7 Best Asian Street Foods and Where to Get Them

Nov 12, 2019


  • Xiaolongbao-Shanghai, China:
  • Egg Rolls, Kolkata, India:
  • Takoyaki, Osaka, Japan:
  • Tteokbokki, Seoul, South Korea:
  • Som Tam, Bangkok, Thailand:
  • Pho, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Kerak Telor, Jakarta, Indonesia:
  • Show More

In Asia, street food is a way of living and for many their breakfast, lunch and dinner is straight off the Asian street food list and is all about Asian street food and more street food from Asian street food restaurants! No matter where in Asia you travel, the food is full of flavour and reflects the culture of the country. Day in and day out the street vendors dish out the perfect dish always freshly sourced, done simply and quickly, costing less perhaps than buying groceries and cooking your own meals in your own kitchen. Why then not just eat the street food? Yes, that is part of the hipster fashion and you even have MasterChef contestants setting up their Asian street food restaurants based on a dish typical to the country’s tastes. There are pop-up markets, food trucks, new restaurants, and typical street vending joints that have contributed largely to the new respect we have for global street food awareness and move away from the archaic ideas propagated in Northern America that street food can make you sick and is unhealthy.

What are your reasons for trying out the street food? Actually street food is one of the cheapest and most sensible foods to try out when looking for typical food in a country where you are vacationing. It can’t really make you sick since this is what the locals eat and live with! Besides it uses the safest, freshest local produce and the food is cooked right in front of you. Look at it from the point of view of the vendor too. It helps change lives and puts income in the hands of the small businesses with just a simple street location. A part of the experience is local interaction as you wait for your food and the learning that happens there. So if you want culinary authenticity then try the street food. Today we are going to introduce you to the top seven Asian street food items that have even made it into the Asian street food list of top-notch restaurants and should never be missed when travelling through Asia. Let’s go on our eating tour.

This dough filled steamed classic dish translates into 'little-basket-of-steamed-buns' from the Chinese name of sshyaow-long-baow and is a Asian street food from Shanghai which is a thin-skinned soup-dumpling filled with pork, shrimps, vegetables, crab-meat and aspic gel-filled steamed dumplings which form a salty and tasty snack. They are also served floating in pork-gelatin skin hot broth in the Shanghai style’s Benang cuisine. A platter of the dumplings cost you CNY 20 or around 1 pound per plate or lesser on an Asian street food list which is very modest and not expensive at all. The buns can be eaten as a snack while the bamboo baskets used for steaming and serving them make for an excellent keepsake. Ideally the dumplings or baow is eaten with a coating of soy sauce, chili sauce and vinegar. You can try them at the popular the Jia Jia Tang Bao Restaurant at #90 Huanghe Road, the Din Tai Fung food chain, around the South Bund area’s people’s Park Fabric Market and the Shangahai streets or the Fangbang West Street area too. It is not uncommon to see the business and working class regularly wolfing down the tasty snack and is the one food that is typically representative of the Chinese cuisine.

7 Best Asian Street Foods and Where to Get Them

India is home to a variety of Asian street food snacks and foods that making having meal after meal a culinary tasting session through the countries length and breadth. From the idli and dosas of South India to the Kathi rolls and paranthas of North India the egg-rolls stand out as a fusion of both styles and thus representative of the Asian street food restaurants and street food in India. What makes the egg-rolls of Kolkatta special is that the flat bread which has eggs broken and cooked onto them to form the roll around a central filling of your choice like goat cheese or paneer, vegetables, mushrooms, chicken or even plain onions and tomatoes. Since the spicy food of India may not exactly be right for many first time foreigners, the egg rolls of Kolkatta are a safe well-cooked Asian street food list street-food that can be eaten on-the-go, for breakfast, lunch or dinner too. Depending on the filling sought and the location of the stand the price of an egg roll could range from 0.20 to 0.60 USD per roll. Literally every market area, shopping area or crowded area is sure to have these little outlets selling the egg rolls, kathi rolls and more.

