Memorable meals don’t come from casually recommended restaurants we all frequent while traveling. Take a page from Austin Bush's playbook and skip the mediocre, American-catering fare for the real stuff — from streetside vendors. Bush, the co-author of The World's Best Street Foods, notes that these trucks and carts are the cheap, quick dishes that, yes, are a bit more risky for tourists (for both weirdness and illness), but when chosen right, distill the country’s best flavors into an effortless bite. Bush homed in on Southeast Asia when he went to study in Thailand in 1999 and decided to make the country his expat home. Here are five of his favorite dishes in the region.
1. Kway Teow
Where You Can Find It: This is one of the most popular street food dishes in Malaysia and can be found throughout the country.
What It Is: Made with flat rice noodles fried with a chili paste, egg, and prawns and stir-fried over very high heat, there's a lot to love about this dish. There are also plenty of regional and cultural spins on it that include pork lard croutons, Chinese sausage, crab meat, or duck eggs.
Where You Can Find It: Throughout Myanmar — it is a national dish.
What It Is: Mohinga is considered a breakfast soup but can be eaten throughout the day. You can often see street vendors carrying the soup cauldron and vermicelli and bowls on a shoulder pole. It's made with thin, round rice noodles (vermicelli) in a thick fish- and herb-based broth.
3. Khanom Khrok
Where You Can Find It: Throughout Bangkok
What It Is: This dish is a sweet and crispy treat. Tiny domes of rice flour and coconut milk with a molten center are cooked on indented frying pans giving them a cup-like shape.
4. Kuaytiaw Khua Kai
Where You Can Find It: Bangkok's Chinatown
What It Is: Wide rice noodles flash-fried with chicken and egg. Ideally cooked in lard and over coals.
5. Bun Cha
Where You Can Find It: Hanoi, Vietnam
What It Is: Grilled patties of pork, eaten with a huge spread of sides including a pile of vegetables and herbs, thin rice noodles, and a slightly sweet dipping sauce.