Travelling By Way Of My Belly | Favourite Recipes From East and South East Asia

2020 is definitely not the year of international travel. That passtime has pretty much ground to a halt, as many of us around the world hunker down at home in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel lovers like me, who would usually be booking the next trip, focus instead on dreams of past travels, and on planning future journeys, once the world opens up again.

One of the best ways to travel when you can’t go anywhere is to cook and eat dishes from other countries, celebrating international cuisine and travelling by way of our bellies. Here, I and fellow food and travel bloggers share our recipes for delicious dishes from across East and South East Asia.

East and South East Asian Recipes

Burmese Pork Curry (Wet Thar Hnat) | Chinese Fried Rice | Chinese Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken | Chinese Spicy Sichuan Noodles | Chinese Stir-Fry | Filipino Chicken Adobo | Filipino Kinilaw | Indonesian Beef Rendang | Indonesian Nasi Goreng | Japanese Yakitori Chicken Hearts | Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry | Japanese Green Beans Shira-ae (Tofu, Miso & Sesame Dressing) | Japanese Sukiyaki (Japanese Beef Hotpot) | Korean Kimchi Bokkeum-bap (Fried Rice) | Korean Pork & Tofu Kimchi Jjigae | Malaysian Chilli Crab | Malaysian Kaya (Sweet Coconut Spread) | Malaysian Vegan Nasi Lemak | Taiwanese Pineapple Cake | Thai Khao Soi Gai (Curried Chicken Noodle Soup) | Thai Pad Krapow Moo (Pork with Holy Basil) | Thai Pad Thai | Vietnamese Banh Mi | Vietnamese Pho Bo | Vietnamese Vegan Summer Rolls

Burmese Pork Curry (Wet Thar Hnat)

Classic Burmese Pork Curry (Wet Thar Hnat)

Image credit: Absolute Press

If you want to learn Burmese cooking, I strongly recommend you buy a copy of MiMi Aye’s cookery book, Mandalay: Recipes and Tales from a Burmese Kitchen. Read our Mandalay review to find out more.

This classic Burmese pork curry is one of my favourite recipes from the book, the very essence of comfort food. It’s a mild curry from the Mogok region of Burma, where MiMi’s mother is from, with a gentle sweet flavour that is very popular with children. We love it with rice, as the curry’s gravy is wonderful mixed into it.

An added bonus is that pork collar and shoulder, which are perfect for this dish, are very inexpensive, making this economical as well as delicious. We usually make double the quantities as it’s just as good the next day, and the day after that…

Recipe by MiMi Aye, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Chinese Fried Rice

My go to fried rice recipe comes via Diana, a Chinese friend of mine who is an accomplished cook. Fried rice is a popular Chinese dish, not least because it’s so incredible versatile – you can use a selection of proteins and vegetables in whatever combination you like. It’s also handy for using up leftovers too, as a little meat and veg goes a long way when it comes to fried rice.

Diana runs us through the three key stages for making fried rice: softening the cold, leftover rice (this is not a dish to be made with freshly cooked rice), cooking any ingredients that need to be cooked, and finally, adding in anything else.

She mentions Yang Chow Fried Rice, a classic Cantonese dish served in many Chinese restaurants, which is made with red-tinted diced barbequed pork, yellow egg, and green peas or spring onions. Other combinations she suggests include Crab with ginger, egg white and chilli, Rare roast beef with garlic and leek, Ham with onion and sugar snap peas, and Shrimp with ginger, onion, egg, peas and soy sauce.

Recipe by Diana Chan, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Chinese Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken

Chinese Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is one of the most known Chinese dishes around the world. Traditional Sichuan Kung Pao chicken has been around for centuries. Kung Pao Chicken was created in the Sichuan province of China, named after the province’s governor during the Qinq dynasty (mid-late 19th century). Chengdu, Sichuan specifically is a UNESCO heritage site for gastronomy – only thirty-two other cities in the world claim that title!

That means that Sichuan chefs still use traditional cooking methods and ingredients that have been used in the region’s cuisine for centuries. Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken is prepared with regionally harvested and made Sichuan chilli paste and soy sauce. However, you can recreate the dish straight from home by using the right ingredients.

