Our best Asian street food recipes cover everything from the fresh spring rolls found in markets and street food stalls across Southeast Asia to the spicy noodle soups from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia that you can slurp on the streets, from mobile carts, and at simple shophouse eateries.
We’re just back from Saigon, where we slurped bowls of spicy banh canh cua and munched into crunchy banh mi filled with grilled pork. A week earlier I was in Phnom Penh tucking into everything from stir-fried corn with chilli and lime to juicy grilled oysters just off the flames. And before that I was footpath feasting on aromatic bowls of pho and even more banh mi in Hanoi, where I wound up three weeks in Vietnam hosting a cuisine and culture tour.
You’d think I’d be bored with Asian street food by now, but back home in Siem Reap Terence has been cooking up everything from smoky char kway teow to jazzed-up instant ramen noodles to which he adds tender slices of his char siu pork and boiled eggs. I’ve been browsing the site for dinner inspiration, so thought I’d compile a round up of our best Asian street food recipes on Grantourismo, as much for Terence’s ease as to share them with you.
Some of our best Asian street food recipes are quick and easy, while others require you to slip on an apron, open some wine, and put on your favourite podcast.
Best Asian Street Food Recipes from Fresh Spring Rolls to Spicy Noodle Soups
Vietnamese Bun Cha Recipe
I hate picking favourites but if you pressured me to name just one street food dish that you should make of all our best Asian street food recipes, I’d say bun cha (bún chả). Of all the Vietnamese specialties, it must be one of the most satisfying street food dishes to recreate back home. If you’ve sat on a tiny plastic stool on a Hanoi footpath and tucked into a platter of char-grilled pork patties and pork belly (the ‘chả’) in a warm dipping broth, fresh rice noodles (the bún), and aromatic greens (any combination of mint, basil, perilla, ﬁsh leaf, coriander, butter lettuce, and perhaps sprouts), you won’t forget the experience and will be eager to relive it. Bun cha is one of the quintessential Hanoi street food dishes and we ate it several times a week when we rented an apartment on ‘Food Street’ back in 2012-13. I’ll never forget the cook waving a fan over her small portable grill, the smoky aromas wafting in our direction, the basket of fresh fragrant herbs on the low stainless steel table, and motorbikes whizzing by less than a metre away. The lovely woman who set up her pop-up each morning on the curb-side near our building served Vietnamese fried spring rolls with her bun cha so if you’re making this recipe, you should make those too.
Fresh Prawn and Pork Spring Rolls Recipe
You’ll find fresh spring rolls in markets and at roadside stalls all over northern Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam. I reckon this recipe for classic gỏi cuốn – fresh spring rolls of sweet prawns, pork belly, vermicelli noodles, and fresh aromatic herbs, wrapped in damp dry rice paper sheets – is another of our best Asian street food recipes. They’re healthy and light yet they’re filling. You can eat them on their own or as part of a Vietnamese street food feast. If you’ve made spring rolls before, you’ll know how easy they are once you get the hang of it. The trick is to set up your mise-en-place as if you were in a restaurant, the ingredients in the order you intend to place them on your rice paper so you can work fast. And if you’re still learning, why not do so with friends and do as Emma, one of the participants on my recent Vietnam food tour, plans to do and invite a group of mates over and hold a spring roll making party. You could also try the slightly more complicated phở cuốn Hà Nội, which requires a bit more work as you’ll need to make the pho noodle sheets as well. But trust me, they’re worth the effort.
Vietnamese Deep Fried Spring Rolls Recipe
Another of our best Asian street food recipes makes very moreish deep fried spring rolls with wood ear mushrooms, minced pork and prawns. You’ll spot deep fried spring rolls on the streets and in markets all over Asia, from Malaysia to Myanmar, made with all kinds of fillings. Sometimes fried spring rolls are sold on their own, especially in markets, while they’ve also served with noodle dishes. In Hanoi, vendors often serve them with bun cha, above; look for a sign that says bun cha nem. If you see other customers have a dish of sliced spring rolls and you don’t, that means you’ll need to ask for them. On our recent trip to Saigon we stayed in a gorgeous apartment near The Lunch Lady, Nguyen Thi Thanh, whom Anthony Bourdain introduced to the world in an early episode of No Reservations. I ate there twice and we must have walked by a dozen times. The first day we sat down on her tiny plastic stools, another woman and man hurried over and placed some small plates of snacks on our table: fresh and fried spring rolls (cha gio in Southern Vietnam), prawn fritters (banh khot), and beef rolled in betel leaves (bo la lot). As much as we love trying things, we just wanted the noodle soups we ordered. We looked around and none of the locals were automatically getting plates of snacks, so I politely declined them. Another foreigner sat down and he too was presented with a few dishes. As were a backpacker couple who arrived after me, who had the array of snacks set before them even before they ordered. When I returned the next day, The Lunch Lady just served me the day’s soup. We have more Vietnamese spring roll recipes, too.
