They say you can tell a lot about a place and its history by its local food. While traveling, experiencing good food is a key part of any trip. Asia, being the largest continent, is what food haven is made of offering the rich and undeniably good cuisine. No wonder, Southeast Asian food is famous throughout the world and has become one of the main memories for many people who travel to the region.

Each dish offers a peek at the culture and history. With so many varied influences over centuries, Southeast Asian cuisine can range from simple to spicy fusion dishes daring the squeamish eaters.

Below, we’ve listed the best places to try authentic Southeast Asian food!

1. Chiang Mai, Thailand

flatlay of Khao Soi with traditional side dishes

When we talk about the best street food in Southeast Asia, Thailand comes first to mind. Located in northern Thailand, this relatively (compared to Bangkok) quiet city hides some incredible culinary tastes from around Asia. Head to Khao Soi Khun Yai on Sri Poom Road to try some food like the locals. If you prefer richer tastes, David’s Kitchen on Bumrungrad Road is one of the most popular foodie destinations in the city.

While in Chiang Mai, make sure that you don’t miss out on trying the Khao Soi a.k.a. the Egg Noodle Curry.

2. Yogyakarta, Indonesia


gudeg pawon

If you’re a culture geek, you’ll enjoy Yogyakarta as it offers a great cultural experience with its temples and history. But not only that, because aside from being a good place to immerse yourself with a different culture Yogyakarta also offers a palatable gastronomic experience! It provides a palatable selection of Southeast Asian cuisine for the adventurous foodie!

Check out Jimbaran for a great selection of local and national food; 7km north of the city and available by bus (Sendangadi, Mlati, Sleman). You should also visit Abhayagiri (Dusun Sumberwatu Sambirejo, Prambanan, Sleman) for a really interesting dining experience with a great view.

While you’re here, make sure to eat Gudeg Pawon, a great savory dish for almost any foodie. There is also a sweet version available. One of the best places to eat Gudeg Pawon is Warungboto in the Umbulharjo neighborhood.

3. Jakarta, Indonesia

creative flatlay of nasi goreng

Being the Capital of Indonesia, there’s a lot of options when it comes to food. Indonesia’s landscape has led to many different food cultures. You’re going to find that you will either be eating at a Warung (a permanent restaurant) or a Pedagang kaki lima (basically a street peddler). Both are good and offer different food experience.

If you want a fine-dining restaurant, go to Namaaz and if you’re looking for something cheaper (but still delicious), head to Plan B.

Make sure to try the national dish of Indonesia, Nasi Goreng, and Nasi Padang that has fried rice and mixed-curry dish from Padang.

4. Colombo (and Mount Lavinia), Sri Lanka


sri lanka food fish curry

When it comes to Sri Lankan cuisine, expect a lot of seafood! If that’s your thing, then make sure you schedule a stop at Colombo in Sri Lanka and Mount Lavinia. When you do, you’ll be able to enjoy a great food with a beach view! The creatively named Ministry of Crab at the Old Dutch Hospital Fort is a great place to eat and has a pretty good view. Alternatively, head to The Sizzle along Walukarama Rd.

Don’t miss the Fish ambul thiyal, or sour fish curry. The taste is incredible.

5. Singapore

flatlay of Char Kway Teow

Because of its location, size and population, Singapore’s variety of food is unbelievable. Street food-wise, you’re looking at Chinese, Malay and Indian options, but when you decide to go to a restaurant, your choices of Southeast Asian food are infinite.

Head to the Summer Pavilion at the Ritz-Carlton or Colony on Raffles Avenue for a truly unique and fine-dining experience. Make sure to also check out the popular street food dish Char Kway Teow, a true local favorite of noodles and dark soy sauce.

So, if you’re a foodie and looking for a place to update your palate, don’t miss Singapore!

6. Pampanga, Philippines

sisig with egg on a sizzling plate

One of the best places to try Southeast Asian food is the Philippines. And where else is better to head to than in the Culinary Capital of the country, right? Pampanga is best known for its great culinary expertise giving its visitors a great Southeast Asian food experience.

The best dish you can try is sisig. It is a culinary specialty of Pampanga made from parts of the grilled pig head, chicken liver, usually seasoned with calamansi, onions and chili peppers. The word “Sisig” was first mentioned in a Kapampangan dictionary meaning “to snack on something sour” and “salad.”

7. Quezon Province, Philippines

pancit habhab on a banana leaf
Photo source: Flickr / Doods Dumaguing

Another great place to try authentic Southeast Asian cuisine is in Quezon Province. Pancit Habhab, a local delicacy, is among the popular foods in Southeast Asia. It is made of sautéed noodles mixed with chopped pork, shrimps, vegetables, onion, and garlic. It is placed on a rectangular Banana leaf and should be eaten without using utensils but only your mouth. If the ordinary pancit has calamansi to add flavor, in Quezon, they use vinegar to get the sour taste which is oh-so-good by the way!

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