Street Food Culture in Asia: 8 Must-Try Dishes You Can’t Miss

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Street food is typically simple, tasty and easy-to-eat foods that are sold by vendors on the street. This type of food has been around for centuries and can be found in almost every country in the world.

The best way to get to know a culture is through its food, and nowhere is this truer than in Asia. Street food is a way of life in Asia, and it’s the best way to get to know the culture. From Thailand to India to Japan, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about street food culture in Asia so you can get the most out of your experience.

What is street food

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Street Food: A Culinary Adventure

Street food is a type of food sold in public places, usually on the streets, and is prepared and sold by local vendors. It is a popular alternative to traditional restaurants and is widely available in many countries. Street food is sold at different stages of cooking and is prepared using various techniques and materials, depending on the country and the vendor.

The Benefits of Street Food

Street food offers numerous benefits to customers, including:

  • Cheaper prices compared to traditional restaurants and chains
  • Excellent taste and quality of food
  • Fresh ingredients sourced directly from farms and markets
  • Fair and reasonable prices
  • Convenience and easy accessibility
  • A wider understanding of the local food culture

Street Food in Different Countries

Street food differs from country to country, and even from city to city. Here are some examples of street food from different countries:

  • Thailand: Grilled pork and sticky rice
  • India: Egg curry and sweet lassi
  • Japan: Takoyaki (octopus balls) and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers)
  • Mexico: Tacos and churros
  • Vietnam: Banh mi and pho
  • Korea: Kimbap and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes)

The Spicy and Pickled Achcharu of Sri Lanka

If you’re looking for a spicy and sour taste of Sri Lanka, then you must try the famous Achcharu. It is a pickled concoction of unripe fruits and vegetables that are seasoned with a range of different spices and chili. This relish is typically sold on the streets of Sri Lanka and is one of the best street foods you can find in the region.

The Different Foods that Include Achcharu

Achcharu is not just a standalone food item, but it is also used to enhance the taste of other foods. Some of the popular foods that include Achcharu are:

  • Hoppers: A Sri Lankan crêpe made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk batter. It is cooked in a small wok-like pan and is thicker and spongier than a regular crêpe, staying crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.
  • Fish Curry: A Sri Lankan curry made with coconut milk and a variety of spices.
  • Sambal: A spicy relish made with chili, onion, and other spices.

The Range of Achcharu Offerings

Achcharu comes in a range of different offerings, depending on the season and the place you buy it from. Some of the common ingredients used in Achcharu are:

  • Olives
  • Jackfruit
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber

The Real Taste of Achcharu

The real taste of Achcharu comes from the smell of the pickles and the sourness of the unripe fruits. The Lankan twist of adding chili and spices gives it a unique taste that you won’t find anywhere else. The best way to taste Achcharu is to take a small portion and mix it with other foods to enhance the flavor.

The Southern Indian Influence on Achcharu

Achcharu has been a part of Sri Lankan food culture for years, and it has been influenced by the southern Indian cuisine. The pickling process and the use of spices are similar to the Indian style of cooking. However, the Sri Lankan twist of adding unripe fruits and vegetables gives it a unique taste that sets it apart from Indian pickles.

Asam Laksa: The Ultimate Seafood Dish in Penang

Asam Laksa is an iconic dish that originated from the state of Penang in Malaysia. It is a spicy and sour fish-based soup that is served in a bowl with a variety of ingredients. The dish is said to have been created by the Malay and Chinese communities in Penang, who combined their culinary skills to come up with this unique and delicious dish.

The Ingredients and Features of Asam Laksa

Asam Laksa consists of a mix of fresh and boiled seafood, such as mackerel, sardines, and shrimp, along with a spicy and sour broth made from tamarind, ginger, and chili. The soup is normally topped with a variety of ingredients, including sliced cucumber, onions, and pineapple, and is served with a side of shrimp paste.

One of the unique features of Asam Laksa is the use of a dark soy sauce, which is poured over the soup to add a rich and savory flavor. The dish also typically uses a special type of noodle that is thicker and has a chewier texture compared to other noodle dishes.

