International Street Food Festival: Fabulous Asian Finds

Asia is home to a thriving street food culture, with thousands upon thousands of street stalls selling an almost-infinite number of dishes.

Some Asian street food dishes are famous and easily identifiable on the street. Some remain mysterious … unknown, untasted and waiting quietly for an adventurous traveler to discover it.

Spend a few moments with seasoned Asia hands Shannon from A Little Adrift, Fiona from Life on Nanchang Lu and Nancie from Budget Travelers Sandbox, who will introduce you to some Asian taste sensations they have discovered on their travels.

Enjoy day four of the International Street Food Festival here on The Dropout Diaries.

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Street Food Sensation: Shan Tofu Soup From Burma

Burma’s street food scene is alive and diverse. As I wandered the city’s streets, scented broths and spicy curries wafted from the huge metal cooking pots. And though I discovered a range of delicious dishes, I fell in love with my daily breakfast of Shan tofu soup (tohpu nway) while in Inle Lake, Burma.

Shan tofu soup from Burma

The dish itself is like a warm embrace from your mom on a cold and lonely day. It’s a hearty meal, and the sauce is made from liquid Burmese tofu, which is yellow and made from yellow split pea flour rather than soy beans. The sauce is thick, a tad gooey in all the right ways, and served warm. My favorite versions came loaded with sesame seeds, peanuts, some crunchy chili paste and a few cabbage greens for good measure.

The Shan People live in Shan State in the east of Burma, so although I found tohu nway in other parts of Burma, it was tastiest while in the Shan region and anyone visiting should make sampling one of these streets stalls a top-level priority!

Nominated by: Shannon …

… a long-term volunteer and traveler; though she first left on a RTW trip in 2008, she is now traveling with her 11-year-old niece and world-schooling her along the journey, introducing her to the tastiest vegetarian street foods they can find! Shannon blogs at

Get Inspired!

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”  —  Kahlil Gibran (via Shannon)

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Street Food Sensation: 小笼包 (Xiaolongbao) From Shanghai

People always want to know how the soup gets into these small and miraculous dumplings with seemingly delicate, semi-transparent skins holding a mouthful of delicious meat and a bigger mouthful of fragrant soup.

Do they make the dumpling first then inject the soup? Do they freeze the filling so it melts when cooked? The secret is that the soup is made from gelatinized pork stock that melts into soupy goodness in the heat of the steamer.

When you eat your first xiaolongbao you won’t be thinking about this though – you’ll be thinking about the hot savory broth dripping down your chin, and the smooth pork filling seasoned with ginger and Shaoxing wine. And you’ll be thinking suddenly that one steamer basket is not going to be anywhere near enough. You’d best call that waiter over and immediately order another.

Xialongbao, otherwise known as Shanghai Soup Dumplings

And how do you eat xiaolongbao?

First pour some dark vinegar into a small dish. Now carefully lift a xiaolongbao out of the steamer by its strongest part, the topknot. Dip the dumpling gently into the vinegar, rest it on your spoon and nibble a hole in the top to release steam. Then slurp out the delicious soup and eat the rest.

Personally, I like to slurp the whole xiaolongbao off my spoon intact so when I bite, scalding hot soup pours into my mouth and down my throat. Dangerous, but so good.

Nominated by: Fiona …

… a freelance writer and expert dumpling taster who lives in Shanghai. Her blog Life on Nanchang Lu details her street food obsession and travel adventures across China.

Get Inspired!

Read: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop. “This book explained so much about Chinese food culture for me, all the things I found intriguing and repulsive in equal measure, and it gave me permission to become equally obsessive about Chinese food, and to feel at ease with changing paths in life,” Fiona said.

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Street Food Sensation: Khow Puk From Thailand

The clock has barely hit 8.30am but Friday’s Chin Haw Market is bustling. We wind our way to the back where people, clutching little blue numbers, wait patiently. The stall’s English sign reads “Chinese Stickyrice with Sazimi and Honey”. For only 10 baht I am told that these are the BEST. I’m game.

I pay my 10 baht and settle in with my camera to watch. First the sticky rice is patted into a circle on top of a banana leaf, and with a spoon the “sazimi” and honey are spread on top. Then popped into what looks like a wire camp toaster, it’s cooked over a charcoal brazier until it sizzles. Ready, it’s wrapped into a banana leaf, and whoever is holding the next lucky number gets to peel back the banana leaf and savor the first sweet bite. Hmmm was all I could manage when my number was finally called. Sticky and sweet sums it up; not too sweet. Perhaps the “sazami” and the honey together are the perfect combination. I was hooked.

Khow Puk from Thailand

If you find yourself in Chiang Mai on a Friday morning hankering for something sweet, head over to the Chin Haw Market. The Thai name for this Chinese-inspired sweet sensation, I’m told, is Khow Puk.

Nominated By: Nancie …

… who has been working, traveling, eating, and photographing her way through Asia since 2000. When it comes to food, spicy is good; spicier is even better. Nancie blogs at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Get Inspired!

Read: Tales of a Female Nomad  by Rita Golden Geldman. “This is a true story from a baby boomer female nomad – proof that travel and living in another country is possible and attainable,” Nancy said. “Geldman opened herself up to the universe and amazing things happened.  I couldn’t put it down.”

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Tune in tomorrow for day five of the International Street Food Festival, featuring some elegant European eats from some elegant Europe-based bloggers, including a blushing bride with a thing for primates.

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10 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Those soup dumplings look incredible!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Finding a Comfortable Apartment in Santiago with Roomorama

  2. oh, yummity yum yum yum. i am so ready to eat ALL of these…
    wandering educators recently posted..Angry Bird

  3. I too am in love with those dumplings… 🙂
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel Photo of the Week — Face Time with Jesus

  4. […] reading about a fantastic food & travel blog initiative on The Dropout Diaries called The International Street Food Festival. The author of the blog, Barbara, is an expat living & working in Chiang Mai in Thailand with […]

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