Southeast Asia is acclaimed for its exquisite gastronomic options – from the variety of flavors to the extensive list of dishes.
The mix and mash of cultures across borders has also led to many of the countries sharing similar dishes, though they may come with a different twist depending on where you’re eating it.
While traveling, you may even be surprised to find that a certain dish named after a specific location in another country is completely unheard of in said country – for example, mee bandung and nasi goreng pattaya both originate from Malaysia, despite adopting their names from places in Indonesia and Thailand.
If you’ve got a passion for tasting the best food around, then you can’t go wrong with Bangkok and Singapore for your next food-cation. We’ve scoped out the top delicacies you can’t miss and where you can get them:
Thai food offers a lot of contrasts in terms of flavor and texture, so it’s certainly got something for everyone, from those who can’t take spicy food to the ones with more adventurous palates.
1. Fried Chicken (Gai Tod)
Thai fried chicken, known as gai tod, is said to be far better than KFC, according to its most ardent fans. Crispy on the outside, yet still juicy on the inside, it’s love at first bite. It’s often topped with deep fried garlic for added flavor.
Where to get it: Soi Polo Fried Chicken; Gai Tod street stall at Si Phraya, near the entrance of Soi Songphra.
2. Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)
Som Tum is considered a Thai staple. Made from shredded unripe papaya, its sweet and spicy taste is a great appetizer. Other common ingredients include lime juice, fish sauce, cilantro, and Thai basil.
Where to get it: Som Tam Nua Restaurant; Somtum Der.
3. Sweet Potato Balls (Kanom Kai Nok Krata)
These deep-fried sweet potato balls are a favorite on-the-go snack. Crunchy on the outside and light and airy on the inside, it’s hard to stop at just one or two. Get ‘em hot and fresh from a street cart.
Where to get it: Sukhumvit Soi 38; Silom Complex.
4. Siam Pandan (Kanom Krok Bai Toey)
Made from flour, coconut sugar, and salt, these pandan-flavored pillows are soft and chewy, and best eaten while still hot.
Where to get it: Siam Square (beside Novotel); Wang Lang Market.
5. Crispy Pancake (Khanom Buang)
Believed to be an ancient Thai delicacy dating back from hundreds of years ago, Khanom Buang has changed little over the years. A thin, crispy crepe made from rice flour forms the shell, which is traditionally filled with rich meringue and topped with candied duck egg yolk. However, modern takes on the dish provide a variety of sweet or savory fillings, such as fruit, shredded coconut, shrimp, or egg.
Where to get it: Khanom Buang Phraeng Nara; Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.
6. Thai Fried Noodles (Pad Thai)
Ah, a Thai classic, and one of its most well-known culinary exports. The stir-fried rice noodles come flavored with tamarind, fish sauce, dried shrimps, garlic, and shallots, with egg and tofu to round it off. Of course, the dish is not complete without a sprinkle of red chili pepper, palm sugar, and roasted peanuts, as well as a zesty twist of lime. It’s one of our go-to favorites!
Where to get it: Thip Samai, Lueng Pha Pad Thai.
7. Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niew Ma Muang)
We always recommend ending a hearty meal with something sweet, and mango sticky rice is just the ticket. A decadent serving of glutinous rice, accompanied with creamy coconut milk, is served alongside sweet and juicy slices of mango.
Where to get it: Boonsap Thai Desserts; Mae Varee Mango Sticky Rice.
With a predominantly Chinese population, it’s no surprise that most of Singapore’s best dishes are inspired by Chinese cuisine. However, thanks to its multicultural society, well-loved Malay and Indian foods can also easily be found everywhere.
1. Kaya Toast and Soft-boiled Eggs
You can’t go wrong with what’s considered a traditional Singaporean brekkie. The warm slices of toast slathered with butter and kaya (coconut jam) offer a comforting mix of salty and sweet, while the soft-boiled eggs give you the protein boost you need to get going. For an added caffeine kick, order a steaming cup of coffee to go along with your meal.
Where to get it: Ya Kun Kaya Toast; Ah Seng (Hai Nam) Coffee Stall (Amoy Street Food Center).
2. Oyster Omelette (Orh Luak)
An oyster omelette is a greasy indulgence that’s good as a once-in-a-while comfort food. Fresh oysters are fried together with an egg mixture with a generous amount of starch, giving it a crisp texture.
Where to get it: Simon Road Oyster Omelette; Katong Keah Kee Fried Oysters.
Also a popular dish across the Causeway, marinated chunks of skewered meat are patiently grilled over a charcoal fire, giving it a pleasant, smoky taste. It’s often eaten with a thick, spicy peanut dip.
Where to get it: Lau Pa Sat Stall 7 & 8; Haron Satay (East Coast Lagoon Food Village).
4. Sambal Stingray
A spicy paste known as sambal (typically consisting of chili, shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and shallot) is dolloped on top of a whole stingray, which is then wrapped in banana leaf and barbecued.
Where to get it: Chomp Chomp BBQ (Fengshang Market and Food Center); B.B.Q Seafood (Taman Jurong Market and Food Center).
5. Char Kway Teow
It’s not difficult to find this ubiquitous dish in Singapore, which consists of flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, cockles, and egg. Everyone has their own preferences as to how they like it, though, so if you ask for recommendations, you’ll get an assortment of answers – so choose wisely.
Where to get it: Chomp Chomp Fried Kway Teow Mee; 133 Penang Authentic
6. Chicken Rice
Of Hainanese origin, chicken rice is considered one of Singapore’s national dishes. You won’t be able to resist digging into the fragrant heap of rice cooked in chicken stock and ginger, served with slices of chicken that’s either roasted or braised in soy sauce.
Where to get it: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (Maxwell Food Center); Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice (Marina Square).
7. Ice Kachang
After gobbling down all that food, you’ll need something sweet and icy to help it go down, so we highly recommend a bowl of ice kachang. A huge mountain of shaved ice is decorated with colorful syrup and an assortment of yummy toppings, such as red beans, sweet corn, jelly, and even ice cream.
Where to get it: Annie’s Peanut Ice Kacang (Tanjong Pagar Plaza); Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert (ABC Brickworks Market Food Center).