The Different Versions of Asam Laksa

There are numerous versions of Asam Laksa that can be found in different restaurants and food stalls in Penang. Some of the most popular versions include:

  • The traditional version, which uses a fish-based stock and a mix of seafood and vegetables.
  • The vegetarian version, which uses tofu and vegetables instead of seafood.
  • The high-end version, which uses premium seafood such as lobster and scallops.
  • The spicy version, which adds extra chili to the broth for those who want a little extra kick.

Where to Find the Best Asam Laksa in Penang

Asam Laksa is a common street food in Penang and can be found in numerous food stalls and restaurants throughout the town. Some of the best places to try Asam Laksa include:

  • The main market in Penang, which offers a wide range of food options including Asam Laksa.
  • The food center in the center of town, which is known for its delicious and authentic Asam Laksa.
  • The buildings along the street in Penang, which offer a unique and picturesque view while enjoying the dish.

Why Asam Laksa is Worth Trying

Asam Laksa is a dish that has a significant history and unique flavors that are sure to please any seafood lover. The mix of spicy and sour broth, fresh seafood, and a variety of toppings make it a perfect dish for those who want to try something new and delicious. So if you’re in Penang, be sure to add Asam Laksa to your list of must-try foods!

The Ultimate Guide to Banh Mi: Vietnam’s Iconic Street Food

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that originated during the French colonial period in Vietnam. The sandwich is a perfect example of the fusion of Vietnamese and French cuisine. The French baguette is the primary form of bread, while the filling is a mixture of Vietnamese and Chinese ingredients. The Banh Mi has become a popular street food in Vietnam and is widely available in the country.

The Ingredients and Making of Banh Mi

Banh Mi is typically made with fresh and thinly sliced pork or beef, grilled or soy sauce mixed, and topped with vegetables such as cucumber, pickled carrots, and daikon radish. The sandwich is also known for its hot and spicy sauce that creates a rich and fatty content. In some cases, an egg is added to the sandwich to make it more filling. The Banh Mi is wrapped in a pretty paper or plastic wrapping, making it easy to grab and go.

The steps to making Banh Mi are pretty simple. The bread is sliced and toasted, and the filling is added along with the vegetables and sauce. The additional ingredients are then added, and the sandwich is topped with the ultimate spicy sauce.

Where to Find Banh Mi

Banh Mi is widely available in Vietnam, and you can find it on almost every street corner. The sandwich is a popular street food, and you can grab it for the cheapest price. You can also find Banh Mi in restaurants, where it is served as a regular dish. If you’re running out of time, you can always ask the locals for the best Banh Mi in the area.

The Role of Banh Mi in Vietnamese Street Food Culture

Banh Mi plays a significant role in Vietnamese street food culture. It is a highly popular and affordable food that is eaten throughout the day. The sandwich is equally popular among locals and tourists, and it is a must-try when visiting Vietnam. Banh Mi is a perfect example of how Vietnamese cuisine has been influenced by French cuisine, creating a unique and delicious dish.

Bubble Tea: The Taiwanese Drink That Took Over the World

Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, is a Taiwanese drink that has taken the world by storm. The idea of adding tapioca balls, or “bubbles,” to tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. It all started when a tea shop owner decided to add some fresh fruit to his traditional tea. He loved the idea so much that he decided to continue experimenting with different ingredients until he came up with the perfect product.

The Battle of the Brands

As the popularity of bubble tea grew, so did the number of shops that sold it. Chain stores like Coco and Koi were soon created, and they began to spread the word of bubble tea to the rest of the world. But it wasn’t just the big chains that were creating a name for themselves. Small local shops and restaurants also experimented with adding their own unique twist to the drink, creating a fan base of their own.

The Importance of Tapioca Balls

Tapioca balls are an important part of bubble tea. They are small, brown, and chewy, and they add a unique texture to the drink. The balls are made from the starch of the cassava plant and are cooked until they become soft and chewy. They are then added to the bottom of the glass, creating a fun and enjoyable experience for the drinker.

The Smooth and Sweet Delight of Cheong Fun in Hong Kong

Cheong Fun is a staple dish in Hong Kong’s street food culture. It is a dish made up of thin, steamed sheets of rice flour that are rolled up and served with a variety of toppings. Contrary to what its name suggests, Cheong Fun is not sweet on its own but rather plain and sticky. It is the sauce and toppings that complete the dish and create a balanced and flavorful result.

