Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

Restaurants and best traditional dishes!

Posted by marianaamc on 19/5/2014 at 17:26

I'll be going with my boyfriend to southeast asia. He's a young cook so food will be an important part of our journey and it's our first time visiting Asia.

There are two restaurants we want to go to and have already made reservations, one of them is Gaggan and the other is Nahm, we'll go there the night before we fly back home (before he will take an internship there for two weeks). This two are in the top restaurants in the world, Nahm beeing the best in Asia.

But we are also interested in more traditional and street food options.
Can you guys recommend any dishes we should try, restaurants, best streets to eat food in stalls etc.?

We will be in:
Bangkok
Vientiane
Luang Prabang
Hanoi
Phnom Phen
Siem Reap
Bagan
Mandalay
Yangon
So if you know any place unique in those destinations, that we should try, or the name of a dish you thought it was especial please share with us!

Thank you all very much.

#1 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 19/5/2014 at 20:46 TF writer

In Phnom Penh, I'd recommend Sovanna Restaurant on Street 21, not far from the Independence Monument. It's so popular there are now two restaurants on the same street. It's usually packed with Cambodian families and expats. Try the BBQ pork, BBQ beef and ask for the prahok sauce - you've got to try it at least once!

Romdeng restaurant and Malis are also worth a try - pricier than Sovanna, but wonderful dishes and ambiance.

If you search the Wires section, there's several articles on Cambodian street food that will help you look out for the best dishes to try.

Bon appetite!

#2 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179
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Posted by MADMAC on 19/5/2014 at 21:53

A friend of mine living in Rangoon says that a place called "Monsoon" is one of his favorite places in Burma. It's somewhat pricey and up scale. I found a link here:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Monsoon-Restaurant-Bar-Yangon/215941791813872

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by amnicoll on 20/5/2014 at 05:43

Check this link for Bangkok

http://migrationology.com/2011/05/top-16-bangkok-street-food-sanctuaries/

#4 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 686

Posted by goonistik on 22/5/2014 at 01:39

Try Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok.
http://importfood.com/videos/Or_Tor_Kor_Market.html

I was lucky enough to be in Bangkok during mango season and the best fruits I found here. It was pricey but I was happy to empty my wallet.
http://importfood.com/thai_vendors/street_vendor_maevaree.html

I enjoyed the Thai desserts and it is close to Mae Varee.
http://importfood.com/thai_vendors/street_vendor_nongamp.html

Some of the recommendations in that website were a letdown so I am just mentioning the memorable ones to me. Chote Chitr gets a lot of mixed reviews but the banana flower salad I had there was delicious. So I don't know if it was a fluke.


I didn't go to Or tor Kor market, I found out about it after I left Bangkok.

#5 goonistik has been a member since 7/1/2010. Location: Philippines. Posts: 562
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Posted by eastwest on 23/5/2014 at 07:47

I recently came back from a short stay in Bangkok and Nahm is an excellent choice.

Two other places worth mentioning for Thai food:
- Issaya.
Out of the way (so make sure your taxi driver knows where this is). Consistently named in lists of best restaurants in BKK and a beautiful stylish old building on nice grounds. Interior and service are also excellent. We were however a little disappointed with the food. Actually more with the price. For $50 per head (excluding drinks) I expected to be amazed and impressed with the food. Somehow that didn't happen. Everything was great but in terms of flavors we were stuck with the feeling that it was just a notch up from street food (beautifully presented though). Nothing wrong with it but we had higher expectations. If the total package is important this is a great restaurant. Difference with Nahm is that most of Nahms dishes and flavors are hard to find in Thailand and you will leave Issaya with the feeling that you spend $50 on food that you could have had on the street for $5. Obviously not in such a nice ambiance

- Supaniga
Yes, if you pronounce this it sounds a bit strange but by no means does it refer to afrcan americans. It's a traditional Thai restaurant. We had some great food here in a nice setting. The place is usually packed so reserve in advance and try to get a table downstairs. This is authentic Thai food (in western style restaurant setting) but some dishes you won't find somewhere else quickly. Served in simple asian style. Well worth the trip. Considering the quality and ambiance this was a great place. I think food came down to $15 per head. Order 5-7 dishes for 3 people

At lastly a recommendation for cocktails:
I'm not a cocktail person but at Hyde & seek I had some truly great and original cocktails. Expensive (cocktails start at $10) but well worth it and a far cry from just mixing some ingredients together. I never go to cocktail bars because they are mostly just about ambiance and being seen (and the cocktails are mostly an after thought). This place is different in the fact that the drinks and the food are more important here (Nothing wrong with the setting though). The way they prepare the cocktails in front of your eyes here is equal to watching a chef in a kitchen. The bartenders truly work magic and taste the cocktails while they prepare them. And food is great here as well although not Thai.

