I'm leaving in a little over 6 weeks for a 6 month tour of SEA. Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and shorter stops in the Philippines and Bali. What are some 'must have' dishes from each respective region?
I understand that everyone has their own tastes and preferences, but if people could jot down 4-5 from each region it would be appreciated.
I've always wondered why there isn't a 'food' subcategory in the forums - but I suppose you can't cover every base.
#1 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
For Cambodia, try
Fried ginger (cha knyey) with anything, most commonly chicken
Fish amok (amok trey)
(Chicken) sour soups with lemons (somlor mchu (sach moan))
Crab or squid with fresh Kampot pepper
In Thailand, do try:
- pad pak bung fai daeng (stir fried morning glory - a water spinach cooked in chilli, garlic, oyster sauce and soy sauce)
- proper tord man pla (fish cakes, not like the rubbish you get in the West)
- hor mork talay (custard-consistency, coconut curry with steamed fish cooked in a coconut shell)
- kai jeow moo sup (minced pork omelette)
- som tam (spicy papaya salad - be warned, very hot!!)
If you are going to the south make sure you have a good massuman curry - and of course Singha and/or Chang beer are obligatory!!
In Vietnam, try pho (traditional beef noodle soup) and, if you get the chance and can stomach it, dog meat is always one to at least try. Better off with Saigon beer in Vietnam rather than Ha Noi, if you ask me.
As for Cambodia, I don't know if it's actually a Cambodian speciality or just one to shock the westerners, but I had a whole deep-fried frog in Siem Reap which wasn't half bad!!
Great suggestions - ill be sure to take note and try each of them. As for dog meat, I'm not turned off by the thought of eating a pup...but at the same time I won't eat dog just for the sake of saying I did it. Does it taste good? Is the meat tough?? I'm assuming it's gotta be good if people are willing to buy it via black market in countries like the Philippines.....
#5 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
There is some great seafood obvisouly in coastal / island areas - am thinking of Phu Quoc in particular. Had a great fish stew with tamarind there - this was at Mai House ... *drool*
Massive prawns in honey as well ... and caramalised tuna steaks ... the food there was just yummy!
In Siem Reap the amok was good, this was on Pub Street but can't think of the name of the place.
If I can think pf any more I'll note them...
Massive Prawns in honey, wow sounds amazing. I'll be headed to SE Asia, in a few weeks as well and I'm looking forward to, if I can stomach it, eat like the locals.
I've seen some photo's of Rat and Lizard meat, usually on skewers from the street vendors. Has anybody tried these delicacies, curious as to what people think?
Also, the many different kinds of fruits that I don't get to see in North America, any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks, what a great thread!
#7 Amarusol has been a member since 14/10/2009. Posts: 11
I've had the rat you speak of (atleast thats what they said it was) to me it tasted not too dissimilar to other dried meats, nothing stand out at all.
I've also had dog several times (something my family still bring up) it does have its own flavour but it always seems to be cooked with other strong spices and flavours almost masking it. I've enjoyed eat meal ive had with dog (mostly a north chinese/korean style)but i dont know anyone else who liked it (maybe to do with associations rather than taste).
My friends rave about various snake dishes they've eaten in north vietnam, i wouldn't know but i hear its rather like eel.
As to fruits, I'm not exactly sure what's in season and what's not, but that aside, durian is definitely a must! I really like it a lot, a very unique taste and texture. Some people can't stand it. But what I absolutely looove are mangosteens. Salivating just at the thought of them, they're probably my favourite fruit in the world. Pomegranates are also great (though maybe not so exotic depending on where you're from), as are rambutans.
cdnexplorer - Agree with you about not necessarily just eating dog for the sake of it, I guess for me it was a little bit of that mixed with the fact that the owner of the place I was volunteering had invited me out for a dog meal with her husband (which is said to be an honour). It is meant to bring warmth, strength and good health when eaten at the right time, but found out later that we apparently had it at the 'wrong' end of the month, which is rather inauspicious.
