Backpacker’s Guide to The Best Cheap Eats in Asia

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Asia is a budget traveler’s dream for someone seeking quality local dishes on a budget. Not only are there plenty of places to get cheap food, the culture, sights and intoxicating atmosphere in some of the key food destinations makes Asia a popular choice for seasoned travelers. Some of the most exciting culinary delights can be found in places such as Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

When you are traveling the world it’s important to experience lots of different things, including some weird and wonderful food. You won’t be disappointed with the mouth-watering or bizarre dishes available throughout Asia. If you are planning a trip around Asia then make sure you stop off at some of the following destinations to enjoy some low cost local food.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ingredient for Banana Flower Salad. Photo taken by: fabulousfabs
Ingredient for Banana Flower Salad. Photo taken by: fabulousfabs

Lots of travelers go to Siem Reap to see the magnificent Angkor ruins, but also to enjoy the local food. Siem Reap is the ideal destination for frugal backpackers looking for a cheap meal. The area has developed quickly in recent years with many quality new restaurants starting to appear and plenty of fantastic street food to sample.

There is a wide range of food available, from European cuisine to local Khmer food, Siem Reap has it all. There are some lovely restaurants to try, but make sure you check out the menu first as there are a few more upmarket places with a pricey selection. The best spot for backpackers is the stalls just off Pub Street selling street food at excellent prices. The atmosphere is lively with the locals tossing together fresh dishes in attempts to get wondering backpackers to buy and try. Some dishes to try include Lok Lak, which is barbecue beef, and Fish Amok, which is a local fish curry. Don’t forget wash it all down with the famous Angkor beer after a long day of sightseeing.

Singapore

Maxwell Food Court
Maxwell Food Court. Photo taken by: Madeleine Holland

Singapore will ignite your senses and tantalize your taste buds with its vibrant mix of Asian cuisines such as Malaysian, Indian and Chinese food. Singapore is great for the bargain hunting traveler as there is an endless stretch of food stalls where you can buy unique and tasty dishes cooked up by the locals. Head to one of Singapore’s open air hawker centers such as Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown or Tekka Market in Little India where you can try some of the local specialities.

There are also quite a few reasonably priced restaurants scattered around the city. For lighter meals and charming cafes, try the many malls along Orchard Road, where there is a huge food court on the top floor of each mall. Some of the best dishes to try in Singapore include the Katong Laksa, Chilli Crab, Chicken Rice and Kaya toast.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nyona Kuih, Kuala Lumpur. Photo taken by: Andrea Lai
Nyona Kuih, Kuala Lumpur. Photo taken by: Andrea Lai

If you are travelling through Malaysia then make sure to hit up the capital, Kuala Lumpur. It is the country’s most populated city and a buffet of Asian cuisine. The food here is very reasonably priced, depending on where you go in the city. The locals in Kuala Lumpur are very passionate about their food. In the photo above, this couple has been making their rice cake dishes for 35 years!

If you are in search for the best bang for your buck, try the street food in Chinatown’s Petaling Street or Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintant. Here you can mix with the locals and soak up the atmosphere, but be prepared to be hassled to buy something at every stall. The Pavillion food court is also a good place to go if you want to eat somewhere cooler and more relaxing, but stick to the restaurants on the bottom floor as they tend to be cheaper. You can try different types of food such as Chinese, Western, Malay, Indian and Pakistani food. If you need a caffeine boost then go to one of Kuala Lumpur’s charming kopitiams (coffee shops) where you can indulge in some sweet treats and light meals.

 Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Street Restaurant. Photo taken by: Oleg Sidorenko
Bangkok Street Restaurant. Photo taken by: Oleg Sidorenko

Bangkok is famous for attracting large amounts of hungry travelers. It is also the home for strange cuisine if you are brave to try some fried crickets, worms, cockroaches and  grasshoppers. If you seek to have some traditional Thai delicacies, then head to one of the local restaurants where they serve dishes packed full of sweet, salty and spicy flavours. Some of the main ingredients include garlic, chilli, lime juice and coriander. One of the most famous dishes
in Bangkok is the popular Pad Thai which consists of noodles fried with shrimp, garlic and bean curd. Pick up a hot, fresh Pad Thai at one of the street stalls for an excellent price.

Chatuchak Market is also a popular spot with backpackers for its quality street food and its ideal atmosphere for the bargain hunter. It’s the largest market in Thailand so you definitely won’t be short of tasty food to try. Eating in the market is a culinary experience not to be missed while you soak up the atmosphere in this lively market.

About the author:

Milda is the community manager at AsiaRooms.com. Born in Lithuania (love it!),  she went on and studied in the UK, travelled around Asia and USA, taught in Africa, and is now residing in Singapore where, equipped with a strong cup of coffee and her amazing team, She is blogging about travel, culture, events and hotels in Asia.

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