#6 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by travellingsarah on 23/5/2014 at 22:58 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I don't have any specific restaurant recommendations for Hanoi (beyond Western places, which I guess isn't what you're looking for) - it's all about the street food. As Abigail says, check out the Wires. And take a street food tour!

#7 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by MADMAC on 23/5/2014 at 23:15

"it's all about the street food. As Abigail says, check out the Wires. And take a street food tour!"

Not this again! What is the obsession with street food with you guys? Do you think somehow food gets better if you cook it on a curb of a street?

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by travellingsarah on 24/5/2014 at 00:03 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Not at all - I eat in all sorts of places and prefer not to sit on a tiny plastic stool most of the time. But the quintessential Hanoian dishes are those that you will only find on the street (and by street, that might be a basic room off the street, it's not all curbside) and hence are those which I recommend if someone wants to get a true taste of Hanoi. There are no restaurants of the level of Nahm in Hanoi that serve Vietnamese food. A couple of reasonably priced restaurants serving Vietnamese food that I would recommend though are Highway 4 (it's a chain but the food's good), May Day (still has curb side tables though if you want that) and Dieu's in Tay Ho.

#9 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by travellingsarah on 24/5/2014 at 00:19 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Just thought of another place: 1946, which serves traditional Hanoian dishes.

#10 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by eastwest on 24/5/2014 at 07:09

While I agree that for most travellers/tourists the quintessential, for foreigners that is, Vietnamese (or SE asian) food is found on the street there is a whole other world of Asian food that is hardly discovered by tourists.
I'm no expert on Vietnamese food but simply ask yourself where all the Asian bigshots eat when they have something special to celebrate. I'm pretty sure they don't eat at a roadside stall. The type of food they eat then may not appeal to westerners or their idea of asian food but it is certainly a part of asian culture that is not well known to westerners.
I remember having eaten in a nice Vietnamese restaurant in Hanoi where they served some great original food. Great setting and presentation as well. Too long ago to remember the name and even then it might not exist anymore.

I know for instance here in Cambodia in Phnom Penh rich Khmers go to places like Champs Elysee where they are served chicken knees, duck tongue and Mekong lobster soup. You won't find any of the typical street fare on those menus.

I agree with MAC here. When asians go to western countries they eat burgers and pizzas and eat the quintessential (for them) western food but there is much more to it. If you don't find places where to eat more special fare then it says more about your own interests rather than the food culture of the country itself.

#11 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by MADMAC on 24/5/2014 at 11:05

I suspect the obsession with backpackers concerning street food is it's cheap and it's different. We have street food in western countries, but it's not so prolific. Neither the weather nor the culture have supported a robust street food infrastructure. SEA has a lot of it because the climate supports it and it's deeply embedded in the norm. But I'm certainly not a huge fan. I'm OK with it, but I don't think it's the ****. I wouldn't forgo a quality restaraunt to eat at some night market. Perhaps because I live here I don't see it as all that special.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by marianaamc on 24/5/2014 at 12:08

I just think it's a shame that has to be someone that lives in Thailand to say street food is not that good...

#13 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by travellingsarah on 24/5/2014 at 14:01 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I'll ask around, but based on experiences to date, the places "Vietnamese bigshots" go for a night out are not the places with the best food and neither are they places I would choose to go. And that's not because it's obscure food but because it's bland and and uninspiring, dished up in an expensive and showy environment with bottles of vodka.

#14 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by MADMAC on 25/5/2014 at 11:38

"I just think it's a shame that has to be someone that lives in Thailand to say street food is not that good..."

The best food in Thailand is simply not found on the street. It's just not true. And I don't know any Thais who think it is either. It's cheap, and sometimes it's OK, but fine dining it's not. I can name four restaraunts right now here in Muk off the top of my head that have food that dwarfs anything found on the street.

I think it's a shame that someone who doen't live here doesn't show more respect for the insights from someone who does.