Sichuan Kung Pao chicken features cubed chicken as the main protein, as well as peanuts, spring onion, and rice wine to round out the flavor palate. Different from mainstream Kung Pao Chicken, which is emulated from other parts of China, the Sichuan recipe is a delicate blend of savory, sweet, and a little bit of spice. It is the perfect side dish, as it also pairs well with everything from rice, dumplings, or even pickled vegetables.

By Kalilah Hayward from The Awkward Traveller.

Chinese Spicy Sichuan Noodles

Spicy Sichuan Noodles

Image credit: Absolute Press

I mentioned MiMi Aye’s Burmese cookbook Mandalay above. Before that, she also published Noodle!, a wonderful resource for anyone who loves East and South East Asian food. Read our review of Noodle! In her book, MiMi focuses on Asian noodle recipes but adds twists and fusion ideas to suit the modern cook.

Her Spicy Sichuan Noodles recipe originates in China’s Sichuan province, where it’s known as dan dan mian for the dandan carrying pole that street vendors used to transport the their goods. The noodles are served with a stir-fried mind pork and sauce with a garnish of spring onions and chilli oil.

Recipe by MiMi Aye, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Chinese Stir-Fry

Chinese Stir-Fry

Diana also shares her tips on how to make a good Chinese stir-fry, in the Southern Chinese Cantonese style she learned from her family, and makes in much the same way as her grandmother did.

A stir-fry is a Chinese way of cooking in which ingredients are fried with a little oil in a hot wok, being stirred all the time. The technique is now popular all around the world.

Like her fried rice recipe, her stir-fry advice covers three key things: preparing the protein by cutting it into evenly sized slices, seasoning the protein in a simple marinade of soy sauce, a little sugar and some cornflour, and lastly focusing on timing to ensure that both protein and chosen vegetables are cooked perfectly. She recommends onion as it’s easy to cook, is good even when it’s little under and it’s hard to over cook.

This is one of the quickest meals to assemble and serve with plain rice, hence a great choice for a weekday evening.

Recipe by Diana Chan, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Filipino Chicken Adobo

If there were one flagship dish to represent Filipino cuisine, then it would definitely be adobo. It’s a Philippine national dish and something every Filipino grew up eating.

Adobo comes from the Spanish word adobar, which means “to marinate”. It refers to a dish made with pork, chicken, seafood, or vegetables marinated in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf, garlic, and black peppercorns. To prepare, the meat is left to simmer over low heat until it breaks down and becomes fork tender in a rich, flavorful sauce.

Because of its Spanish-sounding name, you’d think that adobo has Spanish roots but it doesn’t. In fact, it’s a dish and cooking method that’s native to the Philippines. Filipinos have been cooking pork and chicken with vinegar and salt as a means of food preservation since the pre-Hispanic period.

If the dish truly is Filipino, then how did it get its Spanish name? When Spain colonized the Philippines in the late 16th century, they witnessed this cooking process and called it adobo de los naturales, or “adobo of the native peoples”. The name stuck and the dish has been called adobo ever since.

Though you can find adobo in some restaurants, it’s a dish more commonly enjoyed at home or at home-style street food stalls known locally as “turo turo”. Every mother or grandmother who knows her way around the kitchen knows how to make adobo, and it’s always the best.

In fact, ask any Filipino who makes the best adobo, and they’ll always give you the same answer – “my mother of course!”

By JB Macatulad from Will Fly For Food.

Filipino Kinilaw

Filipino Kinilaw

Kinilaw is often called Filipino ceviche and compared to Hawaiian poke but the truth is many countries around the world have some sort of version of fish cooked in citrus or vinegar. It was an early method of preserving fish before refrigeration in people’s homes were common.

As the Philippines has 7000 islands communicating in more than 170 languages, kinilaw has several names, including lawal and lataven. Kinilaw literally means “eaten raw” or “eaten fresh” in English, however just as the acid in citrus fruits ‘cooks’ ceviche, in a kinilaw recipe the fish is cooked by the acid in vinegar.

In this case it is most often coconut vinegar, but if it’s not available it’s perfectly fine to use white vinegar. It is combined with kalamansi or lime juice, coconut cream, and aromatics such as coriander leaves along with ginger and chili peppers to give it a kick. Although you can also use tamarind and green mangos in a classic recipe that is less spicy.