The octopus filled fried snack also called the takoyaki is possibly the best of any Asian street food you will find in Japan or globally as street food elsewhere in the eastern world. The octopus bits are deep-fried batter balls served straight of the pan and with a sauce similar to the Worcestershire sauce and called Katsuobushi. Typically to Japan the Katsuobushiis made from tuna or bonito fish that is smoked, dried and then converted to a fish sauce and has a fermented taste that the Japanese love. We suggest you try the Takoyaki balls without the Katsuobushi glazing since the sauce can be quite a deal breaker for the unfamiliar to Japanese food. One should be surprised that one expects to find sushi as the essential street food in Japan. But, if you would like to try sushi as an Asian street food list kind of street-food then head down under to Australia. Sushi in Japan is strictly a dine-in and elaborate ritualistic affair quite different from what most of us are taught or led to think. The best takoyaki platters at Asian street food restaurants are available in Tokyo and like all street food it hardly costs 1 to 5 USD to fill up a platter on.

7 Best Asian Street Foods and Where to Get Them

South Korea is one place where you never starve for street food or kimchi the pickles served with the Asian street food of the common man. If you love the spices then be prepared to try the kimchi with Tteokbokki skewers. And what do the skewers contain? Seafood pancakes, chargrilled chicken, waffles fried crisp and in a fish-shape and variations of wheat ramyeon, eggs, fish cakes, rice cakes and more. The plate containing a Tteokbokki skewer comes glazed with the spicy fiery gochujang or red-sauce made from vinegar fermented soybeans, dried fish and fiery red chilies extensively used with all most all Korean dishes even the famous street food of bibimbap. Just pull up a stool at the Asian street food restaurants and sit interacting with the other locals over a glass of soju wine or typical South Korean spirit under the make-shift tents called the pojangmacha. The street vendors function almost right through the night and you can find varieties of food like the tteok rice cakes which are chewy neutral-tasting rice cakes and varieties of skewers to choose from. If you love the smoked versions then ask for the tteokkkochi which is the tteokbokki threaded onto a skewer with all the rice cakes you choose to have and is served with many side pieces of fish, chicken, eggs etc. Of course, the kimchi which you will find there may often be fiery hot and the sauces could be eaten with the bland rice making the dish itself so filling that perhaps many will consider it a full meal in itself.

7 Best Asian Street Foods and Where to Get Them

Thailand is the one part of the eastern Asian world that cannot live without spicy Asian street food and spices like the fiery hot chilies they consume here. Like the kimchi of South Korea Thailand has its very own version of the salad sold as street food called the Som Tam. At the very simple level it is a recipe of the Asian street food restaurants made from unripened papaya fruit shredded into fine strips, and mixed with a variety of spices like the galangal ginger which is ginger but tastes like chili, basil, lime, sugar, dried shrimp, tomatoes, chilies, garlic and pepper with more spices being added into the mix as it is finely pounded into a paste which forms the meal itself and is a light, fluffy form consumed with peanuts, rice etc. Be it Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Thailand the som tam versions will reflect their food culture and traditional versions some fiery hot, some sweet and many tangy and spicy versions of sweet and sour som tam. This mortar and pestle dish is famous in its capital of Bangkok for its sheer simplicity and the art of fine blending of the various tastes into a simple salad or fruit dish. So popular has been the taste of the som tam that even western countries have adapted its taste into their cuisines and the world is now the playground of the Thai famous som tam.