The Famous Cheong Fun from Cheung Fun Kee

One of the most famous Cheong Fun shops in Hong Kong is Cheung Fun Kee. This restaurant is known for its incredibly smooth and fresh version of the dish. They serve a variety of Cheong Fun dishes, but the most loved one is their beef mix Cheong Fun. This dish is topped with cuts of beef that are slightly fatty and portions of onion that get rich when scraped off the sheet.

Preparing Cheong Fun

Creating Cheong Fun requires a special technique that not everyone can master. The process involves ground rice flour that is mixed with water and steamed until it becomes a thin sheet. The sheet is then rolled up and cut into strips. The strips are then filled with a variety of ingredients and topped with sesame seeds, dried shrimp, and fried shallots.

The Ideal Snack

Cheong Fun is a popular snack in Hong Kong and is usually served in dim sum restaurants or street food stalls. It is an ideal snack because it is light, filling, and easy to eat on the go. Cheong Fun is also a great option for people who are looking for a healthier alternative to other street food dishes.

The Modern Twist

In recent years, Cheong Fun has become even more popular with the introduction of new and different versions of the dish. Some restaurants have started to serve Cheong Fun with a modern twist, such as adding char siu or shrimp filling. These new versions of Cheong Fun are bigger and more filling than the traditional ones and include a variety of flavors and textures.

The Iconic Chili Crab of Singapore’s Street Food Culture

Singapore’s street food culture is a culinary paradise for foodies around the world. One of the most popular dishes that you can find in the hawker centers and streets of Singapore is the iconic Chili Crab. This dish is a national specialty that has gained worldwide recognition for its unique blend of spicy and savory flavors.

What is Chili Crab?

Chili Crab is a dish that consists of mud crabs cooked in a spicy tomato and chili-based sauce. The sauce is made with a blend of chili paste, tomato sauce, garlic, ginger, and other spices. The crabs are usually served whole, and diners are provided with a bib and a set of tools to crack open the shells and scoop out the meat. The dish is often accompanied by buttery fried mantou, a type of Chinese bread that is perfect for soaking up the delicious sauce.

Where to Find the Best Chili Crab in Singapore

If you’re looking to try the best Chili Crab in Singapore, you won’t have to look too far. This dish is so popular that you can find it in almost every restaurant and hawker center in the city. However, some places are known for serving up the best Chili Crab in town. Here are a few places to check out:

  • Jumbo Seafood: This restaurant is one of the most popular places to try Chili Crab in Singapore. They serve up a delicious version of the dish that is sure to satisfy your cravings.
  • No Signboard Seafood: This restaurant is another popular spot for Chili Crab. They are known for their unique take on the dish, which includes a secret blend of spices that sets it apart from the rest.
  • Long Beach Seafood: This restaurant is famous for its Chili Crab, which is cooked to perfection in a wok over high heat. The result is a dish that is bursting with flavor and is sure to leave you wanting more.

Get Your Veggie Fix with Gado Gado in Indonesia

Gado Gado is a traditional Indonesian dish that consists of steamed vegetables and rice, usually topped with a mix of ingredients. The typical version of the dish features a slightly nutty and peanuty sauce that tosses the veggies together. The recipe for Gado Gado varies depending on the family or region, but common ingredients include:

  • Green beans
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Tofu
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Prawn crackers

How is Gado Gado Prepared?

Gado Gado is a dish that is often surrounded by family and friends, as it is a common meal for gatherings in Indonesia. The veggies are cooked and mixed together, then tossed with the peanuty sauce. In addition to the veggies, Gado Gado can also be completed with the addition of:

  • Crispy fried onions
  • Grated coconut
  • Fried dried shrimp
  • Duck or fish
  • Lontong (glutinous rice cake)
  • Kerak telor (starchy egg dish)

Indulge in the Sweet and Colorful Halo-Halo Street Food Culture in the Philippines

To achieve the perfect halo-halo, a variety of ingredients and products are used, including:

  • Purple yam (ube) powder
  • Fresh coconut
  • Crushed ice
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Rose water
  • Toasted rice
  • Tapioca pearls
  • Cubed jelly
  • Sweet beans
  • Boiled sweet potato
  • Jackfruit chunks
  • Bananas
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Sweet corn
  • Shredded young coconut
  • Ground rice
  • Coconut milk
  • Langka (jackfruit)
  • Nata de coco (coconut gel)
  • Red mung beans
  • Leche flan (custard)
  • Purple yam ice cream

The ingredients are mixed together in a tall glass or bowl, and the dish is topped with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of evaporated milk. It is then served with a long spoon and a straw for the perfect combination of flavors and textures.