Not only is preserved fish a common dish in the northern Philippines but kiliwan uses the same techniques to preserve meat. Some restaurants also make vegan kinilaw out of different fruits and vegetables. It is usually eaten as a snack with a beer or an appetizer before a meal.

By Ayngelina Brogan from Bacon is Magic.

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Brimming with melt-in-your-mouth chunks of slow-cooked beef cooked in fragrant coconut milk with lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, ginger and spices, traditional beef rendang is one of the most exotic curries I can think of.

The dish is immensely popular throughout Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, although its roots lie with the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia, who like to cook it to mark ceremonial occasions and to welcome guests.

While most curries tend to consist of a rich sauce, beef rendang has a thicker, almost paste-like consistency and as the meat tenderises during cooking, it flakes apart and the shreds of thickened sauce cling to the chunks of meat; at first glance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for morsels of coconut!

Traditionally, beef rendang is cooked in a large pot on the stove, but slow cooker beef rendang is just as tasty and much easier to prepare. This way, you can simply place all the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and leave it to bubble away throughout the day. When you arrive home from work, your kitchen will smell absolutely divine and you’ll have a hearty beef rendang curry waiting to welcome you home!

By Kacie Morgan from The Rare Welsh Bit.

Indonesian Nasi Goreng

Indonesian Nasi Goreng

One of the staples on any Indonesian menu is Nasi Goreng or Indonesian Fried Rice. A plate heaped with glistening fried rice with vegetables, meat or seafood. The exact origins of the dish are unknown, but it probably came from China where they fried any leftover rice from one day to eat the following day and added other ingredients to bulk it out. In Indonesian “nasi” means rice and “goreng” means fried.

Each region in Indonesia, and in fact each restaurant, warung or kitchen has a slightly different way of cooking nasi goreng with recipes being handed down through families. In the mountains more vegetables and meat are used whereas by the coast fresh seafood and fish are added.

Using sweet soy sauce – kecap manis – gives the rice a rich brown colour and a depth of flavour and sesame oil adds a nuttiness to the taste. The essential ingredient, rice, is better if it is not freshly cooked. Cook it the night before and let it rest. It adds to the flavour and means that the rice will not be wet, so the oils and soy sauce can coat it better.

Nasi goreng is quick to make. It is finished off with a fried egg on top, so the yolk oozes into the rice. A vegetable nasi goreng is the perfect vegetarian dish or, if you omit the egg, a vegan one.

By Larch Gauld from The Silver Nomad.

Japanese Yakitori Chicken Hearts

Yakitori is a popular dish in Japan, with many restaurants specialising in grilled skewers of chicken. As is common in Japan, each part of the animal is celebrated, and chicken hearts are always popular.

Offal has fallen out of favour in the UK, but contrary to the belief that all offal has a strange texture (like tripe and liver) or a strong flavour (like kidneys), chicken hearts are neither gritty, nor gelatinous or crunchy, and they don’t have a strong flavour. Grilling them quickly over a high heat produces tender morsels with a surprisingly subtle red meat taste, and a soft texture with the merest hint of bounciness – like flash-fried fresh squid.

The main flavour comes from the delicious tare, a sweet salty marinade that’s brushed onto the meat a it grills, creating a thick sticky layer of deliciousness.

By Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu Curry Rice

Katsu (a breaded and fried cut of meat) is enormously popular in Japan, even though it didn’t originate there. It’s one of many so-called yōshoku (Western foods) that the Japanese have made their own. Based on a European breaded cutlet (such as the famous schnitzel), it was originally called katsuretsu (a phonetic representation of “cutlet”) but the name was quickly shorted to katsu. Pork (ton)katsu is the most popular but chicken is also widely available. The traditional way to eat tonkatsu is with a huge heap of shredded cabbage, with tonkatsu sauce and grated sesame on the side.

Karē raisu (curry rice) is another yōshoku dish that’s grown in popularity. The style of curry found in Japan came to the country from India but only indirectly – via the anglicised versions catered by the British Royal Navy. In Japan, the curry sauces are made from pre-blended curry spices, or using ready-made blocks that simply need to be mixed with water.

The combination of these two dishes gives us katsu curry rice, breaded chicken or pork served with rice and curry sauce.

By Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Japanese Saya Ingen Shira-ae (Green Beans in a Tofu, Miso & Sesame Dressing)

Japanese Green Beans Shira-ae (Tofu, Miso & Sesame Dressing)

One of the (many) details of Japanese food that has fascinated me since I started becoming more and more interested in it, is the differences in things I’d never really thought about. For example, in this dish, Green Beans with Tofu, Miso & Sesame Dressing, the beans are dressed not with a liquidy salad dressing, but with a thick, paste-like dressing.

The dish is named after the colour white (shira means white), for its combination of white tofu, white miso and white sesame seeds. Silken tofu provides both the body and the moisture for the sauce, with white miso and sesame adding flavour and additional texture.

Traditionally, sesame seeds are ground in a surabachi (a Japanese style of mortar with a ridged internal surface that helps grind ingredients as they are pounded), and mixed together with tofu and white miso.

The ‘dressing’ (for want of a better word) works with many different vegetables, and can be served warm or cold.

By Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Japanese Sukiyaki (Japanese Beef Hotpot)

Beef Hot Pot (Sukiyaki)

Image credit: Murdoch Books

There are many nabemono (hot pot) dishes in Japan, particularly popular during colder months. They are kept hot at the table by use of table-top stoves.Many are cooked at the table, with each diner picking out cooked ingredients to eat from the pot. The broth is often enjoyed at the end of the meal, once it’s taken on extra flavour from the ingredients cooked in it, sometimes with rice or noodles.

Sukiyaki is a hot pot featuring a cooking broth of soy sauce, mirin or sake, and sugar – a wonderfully sweet and salty combination. Another aspect of sukiyaki is the bowls of raw beaten eggs into which each diner will dip the cooked item they have taken from the hot pot, before eating it.

Thinly sliced beef is the most popular protein, though tofu and pork are also enjoyed. Vegetables usually include spring onions (known as negi), leafy greens, and mushrooms.

In Kanto-style sukiyaki, the broth is made and heated first, and then the ingredients are added to simmer in the broth. In Kansai-style versions, the meat is cooked in the pot first, with the broth added only once the meat is nearly cooked. The vegetables go in last.

Try this Sukiyaki recipe by Maori Murota (from her book Tokyo Cult Recipes).

Recipe by Maori Murota, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Korean Kimchi Bokkeum-bap (Fried Rice)

Kimchi bokkeumbab

Kimchi Bokkeum-bap (kimchi fried rice) is a popular and very easy Korean recipe. It’s cooked often by students, who particularly appreciate that it’s both cheap as well as quick to make, but is also popular throughout the population, eaten at home and from bunsikjeom – ‘snack restaurants’ that serve a range of inexpensive dishes.

As well as the kimchi, you can add whatever vegetables and protein you like, making it a great way to use up leftovers in your fridge. A well fermented kimchi is best, to give more flavour to the rice.

If you want to make your own kimchi, I have a recipe with full instructions for you to follow.

Recipe by Jun Pyo Kwon, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Korean Pork & Tofu Kimchi Jjigae

Korean Pork & Tofu Kimchi Jjigae

Kimchi is a core part of of what it means to be Korean. It’s eaten with or in every meal and every family has it’s own recipe. Not only is this spicy fermented cabbage eaten as a side dish, it often forms the basis of the main event, as in this example of a jjigae – or stew.

It’s said that the Korean people have been making kimchi for over 3000 years, and that it first started when people began to ferment cucumbers as a way of storing them. Roll forward to the 17th century and the discovery of chilli gave us the spicy version we know and love today. As a method of preserving food over the cold winter months, traditionally kimchi is stored in large pots buried into the ground and even today, you’ll see these pots outside people’s homes, filled with just one of the 100’s of recipes that exist. It’s also very good for your gut health, aiding digestion and supporting your immune system.

I first tasted kimchi jjigae in Nottingham but it wasn’t until I went to South Korea that I truly understood just how delicious it can be. This pork and tofu kimchi jjigae, is a bubbling hot hug in a bowl. It’s packed full of umami and comforting to the max. I love the combination of chewy unctuous belly pork alongside the smooth tofu and chunks of soft cabbage, all wrapped up in a spicy, warming broth. It’s easy to make and perfect mopped up with spoonfuls of steamed rice.

By Alex Ryder from Gingey Bites.

