Southeast Asia is a perfect destination for travelers looking for new experiences. Unusual countries with great contrasts such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or Burma become an unbeatable scenario for an exotic and different trip. Breathtaking landscapes, an unparalleled cultural offer, millenary traditions and customs?
In addition, one of its main hallmarks is its exotic food: strong flavors, unusual animals or even insects are the basis of a cuisine that has nothing to do with our culinary habits but that, in many cases, becomes one of the main attractions and menus of the most daring and adventurous foodies.
There are special dishes and foods in many corners of the world whose mere description can provoke great exoticism… followed by a certain repulsion. Because, although they are totally common menus outside our borders, they are not part of our cultural “scheme”. If you are able to open your mind and cross the thin line that separates the appetizing from the unpleasant (in gastronomic matters), try these destinations:
Exotic Asian menus
They say that one of the most fun and exciting experiences in Bangkok is to get on a tuk tuk, a kind of motorized taxi-tricycle that crosses the streets at full speed.
But if the adrenaline of passing like lightning between cars, motorcycles and buses is not enough for your adventurous spirit, take a stroll through its street stalls and check out its culinary offerings.
Their star exotic food is the dried lizard. Crunchy, even crispy, but without much flavor. A very popular street snack that can also be used as an ingredient in soups.
Finally, you can also try the typical white ant larvae, fried grasshoppers or scorpions. In Thailand, insects are just another foodstuff (with a high nutritional value).
Laos is a less developed and rather less touristic country. One option to highlight? Don’t miss the magical city of Luang Prabang.
There you can taste Pho, a dish originally from Vietnam but which has become a must try for anyone visiting this region. It is a noodle soup with beef, meatballs and beef entrails, including heart, tongue, liver, etc. It can be seasoned with coriander, basil, onion, lime and tomato.
In addition, in the street markets you can also find the so-called “roasted forest animals”. A great alternative if you want to take a break for a snack like any local.
Vietnam is one of the great regions in Southeast Asia. With a population of more than 85 million inhabitants, it is a country with an impressive tourist offer. Its mix of modernity and tradition makes it a destination that leaves no one indifferent. The Mekong River Delta; the northern tribes; the Bay of Ha Long, the island of Phu Quoc, Hanoi… its richness is innumerable.
And, of course, its gastronomy is also an expression of its own personality. A dish to dare? Balut or duck fetus, an egg that contains the fetus of an 18-day-old bird, with its feathers, beak and bones. It is also highly appreciated in the Philippines.
Other alternatives for lovers of these “gastro-experiences”? Roasted dogs, very common in street markets, and barbecued frogs.
Cambodia is the country of the Angkor Watt temples, one of the most famous ruins in Southeast Asia and one of the great wonders of the ancient world.
In its capital, Phnom Penh, you can also use the tuk tuk to move around the city and enjoy its pagodas and spectacular French colonial houses. In addition, practically in every corner, you can find a street food stall, ideal for tasting one of its local specialties: fried tarantula. A crunchy tarantula and, they say, with a very pleasant taste.
If spiders are not your thing, you can also opt for cockroaches, which are quite present in the local cuisine.
Malaysia, one of the most developed countries in the area, is the most visited country in Southeast Asia, with more than 23 million tourists! A destination with an enormous cultural and monumental wealth, it is influenced by the large communities of Chinese and Indians who live side by side with the Malays.
And this influx of races and cultures is also represented in its food. A must-try dish? Devil’s curry, a proposal that, with its name alone, does not give rise to many interpretations when imagining the level of spiciness of this recipe.
The result of a blend of Portuguese cuisine and Asian spices, it is a curry prepared with a mixture of meats – pork or chicken with sausages – cooked in a chili paste that includes ingredients typical of exotic Southeast Asian food: Indian walnuts, ginger and lemongrass.
Due to the military dictatorship that still rules the country, Burma is another of the least developed countries in the area. This region can only be accessed through its main airport in the city of Yangoon. And only after acquiring a visa at one of its embassies.
But if you choose to visit and overcome the challenges of traveling to this unique country, you can not fail to try their “eggs of a thousand years”, exotic food like no other. They look like rotten eggs, but their appearance is the result of a technique to eat this food without having to cook it.
Once this time has passed, they are opened… and ready to eat. They have a very gelatinous texture and a smell that may remind you of a strong cheese. They are also a common ingredient in salads and you can find them in all markets.
Singapore is a country with great possibilities and a destination to be taken into account when planning a route through Southeast Asia. Considered one of the four Asian tigers (along with Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong), this city-state is a curious meeting point where cultures such as Chinese, British, Malay and Indian come together, so it is easy to find influences from all of them. Its gastronomy is also quite well known and significant, and it is noteworthy that Singaporeans themselves call themselves true food fanatics.
One dish you can not miss is the biryani rice, coming from its important Indian influence. But be careful, because the first time you can feel an unbearable burning on the tongue. An exotic food par excellence but extremely spicy and only suitable for those who have already developed a high tolerance to chili. To lower the level of “spiciness” try soy bean drink, a sweet soy milk drink that is usually available everywhere and is also very good.
And you, are you more insect or spicy? Surprise us with your own experiences with exotic food and tell us new ideas.