Our Top 5 Favorite Foods in Southeast Asia
During our time studying abroad in Malaysia, Lauren and I were fortunate enough to visit a multitude of countries in Southeast Asia. Luckily for us, Southeast Asia is home to some of the greatest cuisines on the planet.
From bustling night markets to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we had the pleasure of consuming some of the best foods we have ever had! I always read great things about the food in this region, but it was even better than people described.
I mean, the Juiciest Tandoori Chicken and Garlic Naan was sold right outside of our apartment! Oh, and did I mention they were open 24/7?
Life just doesn’t get better than that.
Although Lauren and I enjoyed so many more dishes from Southeast Asia, these are the 5 we are most obsessed with.
Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich served on a baguette, usually consisting of pork sausage, pâté, cucumber, cilantro, carrots, cabbage, mayonnaise, and some spicy peppers.
This combination may not sound like something extremely appealing, but let me tell you, after coming home to New England, I craved it so bad I drove over an hour just to get some bánh mì.
I highly recommend trying this dish, however if you’re somebody who doesn’t enjoy spicy foods, you may want to specify that when ordering! The first time I ordered banh mi from a street stall in Vietnam I couldn’t feel my mouth for at least 20 minutes… You have been warned.
Lauren and I were fortunate enough to eat the world’s best banh mi.
Here’s a picture of the world’s best banh mi. I accidentally took a bite out of the sandwich before Lauren could take a picture. So that explains the bite… But I’m telling you if you were there in the same exact moment you would’ve done the same thing.
Tandoori Chicken with Garlic Nann
This was our late night go-to on the average evening in Malaysia. Directly outside of our apartment building was a Malay-Indian restaurant with a wide variety of authentic dishes. We must’ve ordered Tandoori Chicken with a side of Nann at least 5 times a week… You can say that we were addicted.
If you’ve never had Tandoori Chicken, it’s a dish prepared by marinating chicken in yogurt and spices, and then roasting it inside a clay oven.
At first the sound of a marinade containing yogurt didn’t sound too intriguing to me, but I have to say it tasted WAY better than I expected.
We almost always ordered some Naan along with the delicious Tandoori Chicken. Naan is an Indian flatbread baked in that very same clay oven. It was always served with a side of curry. Lauren and I went CRAZY for the dahl curry.
There were many options when it came to naan selection (cheese, garlic, butter) but Lauren and I fell in love with the garlic naan. It reminded us of garlic bread which was one of the foods we missed most from America.
Another Vietnamese dish. What can I say, spending 2 weeks in Vietnam introduced me to some of the best food I’ve had in my life.
Pho is a soup containing broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat (we only tried chicken and beef). As simple as those ingredients sound, the soup is fragrant and the flavors are incredibly rich.
The weather was a bit chilly during our time in Vietnam, so a warm bowl of pho was just what Lauren and I needed after long days of exploring the beautiful country.
In the yellow cups were a traditional Vietnamese tea, which complimented the soup very well. Receiving a complimentary cup of tea like this is very common when eating at restaurants in Vietnam. (Lauren and I really appreciated it because we are tea lovers!)
Lychee / Rambutan
If you’ve never had lychee, rambutan, or longan (they are all closely related), you are missing out on some of the tastiest fruits on the planet
Although all fruits in this family are delicious, we had the most access to rambutan during our trip abroad. The taste almost reminds me of a grape. They are sweet, yet they do an amazing job at quenching your thirst.
It was honestly rare to see Lauren or I without a bag of rambutan in our backpacks. Not only was it readily available almost anywhere in Southeast Asia, it was SO CHEAP. We usually purchased it by the kilogram, and it never made much of a dent in our wallets.
This was another food that Lauren and I rushed to buy once we were back in the United States. It’s difficult to find fresh rambutan or lychee in New England, so we have been buying canned lychee to satisfy our cravings. We both can’t wait to be back in Southeast Asia to revisit our favorite fruits!
Nasi Goreng Ayam
AKA chicken friend rice!
We ate many variations of nasi goreng ayam while in Southeast Asia, specifically in Malaysia and Indonesia. Lauren and I would always pig out on some after class.
It wasn’t uncommon for nasi goreng ayam to be served with a fried egg on top and a side of cucumber slices.
Just like I warned you with banh mi, be aware that there might be some extremely spicy peppers in there. It’s often best to specify your tolerance of spicy foods when ordering. Trust me, I LOVE spicy food… But this is a different kind of spicy.
BONUS: Egg Coffee
This isn’t exactly food. Well eggs are food so maybe it is?
Either way this stuff is GOOD!
Egg coffee is a Vietnamese coffee with an egg yolk, sugar, and condensed milk. I know it may seem odd to put an egg in your coffee, but believe me when I tell you this stuff is amazing.
If you are ever in Vietnam, and you love coffee, you definitely need to try some. Even if you don’t like coffee I bet you would like this stuff!