Malaysian Chilli Crab

Malaysian Chilli Crab

Malaysians love to eat and are known to have up to 5 meals a day. Most meals are excuses for big gatherings with family and friends. In every neighbourhood, you will find a row of shop houses with local family style restaurants. Most of these are al fresco and sometimes even just a few random tables under a big tree. You will find locals directing you to “that place under the big tree” as most of these casual restaurants don’t have official names.

Seafood restaurants are the most common of these open air restaurants. Many don’t have a menu as they will cook any dish to order. If you are unfamiliar with the cuisine, they sometimes have a board on the wall. The most popular dish is Malaysian Chilli Crab and the recipe vares from place to place. The common denominator is that the chilli crab is accompanied by a lot of sauce and a plate of either fried mantou buns or toast to mop up the sauce. My recipe is quite simple and easily recreated with readily available ingredients.

To order this at a restaurant, pick your type of crab from the menu, the weight in kilograms and the style that you want it cooked in. When it arrives, tuck in with your hands. It is not impolite to leave your cracked shells on the table. The Chilli Crab dish is a religious experience if you like seafood. Once tasted, never forgotten.

By May Chong from May EatCookExplore.

Malaysian Kaya (Sweet Coconut Spread)

French Toast Waffles with Kaya (Coconut Spread)

If you haven’t had kaya before, you are in for a treat. Kaya is a sweet coconut spread made from coconut milk, coconut palm sugar an egg. Although it’s sometimes translated into English as coconut jam, it’s more like a cross between sweetened condensed milk (made from cow’s milk and sugar) and a citrus curd (in which egg is similarly used to thicken and enrich).

A creation of the Hainanese Chinese, kaya is particularly popular in Malaysia, Singapore and across Southeast Asia. My strongest kaya memories are of kaya toast in Hong Kong, where the dish is ubiquitous in traditional cha chaan teng cafes. There, french toast is slathered in melted butter along with a sweet topping such as kaya, golden syrup or jam.

Diana’s sous-vide recipe for kaya reduces the need for hours and hours of stirring over low heat, by making use of a modern, domestic sous-vide water bath. As is common, pandan leaf or juice is an optional extra for flavour and colour.

Recipe by Diana Chan, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Malaysian Vegan Nasi Lemak

Malaysian Vegan Nasi Lemak

Nasi lemak is a traditional Malaysian dish. It’s usually eaten in Malaysia for breakfast, however, you can sometimes find it served at other times of day, particularly in areas frequented by tourists who might not be used to eating something so spicy for breakfast.

A traditional nasi lemak recipe includes coconut rice and fried anchovies served with a spicy sambal, egg, peanuts and cucumber. It’s often served at street food stalls wrapped up in a banana leaf, or newspaper, to make a parcel.

After visiting Malaysia I wanted to recreate nasi lemak at home. However, I’m vegan so I needed to make a couple of adjustments to the traditional recipe. To replace the sambal and the fried anchovies I made a spicy jackfruit dish. Jackfruit has a meaty texture and breaks down beautifully when cooked. In addition I’ve added seaweed flakes to replicate the fishy flavour of the anchovies. Other alternatives to jackfruit to make a vegan nasi lemak include tofu or tempeh, which give a different texture.

The rice is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. You should be able to get pandan leaves in your nearest Asian supermarket – try the freezer section if you can’t find them. If not you can leave them out and serve with plain coconut rice. You can also buy banana leaves in many Asian supermarkets if you want to serve yours on one or wrap it up.

By Mandy Mazliah from Cook Veggielicious.

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes

Taiwanese pineapple cakes in serving dish, individual ones on plates, and tea and tea pot behind

If you’ve ever visited Taiwan, you will certainly have come across Taiwanese pineapple cakes – these small rectangular pastries are hugely popular, not least because in the Hokkien dialect, the pronunciation of pineapple and “luck arrives” are the same.

Tender shortcrust pastry surrounds a jammy pineapple filling, making these treats more akin to a filled biscuit, or a jam tart that’s fully enclosed in pastry, than what I traditionally think of as cake.

In Taiwan, cheaper commercial versions often use winter melon to replace some or all of the pineapple, and subsequently, also add in glutinous rice flour and maltose to stiffen the filling, and artificial flavouring to boost the taste. This recipe, using only pineapple, needs none of these, as fresh pineapple made into a buttery jam is perfect on its own.

