Southeast Asia is a vast tropical region comprising the nations of Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and many more. Surrounded by the sea and covered in dense jungles, the area is home to some of the world’s boldest, funkiest ingredients and spices such as lemongrass, kaffir limes, and Thai chili, which are found across Thai cooking, Filipino cooking, Vietnamese cooking, Malaysian cooking, and Indonesian cooking.
On the sweet side, pandan is used to lend a sweet perfume many traditional Southeast Asian desserts, much like vanilla, while fish sauce is splashed into seemingly every other savory dish for a big boost of umami. From pad Thai to pho, here are our 40 best Southeast Asian recipes to turn up the heat in your kitchen.
“Combining a mild fish like cod with store-bought curry paste, cilantro, and kaffir lime makes for an incredibly flavorful patty, and serving it with a simple topping of thinly sliced cucumbers, red onion, and cilantro tossed with nuoc cham (a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce made from garlic, chile, sugar, fish sauce, and lime) is my ideal summer meal.” —Farideh Sadeghin, Test Kitchen Director Get the recipe for the Thai Fish Burger »
In this offbeat slaw from chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston, raw red cabbage adds a textural contrast to the grilled green cabbage, and a zippy, spicy-sweet-salty dressing goes well with the charred bits. Get the recipe for Charred Cabbage Slaw »
Light, tangy, and cooked with a modest amount of heat and any available seafood and fresh vegetables, kaeng som is an elemental and satisfying dish, and this curry from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker is an easy recipe to master. Learn to make the shrimp-enriched broth, which leads with tart, pungent flavors but also delivers measured amounts of sweetness, salt, and spice, and you’ll begin to understand the balance in Thai cooking. Get the recipe for Sour Curry Soup with Shrimp »
Slow-roasted belly stands in for the classic whole suckling pig that graces virtually every special occasion in the Philippines. Chef Dale Talde also swaps out the sauce’s pungent pork liver for more mellow and easier to source chicken livers. Don’t worry, though. It still tastes, as Talde lovingly puts it, like “liverwurst mixed with sweet and sour sauce.” Get the recipe for Filipino Roast Pork Belly with “Lechon” Sauce »
A regional soup packed with egg noodles and pig parts, La Paz batchoy was born in the La Paz district of Iloilo city, in the province where chef Dale Talde’s mother was born. Talde’s version streamlines the traditional recipe, keeps the liver and intestines optional, and applies just enough shrimp paste to keep things funky. Get the recipe for Pork Noodle Soup with Shrimp Paste (La Paz Batchoy) »
Best known in their deep-fried iteration, lumpia often crackle beneath the teeth. But not always; some come wrapped in fresh egg crepes, while others are wrapper-less. Connoisseurs pine for a version made with shrimp, pork, and shredded coconut palm. The freshly fried version is a marvel, the wrapper crisp, the filling’s texture delicate and yielding. Instead of the common sweet-sour dipping sauce, chef Dale Talde opts for the condiment he used growing up—a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce spiked with raw garlic and fiery chiles—which he likens to the salt and pepper of Filipino food. Get the recipe for Deep-Fried Pork Spring Rolls (Lumpia) »