Southeast Asian Food in Philly

Sorry, New York, but you have nothing on Philly when it comes to Southeast Asian food. In fact, when it comes to variety, neither does any other city or town in the northeast. Instead of focusing exclusively on the inevitable Vietnamese pho noodle shops and Thai restaurants that you can find in nearly every city in the northeast, this list includes more emerging fare like Burmese, Filipino, Khmer, Indonesian, Lao, and Malaysian. All of the places on the list are BYOB.

I Heart Cambodia

Rangoon Burmese Restaurant

Maliwan

Ratchada Thai & Laos Cuisine

Pho 75

Saté Kampar

D'jakarta Cafe

Sarvida

Vientiane Bistro

Vientiane Café

Vientiane Cafe

Since 2002, Vientiane Cafe has been serving Lao and Thai dishes in the relatively serene Cedar Park section of West Philly. As you enter Vientiane Cafe from Baltimore Ave, you’ll see rice baskets, which are used to hold sticky rice, hanging from the ceiling as well as Lao versions of ancient musical instruments hanging from the walls. 

What makes this restaurant unique is the Lao Specialty section of their large menu. Skip the familiar Tom Yum soup and Pad Thai and try some Lao dishes like Seen-hang (Lao beef jerky), Sai-gawk (homemade Lao sausages), or Gang Nor Mai (a bamboo stew with pumpkin and mushrooms). To enhance your Lao dining experience, you should also order something that comes with a side of sticky rice. The proper way to eat the rice (ເຂົ້າ, pronounced khao) is with your fingers. You tear off a small bit, dip it in your sauce, and then into your mouth!

Read about Vientiane here.

Nearest subway station: 46th St (or you can take Trolley 34 from 30th Street Station)

I Heart Cambodia

Your reward for venturing out to this inconvenient location will be a look into Khmer culture through their delicious cuisine, which is (unfortunately) too often overshadowed by their Southeast Asian neighbors to the west (Thailand) and east (Vietnam). Khmer cuisine is not as spicy as that of their neighbors but uses many of the same ingredients. Brahok Ktis is one of I Heart Cambodia’s more popular dishes. It’s a combination of ground meat, coconut milk, lemongrass paste, kaffir leaves and fish sauce (an essential part of Southeast Asian cooking) served with a variety of vegetables for dipping. They have some uniquely Southeast Asian drinks as well, including their durain smoothie and the even more quirky egg soda (that’s a raw egg, seltzer, and condensed milk). Although the restaurant serves mostly locals, the staff are more than willing to help guide newbies through their first Khmer dining experience.

Read more about Cambodia Town here.

Nearest subway station: Snyder (Take Bus 79. which runs along Snyder Ave, to 6th Street)

D’Jakarta Cafe

Of the half-dozen or so Indonesian restaurants in South Philly, D’Jakarta is the safest bet for novices. Chances are, you’ll be served by a native who knows the dishes, but also speaks perfect English. While others in the area specialize in a few regional dishes (and some don’t have printed menus), D’Jakarta Cafe offers an extensive menu with stylish ambiance. They have the traditional Indonesian staples like satay, beef rendang, nasi goreng, and meatball soup, but the desserts and drinks are what really stand out. Ropang and rujak are two of the most eclectic desserts you are likely to find in Southeast Asian cuisine and if you’ve never had a happy drink, D’Jakarta is an ideal place to try your first. Despite the name, they are non-alcoholic. 

Nearest subway station: Oregon or Snyder

Rangoon Burmese Restaurant

Rangoon has been serving Burmese dishes in Philly’s Chinatown for more than a quarter-century. As one of the few established Burmese restaurants in the northeast, Rangoon is a destination restaurant for many who are curious about the culture and cuisine of one of the least-visited Southeast Asian countries. You may remember Anthony Bourdain eating a tea leaf salad and a bowl of mohingha in Yangon (the former Rangoon) during the Myanmar episode of Parts Unknown. Those are ideal dishes to start with if you’ve never had Burmese food before. Mohingha is called Festival Fish Noodle Soup on Rangoon’s menu. The thousand-layer bread is not to be missed either, whether you get it as an appetizer (with chicken curry for dipping) or as a dessert (topped with coconut milk). The menu is quite extensive, but the staff are used to serving tourists and are more than willing to point you in the right direction.

