Food Diaries: Our 30 favorite foods from Asia and Southeast Asia (so far)!

“Se la pasan comiendo!”

That’s what my mom tells me each time I video call her while traveling. I get it though.  We’ve constantly talked about, posted pictures of and snap-chatted food during our travels over the past two years.

We like trying new foods and we love (and miss) so many dishes we’ve had in Asia and Southeast Asia. So we decided to write this post to commemorate many of our all time favorites and where to get them!

Some of our selections will be dishes in general, but for most of them, we’re very specific about where to get them. For example, chicken and rice can be found almost everywhere but we have (in our picky opinion) the yummiest spot for it in Bangkok, Thailand. Also, some of these dishes may not even be native to the country we found them in but they just made it so good!

We did our best to locate the specific restaurants so you can find them when you visit! And since we are budget travelers, all of these meals are affordable!

Here’s the countdown:

#30 Sheng Jian Bao

Where to find it: Shanghai, China

Our favorite place to eat it: This one was tough to find because it’s in a residential neighborhood. But we think we’ve narrowed it down in the map below. 

Shanghai was the first stop on our travel journey and Sheng Jian Bao, which are pan fried pork buns, were on our list of foods to try. One day we were walking around the neighborhood we stayed in and saw a man cooking some on a big round frying pan.

It took a while to figure out how to order but we eventually took a picture of the Bao, showed the cashier and just said four with our fingers.

These were so tasty and the perfect meaty snack!

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#29 Tonkatsu Sandwich

Where to find it: Japan

Our favorite place to eat it: Maisen inside of Tokyu Food Show Food Court in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Ivan made me add this to the list. He’s a little obsessed with this sandwich! Here’s what he had to say about it:

Fried breaded pork filet on soft white bread with a touch of sweet bbq sauce = perfection. One of the most satisfying on the go meals I’ve ever had, every bite put a smile on my face. This is a must when in Tokyo.


#28 Mie Pangsit

Where to find it: Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia

Our favorite place to eat it: Mie Thamrin

Noodles, broth, dumplings & veggies topped with chicken meat floss. Chicken meat floss may sound odd to you if you’ve never had it but it’s just dried shredded meat that adds a delicious flavor to food.  It was a very comforting and satisfying meal for under $1.

Mie Pangsit


#27 Rainbow Sandwich

Where to find it: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Free Bird Cafe

This vegan sandwich made eating my vegetables so easy.  It’s packed with shredded veggies like beet, carrot and cucumber.  I think what really makes this sandwich extra good is the hummus and black pepper. It made for the perfect feel good meal.

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#26 Mie Goreng 

Where to find it: Indonesia

Our favorite place to eat it: Warung Pondok Madu in Ubud, Bali

In Indonesian “Mie” means noodles and “Goreng” means fried, so fried noodles. We would call this Indonesian comfort food. Satisfying and filling like most fried foods are. It’s probably the most common dish you’ll run into in Indonesia.  We got it regularly at the restaurant noted above with chicken.  If you visit, get the ribs and a fresh smoothie as well.

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#25 Mama Noodles

Where to find it: Bangkok, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Baan Ying Original Siam Kitchen

Another noodle dish! There was something about these incredibly well seasoned noodles with shrimp topped with a creamy omelet that kept me coming back for more!

Mamma Noodles


#24 Vegan Sushi

Where to find it: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Our favorite place to eat it: Sushi Kitchen Georgetown

I know, random, but true.  Malaysians are just the best at food. Any food. Who would’ve thought vegan sushi would be so flavorful and creative? Every dish we had at this restaurant was good.

I would recommend getting there as soon as the doors open.  If not, you might not get a table at this tiny restaurant.  They would literally lock the doors to keep more people from coming inside.  Also, have plenty of time and patience because there’s only 1-2 women doing all the cooking, serving and picking up so it can be a little slow.


#23 Peking Duck

Where to find it: Beijing, China

Our favorite place to eat it: Siji Minfu

Beijing is the only place I’ve ever had duck outside of duck fried rice at Duck Duck Goat in Chicago (that’s a lot of ducks in one sentence). It’s one of those dishes you just have to try while in Beijing. The skin is crispy and perfect.

Want to know how to eat it? Watch our waitress demonstrate how in the short video below!

Peking Duck


#22 Mala Hot Pot

Where to find it: Taipei, Taiwan

Our favorite place to eat it: The specific Mala Hot Pot in our map below (there are several and they’re not all the same).

Loosen your pants, grab your plate and prepare yourself for two hours of an all-you-can-eat buffet of seafood, sliced meats, vegetables, intensely flavorful hot pot soup and desserts including Häagen-Dazs ice cream!

We came here twice and stuffed our faces, even leaving with a last minute ice cream cone or two cause we’re Mexican like that. Come hungry and ready!

