By: Patricia Yap
Southeast Asia is proudly home to an array of rich tasting and well-loved local dishes, most of which have even become popular outside of their own countries. The globe is now scattered with countless restaurants that offer traditional Southeast Asian dishes and there is no denying our palatable liking towards their unique flavors.
With the presence of the pandemic, however, it has become quite difficult and unsafe to get our hands on our Southeast Asian favorites. Luckily, there are dishes we can prepare at home using a few simple ingredients. Read on further to know SEA Wave’s High Five must try Southeast Asian dishes you can cook at home.
Adobong Balut (Philippines)
Whether you’re new to the Philippines or not, balut is a Filipino delicacy that you’ve probably heard of. But in case you haven’t, balut is basically a fertilized duck egg that still has the actual duck inside. Just crack open the shell, drink the soup, and eat the meat with a sprinkle of salt. Balut is a bit reminiscent of much creamier scrambled eggs or of a custard while the juice or “soup” inside the shell tastes like a mild chicken broth. Although this snack is scrumptious, it is still an acquired taste and the texture might put some people off. So to make this delicacy even more delicious (and bearable for beginners), try pairing balut with another traditional Filipino favorite called adobo. Instead of using chicken or pork as the main protein that’s swimming in the adobo marinade, use balut!
Ingredients you’ll need: Balut eggs, sugar, canola oil (or cooking oil of your choice), minced cloves of garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, ground black pepper (or whole black pepper), and salt and pepper to taste
The ingredients are just pantry basics and you can find balut almost anywhere on the streets.
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce (Thailand)
Taking a few steps back from our exotic Filipino pick, our Thailand dish features a protein that’s more common—chicken!
Satay is one of the most popular dishes served across Southeast Asia. It is composed of grilled meat, seasoned and skewered on a stick. Although other Southeast Asian countries also make the dish, Thailand prepares it with a local take using peanuts. Since a lot of Thai meals contain peanuts, their chicken satay is no exception. Chicken satay is a very simple dish that’s easy to prepare, but its flavors are far from basic. Imagine meat pieces submerged in a complex marinade of different herbs and spices, freshly charred from the grill that transforms each piece of meat into extremely juicy and smoky bites, all accompanied with a creamy peanut sauce.
Ingredients you’ll need (for the marinade): Lemongrass, shallots, cloves of garlic, red chiles, galangal, turmeric powder, ground coriander, cumin, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and vegetable oil
Ingredients you’ll need (for the meat): Chicken thighs and skewers (or barbeque sticks)
Ingredients you’ll need (for the peanut sauce): Unsalted fresh dry roasted peanuts, water, minced cloves of garlic, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, cayenne pepper, coconut milk
Should shallots and galangal be hard to come by, you can substitute them for onions and ginger. Once you’ve cooked your delicious Chicken Satay, you may choose to eat these on their own or serve it with some rice.
Char Kway Teow (Singapore)
Unofficially coined as the “Pad Thai of Singapore”, char kway teow is a Singaporean stir-fried noodle dish that’s officially exceptional in taste.
Singaporeans describe a good char kway teow as having a “wok hei” or “breath of the wok” taste wherein the dish tastes mildly sweet yet charred at the same time. The dish is made of flat rice noodles coated in a sweet and spicy sauce. It is also commonly topped with Chinese sausages, vegetables like bean sprouts, and seafoods such as cockles or prawns
Ingredients you’ll need: Cockles (or prawns/shrimps), fish cake pieces, flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, Chinese sausages, chives, vegetable oil, cloves of garlic, water, salt, dark soy sauce, sweet or light soy sauce, eggs, and chili sauce.
Authentic Singaporean char kway teow calls for chili sauce made from scratch. However, if you don’t have the time, there’s nothing wrong in opting for the ready-made stuff.
Banh Xeo (Vietnam)
This next dish comes from Vietnam. It’s called banh xeo and it is healthy, easy-to-make, filling, and oh so tasty.
Banh Xeo is a savory fried crepe that’s made from rice flour and turmeric powder. Its fillings consist of pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts with a garnish of fresh herbs that give it a nice local kick. The whole crepe is further wrapped in lettuce and finished off by dipping it into some fish sauce. This Vietnamese dish is not only easy to prepare but it is also convenient to carry around and eat.
Ingredients you’ll need (for the crepe and fillings): Rice flour, all-purpose flour, turmeric, water, coconut cream (or coconut milk), salt, green spring onion, headless shrimps, pork belly, yellow onion, bean sprouts, dry mung beans (optional), mustard greens, mint, cilantro, perilla (better if Vietnamese perilla)
Ingredients you’ll need (for the sauce): Water, sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice or lemon juice, fish sauce, and minced cloves of garlic (optional)
Just one more trip to the grocery for some extra herbs and you’re all set for this Vietnamese delight.
To end this list of Southeast Asian dishes, we present a rich and aromatic coconut-based beef stew known as rendang.
Rendang may have originated from Indonesia, but it has since found its way as a staple meal in Malaysia. The beef pieces become insanely fork-tender after cooking and the coconut milk creates deep flavors of sweet nuttiness and butteriness in every bite. Fittingly, this dish is best served with rice because it allows the creamy coconut sauce to envelope each grain of rice for an explosively hearty meal.
Ingredients you’ll need: Boneless beef short ribs, cooking oil, cinnamon stick, cloves of garlic, star anise, cardamom pods, lemongrass, thick coconut milk (or coconut cream), water, tamarind pulp, lime leaves, kerisik (Kerisik is grated and toasted coconut that is ground to a paste) or toasted coconut flakes, sugar (or palm sugar), shallots (or onions), galangal (or ginger), and dried chiles
This dish might take the longest to make and consists of the most ingredients, but we promise that it is worth it.
We hope this list made you want to learn more about Southeast Asian cuisine because it certainly did the trick for us. A lot of the ingredients presented on this list are already in your home pantry or fridge. If not, remember to list these down for your next trip to the grocery, or better yet, to your local Asian supermarkets.
(Note: The author of this article did not include exact measurements of ingredients nor dictated cooking methods since quantity of ingredients and cooking styles vary per individual’s preference).