Nearest subway station: Chinatown

Apparently, Rangoon Burmese Restaurant Does Not Accept Kyat

Apparently, Rangoon Burmese Restaurant in Philadelphia -- visitphilly.com does not accept kyat.

Posted by I May Roam on Monday, June 5, 2017

Maliwan Philly

Maliwan is the Thai word for “climbing jasmine.” Housed in the former Khmer Kitchen, Maliwan offers Thai and Lao staples in a cozy setting. They offer papaya salad both Lao and Thai-style as well as the standard Thai soups and noodles dishes. For something less familiar try the Lao-style steak or the Lao sausage. 

Nearest subway station: Tasker-Morris (Take Bus 29. which runs along Morris Street, to 6th Street)

Pho 75

This is where Anthony Bourdain stopped while filming for Season 2 (Episode 9) of The Layover. They are open daily from 9 AM to 8 PM and offer a no-frills dining experience similar to what you might get in a cafe in Hanoi, Saigon or any other Vietnamese town or city (minus the Philadelphia Eagles memorabilia). Their menu is basic with drinks, a handful of desserts and 17 different versions of Vietnam’s most beloved culinary export. After you choose the right combo of paper-thin meat cuts you want in your bowl, your pho noodle soup will likely show up in less time than it takes to cool off. It makes sense to get the large pho as it’s only seventy cents extra. Everything on the menu is under $10. Drinks and desserts are all $3 and under. The whole ordeal should take less than thirty minutes.

Pho 75 is cash only and not vegetarian-friendly. Read about how to spend a day exploring Philly along the Broad Street Line here.

Nearest Subway Station: Ellsworth-Federal

Saté Kampar

Rather than serving the typical Malaysian specialties like mee goreng, roti canai, char kway teow, etc., Sate Kampar focuses on serving nasi (rice) dishes, satay (meat on a stick), and a few of chef Ange’s personal favorites. The restaurant gets its name from grilled meat on a skewer and a small city roughly halfway between Penang and Kuala Lumpur, which is famous for its food. Sate Kamapr serves halal meat (including goat) which is cooked over coconut shell briquettes. You can see the whole process thanks to the open kitchen. They also offer vegan and vegetarian dishes. 

Nearest subway station: Snyder or Tasker-Morris

Ratchada Thai & Laos Cuisine

This 55-seat, dimly lit, ornately decorated restaurant offers standard Thai/Lao fare and more. The Lao beef jerky appetizer is one of their more popular dishes as is their Ratchada Duck chef special. Also, try the hilariously-named Young Girl on Fire, which offers a sample of what you might get in Thailand (papaya salad, sticky rice, BBQ chicken, and mixed vegetables).

Nearest Subway Station: Ellsworth-Federal

Sarvida

Not all of Philly’s best Southeast Asian restaurants are located south of Market Street, and Sarvida is a perfect example. This spinoff from Perla (chef Lou Boquila’s South Philly restaurant) has a completely different menu but also specializes in modern Filipino cuisine. Most dishes on the small menu have at least one ingredient that will be unfamiliar to most who have never been to the Philippines. Ever heard of bagoong? How about kesong puti? Longhots? Sunday is brunch only. 

Nearest subway station: Girard

Vientiane Bistro

Southeast Asian food keeps pushing its way up the Market Frankford line. This spinoff from West Philly’s long-established Vientiane Cafe opened last September is conveniently located under the elevated train tracks. The interior design is more austere than the original, but Vientiane Bistro is also much easier to access via public transit. The menu is nearly identical and they accept cards.

Read more about Kensington here.

Nearest subway station: Huntingdon

Pinterest 10 Places to eat Southeast Asian Food in Philly

This post was sponsored by Visit Philly. All pictures were shot with a Panasonic Lumix ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera with the exception of any Instagram photos.

Have you tried any of the Southeast Asian restaurants in Philadelphia? If so, which do you recommend? Leave a comment below!

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