We had it served about five ways, including as dog liver, dog soup, dog sausage. I wouldn't say it was tough - I think if you want to compare it to another meat, it would be closest to pork. I always tell people that it was lovely while I was eating it but that it had an aftertaste like dog smells - though as Gorey says, perhaps that was more to do with associations than taste.
As for fruit, I'm not a big durian fan - it is always said to taste better than it smells, but I'm afraid I found it stank and tasted vile too! Each to their own though, I am sure it has plenty of fans. Rambutan are my favourite - you'll be hooked in no time! Nothing better to do sat in the sun than to peel, eat, peel, eat, until you've got a massive pile of shells in front of you and look like a pig!!
chriswotton - an aftertaste like dog smells?? Yikes...I'm not sure that would leave me satisfied haha. But if I was invited by locals for such a meal, I would surely accept.
The lizard and rat meat interests me, I'd just be worried where the lizards and rats were coming from. Supposidly there are rat farms?? Not sure if this is true. Snake is a must try in my eyes!
I haven't seen any replies for Laos, but there must be some great dishes from the region!
#11 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
In Laos, definitely eat the laap at every opportunity. Mmm, herbalicious.
Also, try the salt-encrusted whole grilled fish (the one with lemongrass stuck down its mouth). The skin is ethereal. Grab a hunk, wrap in lettuce with some basil, dunk and munch.
Ate some bat in Laos as well down on Don Dhet with the family who owned my bungalow. Meh--kinda gamey, like quail. Nothing too special.
If you visit Thailand and don't eat some kind of Som Tam you will have missed the equivalent on burgers in the States or Chicken tikka massala in the UK.
Originally from the North East and Loas, it's the ubiquitous "POK_POK a papaya salad made in a pestle and mortar.
I would suggest "Som Tam Thai" as it is most palatable to westerners.
Ask two or three chillies - the standard dozen or so might prove too much.
For those who want to "go the whole way" - 'Som Tam Poo Pla Ra" has fermented fish sauce and salted, preserved freshwater crabs - to the un-initiated the smell alone is overwhelming.
In the North, North Eat and Laos you MUST have LAAB - a sort of minced meat and ground toasted rice salad served with raw cabbage ,green beans and morning glory.
it can be chicken, pork (pork with liver) duck (mmmmm) fish, or even frog or insects........
Yam Pla Duc Foo is a crispy Catfish salad that most westerners enjoy.
....or you could just sit down at any place at random and say "Wan nii, Arai aroi?" and see what hppens!
get a phrase book and check out the menu section.
#15 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
If snakes are eaten in Thailand, what kind and how are they prepared? Next question, do they taste ok to most westerners?
#16 husqvarna has been a member since 7/9/2009. Posts: 47
agree on Laap ... spicy Lao dish ... mmmm
there was also something with duck's blood that they guys at Pans (Don Khone) were eating ... a men only thing for virility apprently... i nearly tasted it!
Lumps of duck/chicken blood are served everywhere especially in Gwai tieow - noodles.
If they ask you if you want "Nam Tok" that literally means waterfall but in noodles it refers to adding blood from a bottle - that turns it a rich brown color - it is also a form of LAAB - like salad with rare meat cut into slices instead of minced - originally it was raw meat with blood dripping out of it - hence "Nam Tok"
#18 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
"If snakes are eaten in Thailand, what kind and how are they prepared? Next question, do they taste ok to most westerners?"
From what my friend tells me, who considers herself something of a snake connoisseur, the practice of draining for a shot of blood and the gall bladder is easy to come across mainly in cities but feels quite underground (made her feel uncomfortable) in comparison to Vietnam. Snake can be cooked and treated like any meat and has something similar to eel in taste and texture and can be eaten raw but is a very unusual experience. If you were to eat snake at a resturant specialising in it, its likly the snakes would be brought out for selection and often killed infront of you and it can be very uncomfortable to watch.
Although not especially stand out dishes in terms of technicality whenever im in thailand virtually every day i get some Khao Larm (sticky rice with black beans in a stick of bamboo) probably my favourite snack to eat while out.
Khao Kha Moo is also a firm fave of mine, stewed pork leg on rice with soured greens and egg, wonderful smells and textures. Its the only meal i ever encountered food poisoning with, but i still eat it very often.
