with lemon or sour plum for a more refreshing taste. This cost SGD 2.
India / South Asia
For me, the best part of India will always be the food. However the country is also known for being somewhat rough-and-ready in its cooking, with ‘Delhi Belly’ stereotypes, and it just comes with a lot of warnings. At the same time, I can say it is the first Asian country I ate through without falling back on international food comforts even once. Partly because I rarely found any along the way, but also I was just excited for every single meal of Indian food, before the opportunities pass me by. Anyway, India is obviously a vast country, with many borders, so I have included South Asia just to complicate it more. But also because Nepal, for example, serves very similar cuisines to Sikkim and India’s Himalayan regions (our Himalaya Food Guide here). And influences even travel further with the old maritime spice routes; through Sri Lanka, in Myanmar (there’s great Indian food in Yangon), Malaysia (the Mamak food is awesome in Penang) and through the Straits of Malacca and to Singapore (check out Geylang and Little India).
By Pujarini Mitra of My Soul Travels: The most popular street food that comes to mind when we talk about India is Samosa. It is as intrinsic to India’s rhythm as its beverage partner chai. Often had during snack time, samosas are made by enveloping a spicy vegetable or chicken filling within the dough and then deep frying it. No matter where you are especially in North India, you cannot be too far from a samosa shop. Found in food stalls and sweet shop, the most common and liked version of samosas are the ones with potato, peas and onions filling. Another legendary dish that is made from samosas is the samosa chat which is made by crushing the samosa and dipping it in curd and chutney. These days food adventurers have given many twists to the traditional samosas and you may find samosas with different filling like chocolate, noodles and fruit filling.
By Andra of Our World to Wonder: This is one dessert that can definitely guarantee you diabetes if you cannot stop from eating them. It’s one of the most famous dishes in India and for sure the sweetest thing I have eaten in my entire life. This is not surprising given that its main ingredient is sugar. They are made by mixing ghee, milk, flour and tons of sugar and then the pancake-like batter is deep-fried. When you put the batter in the frying oil you pour it in various shapes, usually as coils and spirals. And let’s not forget that after you fry them, you soak them in, of course, sugar syrup. This is as sweet as you can go, but they are really delicious!
By Jenny of Travelynn Family: Cane juice is sold from street-stalls across much of Asia, particularly India. It’s that perfect sweet refreshment from the heat, particularly on those humid days. Sugar cane is crushed through a hand-operated machine with a turning drum and the squeezed juice is then collected in a glass. It’s perfectly safe to drink, but for hygiene, you may want to clean the glass yourself, and say no to ice. Otherwise pour into your own bottle to take away. Even though it contains sugar, it’s a natural sugar, and the juice is packed with nutrients and antioxidants to boost the immune system and give you a natural kick of energy. We travelled all over India with kids (aged 2 and 3) and our boys absolutely loved cane juice. The sellers would often give them a cutting of the actual sugar cane to chew after drinking their glasses.
By Chandrima of Travel Stories Untold: Kolkata is said to be the original home of the yummilicious Kathi Roll. Although you might now find them in many other parts of India (mostly known as the Kolkata Kathi Roll or Kolkata Roll), for an authentic taste, you need to head to the “City of Joy.” One of the most popular street foods of Kolkata, you’re likely to come across countless vendors selling them in almost every nook and corner of the city. It’s essentially a wrap of sorts, with the flatbread made out of flour and pan-fried. Then some whisked eggs are added on top of this flatbread and fried again. Finally, a filling of chicken, mutton, or simply some chopped onions are added along with some ketchup and chilli sauce and rolled into a wrap. It’s the flatbread that has a very special taste, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. For the best Kathi Rolls, head over to Nizam’s in New Market or Kusum in Park Street if you’re visiting Kolkata.
By Alana Tagliabue of Family Bites Travel: Pittu is a versatile Sri Lankan street food. It can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. There are a few types of pittu. Kurakkan pittu is my favourite. It is made from finger millet and is steamed inside a cylindrically-shaped tin. Pittu is not a pretty looking dish, but the real magic happens when you add dollops of buffalo curd and lashings of treacle. These three elements form the basis for this delectable dessert. It is best to eat kurakkan pittu with your hands to mix the elements together. It is essential that you have curd and treacle. It was a highlight of our street-food experiences when we spent over 10 months in Sri Lanka last year. Even my very fussy kids loved it.
