10 Best (and Worst) Things You Can Eat in Southeast Asia

This is our first guest post on 1Dad1Kid.com.  Nice to be able to share some blogger love.

With thousands of delicious street food vendors to chose from, most of which don’t speak English, it can be a challenge to know what to order (or better yet, what not to order) when overseas.

After traveling through Southeast Asia for six months in 2009, my husband and I learned a thing or three about how to eat.

While it’s difficult to fault any Asian cuisine, we’d come up with a list of the five best and worst things to eat in Southeast Asia.

5 Best Things to Eat in Southeast Asia

Massaman Curry (Thailand)

Thailand is known for their spicy, sweet and overall delicious curries representing the colors of the rainbow including red curry, yellow curry, and green curry. However, my personal favorite is the famous Massaman Curry, a soupy meat dish cooked with coconut milk, peanuts or cashews, potatoes, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, sugar, fish sauce, chili and tamarind served with rice. Beef is the traditional meat used in the dish, but it’s not uncommon to see it served with other meats or vegetables.

06 massaman curry © by jasonlam

Pho (Vietnam)

Pho is a rice noodle soup served with beef or chicken and is typically eaten for breakfast. While the soup may seem pretty standard it’s an art form that you can decorate the finishing with with basil or mint leaves, bean sprouts, onion, lime and chili. For less than a $1 a bowl, there’s no better way to start the day slurping up the delicious soup.

Pho © by ljv

Curry Laksa (Malaysia)

Laksa is a type of thick rice noodle which is used in the famous Malaysian Curry Laksa, a coconut based curry soup. Street vendors and restaurants serve the soup typically with fish, tofu, or chicken and heaping spoon fulls of chili paste, coriander, and laksa leaf giving it that distinct spicy flavor.

Curry Laksa - Chilli Padi © by avlxyz

Chicken Tikka Masala (Malaysia)

Malaysia’s cuisine is a culinary blend of Chinese, Indian, and Malay so you don’t have to be in India to enjoy Chicken Tikka Masala. Baked tandoori chicken chunks blended in a spicy cream sauce with tomato and coriander gives the dish a savory and buttery flavor. Indian flat bread such as naan, chapati, or roti are commonly used to slop up the masala when eating with your hand (right hand only).

Chicken Tikka Masala © by AnneCN

Amok (Cambodia)

Amok is a thick sauce dish prepared with a freshwater fish (usually Mekong catfish), coconut milk, chili, onion, lemongrass, garlic lime, and traditional Cambodian spices. It’s served either in a banana leaf or coconut and is not as spicy as other Cambodian dishes.

Amok chicken © by expressionposthumus

Bonus Drink: Vietnamese Coffee (Vietnam)

If you’ve never had a Vietnamese coffee, you’re missing out! Finely ground Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee is placed into a French drip filter, slowly dripping the coffee into another cup. You can drink it as is, add sweet condensed milk and/or pour over ice.

Vietnamese Coffee © by Sue Richards

5 Worst Things to Eat in Southeast Asia

Prahok aka Cambodian Cheese (Cambodia)

Don’t let the name fool you, Cambodian Cheese is far from any traditional cheese you’d find in Europe. Prahok is a fermented fish paste, crushed and salted for preservation and flavor. While it’s generally used in soups, you can order it as a dish on its own. Trust me, you won’t want to unless you like chewing on sand.

Close up of Prahok Ang © by Paxse

Frog’s Legs (Vietnam)

Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t the best idea ordering frog’s legs from a restaurant next to a dirty creek bed, but anything fried has to be safe right? Wrong! For the next five days, my husband lived in the bathroom. It was horrific. Now, that’s not to say frog legs are bad everywhere, just be safe about where you order them and more importantly where the frogs come from.

Fried frog legs © by metaxin

Questionable Meat Stick (Thailand)

If I could eat chicken satay everyday of my life, I’d be a happy camper. However, I did try some very questionable meat sticks in Bangkok that made me wonder what the heck I was chewing on. If you’re going to do the meat stick thing, stick to chicken or a recognizable meat. Don’t agree? Let me know in the comments below.