Tips: Pace yourself! Don’t fill yourself up with noodles like I did the first time lol. Go for the meats and seafood! Get half spicy soup and half not spicy soup. And leave plenty of time for ice cream.

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Fun times at Mala Hot Pot with our close friends Elizabeth & Chris.

#21 Basil Chicken with a Fried Egg

Where to find it: Ayutthaya, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Burinda

Spicy as hell but oh so good. White rice topped with pieces of seasoned chicken, basil leaves and chiles, chiles, chiles! And chile oil on the side if that wasn’t enough for you.  The fried egg helps with the spiciness in my opinion and adds a creamy touch I really like.  We’ve had this dish everywhere in Thailand and this small restaurant’s version has always stood out in my mind as my favorite.

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#20 Homemade Style Ice Cream

Where to find it: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Our favorite place to eat it: The Ais


The Ais had such a positive energy walking in. We were at this place so much, we became friends with the guy who worked there and the owner.

The story behind the ice cream shop and the owner’s entrepreneurial journey were inspiring.

He told us his ice cream endeavor began as a way to help orphans. When I asked him “why ice cream?”, he said that when he was a little boy, his father would buy him ice cream when he was sad and that would cheer him up. So he wanted to make orphans happy as well.

It took him years to perfect the recipe and I gotta say it’s some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had, with a truly homemade taste.

Stop by if you’re in Penang. Our personal favorites were the chocolate mint, salted caramel and mango.

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The Owner
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Our friend JL

#19 Dumplings

Where to find it: Taipei, Taiwan

Our favorite place to eat it: 不貽樣湯包

When we met up our friends in Taipei, they already had a local dumpling spot for us to go to. They did not disappoint! Just fill out the little paper menu they give you at the door and a couple minutes later…

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#18 Fish n Chips

Where to find it: Jeju, South Korea

Our favorite place to eat it: Glagla Hawaii

Jeju is a fishing island so it’s no surprise they would have fresh tasty seafood. We had a house sit in Jeju and our hosts recommended this restaurant and told us to get the fish and chips. Never thought we would eat fish and chips in South Korea but, wow! The fish and fries were breaded and seasoned to perfection.

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#17 Garlic Naan

Where to find it:  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Our favorite place to eat it:  Tg’s Nasi Kandar

Oh, Tg’s. We first went to Tg’s at 1 am the night we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. It was our first time in Malaysia.  The whole experience was a culture shock.  We were hangry and confused because we didn’t know how to order.

Even at 1 am this place was packed with people who looked like they were from all over the world but they were all Malaysian. Tg’s was the perfect introduction to what our food experience in Malaysia would be, mind blowing.

We listed the Garlic Naan, but really it’s Garlic Naan with all the fixings, like sauces, curries or dishes ordered. Our favorite was a dish called Kadai chicken (lower left corner), but when we returned to Kuala Lumpur a second time, they stopped making it 😦

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#16 Ramen

Where to find it: Tokyo, Japan

Our favorite place to eat it: Afuri

Obviously, delicious ramen places are everywhere in Japan but we love the tasty Yuzu Shio ramen from this chain restaurant in Tokyo!

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#15 Ayam Penyet

Where to find it: Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

Our favorite place to eat it: Premiere 101 Night Market

Crispy, juicy, flavorful fried chicken – don’t know how they fry their chicken so perfect, but this spot had the best Ayam Penyet we’ve ever had. Served with a side of steamed rice and fresh tarragon, cabbage and cucumber to help cool your mouth from the delicious spicy sambal. Eaten with your fingers, you tear off a piece of chicken, grab some rice, dip it in the sambal and stuff it in your mouth. Finish the bite with the fresh herbs/veggies and enjoy the slow burn of the sambal.

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#14 Larb (Laab)

Where to find it: Laos

Our favorite place to eat it: Phonheuang Cafe

This dish made with minced chicken is packed with flavor due to the fresh herbs used which include lemongrass, banana flower, cilantro and kaffir lime leaves to name a few. It can be eaten like a taco using romaine lettuce, with sticky rice or just on its own.

Easy and tasty to make if you can find these two ingredients: banana flower and fresh lemongrass. I’m so happy we took a cooking class to learn how to make it because this dish is so fresh and delicious.  Fortunately, we found banana flower at an Asian grocery store in Chicago!

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#13 Chiang Mai Sausage

Where to find it: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Anywhere they sell it in Chiang Mai.

This sausage is a spicy explosion of Thai flavors. It’s a pork sausage with herbs and spices that you can’t stop eating and can’t wait to eat again.

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#12 Coconut Ice cream

Where to find it: Bangkok, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Chatuchak Weekend Market (see our pic below for the specific vendor we like)

You’ll never have a better coconut ice cream than this, I promise you.  They serve it in a coconut shell.  They even scrape the meat out of the shell and mix it into the ice cream. Top it off with some peanuts or any of the various topping the vendor has.