It’s worth picking up proper moulds if you can – I found inexpensive ones in an online shop. If you don’t have them, the recipe includes a link to a guide to making your own from card and aluminium foil.

Recipe by Diana Chan, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Thai Khao Soi Gai (Curried Chicken Noodle Soup)

Thai Khao Soi Gai is a curried noodle soup hailing from Northern Thailand, though you’ll find very similar dishes in neighbouring Burma and Laos – like much of the local cuisine, the dish predates current borders. In Thailand, it is considered to be a speciality of Chiang Mai.

The soup-like base is similar in flavour to a Thai yellow or massaman curry, but is a little thinner in consistency, made with coconut milk and a spice paste, much as the curries are. As well as chicken, the dish usually includes both boiled egg noodles and deep-fried ones (used as a garnish so they remain crispy), as well as pickled mustard greens or cabbage, spring onions, coriander leaf, lime juice and chilli oil.

It’s a popular street food, and also served in many casual and inexpensive restaurants.

Recipe by Sallie Morris in Easy Thai, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Thai Pad Krapow Moo (Pork with Holy Basil)

Pad Krapow Moo (Pork Stir-fried with Holy Basil) - a delicious Thai dish, recipe from Kay Plunkett-Hogge's cookbook, Baan: Recipes and Stories from my Thai Home

Image Credit: Pavilion Books

Pad Krapow Moo (pork stir-fried with holy basil) is one of my absolute favourite Thai dishes and very popular in Thailand. The name is very literal – pad means stir-fried, krapow is holy basil, and moo is pork, giving us both the method of cooking and key ingredients. The chicken version is called pad krapow gai (gai meaning chicken).

The stir-fry technique came to Thailand from China, and works well for the spicy and punchy flavours of Thai cuisine. Traditionally, pad krapow is eaten with plain rice, and a fried egg is often served on top of the rice.

Purists argue over the main flavouring ingredients, but we usually cook a hybrid of two recipes from Kay Plunkett-Hogge’s Baan cookbook; combining both soy sauce and fish sauce with tiny fiery Thai chillies, and a touch of sugar for balance. Most recipes recommend green beans (or snake beans if you can get them), and we usually stick to this though have recently been substituting locally grown pak choi, as we can’t get our hands on green beans at the moment.

Recipe by Kay Plunkett-Hogge, contributed by Kavita from Kavey Eats.

Thai Pad Thai

Thai Pad Thai

I had pad thai the first time in Chiang Mai when I lived there for six weeks. Pad thai is a pretty popular (arguably the most popular) Thai dish, also known and enjoyed outside of Thailand. What I love about it is the very subtle flavors. You can taste hints of one ingredient or another, but you never feel totally overwhelmed by any one of them.

Pad thai is a fairly new dish and was probably originally made in the 1930s, although noodles have been a part of the Thai diet for hundreds of years. The story is that it was created by Plaek Phibunsongkhram, who was the prime minister of Thailand in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. He wanted to make a dish that unified his country and promoted nationalism.

The combination of noodles, egg, peanuts, lime, coriander leaf, pepper (and other flavors depending on what you like and which part of Thailand you’re in) has been part of what has made Thai food explode in popularity in Western countries. My pad thai recipe follows the traditional use of tamarind concentrate, though you can substitute it for peanut butter if you prefer. Also, feel free to choose chicken, shrimp, or tofu for your meat – all of it works!

By Alex Schnee from Alex On The Map.

Vietnamese Banh Mi

Vietnamese Banh Mi

The Vietnamese Banh Mi is one of the most ubiquitous street foods in Vietnam. In most cities, you won’t go more than a block without seeing a street food vendor selling these traditional sandwiches.

The sandwich was first created in the 1950s Saigon as a cross-cultural fusion between French and Vietnamese. We have the French to thank for bringing baguettes to Vietnam, which were then turned into a delicious sandwich that you can now find all over the world.

A Vietnamese Banh Mi consists of a baguette, pork, pate (optional), pickled daikon and carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and mayonnaise with Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce. A Vietnamese baguette is perfect for this sandwich because of the crispy exterior and light, airy bread. If you can’t find it, a French baguette will do, though a quick toast in the oven is needed to give the exterior the right crunch.

