The cuisine of Southeast Asia is beloved worldwide and nowhere is the dining experience more authentic and lively than on the streets of these foodie destinations. For the true street food aficionado, these are the five streets you must eat at on your Southeast Asia trip.
The cultural melting pot of Singapore is home to a rich variety of cuisines, and the city is famed for its Michelin-starred hawker stalls. One such lauded establishment has recently opened up shop in Chinatown, and you’ll now find Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle on Smith Street.
Also known as Chinatown Food Street, this area is closed to traffic and crammed in between the colourful rows of shophouses are numerous restaurants and stalls selling Singapore favourites like Hainanese chicken-rice, char kway teow (stir-fried noodles), and popiah (fresh spring rolls). A glass canopy protects diners from Singapore’s frequent drizzles, so you can enjoy the best street food Singapore has to offer, rain or shine.
While there’s been a crackdown on street vendors of late, you’ll still find some of the best eats in Bangkok on Charoenkrung Road. At the end of the day, workers stream to the riverside street and head for their favourite stall, like Jok Prince which serves aromatic pork congee tinged with the smokiness of the lightly burnt rice from the bottom of the pan and topped with a century-egg. While these establishments may not look like much, many have been around for over 80 years, and with good reason as you can discover for yourself.
Visitors to Kuala Lumpur may be more familiar with the posh shopping found in this area, but not far from the malls of Bukit Bintang is Jalan Alor, a street where you’ll find the best hawker food in Malaysia. Home to dozens of stalls, the bounty of Malaysia’s many beloved street foods can all be sampled here. Try grilled satay (curried meat skewers), popiah (fresh spring rolls), fried jackfruit or oyster omelets as you wander in between the delicious-smelling chaos of the many stalls. On either side of the street, you’ll also find sit-down Chinese seafood restaurants with cheerful red lanterns strung between them.
Something of a hidden gem, the area is hectic, with cars rolling down the road right next to diners and clattering, fiery woks ablaze everywhere you look. For those who like their experiences and their cuisine authentic though, it’s not to be missed.
Hong Kong reflects the Cantonese obsession with food, and whether you’re in the mood for traditional snacks and sweets or to-go-style dim sum, you won’t be disappointed at what’s on offer in Tsim Sha Tsui. Unlike the rest of this list, Tsim Sha Tsui is a neighbourhood rather than just one a street. Many of the street food stalls awarded a Michelin star in the most recent guide can be found in this area, but tons more are scattered elsewhere in the city.
In Tsim Sha Tsui, try Shanghainese jian bao (pan-fried buns) at Cheung Hing Kee or grilled seafood and offal at Fat Boy, and for dessert, don’t miss egg waffles from Mammy Pancake – these crispy-fluffy bites of heaven have begun their worldwide domination, but the best are still to be found in Hong Kong.
Ho Chi Minh City offers delicious food on practically every street corner, but one area stands out for its unbeatable atmosphere. Vinh Khanh in District 4 was once the stomping grounds of the infamous gangster Nam Cam, but these days you’ll be more likely to find raucous young hipsters drinking beer and enthusiastically bleating and blaring along to karaoke.
What’s on the menu you ask? The seafood found on Vinh Kanh is what draws the crowds, with Oc Oanh being a firm favourite. They’re known for serving fried sea snails and grilled scallops in massive portions as well as gigantic crab claws coated in chilli. On Vinh Kanh you can also enjoy barbecue the local DIY way, grilling your own skewers on mini charcoal braziers at the table.