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#11 Three Cup Chicken

Where to find it: Taipei, Taiwan

Our favorite place to eat it: Dato Free-Range Chicken

This dish is called Three Cup Chicken because of three main ingredients: sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine. It also has garlic, ginger and basil which give it an intense flavor.

I’m sad I only got to have this dish once but was happy to share it with a group of close friends while in Taipei. I hear it’s easy to make so I’ll have to give it a try one day.

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#10 Gyoza

Where to find it: Osaka, Japan

Our favorite place to eat it: Harenohi

I love gyoza anywhere in the world. I even make them at home. So imagine my excitement when I found a gyoza restaurant near our hostel in Osaka, Japan! They had various kinds, salads and beer on tap. It was a very trendy spot. Absolutely delicious!


#9 Chicken Rice

Where to find it: Bangkok, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it:  Uan Chicken Rice

As mentioned in our intro, we have the best chicken rice spot for you! This would be our daily lunch spot because of the price and close proximity to our hostel.  Just show up and point to the combo you want on the menu board if you don’t speak Thai.  Our favorite is the poached and fried chicken combo.

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#8 Crab Fried Rice

Where to find it: Bangkok, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Zabb One 2

You’ve probably never had such perfectly cooked fried rice like this. Add huge generous chunks of crab meat and you have a dish to die for. Add some spicy chili oil for a taste of picante and a whole fresh coconut to wash it all down with.

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#7 Pla Raad Phrik

Where to find it: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Dash

Pla Raad Phrik is fried fish with red curry sauce. We love a big, whole fried fish with a delicious sauce and this one is WOW!  I want to know how they cut the fish like that and fry it to perfection without it all falling apart?

This place also has an incredible dish called Gai Makam which is a crispy tamarind chicken. It also claims to have the best mango cheesecake in the world.  They might be right.

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#6 Korean Bbq Beef

Where to find it: Jeju, South Korea

Our favorite place to eat it: Beef BBQ Korean

Our kind hosts who recommended the fish n chips also introduced us to this restaurant.  There’s nothing like Korean BBQ in Korea! This place had the softest most flavorful beef. Pues que le ponen? We need a Mexican carne asada restaurant with this set up.

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#5 Prawns 

Where to find it: Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

Our favorite place to eat it: Top Spot Food Court – Booth #25

Samuel, owner of the guesthouse Marco Polo’s we stayed at in Kuching, told us about Top Spot.  It’s a huge food hall that opens around 6 pm with several large food booths serving mostly seafood. He said “Go to #25” and so we did. They had the best prawns, cooked however you like, for an amazing price! Go early or you may have a tough time getting a table.

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Garlic Prawns
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Mongolian Style Prawns

#4 Kung Pao Chicken & Green Beans (w/minced pork)

Where to find it: Taipei, Taiwan

Our favorite place to eat it: 真川味1店

We would order these two dishes each time we came to this very busy restaurant for dinner because the combo was just so good. Incredibly flavorful and perfect with white rice. And although you can see there’s a lot of chilis, it’s not that spicy unless you eat one of them and get a seed.

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#3 Crab Omelette

Where to find it: Bangkok, Thailand

Our favorite place to eat it: Jay Fai

This crab omelette and the woman who makes it are so incredible that the restaurant serving this football sized crab-tastic dish earned a Michelin star.  It was such an experience in itself we created a whole video about it.

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#2 Salted Mackerel

Where to find it: Japan

Our favorite place to eat it: Yayoi

Our favorite go to meal in Japan.  We had it in Osaka and Tokyo. An absolutely delicious and generous meal at an affordable price of about $6-$7 USD!  Perfectly broiled salty mackerel fish with a side of miso soup, tofu, horseradish and all-you-can-eat white rice and tea.

A small chunk of salty fish together with the mild taste of white rice is perfection on your taste buds.

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#1 Laksa

Where to find it: Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

Our favorite place to eat it: We have two places! Choon Hui Cafe & Hong Kong Pau Cafe

Laksa from Kuching is our #1 all time favorite dish on this EARTH outside of Mexican food. Seriously. The late Anthony Bourdain called this dish the breakfast of the gods and he was absolutely right. Thanks to him, we found this dish and the best place to eat it and we’ll be forever grateful.

We had Laksa almost every morning while in Kuching. It’s a flavor bomb with its delicious, slightly spicy coconut milk broth flavored with shrimp shells and spices. Perfect vermicelli noodles topped with egg omelet strips, sprouts, shredded chicken and shrimp. Garnished with a little side of chili paste and a lime that tastes more like a tiny orange.

This is a breakfast dish, so make sure to get it early because the best places run out before 11 am!

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Conclusion

There are so many other dishes, desserts, drinks and even fruit stands we would love to share with you but we thought it best to keep it at these 30 for now.

Shout out to my husband Iván who had all these places saved on his phone! You’re amazing!

What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten in Asia or Southeast Asia? We’d love to know!

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