Southeast Asia has long been known as one of the best places on earth to get fresh, tasty and cheap street food. From Singapore hawker stalls to Indonesian bakso carts, Thai night markets and Vietnamese roadside restaurants, we give you the rundown on the top hotspots for street food in the region.
Best Street Food Spots in Bangkok, Thailand
Sukhumvit Soi 38
For a true Thai street food experience, head to Sukhumvit, Soi 38 where you’ll find a plethora of tin tables and plastic chairs and vendors selling everything from Pad Thai noodles to mango sticky rice. The stalls here are clean and there is a high turnover of locals and foreigners, which means the food is fresh and tasty to boot.
Time: 6pm til late
The Victory Monument acts like a beacon calling hungry office workers, students and foodies to the small laneways shooting off from the traffic circle here. Wander down any of these streets and you’ll find plenty of food stalls selling delectable lunch dishes, including the famous Thai boat noodles. With a dark, rich broth flavored with herbs, spices and pork blood, slippery rice noodles, green vegetables and pork or beef, we bet you can’t eat just one bowl.
Time: 7am til late
After the sun sets, busy Yaowarat Road transforms into a bustling night food bazaar with hundreds of vendors selling classic Chinese specialties like bird’s nest soup and roast duck, as well as some Chinese influenced Thai dishes like fried pork belly in peppery soup and rice noodles with ground pork, fiery chilies and aromatic holy basil.
Time: 6pm til late
Best Street Food Spots in Singapore
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
Smack in the middle of Chinatown, this hawker center is a Singapore institution and home to some of the most beloved street food stalls such as Tian Tian Chicken Rice with its succulent chicken served over broth infused rice with a side of fiery chilli sauce and Jin Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon, which offers up golden pieces of fried fish floating in a milky broth with thin rice vermicelli noodles.
Time: 8am to 10pm
Old Airport Road Food Centre
With up to 30 minute queues for quintessential Singapore hawker dishes like oyster omelette in chili sauce and Char Kway Teow (rice noodles with Chinese sausage, cockles, bean sprouts, chili sauce and dark soy sauce), you know the food stalls at the Old Airport Road Food Centre have got to have something good going on.
Time: Mon to Fri: 11.30am to midnight, Sat to Sun: 10.30am to midnight
East Coast Park Lagoon Village Food Centre
It’s all about fresh BBQ seafood like chilli crab, spicy grilled stingray and black pepper crab at the East Coast Park Lagoon Village Food Centre, as well as tasty wonton noodles, braised duck rice and satay. It doesn’t hurt either that the location is right on the beach, so you can grab your grub and have a picnic by the sea.
Time: 8am to 9pm
Best Street Food Spots in Kuala Lumpur
A favorite foodie pit stop for locals, Jalan Alor runs parallel to Jalan Bukit Bintang, and is packed with hawker stalls selling Malaysian staples like chicken satay, grilled fish, braised duck with rice and fresh tropical fruits like durian, rambutan and mangosteen.
Time: 6pm til late (although some stalls are open during the day)
Chow Kit Market Hawker Stalls
Chow Kit is the biggest wet market in Kuala Lumpur, and as such, it should come as no surprise that there are tons of hawker stalls here that sell delicious street food made from only the freshest ingredients. This is the place to go to get heavenly nasi lemak—coconut rice with various side dishes such as fried chicken, crispy anchovies, roasted peanuts, hard boiled egg and of course, fiery sambal, golden shrimp fritters, ikan masin (salted fish) and murtabak—flaky pan-fried bread with an egg and minced meat filling.
Time: 9am to 5pm
Petaling Street Night Market
Located in the heart of Chinatown, Petaling Street is a warren of shops selling clothing, electronics, handbags and souvenirs during the day, but come evening, the hawker stalls start to emerge. Many of the hawker stalls here have been in operation for decades, so you can sample tried and true recipes for delicious seafood, chicken and rice, BBQ fish, curry laksa and roti.
Time: 4pm til late
Best Street Food Spots in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ben Thanh Market
Enter Ben Thanh Market, pass the colorful displays of silk scarves, beaded shoes, leather handbags and glossy lacquerware, and head deep into the interior where you’ll find simple stalls selling everything from steaming bowls of pho to crispy and fresh spring rolls, banh mi pate sandwiches and bun thit nuong (rice vermicelli noodles with BBQ pork, mini spring rolls, fresh herbs and fish sauce). Wash it all down with a rich iced Vietnamese coffee served with sweetened condensed milk.
Time: 6am to 7pm
Ton That Thuyet Street, District 4
Everyday, food vendors and foodies alike flock to this long strip of pavement to grab mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes like bun bo la lot, rice vermicelli noodles topped with grilled beef, pickled vegetables, peanuts, sprouts and herbs, sticky rice with Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, chicken and fried shallots and che dau trang, a sweet dessert made with glutinous rice, beans and coconut milk.
Time: All day
Banh Xeo 46A
Banh xeo is a Saigon favourite, and locals in the know head to Banh Xeo 46A in District 1 to fill up on the savory rice flour crepes packed with fatty pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and green onion and just a touch of turmeric and coconut milk. This roadside restaurant also serves up divine fresh and fried spring rolls.
46A Dinh Cong Trang Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Time: All day
Best Street Food Spots in Jakarta
Pecenongan, Central Jakarta
By day, this street looks like any other, but as soon as night starts to fall, the mobile food carts move in and locals from far and wide flock here for tasty and affordable Indonesian fare. Get your fix of sate kambing (goat satay), martabak (a mix between a crepe and a pancake with sweet fillings like bananas, chocolate or cheese) and nasi uduk (coconut rice with roasted chicken, tofu or tempe).
Time: 6pm til late
One block west of Jakarta’s backpacker area of Jalan Jaksa lies Jalan Sabang, a haven for street food that pulls in hungry diners both day and night. This is one of the best places in the city to get cheap eats, including nasi goreng (fried rice), chicken and mutton satay with spicy peanut sauce, fragrant duck rice and pisang goreng (fried banana).
Time: All day until late
Jalan Mangga Besar
If you’re craving Chinese food or seafood, Jalan Mangga Besar is the place to be. Some specialties here include bakmi kepiting (noodles with crab meat, fish balls and crispy fried wontons) and bubur ayam (chicken porridge). For the truly adventurous, try the cobra satay washed down with a shot of cobra blood.
Time: 5pm til late
For more info about Southeast Asian street food, including recipes that you can make at home, check out these great books from Amazon: