10 Mouthwatering National Dishes from Southeast Asia

by Mark Wiens on October 24, 2011 · 8 comments

Indonesia - Nasi Padang

Indonesia - Nasi Padang

1. Indonesia - Nasi Padang

Due to the vast spread out archipelago of Indoneisa, it’s almost impossible to label a real national dish for the entire country. I’ve just gone ahead and mentioned a normal everyday meal of Nasi Padang that consists of a plate of rice topped with a choice of dishes.

When I was in Indonesia, I would often get fish curry, some kind of green vegetables, a little bit of soybean cake (tempeh) and a big scoop of sambal chili sauce!

Adobo - Philippines

Adobo - Philippines

2. Adobo - Philippines

Among the many comforting Filipino dishes like sizzling pig’s face or sour sinigang soup, adobo still remains one of the most widely available and popular dishes.

Normally pork or chicken are cooked with a combination of soy sauce, oil, vinegar, garlic and ginger to create a rich salty and slightly sour sauce. A bowl of pork adobo goes extremely well with a hot plate of steamed rice!

Ambuyat, Brunei

Ambuyat, Brunei

3. Brunei - Ambuyat

When it comes to Burnei’s national dish, sticky is an understatement. When I traveled to Brunei just for a single day, it was my mission to devour some of the local dishes and ambuyat was what I came across.

The dish is made with sago palm starch that is cooked into a glue like substance and eaten along with sour fermented sauce and an arrangement of vegetables and soup.

Singapore - Chicken Rice

Singapore - Chicken Rice

4. Singapore - Chicken Rice

Singapore, though a small nation (and city), is very proud of its vibrant cuisine. People are passionate about eating and their mix of cultures has created a pretty awesome food culture.

Simple boiled chicken, sliced and placed over rice is a very common meal in Singapore. The key to the chicken and rice lies within the red chili sauce served alongside.

Malaysia - Nasi Lemak

Malaysia - Nasi Lemak

5. Malaysia - Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is messy, saucy, fatty (nasi lemak actually translates to “fatty rice” in Malay) and ultimately delicious. As a country that is absolutely passionate about their Malaysian food, you better believe nasi lemak is a hit!

The dish consists of coconut rice and a mix of other ingredients served in a banana leaf. The one pictured above was served with a piece of fried chicken, a half cooked fried egg, and a crazy amount of some of best tasting red sauce I’ve ever had in my life!

Thailand - Pad Ga Pao

Thailand - Pad Ga Pao

6. Thailand - Pad Ga Pao

It’s hard to really choose a national dish of Thailand as the culinary culture is so incredibly rich and diverse. There is however a Thai food that almost all Thais revert back to when all else fails, or they just don’t know what else to order: pad gra pao moo kai dao.

A choice of meat is stir fried up with garlic, chilies and holy basil. It’s then placed over rice and a fried egg is added on top.

Cambodian Street Food

Cambodian Street Food

7. Cambodia - Amok Fish

Amok, which is a coconut infused steamed fish cake, is one of the national treasure dishes that Cambodia is well known for.

The common procedure is to wrap the fish, spices and coconut cream in a banana leaf and steam it to perfection. It’s best eaten with rice and chili sauce.

Laos - Somtam, Sticky Rice

Laos - Somtam, Sticky Rice

8. Laos - Somtam, Sticky Rice

Green papaya salad (somtam) and sticky rice is a combination that is truly Laoatian.

Som tam is made with shredded green papaya that is tossed in a couple of different versions, some containing fermented fish sauce, while other variations just dressed with lemon juice. The common procedure is to dip a ball of sticky rice into the dressing for flavor.

Vietnam - Pho

Vietnam - Pho

9. Vietnam - Pho

Vietnamese food in general is well known for its freshness and heavy use of herbs.

One of the national dishes of Vietnam is a bowl of rice noodles in a bowl of broth made from either chicken or beef. The noodles are normally lightly seasoned with a few herb sprigs and a scoop of chili paste. Pho is found all over the streets of Vietnam.

Burma - Mohinga

Burma - Mohinga

10. Burma - Mohinga

One of the most popular dishes in Burmese cuisine is a bowl of rice noodles known as mohinga.

Instead of a thin clear soup, mohinga is more of a thick creamy fish stew that is filled with rice noodles and topped with deep fried fritters and sprinkled with a squirt of lime juice.

What’s your favorite national dish from Southeast Asia?

About the Author:

is the author of 155 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.

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Categories: Asia, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Features, Food, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
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8 Comments

Shirlene from Idelish October 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Mouth watering list! I’ve had half the food on this list and it’s making me homesick! One more to add to the list is Nasi Dagang which is from the region of Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia!

Reply

Mark Wiens October 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Thanks Shirlene!

Reply

Dean October 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

I ate pad ga prao quite a lot in Thailand, very tasty. My favourite noodle dishes were pad see ew and a type of gravy noodle dish – I can’t remember the Thai name for it.

Reply

Mark Wiens October 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Great to hear that Dean, I think the name of the dish you are thinking of is “sen yai radna.”

Reply

Charlie October 26, 2011 at 1:59 am

Delicious. Gotta add one though: Vietnam – Banh Mi!

Reply

Mark Wiens October 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Yah! Banh Mi is delicious too!

Reply

Eileen/ Possibly Pinay October 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Wow interesting to find our precious Adobo on it – I do have to agree on that. Also, you can tell what region in the Philippines people are from depending on how they make their adobo. #TrueStory :D

Can’t wait for my first taste of Pho in a week! :)

Reply

Pauline | Pinay Traveller December 21, 2011 at 2:56 am

I agree with Charlie. Banh Mi is the perfect snack.:)

Reply

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