By Inma Gregorio of A World to Travel: Momos, the most popular dish in Nepal (although they can also be found in India, Tibet, and many parts of Asia) are a kind of flour dumplings, stuffed with vegetables or meat from pork, yak or lamb. There are also some varieties with cheese, spinach, and other ingredients. Some equate momos with Chinese mantis, jiaozis, buuz or wonton dumplings, even Italian ravioli or Japanese gyoza. Momos can be eaten fried, but it is usually much more common to eat them steamed. There is no need to recommend a restaurant to try them, it is best to stop at a street stall where they are constantly cooking them. The freshness is very high and the quality, better than in many restaurants. Enjoy!
By Nafisa Habib from My Own Way To Travel: Jhalmuri is one of the popular Bengali snacks and common street foods of Bangladesh. It is available in almost every famous street of Dhaka as well as in other cities. Jhalmuri is a Bengali word, ‘Jhal’ means Spicy and ‘Muri’ means Puffed Rice. So, puffed rice is the main ingredient of this street food. Moreover, to get the tangy and spicy taste you have to mix other ingredients like green chilli, onion, lemon, chanachur, bora, tomato, cucumber, mustard oil properly with puffed rice. You can say it’s kind of Bhelpuri, but the taste is different. It is nice to see how the street vendor mixes all ingredients and keep on shaking in a container until all mix and became ready to serve. Some vendors mix ghumni with puffed rice to make it sticky and tastier. Jhalmuri is usually served in a thonga or paper bag and sometimes in a plate or bowl. It is fun to have this spicy street food with milk tea while gossiping with friends in a group or family.
By Rahma Khan of The Sane Adventurer: If you ever happen to visit Karachi do not forget to treat your taste buds by visiting the all-time famous ‘Burns Road’ of Karachi. It is a famous food street which is popular for the most favourite street food of Pakistanis; ‘Andey Wala Burger’ (Egg and Meat Burger). The ‘Andey Wala Burger’ is just an ordinary burger with a fried egg on it. It is topped with onions and different local spicy sauces. The buns are fried from both sides on a huge pan, which is later used to fry the meat patty and then the egg. The highlight of ‘Andey Wala Burger’ is the egg and spicy sauces which brings out the taste of the whole snack. Whether running late to work or stuck in the traffic, Pakistanis never miss an opportunity to eat the Andey Wala Burger.
By Patrick of the German Backpacker: A favourite street food which I tasted during my recent backpacking trip around Pakistan is called “Paan”, which can be found everywhere in the country (and also around other Asian destinations). Paan consists of betel leaves, which are folded and stuffed with a variety of different ingredients, such as nuts and different pastes. According to the locals, Paan might even have a psychoactive effect when chewed (I didn’t feel anything unfortunately!). My local friends in Karachi ordered a huge Paan for me (to be honest, I don’t even know what was in it) and made me chew it as a whole, which was rather difficult due to its size (see the picture). While I still couldn’t exactly figure out what I was actually eating, it tasted pretty good and was a fun experience!
Japan may not be the most obvious street food destination, which may be to do with climate and wealth. (Unlike in Southeast Asia where it’s cooler and cheaper to eat outside). But there is still some local street food culture in Japan, with yatai food stalls, which are still found throughout the country. Although they are better-known for appearances at events and festivals celebrated through the year, and some cities would be better than others, where Fukuoka is the obvious street food city. Especially for ramen. However, my personal obsession would have to be in Osaka, and the Namba district around Dotonburi Canal, which has some of the most exciting street food scenes around. Also, check out the takoyaki master (in video below) found nearby.
By Marta of Little City Trips: Yakitori, literally translated as “grilled bird” is a popular snack in Tokyo. Chicken is skewered onto bamboo sticks then grilled over a charcoal fire until it is deliciously charred. The meat is kept tender by basting it with a marinade as it cooks. This marinade includes soy sauce and mirin, resulting in a sweet, salty flavour that pairs perfectly with a cold Japanese beer. For this reason you will often find yakitori served at izakayas, but it is also possible to still find this Japanese delicacy at street stalls around Tokyo. Note that yakitori can be made with any offcut of the chicken. Tourists usually gravitate towards the thigh meat, but keep a look out for skin, cartilage and gizzards too!
By Paula McInerney of Contented Traveller: I cannot say that Okonomiyaki is the most attractive dish I have tasted in Japan. However, I can say, with full authority, having eaten it for the last 10 years when we come for our ski vacation at Nozawa Onsen, that it is one of the most delicious. It is a cross between an overfilled omelette or pancake or a very thick pizza..sort of. I am sure that part of the attraction is the theatre in which it is made. This is art at its best from the Okonomiyaki Japanese chefs. Okonomiyaki literally means “as you like it” in Japanese, so you will find regional variations. The Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is layered like a giant omelette and often includes yakisoba, which is stir-fried boiled ramen noodles, vegetables and meat or seafood, sometimes with a fried egg on top. The Kansai-style okonomiyaki, on the other hand, is mixed together before being cooked like a pancake. Then sauces are squirted across the top, like mayonnaise and a form of BBQ sauce. As I have said, it might look … ummm. But it tastes YUM.