I've been told that in Vietnam it's common to purchase a snake at a restaurant and have them prepare a 6-7 course dinner from that one snake. Sounds interesting, but probably not in the budget category of eating. Cost estimates??
A co-worker who has tried snake told me the texture is similar to fish - flakey white meat. Not sure how he described the taste, and I have no idea what eel tastes like.
#20 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
Great topic cdnexplorer.
Lots of great input for Northern Thailand. Here's mine.
Try some fried chicken with sticky rice. You can get it at most markets for under $1 US. It's called Gai Thawt Khao Niew in thai. Fantastic. seasoned and breaded differently than what you get in the west but equally satisfying/artery blocking and usually comes with sweet/spicy dipping sauce. I like to get it to go in plastic bags with some som tam and take the motorbikes out of town and have a picnic with the family.
For a healthier lunch, all over Thailand you can get Khao mun Gai (rice with Chicken), which is an institution in many parts of SEA and is wonderfully simple. Its chicken boiled in its skin in seasoned water and served over white rice with a collection of condiments and sauces. Everyone eats it a little differently and you have to experiment to find the perfect combo of condiments for you. Essentially this means you get better at eating it every time so it just keeps getting better. I could eat this every day.
The seafood bbq stalls and restaurants in Bangkok China town that spring up after about 6pm are phenomenal. You can easily make an evening out of grazing the various aquatic delicacies. also a bargain.
Wish I had more input on the really exotic stuff. You can get deep fried frog in lots of places in thailand, which is good, but I prefer chicken myself.
cdnexplorer, would you be willing to post food reviews while on your travels? I'd "subscribe".
#21 mithamo has been a member since 29/9/2008. Posts: 7
The best fish I had in SE Asia was tilapia. Had this in a restaurant in Luang Prabang in Laos and it cost 50,000 kip(about $5).
Aroon Rai in Chiang Mai serves good kaeng awm and kaeng khae, similar to stews.
A good bet is to eat at markets and from street vendors. Pancakes from a street vendor at least one morning is a must. Some cafes will sell pancakes with a bit of soy milk to be eaten like cereal.
#22 mic59 has been a member since 30/7/2008. Posts: 107
Tilapia is a freshwater farmed fish found everywhere in S.E. Asia - it can even be grown in paddi-fields! I must say it is one of the few freshwater fish that doesn't seem to taste of mud!
learn to recognise it and then you can point and order it whenever you see it!
#23 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
Ha - this description of tilapia made me giggle...
Well that is not really news is it? - why do you think we domesticated pigs????
In fact these fish have some good spin-offs - they tend to eat floating vegetable matter that can clog rivers and ponds which other fish don't eat - so a river or water-system that has a floating veg problem can be un-choked by these fish thus benefitting other species.
As with all farmed fish, there can be problems as they escape into the local environment- but it would appear that these fish do not compete strongly with indigenous aquatic wildlife
#25 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
Not saying it's news - I just thought the web site's phrasing of it all was quite funny :) I've eaten tilapia and would quite happily do so again.
Mithamo - thanks for the input, will be sure to give the suggestions a go. As for food reviews, I'll be trying to do them as often as possible. I have a website that I'll be blogging from and trying to provide as much useful information from my experiences as possible - we have an HD camcorder, etc for the entire trip.
However, won't be leaving until Feb 22nd.
#27 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
You might want to check out some of the famous dishes in South East Asia:
#28 mibby30 has been a member since 8/8/2013. Posts: 5
I love the coffee in Vietnam, especially the iced versions:
Ca Fe Sua Da - iced Vietnamese drip coffee with sweetened condensed milk
the food in Hue is excellent and a little more spicy:
Bun Bo Hue (beef noodle soup) and Bun Nhit Nuong (noodle salad w/bbq pork)
When in Laos, try the pizza:
Scandinavian Bakery in Luang Prabang and Swedish Baking House in Vientiane
"fish cakes, not like the rubbish you get in the West)"
That's not right. You can get good fish cakes as the Thai restaurants buy the ones that are imported from Thailand. Become friends with a restaurant owner and you can buy packets off them.