In the midst of British summer time, I’m sat here dreaming of soup. But in Southeast Asia, soup isn’t reserved for cold nights, or when you’re feeling a little under-the-weather. It’s quite literally eaten morning, noon and night by the locals, and I ate as much of it as I could whilst I was travelling.
Here’s my round-up of the top 10 soups and broths I ate whilst backpacking, including links (where possible) so you can go try them out yourself!
Slow-cooked pork ribs and egg noodle broth
My Mexican friend and I stumbled upon this place in Da Lat, southern Vietnam. We were hungry but just wanted to share one bowl so we could eat again later. There were about six or seven locals sat down as we arrived, all slurping super slow cooked pork ribs and egg noodle broth from the bowl. As we sat, the lady immediately gave us a bowl each and a hot cup of atiso – artichoke – tea. But what really set this pork bone broth apart was the big chunky egg noodles, almost like tagliatelle, which made such a nice change from all the rice noodles everywhere else in Vietnam! They call rice noodles “Bún” and egg noodles “Mì” so this should give you an idea of what the place is serving.
Pork and cabbage parcel soup
So this one is a little self-indulgent as I made it at a cookery class in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but oh my days it was so simple but so tasty! A classic soup with minced chicken wrapped in cabbage leaves, then poached in a chicken broth flavoured with soy sauce, oyster sauce, pepper and spring onion. I can’t recommend the Zab-E-Lee cooking school enough. So fun, informative and well-organised. And all the food tasted AMAZING. Leave a comment if you want the recipe and I will post it. 😋🍜
So on a pit-stop whilst riding the Hải Vân Pass in Vietnam, we ate this crabmeat soup. The crabmeat formed mini meatballs and they served it up to us on the side of the road. A very casual set-up just in front of someone’s house. It sounds a little dodgy (most things are in Southeast Asia) but it was delicious and definitely hit the spot. The accompanying fresh chillies marinated in soy sauce added some spice, and the ice-cold can of coke is just what we needed after two hours on the bike! They even gave us wet wipes as we were FILTHY!
You can watch the guy’s from Top Gear ride the Hải Vân Pass, here: www.youtube.com/watch.
Roast duck with prawn & pork wonton soup
In true surf-and-turf style, seafood and meat often make their way into the same bowl together in Southeast Asia, and I was never one to complain. This combo sounds weird but honestly works. I was travelling solo in Bangkok, in the Thong Lo area which I absolutely fell in love with. This is roast duck with prawn and pork wonton soup from Lee’s Noodles is just to die for. They serve the entire broth on the side – so you can make it as wet or as dry as you like. Amazing place.
Bùn Riêu – crab and tomato soup
One of the best things I ate in Hanoi, Vietnam was bùn riêu (pronounced bun ziu). Although the lady tried to rip us off (fairly common in my experience, so have your wits about you), her food tasted incredible and it was all only about £2 anyway.
Obviously, I had extra chilli, but you can make it as spicy or mild as you like. The crab meat forms a large, half-moon shaped patty, which you can see in the top-right of the bowl. And the tomato is in the broth. She served this one with big chunks of tofu which absorbed the flavours like a sponge. I tagged the place here if you want to pin it for future reference! Definitely worth a visit.
Bún Chả – pork meatball and rice noodle soup
Bún Chả; probably the most famous noodle soup in Hanoi, Vietnam and the one you’re likely to discover first. Rice noodles served with grilled pork meatballs, luscious greens and of course an epic broth. It arrives at the table separately so you can build your own bowl, and is a VERY sociable meal indeed, so don’t be shy to share! Often served with traditional rice paper spring rolls and hot or iced black tea. The extra chilli, garlic and greens mean you really personalise it to your own taste. SO GOOD! 😋🍜☕️🙌
Thai-style seafood soup
Again, in Vietnam (are you sensing a theme here?) on Cát Bà island, I ate another variation of epic noodle soup. Being an island, this place specialises in seafood; so I tried Thai-style seafood soup in Yummy Restaurant and was not disappointed.
I was actually feeling a little under-the-weather on this day, so I asked for it spicy. It was, but I ate every last drop and it made me feel so much better. My Indian friend, Amrita, tried one sip and actually choked on the level of spice. So if they ask if you want it ‘spicy’ in here, be careful what you wish for!
Roast pork and pork wonton soup
The double-whammy. Roast pork and pork wonton soup in Vang Vieng, Laos, was some of the best I’ve ever tasted (including in Vietnam!) this place was busy every night.
I had it once and found myself craving it again, and as it was right opposite our hostel, we ate there a few times. Delicious, rich, silky broth and the tastiest wonton floating on top. If they have extra wontons, they will give you them if you ask nicely! Their dim sum was delightful too. Find it HERE.
Crispy prawn and minced pork soup
Another surf-and-turf, this time in Vietnam. “The Lunch Lady” serves up her famous noodle dishes each day, in the middle of Ho Chi Minh‘s worker’s district. This crispy prawn and pork noodle broth is so wholesome and delicious. Juicy king prawns coated in a light batter, sliced roast pork, minced pork, plus thin egg noodles and fresh green herbs. This lady has clearly spent years dedicated to her art as her dishes are stunning. Find her here if you visit this amazing city.
Khao Soi, Northern Thailand Curry Noodle Soup
Now I have saved this belter until last because this is one of the best things I ate in Southeast Asia. I love curry, noodles and soup dearly. I also adore Thai and India cuisine, and this dish manages to marry Thai spice and Indian-curry vibes together just perfectly. Above is the curry served in a place called Khao Soi Islam in Chiang Mai (their chicken version, incredible). And below is my version made at a cookery class, also in Chiang Mai.
You can get my recipe for this amazing Thai dish here: Curry Noodle Soup by Sophie’s Scran.