Quirky Southeast Asia Street Food

By Alice Ross | ASIA

Apr 17
Southeast Asia Street Food

Every country in the world has its fair share of weird delicacies, for example, frog's legs in France and Zungenwurst in Germany. Southeast Asia is no exception, with a great number of exhilarating dishes that attract a great number of tourists annually to challenge themselves. No matter what’s your take on exotic foods, Southeast Asia Street food selections are some of the best street food in the world. Now, let’s talk about some of the quirky street food in some Southeast Asian countries you may want to try.


Tarantula Kebabs (Cambodia)

Crunchy, crispy legs, subtle white flesh – with this description, you might think you’re getting a nice lobster, but the same description can be made on a tarantula. This Khmer street food is rapidly gaining popularity with the brave heart eaters. This street food is thought to be dated back to the Khmer Rouge sovereign when food became limited, and locals tried looking for anything where they can get protein from.

So, is it good? Well, with some people who have tried it, they didn’t really like the eyeball textured fluid in the stomach as well as hairy legs. On the other hand, some think that the gooey insides of the belly are the best part. This weird street food can easily be found Skuon, but you can also find it in different touristy areas in Cambodia, and there are even some restaurants that farm tarantula to add to their menu.

Isaw (Philippines)


Second on the list is one of the most popular street foods in the Philippines: isaw. This delicacy refers to both grilled chicken and pork intestines grilled.

When you walk in the streets of the Philippines, it’s normal to see a vendor on the side of the street, lighting charcoaled grill, and it’s 100% certain that they are selling isaw along with other barbecues.

The intestines are looped onto skewers and cooked on the grill until smoky and charred. The pork intestines are a bit chewier and more flavorful, while chicken intestines, on the other hand, taste a little bit like sausage but skinnier. To make it more enjoyable to eat, you can dip it into vinegar with chili and red onion or sweet sauce.

Duck Blood Soup (Laos)

Duck Blood Soup

Spicy, Tasty, Sour soup, these are signature flavors of food in many Southeast Asian countries, and this soup embodies all of them. If you’re visiting the region and want to try something unique, then this traditional Laotian dish with satisfying your taste buds. When you see leuat paeng,  as you browse a Laotian restaurant’s menu, try it out.

Carefully made from ducks blood, this specialty dish can be easily found anywhere in the country, and similar raw blood soups are also found in many areas of Northeastern Thailand.

Served raw, it’s an adventurous dish and often desired by those who are low in iron. And with a combination of spices, herbs, noodles, and lemon, it’s a delicious treat – if you can deal with the raw blood situation, that is.

Sate Biawak (Indonesia)

Sate Biawak

In case you didn’t know, Biawak is the local name for a big lizard with a long neck, or what is known as Monitor Lizard in English. There are many species of this animal and the biggest one is Varanus komodoensis or the one that is more popularly known as the Komodo dragon. Sate Biawak could help prevent asthma and also supports the immune system. But of course, you have to be careful as eating too much reptile meat could lead to bacterial infection.

Javanese locals love eating Sate biawak, which basically is monitor lizard satay. The meat is skewered and grilled until it becomes tender. After that, the juicy smoky dish is covered in spicy peanut sauce. It is believed that the reptile is great in preventing and curing numerous diseases like asthma and skin rashes.

Scorpions (Thailand)


Now, something that is absolutely popular among tourists, skewed scorpions, along with grasshopper, bamboo worms, crickets, silk larvae, weevils, ant queens, and other insects are a common sight in many areas of Bangkok. Despite their unappealing appearance and nature, scorpions are believed by a lot of locals to treat several illnesses, including hepatitis B and cancer. With these types of health benefits, there’s no wonder why many want to try it, on top of the reason that it’s something they can brag on social media, of course.

Commonly cooked with the stingers still attached, the vendor will snap the stinger for you before letting you eat it.

Snake Hearts (Vietnam)

Fortunately, the killing and consumption of snakes around Asia is starting to become illegal. A lot of snake species are endangered, and the eating of these reptiles is not encouraged. However, it’s quite fascinating that one dish the Vietnamese consider a delicacy is the heart of a beheaded snake.

The blood is served for drinking and next to it is the heart in a shot glass. It’s believed to increase libido, and serves as a Viagra – it’s even said that you would still able to feel the heart beating as it goes down your throat. The rest of the body is cooked in several ways.

Bamboo Worms throughout South East Asia

Bamboo Worms

While the word bamboo strikes up pictures of calm forests and cute panda bears, Southeast Asian bamboo also serves as a home for wild-foods craze in many countries in the region. In spite of sounding smarmy, bamboo worms, when deep-fried, resembles crispy, buttery popcorn.

With their affordable prices and popularity all over many countries, they make for an inexpensive and easy snack for both locals and tourists.

​Safety Tips for Enjoying Street Food Experience

The street food of different countries is often described by travelers as some of the best food they have ever had. However, there have also been reports of suspect food poisoning and diarrhea among travelers which scare them off from trying these foods out. Here are some tips you can follow to potentially avoid trips to hospitals while on the road.

  1. Allow yourself to adjust to the local food for a few days before even trying street food, especially if you are not well-traveled.
  2. Go where crowds go. If you notice that locals don’t go to a particular vendor, then you should too. A good sign of a good place to eat is the number of people that go there.
  3. Observe first. Take some of your time looking at how the vendor cooks the food, how clean the utensils are, and how sanitized the place.
  4. Avoid anything that is kept in a jug, unless you’re sure that the food was well-prepared.
  5. Don’t go with any food that’s not thoroughly cooked as it could have different parasite strains that are known to negatively affect the human digestion system.

Be smart about trying out new food, especially if it’s your first time in the country. However, of course, this is not to say that you should avoid them at all costs. In fact, we encourage you to try food from the country you are visiting. After all, this is a huge part of traveling.

There definitely is no shortage of strange but interesting Southeast Asian street food, and on top of being ordinary dishes for the locals, they’re an excellent attraction for tourism. Next time you visit Southeast Asia, or you’re already here but are yet to try them out, get out of your comfort zone now and try it out!

So, what’s your favorite bizarre street food? We want to hear about them in the comments below! For more articles like this, make sure to check out more blogs on ForTravelista now!

Rating: 4.75 (8 votes)


About the Author

Hi, I’m Alice Ross, a long-term traveler who left the corporate world to travel the world. I chose to live life on my own phase and live day by day while immersing myself in new experiences, new knowledge, and new people in a different walk of life I met along the way.

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