By Katie of the Accidental Australian: Taiyaki are sweet, fish-shaped pancakes, and are a common street food sold in Japan. I came across them frequently in Kyoto and Tokyo, although they can be found across the country. These sweet snacks are usually filled with red bean paste, although sometimes it can also be chocolate or custard. They taste a bit like a waffle, or pancake. I was on a walking tour in Kyoto when our tour guide recommended we try them- which was a fantastic idea, since I snacked on them nearly every day for the rest of the trip! A sweet pancake, that you can eat with one hand while walking, is definitely something I can get behind!
By Pari of Traveling Pari: When you visit the street food market in Ueno Park, or any other street food market in Japan, you ’ll likely come across some round balls mounted on a bamboo stick like a kebab on a skewer. These sweet sticky rice balls are known as Dango. Dango are made by combining a special sweet rice flour called Mochiko with soft tofu. Sometimes, colours and flavours are added to the mix to make them more appealing. They are served with Mitarashi sauce, a soy sauce syrup. If don’t have a sweet tooth, limit the Mitarashi sauce for a mild flavour.
China / Macau / Hong Kong
Thankfully I didn’t have to bundle Taiwan into here (I do get into trouble for that). At the same time, I would love to separate Macau and Hong Kong which obviously have their own regional foods with the Macanese foods of Macau and the predominantly Cantonese cuisine of Hong Kong. Otherwise China is a fascinating street food destination (despite its notorious reputation in hygiene) where some of the highlights included the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an (one of my own top 5 street food streets) and the somewhat tourist-driven street food scenes found in and around almost every tourist and travel destination. Although we probably spend most of our time in China poking through the random noodle shops in search of Sichuan mala flavours. Anyway, here for our own Top 10 Chinese Street Food.
By Marie-Carmen of Orient Excess: We’ve heard people say that Jian Bing is the perfect breakfast food, but let’s face it, it’s also amazing drunken food! You’ll find small carts making this crepe all over town. Typically this treat is made to order, being cooked on a hotplate in front of you. In it’s purest form, it’s made with egg, but you’ll find a variety of different fillings depending on where you are in the country. In Sichuan, it’s common to find meat and veggies in there to tide you over for the rest of the morning (or evening… you know…). While you’ll find many options for your breakfast in the streets of China, we’ve got to say this is one of the cheapest, quickest and most enjoyable.
By Patti Morrow of Luggage and Lipstick: “Don’t go to street markets!” we were warned. So of course, that’s exactly where I headed. Xi’an is known for the Terra Cotta Warriors, but just as much fun is the North Gate Market, a wild cacophony of coloured lights, frenzied calls of peddlers, loud music, and pungent smell of charcoal grills. I was drawn to a spirited young man selling deep fried crab on a stick. He was taking crabs as big as my head, impaling them on wooden skewers, and submerging into a boiling vat of oil. After a few minutes, the piping hot crustaceans was removed and generously dusted with a spicy, crunchy, coating similar in texture to bread crumbs but with a peppery, zesty flavour. Sinfully delicious!
By Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear: Stinky tofu is one of the most infamous street foods in Asia, especially as a popular food to eat in Hong Kong, this is due to its strong odour which incites equally strong responses. Depending on whether you enjoy the tofu or not, the smell can be a pleasant smell of stinky tofu or a stench of raw sewage. Those who love it know the scent draws them in like a moth to a flame. Traditionally, stinky tofu is made “stinky” by marinating it in a brine of fermented milk, vegetables, and meat. Sometimes depending on the vendor, the brines also include dried shrimp and even Chinese herbs. When sold as a street food, it is usually fried or grilled over a flame and sold from a cart or a stall. (Note, Stinky tofu is also common in Taiwan).
By Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey: When we think egg tart we usually go straight to Portugal with images of the delicious pasteis de nata. Yet few people know that the egg tart originated in Macau, colonised by Portugal from 1849 until 1999 (with Portuguese settlements dating back to the 1500s). Due to the deep history, egg tarts today are the most iconic street snacks in Macau and you cannot leave without trying one. They are by far the best food in Macau. Macao egg tarts are quite similar to the Portuguese pasteis de nata, yet they have a slightly “British” feel with a more custardy taste. You can get them at several locations, but Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane was the first store to sell them, so you should definitely try it there first. You will get a tart with a flaky base and a slightly runny top, fresh out the oven.
