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Some of us travel with our stomachs in mind. Some don’t. Either way, it’s not unusual, to say, pre-trip, you’ve thought about the fresh bean sprouted Pho you’ll sit down to in Hanoi or the prospect of a zesty fresh Phat Thai on the streets of Bangkok. Wherever you go, food is a guaranteed window into a country, culture and way of life.
Nowhere is local food more colorful then across Southeast Asia. Think night markets and woks bursting into flames with the sizzling juices of a steaming hot meal. Let’s take a look at the ‘stand out’ must eat dishes to look out for across the region.
- Thailand: No trip to Bankgok, Khao San Road, the islands or inland is complete without a Phat Thai (Thai fried noodles) with crumbled peanuts, bean sprouts and that slice of lemon. Depending on how steely your insides are, go for a street side snack, straight off the wok and into your hot little hands.
- Laos: The land of sticky rice. Here, virtually anything accompanied by sticky rice is a winner. Another favorite, especially on those muggy monsoonal nights, is Tam Mak Houng (papaya salad). But beware, if you’re not good with spice, steer clear. This dish, made from sliced raw papaya, peanuts, sugar, fermented fish sauce, lime and, not least, chili, is not for the fragile mouthed.
- Vietnam: Pho takes the undeniable spot as the most recognized Vietnamese dish. With a stall on every corner there’s no excuse not to try it. Have the white vermicelli noodle broth with either sliced beef or chicken and enjoy the colorful accompaniments of chopped peanuts, hot broth and mint leaves.
- Cambodia:You can’t deny rice and noodles as the staple in Cambodia but for something ‘signature’ and oh so tasty, seek out an amok curry. If you’re lucky, you’ll get your red curry paste, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and chili fish or chicken curry wrapped in a banana leaf.
- Malaysia: Laksa. If ‘noodles in a tangy fish soup’ doesn’t sound appetizing, ignore it and take a leap of faith. This dish, adorned with shredded cucumber, lettuce, pineapple, onion and mint leaves, is a winner.
- Philippines: If you want noodles in the Philippines, you want ‘pancit’. You’ll be spoilt for choice but one more common dish is Pancit Bihon (Filipino fried rice noodles). Enjoy the thin rice noodles, soy sauce, citrus, sliced meats and vegetables.
- Indonesia: Wherever you are in Indonesia you can’t go past the Chinese introduced Nasi Goreng (fried rice with vegetables). These days, it’s almost always served with a big fried egg on top. It’s a hearty meal that can be found at any warung (street stall) across the geographically and culturally diverse country.
From Australia, what better place to start your Southeast Asian food quest than Indonesia. These days we can hop over to Denpasar, Bali, on cheap flights and be beach bumming in a matter of hours. Flights to Bali have never been easier, so take your list and find your closest warung!
Article compiled by Gemma Deavins, who loves to travel and is a writer for www.cheapflights.com.au