7 Best Asian Street Foods and Where to Get Them

Pho which is pronounced ‘fuh’ is Vietnam’s very own addition to the global cuisine of Asian street food now found in every corner of the world boasting of Vietnamese cuisines. The dish is nothing but a humble rice noodle soup from Vietnam taken abroad by its colonizers the French and is by far one of the most popular Asian street food restaurants dishes among street foods be it in Vietnam or anywhere in the world. Coming into the limelight sometime in the early 20th century, the broth based rice soupy noodles dish is typically assembled from a broth batch that continues to stew and contains the tendons and bones that have been smoked and boiled in with a variety of spices like onions, garlic, ginger, seasonings, spices, and bits of beef or chicken. The broth is never ever emptied and every new batch is made by just adding new ingredients to the already boiling broth. And that is what tastes completely different and is prized as authentic to the recipe. The broth is then ladled out over your choice of meat, noodles, and garnishing from among the Asian street food list to cook awhile and served plain hot enough to scald! Especially in the village of Vân Cù and a few others close to Hanoi from where this recipe supposedly originated you will find people glugging the stuff down like there was a famine of Pho coming soon! No matter the origins, the Pho can be found on every street corner of Vietnam without fail and is just an endemic part of the Vietnamese food traditions and culture that is now also popular as street food and typical Vietnamese food in the Western haute couture restaurants as well.

7 Best Asian Street Foods and Where to Get Them

Indonesian spices have been at the centre of many a power war over times of yore. Be it the Portuguese or others who tried to colonize Indonesia the history of the war rests on the fact that Indonesia was and is, a land of spice and Asian street food that meant exploiting the value of the spices in their own and other cuisines. And Asian street food restaurants do that perfectly! It takes the best of the local spices and produce, uses a traditional recipe, and converts it to the best food you can get on the street at astonishingly sober and reasonable prices.

Of the 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia the population of 230 million people gets very divided with each group claiming to be the earliest to make an Asian street food list and making Jakarta their very own. The street food is reflective of the Betawi culture especially on the Jakartan streets. Besides the gado-gado, soto and the nasi uduk the Betawi variant of Kerak telor is a must try.

The egg crust or Kerak telor Bahasa as it is called among the various Betawi street foods is a dish made from glutinous rice. The cooked over charcoal version of the frittata by the many Jakarta Asian street food restaurants or vendors is a process of taking into a pan an ample but small portion of the sticky rice adding in the shrimp, fried shallots, grated coconut, salt and pepper before asking you to choose between the hen’s and duck’s egg for the top crust. The egg may either be mixed in or allowed to get cooked till crispy atop the food which is then ladled out onto a paper for serving and eating. The duck egg version is a wee bit more exotic, tastes better and leaves a great texture on the kerak telor. Yes, it costs a wee bit more too on the choices of food on an Asian street food list. In many ways this is similar to the omelets of America though not so bland. The combination of sticky rice, egg, shallots and shrimps et all would only cost you around 13,000 Rp for a chicken egg kerak telor or 15,000 Rp for a duck egg kerak telor on the Asian street food list. The kerak telor is an oil-less preparation that is always cooked as a single serving. If you want to eat the Kerak Telor it is not available like the other street foods and you would probably find it only in certain spots like the Old Town, Setu Babakan and Monas.

Have you noticed that in most countries the street food is typically something that is part of the Asian street food restaurants and their culinary tradition of the country? No matter where in the world you eat the food is always tweaked to include the local produce and techniques of cooking. It runs the hearth of many a poor person who by cooking street food caters to other people in a rush and those who may not have much by providing them the quick bites which they cannot and may not be able to cook. Besides being tastier, cheaper and based on a well-authenticated and replicated recipe the street food of Asia caters to economic development, local interaction, and provides you the best memories of the cultural heritage of the place you are vacationing at. Don’t be over sanitized, since the foods are typically the poor man’s fare and cooked before your eyes using local produce. So go ahead and stuff yourself on the seven foods we have described above and trust us when we tell you it will not make you sick.

As we end this article, we invite you to try out the Asian street food, local food traditions and culture while talking to the locals and enjoy your food. Happy food tasting and have the best vacation, because in Asia the best food is to be found in the Asian street food restaurants. Our food list described above is typical of the Asian street food list and perfectively reflective of the local culture and can never be completely replicated in sanitized cafes or restaurants. They simply are delicious when eaten on the street sitting on a low stool as you wait for your dish to be cooked before you and served hot at a price that would put a Michelin restaurant to shame.

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