#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by marianaamc on 25/5/2014 at 16:27

I'm sorry if you misread my post or my tone. I wasn't being disrespectful and I thank you all for responding to my thread and I shall make a list of every places you guys are recommending.
I think the intention of my post might have been lost in translation? I'll elaborate: Me and my boyfriend were very excited about the idea of street-food (being able to see a lot of different stuff before we pick, low prices, the smells on the streets, seeing life while eating, the idea of it all...) we were not expecting to have the same standards as a restaurant, the same presentation but were hoping the flavors were there in the most typical way. With food being an important part of our trip we get a bit disappointed when we hear the reality it's not that great and it's because we respect and hear your opinion that we think it's a shame. (in a sad way for us, not a shame for you to say)

#16 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by exacto on 25/5/2014 at 20:12

Does anyone know if Sara-Jane's in Bangkok is still open? It used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok. They serve Thai and Italian food, but I went for the Thai Isaan (northeastern) food. I particularly liked the roasted chicken (kai yang) and the raw papaya salad (somtam - as in the name of our Travelfish host). It was relatively cheap and extra good, although the service is comically slow. If the OP is still looking for specific suggestions, I'd say this is worth looking up. Cheers.

#17 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,650
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Posted by goonistik on 25/5/2014 at 21:36

I did some googling because I wanted to find some restaurant recommendation by a Thai, rather than by an expat or tourist.

This lady's cookbook won a Julia Child cookbook award. She also runs food tours to Thailand. So here is the post from a blog that she and her husband write. That entry was written in 2009 so it would be good if somebody could update it.

http://thaifoodandtravel.com/blog/favorite-bangkok-restaurants/

#18 goonistik has been a member since 7/1/2010. Location: Philippines. Posts: 562
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Posted by eastwest on 25/5/2014 at 22:11

That looks very interesting goonistik and I'm sure I will try some of those restaurants when I'm back in BKK. The restaurants I went to were also in the company of a Thai woman (daughter of a general) and her judgement wasn't that different from mine and my friend's.

But to give some help with the streetfood for OP, I think that most of it is just point-and-try. In Thailand a huge variety of street food is available. Most stalls specialize in a single dish while some have a display of 5-20 dishes to choose from.
As easy starter you can start at a food court in one of the shopping malls. I tend to find the food more bland there but it's a great way to start and familiarize yourself with some of the dishes. Also the hygiene standards are better than the typical street stall.

First of all familiarize yourself with the local words for chicken, pork, beef and fish. That will come in handy when you want to ask what meat is on display.

In Bangkok for crispy pork belly, roasted duck and pork soup you should head straight to Chinatown.
I also like the street food in the Silom area. Lots of office workers go to these stalls during lunch and you won't have the feeling that food is prepared for foreigners.

In Cambodia street food has some serious hygiene problems. I'm talking about the single food item stalls literally on the road. If you want, try one of those shops where they have a selection of round pots at the front of the shop. Usually there are 5-15 pots with different foods in them. Just point at what you want. Cambodians eat early lunch so be at such a place around 11 am. At 1 pm most pots will be empty and the quality less.

Hope this helps a little

#19 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by travellingsarah on 25/5/2014 at 22:27 TF writer

Given trying out local - street - food is your priority I'd recommend checking out the following streets / spots in Hanoi.

Ngo Trang Tien
Ngo Hang Chieu (great range of food down this street including Pho Tieu, which is delicious pork noodles, and if you're there in the afternoon try the banh tom at the Hang Chieu Street end)
Truc Bach island (Ngu Xa and Nguyen Khac Hieu streets) for pho cuon
Hoe Nhai Street to the north or Old Quarter for bo bittet
34 Hang Than for bun cha

I could go on...

A tour is a good way to start if you're nervous about trying things or not sure what to ask for, but you can easily do it alone if you're happy just to point and try.

#20 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by MADMAC on 26/5/2014 at 03:56

I'm not trying to discourage you about eating street food. In the Western world we don't have as deep a tradition of street food probably because the climate doesn't accomodate it well. Here it's more robust. It's also FAR, FAR less regulated. People simply open up a stall and have at it. They don't have to worry about health and welfare, or licensing, etc. Street food it usually decent quality, cheap... it will have a unique feel to you no doubt. But you will read posts from people here who wax about it as if it were fine dining - top end cuisine. That's just nonsense. It hold an appeal to the backpacker crowd for the reasons you and I cited. And that's fine, as long as we're honest about it. So go ahead, enjoy it. Nothing wrong with that at all. It will be different for you. Change of pace.

I am not a "foodie" (God I hate that word), so obviously I see things on this subject in pretty practical terms. I don't romanticize anything over here. But you should enjoy it. Just be realistic in your expectations that's all.

#21 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


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