One of the elements of the sandwich that you’ll have to make ahead is the picked daikon and carrots. You can shred or julienne the veggies, then marinate them in vinegar mixed with sugar for at least 4 hours or overnight.

In Vietnam, Banh Mi are eaten at any time of the day or night, as a quick and cheap snack. They are often eaten for breakfast, since they make the perfect handheld food to eat on the go.

By Laura Lynch from A Food Lover’s Kitchen.

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Pho Bo, which simply translates into beef noodle soup, is one of the Vietnam’s most iconic and well known dishes. Often referred to as the national dish of Vietnam, Pho Bo is generally eaten as breakfast dish, and can be found everywhere in markets, street-stalls, and standalone Pho Bo restaurants.

The key to a quality Pho Bo is the deep and flavourful broth. In Vietnam, vendors will gently simmer different types of beef bones overnight, then add other ingredients such as ginger, star anise, cinnamon, onion, garlic, and fish sauce at various stages during the cooking.

To prepare the final dish, specific flat rice noodles are added to the bowl, along with cuts of meat – raw or cooked, depending on the cut – with the bowl then filled with steaming hot aromatic broth. A selection of herbs, chillies, limes, and bean sprouts are served alongside the soup to enhance the flavour and texture to individual tastes.

Pho Bo originated in north Vietnam in the late 19th century, and developed into the dish it is today during the French colonisation of Vietnam. The French had introduced quality beef to the country and off-cuts were added to the original soup, resulting in this delicious staple of Vietnamese cuisine.

By Markus Kampl from The Roaming Fork.

Vietnamese Vegan Summer Rolls

Vietnamese Vegan Summer Rolls

Gỏi cuốn, or summer rolls in English, are a native dish to Vietnam. Traditionally eaten mostly by working-class fishermen, they have become a staple part of Vietnamese cuisine.

The exact origin of summer rolls is unknown, although they are often linked to Chinese egg rolls as both have a similar appearance and filling. Summer rolls however, are made with rice paper rather than wheat, as rice is grown all over the country. They likely started out as a simple meal for those of the working class, as they’re easy to transport whilst working on the land or at sea. These delicious rolls have made their way into the mainstream and are enjoyed by locals and tourists all over the country. They are eaten all year round but traditionally would be prepared at Thất Tịch, which is the Vietnamese Luna New Year, as they’re believed to bring good luck when you eat them.

The exact ingredients of summer rolls are not fixed, as families adapt their recipes but some ingredients remain the same throughout. They are commonly made with bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, carrots, cucumber, coriander, mint, and either tofu or a meat filling. This vegan summer rolls recipe is a ‘chay‘ version, term derived from Buddhism meaning no harm. In Vietnam, locals eat chay on the 1st and 15th day of the Luna calendar and summer rolls often make an appearance.

This recipe is delicious and light, crammed with zingy fresh herbs and the rich taste of the satay sauce compliments the whole dish perfectly. This is also a great dish to make interactively and you can get creative with your construction. Just be careful not to overfill your rolls as you may have a bit of a mess on your hands.

By Josh and Sarah from The Veggie Vagabonds.

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Great Recipes From East and South East Asia

Images provided by contributors, or from cookery book recipe extracts (as credited).

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
24 Comments to "Travelling By Way Of My Belly | Favourite Recipes From East and South East Asia"

  1. Laura

    This post is making me hungry! There are so many great dishes represented here. I’m excited to start at the top and make them all!

  2. Sherianne

    I have definitely been cooking at home more since the COVID quarantine. I love the idea of trying some of these recipes. Right away the Kung Pao Chicken, Katsu Chicken, Summer Rolls and Kaya made the list

  3. Kacie Morgan

    Mmm, reading this is making me hungry! Thank you for including my contribution. I’ve spotted some of my fave Asian dishes here and also discovered some new dishes I’d love to try! The Burmese pork curry and the Malaysian chilli crab sounds so good.

  4. Linda (LD Holland)

    Food is such an important part of travel. And food can be such a great reminder when you are home. So great that you are sharing recipes for food from travels so others can recall the memories. Or create new longings. Fried rice is certainly a great way to use up leftovers! The nice thing for me about cooking many dishes at home is that I can control the spice. I am a spice wimp! You certainly collected a great variety of recipes.