The Famed Rainbow Halo-Halo

The most popular and colorful version of halo-halo is the rainbow halo-halo. This dish is made by layering different colors of sweetened ingredients in a tall glass, creating a beautiful rainbow effect. The dish is then topped with shaved ice, condensed milk, and a scoop of ube ice cream, creating a delicious and refreshing treat.

Other Delicious Filipino Street Foods

Filipino cuisine is known for its flavorful and spicy dishes, and there are plenty of other street foods to try in the Philippines, including:

  • Lumpia (spring rolls)
  • Tapa (cured beef)
  • Longganisa (sausage)
  • Adobo (stewed meat)
  • Pochero (beef stew)
  • Afritada (chicken stew)
  • Torta (omelette)
  • Liver sauce (dipping sauce made from liver)
  • Banana cue (deep-fried bananas)

Why Filipinos Love Halo-Halo

Halo-halo is a beloved Filipino treat that is enjoyed by people of all ages. The dish is a refreshing and cool way to beat the heat, and the combination of sweet and savory flavors is irresistible. Filipinos love halo-halo because it is a delicious and colorful representation of their street food culture, and it is a treat that can be enjoyed any time of day.

So, if you ever find yourself in the Philippines, be sure to indulge in the sweet and colorful halo-halo street food culture. It’s a treat that will leave you feeling cool, refreshed, and satisfied.

The Sweet and Aromatic Kaya Toast of Singapore

Kaya toast is a popular breakfast dish in Singapore, known for its sweet and aromatic spread made from coconut milk, sugar, and eggs. It is usually served with toasted white bread slices that are lightly buttered and a cup of hot kopi (coffee) or soya milk tea. This dish is widely enjoyed by people of all ages and is a quintessential part of Singaporean food culture.

The history of kaya toast can be traced back to the British occupation of Singapore in the early 20th century when marmalade and berry jams were the preferred spreads for toast. However, the locals employed their own mix of ingredients to create a caramelized spread that was thick and aromatic. Over time, this spread evolved to include pandan leaves, which gave it a unique flavor and aroma.

A Symbol of Singaporean Culture

Kaya toast is now synonymous with Singaporean culture and is a symbol of the country’s strong and culturally diverse history. It recalls the times of the Straits Settlements, when different languages and cultures mixed and merged to create a unique blend of flavors and dishes.

Today, kaya toast is served in tiny shops and street stalls all over the country, and it is a daily ritual for many Singaporeans. It is also a popular dish among tourists, and the Singapore Tourism Board even promotes it as a must-try dish for visitors.

The Perfect Mix of Sweet and Savory

To enjoy kaya toast, one must first decide whether to have it with eggs or not. The dish is usually served with soft-boiled eggs that are lightly seasoned with soy sauce and a dash of dark soy sauce. However, some people prefer to have their eggs separately.

The kaya spread itself is smooth and sweet, with a hint of pandan flavor. It is fabulously thick and perfect for dipping the toasted bread slices into. The bread is lightly buttered, and the combination of the sweet spread and savory butter is insanely delicious.

For those who prefer a savory option, kaya toast can also be served with a slice of cheese or a slice of ham. However, the traditional way to enjoy it is with the sweet spread and soft-boiled eggs.

A Daily Ritual for Many Singaporeans

Kaya toast is a simple yet popular dish that is enjoyed by people of all walks of life in Singapore. It is a breakfast staple that is widely available and affordable, making it a favorite among the locals. The dish is so popular that there are even kaya toast vending machines in some parts of the country.

For many Singaporeans, kaya toast is more than just a dish. It is a daily ritual that brings people together and celebrates the country’s rich history and culture. So, the next time you visit Singapore, make sure to enter into this daily ritual and enjoy the sweet and aromatic kaya toast with a cup of hot kopi or soya milk tea.


So there you have it- the street food culture of Asia is quite diverse and offers a lot of delicious options. You can’t go wrong with the street food of Asia, because it’s cheap, delicious, and authentic. Plus, it’s a great way to experience the local culture. So don’t be afraid to try something new!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.