Soto Ayam Recipe for Yogyakarta’s Indonesian Chicken Noodle Soup
This soto ayam recipe makes Indonesia’s chicken noodle soup for the soul and it’s easily another of Terence’s best Asian street food recipes. ‘Soto’ is soup and ‘ayam’ means chicken and it’s the go-to breakfast for many locals. It’s sold mostly from mobile carts and pop-up street food stalls and this recipe is the Yogyakarta take on the popular Indonesian breakfast noodle soup, which is where we sampled it. We didn’t get to try it until our last day in the old capital of East Java, which is best known as the base for excursions to the UNESCO World Heritage listed archaeological sites of Borobudur and Prambanan, and that’s probably a good thing as I might not have eaten anything else if I had. Terence’s soto ayam recipe was inspired by that soto ayam we tried, which stood out for the consommé-like clarity of the light soup and fragrant stock, although during his research Terence spotted some soto ayam recipes with coconut milk. There seems to be a style of soto ayam for every one of Indonesia’s 18,307 islands!
Singapore Curry Laksa Recipe
This Singapore laksa recipe makes the cut of Terence’s best Asian street food recipes for its rich, spicy, coconut milk-laced broth that takes me back to two places every time I slurp it: a curry mee that we love sold by a mother and her two daughters on a street corner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a long-gone but once tremendously popular ‘Singapore Curry Laksa’ stall in a Chinatown food court in Sydney, Australia. For many years, that curry laksa served as our dinner before our uni classes after work and as brunch or lunch on Saturday mornings before or after shopping Paddy’s markets. That was in the late 1980s and early Nineties and Terence has been obsessed with recreating that soup ever since. He has about ten different curry laksas in his recipe manager but this one is based on a recipe by Australia’s legendary chef, Christine Manfield. It has a list of 17 ingredients and you’ll have to start by making the curry paste from scratch, so find that podcast you’ve been keen to listen to, open a bottle of wine, and get out the mortar and pestle.
Ohn No Khao Swe Recipe
Another one of Terence’s best Asian street food recipes, this ohn no khao swe recipe makes a wonderful version of Myanmar’s much-loved chicken coconut noodle soup. Terence has been making this bowl of noodle heaven since we first became smitten with it on our first trip to Yangon when we savoured it at The Strand hotel. That was a fancy bowl of soup, served with an array of condiments and garnishes, including shallots, fried garlic, dried chilli, lime, coriander (cilantro), crunchy fried noodles, boiled eggs, and sometimes fried chickpea fritters. You’ll see ohn no khao swe sold at simple eateries, street food stalls, and by mobile vendors who move around the streets with their soup kitchen spread across a couple of baskets that hang from a pole that they carry on their shoulders. The street food version is also delicious, but generally less rich with fewer condiments and garnishes, and as author Mi Mi Khaing wrote in Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way, published in 1978, garnishing ohn no khao swe is one of the most fun bits about eating this noodle soup, describing the festivity, “because with such dishes guests do the final mixing with small accompaniments to their individual tastes”. All the more reason to make it at home and invite some friends over.
Lao Khao Soi Recipe
This Lao khao soi recipe is easily another of our best Asian street food recipes on the site and is more than capable of satisfying any Asian comfort food cravings. This recipe makes a hearty version of the Lao khao soi we fell in love with on our first trip to UNESCO World Heritage listed Luang Prabang, Laos, after our temple guide Bounmee directed us to a simple noodle shop in an iron shed which he said made the best Lao khao soi in Luang Prabang. Firstly, as you can see, this is very different to the Chiang Mai khao soi below. A soup of wide rice noodles served with a generous dollop of a rich tomato-based pork mince sauce, that tastes like a Southeast Asian rendition of Italy’s ragu Bolognese, it comes with fresh greens – typically crispy long snake beans, aromatic mint, basil, and lime halves – and should be eaten with condiments. You’ll typically find fish sauce, chilli sauce, shrimp paste, salt, pepper, and sugar on the table, but I’m satisfied with a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. Just as you’d do with a good ragu Bolognese, plan on letting it cook for a few hours.
