Street food in Asia for the travelling vegetarian

Looking for food whilst travelling can be rather cumbersome, especially when there is a language barrier. It is not an uncommon sight, the selective eater versus the bewildered food-seller and the frustration that ensues.

But here at Touristly, we aspire to make your travels a lot more enjoyable hence this list.

Behold, vegetarian eats you can find on the streets of Asia(!!).

Coconut Ice Cream (Thailand)

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An alternative to the conventional ice cream, coconut milk and coconut water is used instead of milk for this creamy and refreshing dessert.

Perfect for the Instagram junkie, Thai coconut ice cream is usually served in a bonafide coconut shell bowl and sprinkled with a myriad of sweet toppings such as roasted peanuts, jackfruit slices, red water chestnuts or chocolate sauce. This is the perfect thing for a hot day out and about this tropical country

Apam Balik (Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore)

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A teatime favourite found almost everywhere, Apam Balik is a sweet pancake made with coconut milk, egg, flour, and sugar, and filled with crushed peanuts and/or sweet corn.

These giant pancakes are cut into slices before being sold, so unless you want to look like the oblivious traveller, don’t buy the whole thing, especially when they are pretty filling.

Cong You Bing (Taiwan)

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Essentially a scallion, or green onion pancake, Cong You Bing is made out of dough, unlike the Western batter pancakes, this is the perfect light snack for the muncher. A crispy treat, legend has it that Marco Polo brought back the idea of Cong You Bing back to Italy, thus inspiring the birth of the pizza.

Unfortunately, it may be a feat to find them laden with tomato paste or pepperoni but it is possible to find variations of the Cong You Bing prepared with eggs or garlic, and served with dipping sauces.

Num Sang Khya L’peow (Cambodia)

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A delicious custard dessert, a pumpkin is hollowed out and then filled with a sweet milky liquid made with coconut milk (which by now you would know as a staple in Asian cuisine), palm sugar and eggs, and then steamed.

Eat it by the slice with shaved ice or extra palm sugar for that sweet kick, just the way local grandmothers make it back home. A warning; you may never look at Western pumpkin pie the same way after savouring a bite of the Num Sang Khya L’peow.

Vadai and Samosa (Malaysia, India, Singapore)

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Although they are two different things, Vadais and Samosas are best in pairs, just like tea and biscuits, burgers and fries, or Sonny and Cher. Originally from India, the Vadai is a spiced vegetable fritter whilst the Samosa is a fried pastry filled with spices and potatoes or lentils.

Have two of these savoury delights with a cup of Chai (spiced milk tea), or Teh Tarik (pulled milk tea) for an authentic local experience.

Bánh Mì Chay (Vietnam)

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A staple in Vietnam, the Bahn Mi is a sandwich, using bread that was inspired by the French baguette. Filled with fresh carrots, radish, cilantro, pickles and lemongrass tofu or mock meat, this is a must have along the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chih Minh.

Starting at 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (USD 0.45), you really cannot go wrong with this flavour-packed sandwich. Just remember to say ‘Banh Mi Chay,‘ lest you are served the meat-filled versions of this delicious meal.

Bakwan Sayur (Indonesia)

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Everything delicious slapped together and deep fried, Bakwan Sayur is a vegetable fritter consisting of bean sprouts, carrots, onions, cabbage and sometimes tempeh, fermented bean soybeans (tastes a lot better than it sounds, we promise!).

Eaten as a snack or a condiment with lunch or dinner rice and noodles, Bakwan Sayur has many interchangeable names such as Pekedel or Bala-Bala, depending on which part of Indonesia you are in. Either way, the locals understand it all.

Char Koay Kak (Malaysia)

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A popular dish on the streets of Penang (food capital of Malaysia), Char Koay Kak is rice cakes, fried with beansprouts, spring onions, egg, garlic, pickled radish, and soy sauce, served on a banana leaf.

Best eaten while hot on rainy (monsoon) days for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This dish is a must have for a complete foodie experience on Penang Island.

Khao Neeo Mamuang (Thailand)

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A favourite far and wide, Khai Neeo Mamuang is a dessert of mangoes served with sweet sticky rice and coconut milk. Although it originated in Thailand, one can find this delight in almost any part of Asia where Thai food is found.

A little on the heavy side, make sure you’ve mustered a big appetite before eating it prior to a heavy meal or pair it up with something light and savoury. If not, sharing is always caring.

Kanom Gui Chai (Thailand)

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Coming in many different forms, Kanom Gui Chai or chive dumplings are either steamed, boiled or fried and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes at the mercy of its maker. Either way, it still is a delicious dish accompanied with a variety of dipping sauces, just like nuggets, only better.

Eaten as a snack, Kanom Gui Chai is best shared with friends and family, just the way the locals do it with their loved ones.

If you need a little assistance with your food journey through Asia, you can always take guided food tours around Phnom Penh (Cambodia), New Delhi (India), Bangkok (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia), or Hanoi (Vietnam), to name a few.

Bear in mind that there are many variations to the dishes listed above and sometimes it’s safer just to double check with the sellers to make sure that no meat is used.

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