Our own street food experiences in Taiwan were cut short last visit, where we were caught up in Typhoon Soudelor, and had to cancel our night market visits in Taipei and Keelung. And to date I’ve shared very little otherwise. But Taiwan is no doubt one of the most exciting street food destinations in the world, where the night markets are the renowned highlights of any visit to this small-ish island nation. And a good area to start would be Ximending (the Harajuku of Taipei), which franchises all the popular (and cute) Taiwanese food outlets; like bubble tea, and shaved ice cafes…. before heading out to the popular night markets in the evenings. Taiwan is also home to my personal food nemesis – stinky tofu.
By Dana Hooshmand of Discover Discomfort: Taiwan does many street foods well – beef noodles, bubble tea and braised pork rice being near the top of most people’s lists – but fried chicken (雞排, ji pai) takes prime position. The combination of succulent chicken thigh (it’s almost always thigh) and crispy fresh deep-fried batter may not seem very Chinese, but it is ubiquitous in Taiwan: you can find this at any night market and at a range of local eateries. Look for the best examples. We take an immediate interest in anywhere with a long queue, a fast-moving cooking production line and a clear specialisation in one food – all rules we documented in our “hot and noisy” guide to eating in China.
By Cat from For Two, Please: Pork intestine thin noodle is a popular Taiwanese delicacy that you can find at almost any night market! This iconic noodle soup is made out of brown vermicelli, cooked in a thick consistency of a gravy. With oysters and pork intestines as the main ingredients, this tasty Taiwanese staple is a pure comfort and is dangerously addicting. One serving and you’ll be back for more! Local Taiwanese typically top up the bowl with additional seasonings. Black vinegar, cilantro, minced garlic, and chilli sauce will give you a punch of flavour to elevate the soup into an absolute deliciousness! Next time when you are in Taiwan, make sure you order a bowl of “Orh Ah Mee Sua”!
By Callan Wienburg of Singapore n Beyond: Jiufen is a Taiwan street food paradise. There is an array of quality snacks and meals to dig into, so you better go hungry. The most interesting street food in Taiwan, for me, is Jin Zhi’s Red Yeast Meat Dumpling (generally known as Bawan or “meat circle”). The see-through disk-shaped glutinous dumpling is made with sweet potato starch and looks like something from another planet. In the centre is some meat that has been soaked in red yeast, or vinasse, where the red hue comes from beets. So it looks particularly goopy and strange. The gelatinous dough surrounding the meat is made using a mixture of cornstarch, sweet potato starch and rice flour. So you can imagine how deliciously chewy and sticky it will be. And for the veggies out there, you can also pick up a non-meat version with a selection of vegetables soaked in vinasse and wrapped in the sweet translucent dough.
By Kaila Yu of Kailayu.com: Hot Star began in the Shilin Night Market and quickly became a staple item of Taiwanese street food. The secret to its incredible success lies in a special combination of secret processing techniques and a specially blended herbal marinade. Especially notable is the large size of their fried chicken pieces, which sets it apart from much of the competition. More importantly, however, it has an undeniably satisfying taste! The perfectly crisp fried coating works beautifully with the tender and juicy cut of meat. It is this delectable duo that makes Hot Star fried chicken stand out among the hundreds of street food vendors at the Shilin Night Market. So much so, that they have even brought their wildly popular menu to the streets of Los Angeles.
Elsewhere in Asia
As before, there are 48 countries in Asia, so a comprehensive street food list of each country is not going to happen. At least not here. So, just to give a snapshot of various travellers experiences, a handful of the more popular eat are found below.
By Corinne Vail of Reflections Enroute: Deokbokki is a tantalizing rice cake steaming in a pot of Gochichang-flavored stew. As popular and ubiquitous as it is, it certainly high on the list of Korean delicacies. It’s found in many markets, or sold by street vendors, all over the city, you can’t walk far and not find it. One of our favourite markets to eat street food is the Gwankang Market in Seoul where a serving of deokbokki will only cost you the equivalent of a couple of dollars. Deokbokki restaurants are also popping up, where you can go in and choose to get a pot of the stew, and then you can add noodles, dumplings, and at the end rice that is fried to perfection. No trip to South Korea is complete without trying this popular dish.
