From Thailand to Vietnam: The Best Noodle Dishes in Southeast Asia
When it comes to Southeast Asian food, the one staple food you might think of is either rice or noodles. While rice is nice, you can’t overlook the hearty noodle.
Fortunately, there are many different kinds of noodle dishes, from savory soups to stir fry, you’ll be amazed at the variety of dishes that feature noodles.
So whether you’re in the mood for rice, egg, or wheat noodles, you’re sure to find a noodle-forward dish from Southeast Asia cuisine that piques your interest.
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the best noodle dishes in Southeast Asia, for when your tastebuds are ready to go on an Asian journey.
Popular noodle dishes in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia
Some of the most popular noodle dishes can be found in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. Pretty much anywhere you might find yourself in Southeast Asia, you’ll find a signature dish that the locals consider a mealtime staple.
Let’s start our journey with Thailand.
Pad Thai is known as Thailand’s national dish and is gaining popularity in the United States. Many Asian restaurants across the country have their own version of Pad Thai on the menu. But what makes an authentic Pad Thai from Thailand?
First of all, the dish is stir-fried using thin rice noodles. Traditionally, it combines eggs, bean sprouts, peanuts, and tofu. However, chicken, beef, and pork are also popular. Lastly, it is topped with a flavorful sauce made of fish sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar.
The unique sauce gives it an attractive sweet, sour, and salty combination. The use of noodles allows the sauce to shine here. American diners appreciate the simplicity of the meal which makes it appetizing for casual diners.
Tom Yum Noodles
Noodles in soup is not a new concept but Tom Yum Noodles are in a category all their own. A spicy soup with just a hint of sour features rice or egg noodles. The flavor profile includes chili paste, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. The delicate flavors produce aromatics that enhance the enjoyment of this dish.
Many locals enjoy Tom Yum Noodles in the summer. The amount of noodles does vary depending on the chef, but either way, this delicious noodle dish is a must-try.
Heading east from Thailand, we find another country that has made its mark in the culinary market. Vietnam’s national dish is Pho, a noodle soup. A simple yet elegant dish has many variations but is traditionally made with chewy rice noodles in chicken or beef broth and served as a main course.
The complex and unique flavors come from the combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce, as well as other herbs and spices. Because pho is one of the most versatile dishes in Vietnam, you’ll find many variations in restaurants, street vendors, and homes across the country.
Crossing the South China Sea we find ourselves in Malaysia. Here laksa, a spicy noodle soup, is the most popular noodle dish.
Served with rice noodles similar to pho, however, laksa uses coconut milk and is just one of the numerous varieties of laksa. Traditionally, laksa incorporates seafood, such as shrimp or fish cakes. For an extra kick, some chefs include chili paste.
Continuing further south and to the east, we find ourselves in Indonesia. Another country where we find delectable southeast Asian cuisine which includes the popular mie goreng.
These stir-fried dishes incorporate thin egg noodles, a variety of veggies, and a tasty yet spicy sauce made from chili paste, soy sauce, and garlic.
Mie Goreng is a popular street food. And since it is so versatile you’ll find any number of combinations of meats, seafood, and vegetables.
Finally, our journey to discover the best noodle dishes in Southeast Asia ends in Singapore.
Mee siam or also known as Siamese noodles is a dish made with vermicelli noodles.
It is thought that this particular dish may have been inspired by Thai cuisine. This isn’t all that surprising as the proximity of all the Southeast Asian countries indicates that there may have been shared influences not only in culture but in cuisine.
Siamese noodles are served with shrimp, bean sprouts, soybeans, and chili paste and are typically topped with red chili peppers, fried onions, coriander, and spring onions. Limes are used to drizzle juice to the diner’s preference.
Unique Characteristics of Each Noodle Dish
You can see this cross-influence evidenced in the variety of noodle dishes. There are typically three different types of Asian noodles: wheat, rice, and glass noodles.
Their uses vary widely and not one particular country can claim the origin of any specific noodle. The noodle-sharing influences seem to be across all Southeast Asian countries despite their geographic location.
It appears that Southeast Asian noodle dishes are created by whichever texture or flavor seems to fit the chef’s mood at the time. We consider this a good thing as there tends to not be a bias against any particular noodle. This suits us just fine, as we believe that there is no one right way to noodle your dish.
What really makes each noodle dish unique is the use of ingredients. Seafood is predominantly used in those dishes that were created in coastal countries. Whereas sweeter and vegetable-heavy dishes are found more inland. Do you want to find out about Asian Food Recipes and their Secrets?
Cultural Significance of Noodle Dishes in Southeast Asia
As there are a variety of countries that make up the Southeast Asian region, there is no one straight line for how a particular dish came into existence. For example, some Malaysian food ingredients come from Indian and Portuguese cuisine, while many dishes from Singapore have a markedly distinct Thai taste.
Fast forward to the present day and the line continues to blur as traditional flavors and modern cooking styles mesh to create unique fusion dishes. Fortunately, for us, this creates new ways to cook, delight, and experience Southeast Asian cuisine.
Local people in Southeast Asia believe that storytelling, anecdotes, and shared experiences are part of the essential dining experience. If you go to a traditional Southeast Asian restaurant you will hear people laughing and sharing tales. Each time you dine, you will likely get a piece of history, interaction, evolution, and enjoyment in one single dish.
Unique Preparation Methods
Southeast Asian food cooking techniques vary widely across the region as well. There are many utensils used for Southeast Asian cooking like the wok.
The wok is a Chinese-style pan with a round base and is used to cook a huge variety of dishes at high temperatures. When cooking on a wok the original flavor of ingredients intensifies and also preserves freshness.
Due to its shape, a wok can reach high temperatures, perfect for cooking different dishes, from meats to vegetables, and sauces. Ingredients cooked on a wok tend to have a lighter consistency, making the wok a must-have utensil in every Asian kitchen.
For noodle dishes, noodles are typically pre-cooked and then placed in a wok to soak up the flavors and incorporate them into the final version. This is a delicate balance, as you don’t want the noodles to be bland or overcooked.
Tips for trying noodle dishes in Southeast Asia
Like most cultures, Asian food varies depending on the region. Different Southeast Asian countries create their unique combination of exotic flavors and cooking methods.
While the majority of the country is full of hills and valleys, there is a long coast along the South China Sea that provides fish and other seafood delicacies.
One thing that is a common thread among all of the Southeast Asian population is that they love noodle-based dishes.
Depending upon the region some dishes are a bit sweeter or spicier than is typical in the rest of the region. Some areas rely on coconut-based curries while some are more inclined to use clear meat-based broths that are then served with noodles, proteins, and vegetables.
Another trait of Southeast Asian cuisine is using lots of fresh herbs, fish, and vegetables to prepare meals. Each region has a go-to sauce that they pair with a particular dish, so we have a lot of options when it comes to trying a Southeast Asian meal that fits our tastes.
That’s why we at Char’d let you choose your own adventure when it comes to your Asian-fusion food experience. You get to choose your base (rice, noodles, salad), any vegetables, protein, and sauce. No matter how spicy, sweet, or savory you like it, we have the option that is just right for you.
This also means that your experience at Char’d changes to fit your taste buds. Want to go more Thai or more Vietnamese? No problem, just create-your-own-bowl and we’ll put together a delicious bowl inspired by the best noodle dishes in Southeast Asia.