Eating is undoubtedly part of the journey when exploring new countries. When traveling to Indochina, you’ll never run out of options when it comes to grub. The region is a melting pot of culinary influences and traditions that satisfying your taste buds with new flavors won’t be a chore.
Whether you’re a cuisine lover or just a hungry traveler, here are some of the best Indochina food that are worth devouring. Prepare your tummy for an exciting food trip!
Cambodian cuisine is cornucopia of Chinese, Thai, and Khmer flavors. The locals love rice; aside from being a staple, it is also often eaten as a snack. Most dishes have herbs, leaves, pickled vegetables, and dipping sauces on the side.
Never leave Phnom Penh without trying out amok. One of Cambodia’s most famous dishes, amok is a slightly sweet curry that is made from palm sugar, coconut milk, and prahok sauce and is presented in bowl-shaped banana leaves.
There are two variations of amok: fish and chicken. The meat is usually steamed with spices, purple onions, and lemongrass for a richer and bolder flavor.
The streets of Siem Reap is where you can find an abundance of fried insects, such as spiders, scorpions, wasps, crickets, and silkworms. The vendors season these odd treats with sugar, salt, chili, and other herbs before they deep-fry them. Expect a delightful crunch in every bite.
Traveling across Vietnam, you may notice the variation in food type per region. The northern part of the country is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine. French influence, on the other hand, is evident in most parts of central and southern Vietnam.
If you’re hungry but with only a little time to spare for a meal, banh mi could be a delicious remedy. Often ordered as a quick snack, banh mi consists of a toasted baguette, pickles, butter, cilantro, and soy sauce.
Fillings can either be thit nuong (grilled pork loin), heo quay (roasted pork belly), xa xiu (Chinese barbecued pork), cha lua (boiled sausages), cha ca (fried fish with turmeric and dill), thit ga (poached chicken), or trung op la (fried egg).
How can you say you’ve had a taste of the Vietnamese cuisine without trying their signature dish? A hot bowl of rice noodle soup, pho usually comes with hefty servings of greens as well as fermented fish, beef slices, meatballs, or beef flank.
Street carts selling pho usually go for more exotic ingredients such as tendon, pig stomach, and cartilage.
At first glance, banh xeo looks like a pancake or a crepe. It is because it is also made of rice flour, with coconut milk and a dash of turmeric.
What makes the dish more exciting is that you can customize it by adding various fillings such as chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, vermicelli noodles, beansprouts, and mushrooms, among others.
Taking a quick stroll in the streets of Vietnam, you can easily see that the locals love noodles. There are small carts selling different types of noodles everywhere, some are spicy, some are not.
Among the heavy favorites of locals is bun cha, which stars white rice noodle and grilled pork. The smoky flavor of the pork matches well with the herby taste of the dipping sauce.
Dining in any restaurant in Thailand, it’s safe to order one of each dish, as the explosion of flavors in every bite would definitely make any foreign tongue crave for more.
This Indochina food list won’t be complete without pad thai. This flavorful dish is readily available and easy to find in the streets of Thailand. Starring thick saucy noodles, pad thai is topped with chicken or shrimp, bean sprouts, egg, and tofu. Have it stir-fried for maximum pleasure.
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Curried dishes are another crowd-pleasers in Thailand. Gaeng daeng (or red curry) is composed of generous servings of meat (can be chicken, seafood, or roasted duck) cooked in fresh coconut milk and topped with kafir lime for an extra kick of taste.
An ideal rainy day comfort food, tom yum is an extra-hot and spicy soup featuring loads of shrimp and mushrooms.
Making the dish more mouthwatering is the addition of lemongrass, chili, ginger, and other herbs. Ask the server ahead of time if you’re not so much into spicy dishes so he or she can adjust the level of heat.
Asians love to mix food with rice. This dessert, for example, combines the sweetness of ripe mangoes and the succulent taste of sticky rice. Top it with sweet coconut cream and you’re in for a heavenly treat.
The Laotian people usually greet each other by asking if the other person has already eaten. Now, that’s a greeting nobody could ignore. Indeed, food is a favorite topic in conversations.
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It is said that Lao citizens consume the most number of sticky rice plates per day. Sticky rice, or khao niaw, is so popular there that people love to eat it no matter the time of day. Laos’ version of sticky rice is steamed in a bamboo basket, adding points in terms of presentation.
Another heavy favorite among locals and travelers, khao piak sen is a noodle soup that is similar to udon; the main difference is that this Laotian treat uses rice noodles instead of wheat.
This dish features either chicken or pork, galangal, shallots, slices of lime, and other herbs and seasonings.
The soup’s broth makes the dish stand out. To get the fullest flavor, the bones have to be traditionally and slowly cooked until it gets a bit tender. Sauces such as chili, soy, and fish are added for flavor adjustments.
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