By Laura at What’s Hot?: A growing trend in the West is KFC… Korean Fried Chicken that is! (Yangnyeom Tongdak). This is one of the most popular street food items you’ll find on the streets of Seoul and it’s so good you can now find it in restaurants worldwide. It’s often served with little pieces of deokbokki in it, which are Korean spicy rice cakes. Together, you get sweet, spicy, sticky, crunchy, chewy pieces of chicken and rice cake, which will have you craving for more! The sauce is usually made from a mix of soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and a red chilli paste called gochujang. Depending on the vendor, it can be pretty damn spicy so make sure you’ve got some water to hand! Click here for more Korean street food in Seoul.
By Katherine of Tara Lets Anywhere: Isaw (pig or chicken intestine) is a common street food in the Philippines. You can easily find it in an ihiwan (a streetside stall selling various grilled meats) and sometimes even in food parks or selected Filipino restaurants. The intestine is prepared by cleaning the intestines inside and out repeatedly. It is then grilled in hot coals and then dipped in a sweet sauce or vinegar mixed with chilli and onion. You can eat isaw on its own, but I also recommend pairing it with rice. A stick of isaw costs P5, while in more high-end locations (such as food stalls in malls), it is sold at P15-20 each. Isaw is a staple in Filipino street foods and even a cultural icon. It’s a must-eat in the Philippines!
By Soumya from Stories by Soumya: Burmese Samosa Thoke is a delicious, vegetarian salad made out of tiny samosas (potato and chickpea fritters), shredded cabbage, finely chopped tomatoes and onions, and fresh mint and coriander leaves – all dunked in a thin lentil gravy. Add to it a dash of lime and chilli and you have a savoury snack ready in minutes. A star among the traditional food items of Myanmar, Samosa Thoke rules the streets of Yangon. Here, you can find plenty of vendors selling plates of samosa salad for as low as 50 US cents. Plop yourself into one of those kiddy chairs on the sidewalk and relish a plate of delectable samosa thoke as you watch the world go by!
By Halef and Michael of The Round The World Guys: Indonesia is a magical place for street food lovers. If you are travelling on the island of Java, especially in the Western part of the island, you simply have to try the bite-size, deep-fried snacks called Gorengan – which literally means “fried items.” Gorengan ranges from fried plantains and cassava to tubers and tofu. Gorengan tahu isi, or stuffed fried tofu, is usually accompanied by shredded carrots and bean sprouts inside the soft tofu. Coated in a batter of egg and flour, it is then deep fried and served piping hot with fresh birds-eye peppers. If you’re going to Indonesia, it’s helpful to learn more about Indonesian food before you go!
By Chris W. from CTB Global (Chris Travel Blog): Tarantulas are a delicacy in various Asian countries but Cambodia. When I travelled with my family from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap by Mekong Cruise my son tried his first tarantula. You’ll find street food vendors along the road selling all kinds of food including tarantula. Western people might think a tarantula is weird but why is that? We eat shrimps which aren’t much different. Tarantulas are best when fried living and then seasoned with a bit of salt and chilli. The legs get crunchy as does the skin, but the interior is still soft like pudding. Don’t worry about any venom as that’s not poisonous if eaten. How it tastes? Delicious, so just try it next time you’re in Cambodia or Southeast Asia
By Suzy of Suzy Stories: I found these ice cream rolls being sold in the lively hub of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The concept is simple but smart: choose your flavours and toppings ranging from chocolaty treats to zesty fruits, pay, and watch the magic happen. The chosen toppings are placed on an ice-cold surface, and milk poured all over. Next, the ice cream magician uses incredible speed to chop up the toppings and mush it all together, then smooths out the creamy mixture where the icy table freezes it. He then begins rolling up the ice cream into neat tubes, placing them in the tub. A few more toppings and sauces for good measure, and your tasty treat is ready to be demolished! When I first saw them I was enthralled; the artistry and skills which go into making the rolls are truly theatrical, plus the final product is absolutely delicious!
By Megan of MeganStarr.com: Samsas are, without a doubt, the most popular street food in Central Asia and especially in Kazakhstan. The simple and crispy pastry is most often seen filled with minced lamb and onions but can also contain seasonal ingredients such as potatoes and pumpkin or other types of meats and cheeses. You’re never too far away from finding a delicious samsa in Kazakhstan and you can find them at street vendors and kiosks all over the larger cities. They are the perfect quick bite to eat and because they are cooked in a tandoor, they offer a crispy texture that is so unique to street foods I have had anywhere else. If you’re heading to Central Asia, definitely make it a point to grab a samsa for the road as you explore some of the region’s raw nature.