Southeast Asian recipes can be confusing. The cuisine is always just exploding with flavors, textures, and history that it’s difficult to grasp the experience at every bite. The only way to acclimate with the region’s food is to break them down, and we can get to know them by regularly eating the dishes that define each country.
Lucky for us in Metro Manila, the restaurant scene isn’t just exclusive to Filipino cuisine. Here and there, restaurants hawking popular dishes from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries have popped up, bringing the best Southeast Asian recipes closer to us. Here’s a list of some Southeast Asian eats and where to get them in the city:
Tom yum soup and pad thai are two of the most popular Thai dishes in the Metro, representative of Thai cuisine’s dedication to mixing powerful flavors into a harmonious dish—one that’s also packed with colors and textures. Great Thai finds can be found in Krung Thai in Marikina Market, Songkran in BF Homes, and Azuthai in San Lorenzo Village.
Great Thai finds can be found in Krung Thai in Marikina Market, Songkran in BF Homes and Azuthai in San Lorenzo Village.
Singaporean food is a cacophony of cultures, namely the Chinese, Malay, Indonesian and Indian. Much like the country itself, the cuisine is a progressive one that pulses with the mixing of others. The laksa is a representation of the culture; it’s an ever-evolving dish marked by different forms and methods of cooking. Babu at The Grid is one of the best versions of it in the Metro.
Aside from the power of chili peppers, Malaysian cuisine also banks on spices and coconut—evident in dishes like nasi goreng, a coconut-milk bathed fried rice served with a medley of sides packed with flavor, and beef rendang, a complex stew built on slow-cooked beef and spices. You can get these dishes in Old Penang in Newport, Kaffir restaurant and Deli in The Collective, and Me Love You Long Time in Maginhawa.
There’s one word to describe Indonesian cuisine: spicy. And we’re not talking about the tongue-numbing kind. We’re talking about the mix of spices that bring their food—influenced by Indian, Chinese, European, and Middle Eastern cuisines—alive. Some dishes that are synonymous with this complexity include nasi goreng, a bolder version of fried rice, and satay, a spice-drenched skewer accompanied by peanut sauce. You can get both in Indonyaki in Maginhawa and Warung Indio in Salcedo Village.
Vietnamese cuisine is founded on harmony. Its flavors are always so well-calculated that all their dishes, though packed with a lot of ingredients, meld together in perfect balance. One of the best examples of this is pho, a mix of meatiness, sweetness, tangy, earthiness, and heat that still ends with a clean-tasting soup. You can get pho in several pho restaurants in Metro Manila, one of the most popular ones being Pho Bac (multiple branches).
To know more about Southeast Asian recipes (and Filipino recipes, too!), visit Pepper.ph, a cooking resource from the Philippines dedicated to Filipino and Southeast Asian cuisines.