Chiang Mai Khao Soi Gai Recipe
Thailand’s old Lanna kingdom capital, Chiang Mai is famous for its wonderful Northern Thai-style Lanna food and khao soi gai must be its most-loved street food dish, with which travellers to the Northern Thailand city instantly fall in love. You’ll find khao soi served at simple eateries and street food stalls, as well as restaurants. This Chiang Mai khao soi gai recipe makes an especially delicious rendition of the curry noodle chicken soup, making it another of Terence’s best Asian street food recipes. A one-bowl meal of egg noodles in a rich, oily, coconut cream-based stock, it typically comes with a leg or thigh of bone-in chicken (‘gai’ means chicken in Thai) and it’s topped with crunchy noodles. The dish shares some DNA with Myanmar’s chicken coconut noodle soup, ohn no khao swe, which you can read about in the original post. A good sign of a great khao soi gai is a slick of bright red oil on the surface of the soup, which coats the noodles, and is created by the splitting of the coconut cream and stock. This only really happens with fresh coconut cream, which we prefer to use when we can, but it will still taste incredible with the tinned stuff.
Hokkien Noodles with Chinese Barbecue Pork Recipe
There are few things more comforting than sitting at a street food stall or market tucking into a big bowl of wok-fried noodles. But I’m also very happen to dig into a bowl in the comfort of our home. Terence has been making this Hokkien noodles recipe with char siu pork or Chinese barbecue pork ever since we left Australia in 1998, so just over two decades. Terence originally modified a recipe by iconic Australian chef Neil Perry, published in his first cookbook, Rockpool, which featured an eclectic set of modern Australian recipes for dishes that fused global flavours, everything from Asian to European. Over the years Terence has tweaked it and for me it’s now noodle perfection. Terence first published the recipe on Grantourismo as part of his series on char siu pork recipes and it’s easily one of his best Asian street food recipes. Once you’ve made the char siu pork, the rest is easy. As with our Chinese special fried rice recipe, these Hokkien noodles are best fried in a well seasoned carbon steel wok for smoky flavours.
Pork and Crab Congee with XO Sauce Recipe by Chef Christine Manfield
Of Chinese origin, congee or rice porridge is served all over Asia and and you’ll find countless different versions. This pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe is a particularly decadent one, as you’d expect from such rich ingredients. It’s another recipe that comes courtesy of Australian chef Christine Manfield who shared it with us after I devoured a bowl in Cambodia’s riverside city of Battambang of all places, at Jaan Bai, the social enterprise restaurant launched in 2013 by Cambodian Children’s Trust’s Tara Winkler, with the support of Australian restaurateur John Fink (of chef Peter Gilmore’s Quay, Bennelong and Otto fame) and chef David Thompson (of Long Chim and formerly Nahm, Bangkok), where we’d gone behind the scenes to cover its opening for a slew of magazines. Christine cooked this congee as one dish of a five-course menu for a special charity dinner to raise funds for Jaan Bai’s youth empowerment scholarship fund and after one spoon I knew we had to have this recipe. As you’d guess from a dish that contains crab, pork belly and XO sauce, I reckon it’s another of our best Asian street food recipes on Grantourismo. Try it and let us know what you think.
More Asian Street Food Recipes
You’ll find more Asian street food recipes in these fab cookbooks.
Thai Street Food by David Thompson – this hefty tome is both a guide to Thailand’s culinary culture as much as a cookbook with some 100 recipes for Thai street food dishes.
Street Food Asia by Luke Nguyen – you’ll find some of the best Asian street food recipes from across the region in this beautiful book by Vietnamese-Australian chef Luke Nguyen.
Hawker Fare, Stories and Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai and Lao Roots by James Syhabout – recipes inspired by the markets of Thailand and Laos by an American chef whose mother is from an Isaan village in Thailand and his father from Pakse, Laos.
Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl – authors of several Vietnam cookbooks and the former owners of Hanoi Cooking Centre, Lister and Pohl have packed this book with mouthwatering Vietnamese street food recipes.
Burma Superstar by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy — recipes by Burmese-American chef Desmond Tan from his San Franciso Bay Area restaurant, features 90 recipes, including one for one of Myanmar’s favourite street food dishes mohinga.
The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen — over 50 recipes for Vietnam’s beloved banh mi created by Vietnamese-American cookbook writer, Andrea Nguyen, many inspired by classic dishes.
The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen — more than 50 pho recipes in this James Beard award-winning cookbook from Andrea Nguyen, from quick weeknight soups to condiments to make from scratch.
Food of Singapore, Simple Street Food Recipes from the Lion City by Djoko Wibisono and David Wong – a tad old fashioned in style but there are few cookbooks dedicated to Singaporean street food and this covers its diversity.
Do let us know if you make any of our best Asian street food recipes in the comments below or share a pic with us on Instagram. We’d love to hear how they turn out for you and drool over the results.