eating my way around southeast asia
i'm back to bangkok for the third time this year for the start of a five week tour through thailand, laos, vietnam, and cambodia. of course, i know street food is great in all these places but would love some specific recommendations for the various cities i'll be visiting:
(love chote chitr and the famous sticky rice place around the corner, more like this please)
only have one night here and will be at the night market.
In the night market of Chiang Mai, try to score some "nem", the super-cured garlic pork sausage. Whoa is it good; just don't kiss anyone for three days after eating it.
In Vientiane, try the raw beef laap at bunmala.
Just close your eyes and throw darts at a street food map of Saigon. You can't go wrong.
In Bangkok visit Aw Taw Kaw market.
yea I agree with guanubian in HCMC it's more of a question of WHAT you want to eat rather than WHERE. Street food and restaurants are so plentiful that competition is high, which lowers the cost and raises the flavor bar. You really can't go wrong perusing the streets and following your nose. But as far as specific dishes go, make sure to sample (on the street): COM SUON NUONG (caramelized pork chop with rice), BANH CUON (freshly steamed rice paper rolls stuffed with pork and mushrooms), COM GA XOI MO (5 spice fried chicken with fried garlic rice), HU TIEU MI (pork broth based soup with fresh yellow noodles), GOI KHO BO (papaya salad with dried beef), MI QUANG (central style noodles) CA KHO (fish in a caramel sauce) and HEN XAO (stir-fried baby mussels) to name JUST a few. Just point and shoot. Stay out of the DONG KHOI area Vietnamese restaurants. Pricy, and average.
and if by chance "pho cok" is Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, steer clear of most of the beachfront hotels/restaurants. The main city of Duong Dong has some great eats. Check out the market by the bridge early in the morning. Tons of fish. La Miranda has pretty decent upscale cuisine if you want a break from the norm.
in bangkok, all of thanon thanao (the road chote chitr is off of) is full of great food during the day, tho not so much at lunch.
a little farther north is, in my view, the best street for eating in all of bangkok. it's called thanon nakhon chaisi, off of samsen road. if you're going by ferry get off at the payap pier. at night the intersection with samsen (called "si yan") has scores of stalls selling great food, tho not on mondays. every taxi driver in bangkok knows this neighborhood and will tell you how good the food is. head further east and you will find some excellent shop houses serving lunch. these aren't places to go with something specific in mind, rather places to go with an appetite and a desire to wander and try things. both are very local.
Bangkok: although now derided as being overly tourist traps, the river markets are still worth it for the sights and foods. Contract a boat independently and go and do what you want.
Chiang Mai: also do the desserts at thye night market. Point at the ingredients you want among all the different brightly colored ones.
Luang Prabang: get a boat and go upriver towards Oudomxay. Stop along the way at different ponts for food and local life.
Vientianne. Good laab is to be found everywhere. Too bad the old stands that were there for decades right along the river were recently torn down. The market alsos has good eats - sausage, sweet dried meat, sticky rice, and much more. Look for the rolling carts with hanging dried squid. The tough dry squid is rolled between heavy rollers (like tire patches) until you get delicious and cheap squid jerky ready to eat.
Hanoi: very different, lots of good food.
Saigon: agree, you can eat really well everywhere and anywhere. I still recommend a trip down to Canh Tho and some travel around the delta region. A water wonder world.
Cambodia: I ate the best in Cambodia when my local work colleagues did the ordering. We were most often in remote rural rice growing areas.