  5. Michelle

    Oh yum! All of these look and sound so delicious. Of course, most of us have had good fried rice, but I’ve never tried to make Kung Pao Chicken. I might have to do that now!

  6. Kiara

    This has definitely resulted in a hungry stomach. I now need to see if any of restaurants near me sell any of this.

  7. Pam

    All of these look amazing – but I think I’ll have to make the Filipino Chicken Adobo! That looks heavenly.

  8. Anna

    I lived in China for a year and reading all these dishes has made me miss the incredible food out there! Love the fact you included spicy Sichuan noodles! Also love Thai cuisine. If only I was a better cook…

  9. Sandy N Vyjay

    The cuisine of Asia is so vast with such a mind-boggling choice. East and Southeast Asian cuisines are today known throughout the world. Apart from Chinese cuisine the dishes of Korea, Vietnam, etc., are much sought after. Being vegetarians we have a relatively lesser choice. But we did enjoy some vegetarian dishes in Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

  10. Mandy

    What a wonderful collection of recipes. I love the look of your coconut jam, I remember seeing that all over the place when I visited Malaysia. And some of the noodle dishes have made my stomach rumble!

  11. Michelle

    Wow, I just love all the cuisine options!! I am hungry now🤣 I love how cultures can change a dish into their own, like the chicken katsu. Thanks for all the yummy options!!

  12. Melissa

    Great list! It is making me hungry! The Malaysian Kaya looks and sounds delicious. I am vegetarian, so many of these I would have to switch up a little bit, but it sounds like there are variations of some of them anyways. The Chinese Fried Rice sounds good as well and plenty of options to mix it up.

  13. Radka Stankova

    Your article brought back some memories to the time when I spent half a year traveling in Southeast Asia with a friend of mine. I thought that the food in Vietnam was the best, but then we traveled to Cambodia and I fell in love with the Khmer cuisine. In China we found a restaurant in Sechuan that had an amazing eggplant sauce. I would kill for the recipe for that one. Maybe you would know?


    Hi Radka, hard to identify, there are so many wonderful Chinese recipes for aubergines. One of my favourites is fish-fragrant aubergine, look that one up and see if rings any bells?

  14. Subhashish Roy

    This is a wonderful list and some of these dishes are ones I have tried during my travels. But a whole lot of them are a real revelation. Now I know what to go in for when traveling to these countries. Asian and South East Asia food has gained great popularity all across the world and being an Asian it certainly feels proud. There is so much of variety on offer. Indian food too is all around and you find at least a couple restaurants everywhere that we have traveled to in Europe and other countries.

  15. Raksha

    All the food looks delicious even though I don’t eat red meat. And I love Kung Pao chicken it’s the most delicious dish ever. I have also tried the Indonesian Naso Goreng before and I agree it’s beautiful and amazing.

  16. Clarice

    Your post made me really hungry and it gave me an idea on what to prepare tomorrow. Can’t wait to have chicken and pork adobo and hopefully, I get to find fresh fish for kinilaw.

  17. Pubali

    I love Asian cuisine. But due to the pandemic situation, it has been a while since we ate out or ordered in and hence have not had Chinese (or any other Asian) in quite some time. So, after reading this blog post, I was so tempted that the first thing I did was to look up on Uber Eats which Chinese restaurants are delivering in our area now. 😛
    Although this post contains many fancy dishes, some known to me and some unknown, from different places, and all of them seem to be delicious, my heart melted for the good old Chinese Fried Rice and the Kung Pao Chicken. 🙂

  18. Amrita

    Wow, this is such a droolworthy post. To be honest, this year has been bad in terms of travel, but great in terms of honing my culinary skills. I have now mastered the preparation of some Indian dishes in this lockdown. This post has some of my favourite cuisines from Southeast Asia. Maybe I would try making some of these at home. The Chinese Fried Rice is definitely an all time favourite and I would also like to try the Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes.

  19. Pam

    This post inspires me to go cook! Our last trip pre-covid was Japan so I’ve missed good Asian food haha. I’ll have to tryout some of these.


    Ours was to Vietnam, in February so the pandemic had started. We ate so much great food. Japan is my single favourite destination, not least for the food, so I’m totally with you!

  20. Rachel

    Love the idea of traveling through food, and we’re definitely eating at home a lot more due to the pandemic. Excited to try some of these recipes!


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