Sixteen portable snacks from Southeast Asia | Picnic Recipes


— Explore the Malaysian flavors of Australia with Adam Liaw and Poh Ling Yeow in Adam & Poh’s Malaysia in Australia, 8:30 p.m. Thursdays on SBS Food and SBS On Demand, with subtitled versions available to stream on SBS On Demand in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. For recipes, articles and more, visit the program page. —

Street vendors are the best when it comes to creating dishes that can be transported great distances and don’t compromise on taste and texture when seated at room temperature.

Add some flavor to your next strawberry and cheese spread with these Southeast Asian snacks perfect for spring picnics.

1. Chive cakes (khanom gui chai)

A sweet-salty chive filling wrapped in a chewy dough made with tapioca flour makes it a favorite of Thai street food. Put a few in a container and bring a dip for the pour and serve side. Make sure you don’t refrigerate them before your trip or the dough will harden into an unpleasant texture.

2. Corn fritters (perkedel jagung)

These crispy golden packets are bursting with the sweetness and sparkle of fresh corn and are perfect for casual bites. Like any fried food that is transported, do not seal them in a plastic container or they will eventually sweat and become soggy. A colander lined with a clean tea towel or paper bag will keep them in better shape.

3. Fried radish cake (chai tow kway)

This crisp and chewy rice and radish cake is a popular snack in Singapore and iterations can be found on dim sum carts across China. Put down a plate and some toothpicks to share – happy days.

4. Adam Liaw’s nasi lemak

It’s Malaysia’s national dish, and while the number of versions can be endless, at its heart is coconut rice, some textured sides, and delicious sambal. Wrap it in a banana leaf and let it sit for the travel time and it will taste even better.

5. Semolina pancake (Uttapam)

Uttapam is a thick dosa, or pancake, topped with vegetables. This is basically Indian pizza, so be creative with your ingredients and place whatever you want on top. It is divine served hot, accompanied by a chutney. Make sure to use a non-stick frying pan or a well-dried skillet, as this uttapam is notoriously sticky.

6. Umai udang Sarawak

Delicious, fresh seafood from East Malaysia is central to this traditional Sarawak dish. A specialty of the Melanau people, it is similar to ceviche in that the citrus juice is used to lightly cook the shrimp. It is also made with other fish and even squid.

7. Sugar cane shrimps (Chaọ tôm)

Gambas on barbie, Vietnamese style. Expect your pork and shrimp mixture to have a bouncy texture similar to fish cake before wrapping it around your candy cane ready for grilling.

8. Banh mi braised meatball

Homemade banh mi might not seem like the best picnic food, but if you bring all of the components separately and let your friends assemble in place, you’ve cut the job in half. Stop by your favorite Vietnamese bakery for some fresh rolls and enjoy the freedom of letting any flaky crumbs fall freely on the surrounding grass – just watch out for the pigeons.

9. Chicken curry puffs (kahree puff gai)

Influenced by the Portuguese desserts introduced to Thailand in the 14th century, these pastries are a blend of Western pastry and Eastern spices. It’ll be a fun story to tell as hands race to your container of these delicious snacks.

10. Black sticky rice yogurt

Make it a three-course picnic with a little dessert. You can either divide it into individual containers or bring a large one and put it on small serving plates. It’s a cooler bag but easy to carry knowing that you don’t have to worry about sudden bumps in the road that take a toll on its structure.

11. Easy Singaporean Noodles

Technically not of South Asian origin, Singapore noodles originate in Hong Kong, inspired by the Indo-Chinese influence on Singapore cuisine. It has become a popular staple food and a great picnic pleasure.

12. Banana blossom and crispy tofu salad

A vibrant Vietnamese salad is hard to pass up on a hot day in the sun. Don’t worry about room temperature meat and let the tofu do the talking in Jerry Mai’s recipe. Its porous texture will soak up any dressing, and vegetarian (and vegan) guests will be delighted.

13. Grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf

The bo la lot are packages of beef perfectly wrapped in betel leaves. When cooked on a charcoal grill, the smell of grilled betel leaf is incredibly fragrant. Prep them at home or take your portable grill out to the park for some extra drama.

14. Serunding daging (beef rendang with turmeric and coconut sticky rice)

Serunding daging is a very dry, flaky meat silk with rendang flavors. One serving of coconut rice is the perfect vehicle for creating a flavorful snack. This one even saves on cutlery as it’s usually eaten by hand, with the sticky rice making a perfect utensil for scooping up beef.

15. Pork and shrimp rice paper rolls

Rice paper rolls just might be the perfect food for a picnic. All you need is a bowl of water and you can even get together and gather on site for an activity and a meal in one. If you feel likeable, pre-roll and store either with baking paper between them or with a brush with neutral oil before putting them in a container.

16. Pandan Cake

Featured as Asian vanilla, pandan cakes in Southeast Asia are about as popular as the vanilla slice in a bakery in Australia. The extract imparts a vibrant green color that will leave your picnic friends talking long after you’ve tasted.

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