He Said/She Said: Best Street Food

He Said/She Said: Best Street Food

The best part of Asia?  Street food.  From Tokyo to Lhasa to Indonesia to Myanmar you can barely walk a block without finding food.  It’s delicious, cheap, and unique to the vendor.  From the single burner, food carts on the streets of China to the modern, managed, food courts of Singapore, Asia is a place you’ll never go hungry.  Here are our favorites.



Asia is about food.  Whenever possible I prefer to eat at stands that specialize in one item, make it quick, cheap, and delicious.  Our first task in a new city is finding where the food stalls are concentrated and testing anything we aren’t familiar with.  Doing this I’ve found my absolute favorites, and eaten some horrifically disgusting things.  My favorites though are things that when I see them; I eat them.  It doesn’t even matter if I am hungry, if someone is serving it up, I’m a customer.

1. Meat skewers and beer, Northern China

Leave the vegetarians at home to coddle some carrots, these vendors know what men want and aren’t ashamed to serve it up.  Three dollars will get you 10 skewers of meat and a pitcher of beer.  That’s no misprint, a pitcher of beer is less than $2 at all the stands we found in Northern China.  You can get whatever cuts of chicken, beef, lamb or even seafood for just a few dollars per 10 skewers, BBQ’d up fresh for you.  Many of our Chinese evenings went very late at these establishments.

Man’s best friends?  Beer and meat.  Trust me, don’t answer “dog” in China…

2. Soya Beancurd (called tow huay, pronounced “tao whey”), Singapore and Malaysia

I don’t know what it is about beancurd but I love it in both pudding and drink form.  The smoother the better, almond?  The best.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in-between.

3. Roti Pratha (Singapore), Roti Canai (Malaysia) with Tea/Coffee Tarik

This is the ultimate breakfast.  Flaky, layered, fried bread served with curry.  To quench that morning thirst?  Coffee or Tea “Tarik”, literally meaning “pulled”, for reasons that allude me, coffee or tea that has been poured from the highest possible point to the lowest is substantially better than a normal preparation.

Only Einstein knows why this produces the tastiest tea and coffee…




After spending nearly a year and a half in Asia street food has become a staple of my daily diet.  I often eat from street carts for all three meals and they are a life saver when I need a snack.  However, as with anything, there are some street foods that leave you wondering how the seller stays in business and others that are so delicious you wish there was a way to get the recipe.  There is one thing all street food has in common; it’s a great way to order a meal in any country where you don’t speak the language because you can simply point to what you want.

It would be nearly impossible to pick a favorite country for street food, but Thailand, China and Vietnam definitely top the list.  I’ve had a lot of great food around the world, delicious soto ayam in Indonesia, the best chicken I’ve ever had in the Philippines and enjoyed my favorite markets in Australia but street food is a special kind of cuisine that the above three countries really excel at.  I will continue to seek out the best street food around the world, but below are my three favorite street snacks thus far.

1. Mango Sticky Rice, Thailand

This is the ultimate pick-me-up, delicious sticky rice made with sweetened coconut milk and then topped with sweet mango.  The best part about this dessert is that it’s only a dollar (30 baht).  It’s also available everywhere in Bangkok and the perfect late night snack to satisfy your sweet tooth after a few beers on Khao San Road.

Xiaolongbao “Soup” Dumplings ready to eat from a street stall in Shanghai

2. Xiaolongbao Dumplings, China

These juicy soup dumplings available on the streets of Shanghai are great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three!  Just the smell of these little guys will have your mouth watering.  I dare you to sit down and have just one, but remember to let them cool before you burn your mouth on the hot broth inside- classic rookie mistake.

A Banh Mi stall in Ho Chi Minh City, just like Subway

3. Banh Mi, Vietnam

These sandwiches are the perfect French and Vietnamese fusion, made on a crusty baguette and then topped with a wide range of vegetables, pate and other toppings.  Excellent for bus rides, ideal after a few too many bia hoi’s and available all over Vietnam made to order.  You can’t go wrong.

What are your favorite street food snacks from around the world?  Let us know in the comments.

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» Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) :
Jun 13, 2012

I’m not going to lie: street food is one of the things I’m most excited about getting to Asia for! It all looks so good, I have no idea how you could pick a favorite dish. It’s funny because when I went in for my travel health consult last week, the doctor I was seeing warned me to never eat any kind of street food on my trip because that would definitely get me sick… I realized that I had to take everything she said with a grain of salt because I really don’t believe that street food is any more unsanitary than restaurant food. Just eat where other people are eating and you’ll likely be fine!

Haven’t had too many street food experiences of my own yet, as Nashville isn’t a big street food city, but if you’re ever in Toronto, be sure to get a hot dog from one of the street vendors. They are some of the best you will ever have! Also, when we were in Puerto Rico, we bought some roast pork out of a school bus that was parked at the side of the road and it was incredibly delicious!
Read Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)’s awesome post The Best World Communication Device Ever?

thinkCHUA Reply:

It’s a docs job to warn you about all the risks of the world. Street food in East Asia is generally safe, but you have to be discerning and judge each place independently. Here in India though you need to be REALLY careful, we’ve been sicker here than in the past 18 months combined. Use common sense, accept that you will get sick on occasion and enjoy.

» Anna Jin :
Jun 13, 2012

That’s the thing I miss most about Asia. I remember devouring the skewer (which is still my fav. version of kebabs) watching soccer games with guy friends and gossiping with girlfriends savoring the juicy dumplings.

None of those can be found in Minnesota(Yes, I live in the Twin Cities :) ) and missed them so much!
Read Anna Jin’s awesome post Business 101

thinkCHUA Reply:

Anna, I would trade street food for some of the Twin Cities restaurants though… Patisserie 46, sublime. The Cuban at Lyndale Taphouse, the best sandwich in the Twin Cities. Bar Lagrassa, etc, wow, we miss eating where you are!

» Andrea :
Jun 15, 2012

I love street food! I wish the U.S. would get on board with it a bit more :) Some of my favorite foods here in Korea are from the street carts. I can’t wait to get to Vietnam and try bahn mi–all the ones I’ve had in the States were amazing, so I’m excited to try the real thing :)

thinkCHUA Reply:

We loved Korean street food. Best of all its safe and cheap. I can’t deny though my favorite Korean food was the fried chicken and beer shops. The Frypan was our favorite: http://www.livingif.com/finding-my-future/

» Barb charge :
Jun 17, 2012

U guys rock – my favourites definately sticky rice & mango & banana & choc Roti!! Yummo

LOCAVORista Reply:

Barb, The banana and chocolate roti is definitely up there as a favorite- it was so hard to pick just three street food items to highlight.

» Ayngelina :
Jun 18, 2012

Love the street food in Asia you never really need to step inside a restaurant.
Read Ayngelina’s awesome post My newest chef crush

LOCAVORista Reply:

Ayngelina, you’re right forget restaurants- when you’re buying on the street not only is it cheaper but you can see the food handling for yourself and you know you’re getting it hot and fresh.

» Bka :
Jun 23, 2012

Your comment about actually seeing the food prepared is right on….a week doesn’t go by in cities that you read in paper about restaurants failing food inspections….not sure one would call it street food, but there are food trucks everywhere on Nicollet Mall these days…. the Lobster roll at Smack Shack is your moms favorite, but it costs $12.00…..ouch….peace and love dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, I love the idea of food trucks. They just had an excellent article about all the different food trucks in Minneapolis at http://heavytable.com/ and I thought of you guys!

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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