Meat Sticks © by Mike Saechang

Ant Soup (Indonesia)

While I’m still not sure if we ordered wrong or the place was just filthy, but it appeared that a thousand little ants marched right into our Ant Soup. We ordered our Ant Soup in Bali, but after I did a little research it’s common all throughout Southeast Asia and is made of ant eggs.

yeah, fibers do good to your health but I wish it were a flapjack © by spettacolopuro

McDonald’s (Everywhere)

There’s no taste like home, and as much as I hate to admit it six months into our trip we cracked and ate at McDonald’s. While Southeast Asia has some of the best cuisine in the world, we just wanted a little familiarly of home and some cheese, which is not something you’ll find a lot of in Asia. Overall, it tasted exactly the same as back home, is fake food, and was expensive. Looking back, we’d rather have spent a quarter of the price on some local street food.


Bonus Drink: Bali Coffee (Indonesia)

Unless you like slurping on sludge and coffee grounds, skip the Balinese Coffee. It’s more like instant coffee that doesn’t dissolve. Stick to tea instead. Cheers!

P1020718 © by Robb1e

This list is based on things that my husband or I have personally tasted. What do you think? Would you add other items to the best or worst list?


About the author: Darcie Connell loves traveling the world, experiencing different cultures and living the fat and happy lifestyle. She’s also the co-founder of Trekity.com and TravelBloggerAcademy.com. Follow her food adventures on Twitter.

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  1. Fujian Food, from South China, is a miss and miss generally for foreigners. I had the unfortunate experience of having to experience one horror dish after another in Xiamen. Coagulated cow blood posing as liver, deep fried pig rectums, sea worms, chicken talons and many other bizarre delicacies.

    Ok, the fish was really good and safest thing to have there.

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  2. I had the “Questionable Meat Stick” in Bangkok on August, 2013. They said it is a beef, but it’s kinda dry and more similar to Chicken in terms of texture. It is also marinated in something smelled like Jasmine, it’s also really sweet. It was a really awful experience, I won’t eat it again

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  3. You are so wrong on all of these. Please do some more researching, and traveling more.
    I am going to give you one from southeast asian, pig blood, yes, pig blood

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  4. How can you doubt the Thai meat stick or MacDonalds? It saved our lives a couple of times:)

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    • Thai meat sticks rule! Tigger would agree with you about McDonald’s, but definitely not me.

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  5. Hi Everyone… Glad you liked the post.  If you have other recommendations for things to eat or not to eat, please share.  It’s always helpful to have a few tips when it comes to food.  Thanks!  – Darcie 

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  6. I fully agree with McDonald’s on the list! However, I’m a real big fan of ant eggs, I think they taste like rich morsels of butter. I’ve never eaten them in Bali, but I do eat them in Thailand frequently during the season. They also make red ant larb (Isaan salad) which is particularly delicious!

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  7. I fully agree with McDonald’s on the list! However, I’m a real big fan of ant eggs, I think they taste like rich morsels of butter. I’ve never eaten them in Bali, but I do eat them in Thailand frequently during the season. They also make red ant larb (Isaan salad) which is particularly delicious!

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    • Not sure I’ll try those but maybe.

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  8. After reading this article I feel hungry. Tried already some food you mentioned here 🙂 

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  9. Great post! We’re starting our trip in September in Asia and aside from travel my other passion is food/cooking so I couldn’t be more excited for the food in Asia. Definitely will stay away from the ant soup though! eek

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    • I am SO excited to get to Asia. I also love cooking, and I LOVE Thai food. Planning on taking some cooking classes while there for sure. Going to skip ant soup as well. I’m an adventurous eater but not crazy.

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  10. I totally agree on Pho as one of the best SE Asia has to offer. Love that stuff. Can’t comment on the ant soup — I’m not that intrepid when it comes to food! lol

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    • I’m pretty intrepid, but I’m not sure I’m going to order ant soup either.

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