Pack up a picnic to remember with these sweet, sour and savoury snacks that'll travel well just about anywhere.
5 Oct 2021 - 9:24 PM  UPDATED 5 Oct 2021 - 9:35 PM

--- Explore Australia's Malaysian flavours with Adam Liaw and Poh Ling Yeow in Adam & Poh's Malaysia in Australia, 8.30pm 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 head to the program page. ---


Street food vendors know best when it comes to creating dishes that can be transported across fair distances and don't compromise on taste and texture when they sit at room temp.

Add a little flavour to your next spread of strawberries and cheeses with these Southeast Asian snacks perfect for spring picnicking.

1. Chive cakes (khanom gui chai)

A sweet-savoury chive filling wrapped in a chewy dough made from tapioca flour makes for a popular Thai street food favourite. Pop a few of these into a container and bring dipping sauce for the side to pour over and serve. Make sure you don't refrigerate these before your trip or the dough will harden to an unpleasant texture.

Corn fritters (Perkedel jagung)

2. Corn fritters (perkedel jagung)

These crisp, golden bundles burst with the sweetness and brightness of fresh corn, and are perfect for casual bites. Like any fried food that's being transported, don't seal them in a plastic container or they'll end up sweating and going soggy. A colander lined with a clean tea towel or a paper bag will keep them in better shape.

3. Fried radish cake (chai tow kway)

This crispy-chewy, savoury rice and radish cake is a popular street snack in Singapore and iterations of it can be found on dim sum carts across China. Pop a plateful down and a few toothpicks for sharing - happy days.

4. Adam Liaw's nasi lemak

This is the national dish of Malaysia, and while the number of versions may be endless, at its heart is coconut rice, a few textural accompaniments and delicious sambal. Wrap it up in a banana leaf and let it sit for the travel time and it'll taste even better.


5. Semolina pancake (Uttapam)

Uttapam is a thick dosa, or pancake, topped with vegetables. Essentially it is an Indian pizza, so get creative with your ingredients and place whatever you like on top. It is divine served hot, with a side of chutney. Make sure you use a non-stick frying pan or a well-cured pan, 
as this uttapam is notoriously sticky.

6. Umai udang Sarawak

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

Sugarcane prawns {Chaọ tôm)

7. Sugarcane prawns (Chaọ tôm)

Prawn on the barbie, Vietnamese-style. Expect your pork and prawn mixture to have a similar bouncy texture to that of a fish cake before wrapping it around your sugarcane ready for grilling.

8. Braised meatball banh mi

Homemade banh mi might not sound like the best picnic food but if you bring along all the components separately and let your friends assemble on-site you've taken half the work out of it. Pop by your favourite Vietnamese bakery to grab some fresh rolls and enjoy the freedom of letting all the flaky crumbs fall freely onto the surrounding grass - just watch out for pigeons.

9. Chicken curry puffs (kahree puff gai)

Influenced by Portuguese desserts introduced to Thailand in the fourteenth century, these pastries are a mixture of Western pastry and Eastern spices. It'll be a fun story to tell as the hands come swooping in for your container of these tasty snacks.

10. Yoghurt with black sticky rice

Make it a three-course picnic with a little dessert. You can either portion this into individual containers or bring one large one and scoop it onto little serving plates. It's one for the cooler bag but easy to transport knowing you don't need to worry about any sudden bumps in the road hurting its structure.

11. Easy Singapore noodles

Technically not Southeast Asian in origin, the Singapore noodle originated in Hong Kong, inspired by the Indian-Chinese influence on Singapore's cuisine. Its become a much-loved staple and makes a great picnic party pleaser.

12. Banana blossom and crispy tofu salad

A vibrant Vietnamese salad is hard to pass up on a warm day sitting in the sun. Don't fret about room temperature meat and let the tofu do all the talking in Jerry Mai's recipe. Its porous texture will soak up all the dressing and the vegetarian (and vegan) guests will be stoked.

13. Grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf

Bo la lot are perfectly wrapped beef parcels in betel leaves. When cooked over a charcoal grill, the smell of grilled betel leaf is incredibly fragrant. Make them ahead at home, or bust out your portable grill at the park for a little extra theatre.

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

Serunding daging is a very dry, flaky meat floss with flavours of rendang. A serving of coconut rice is the perfect vehicle to create a flavour-packed snack. This one even saves on the cutlery as it's commonly eaten by hands, the sticky rice making an ideal utensil for scooping up the beef.

15. Pork and prawn rice paper rolls

Rice paper rolls may well be the perfect picnic food. All you need is a bowl of water and you could even get together and assemble on the spot for an activity-and-meal in one. If you're feeling friendly, just pre-roll and store either with baking paper between them or give them a brush with neutral oil before popping in a container.

Pandan cake

16. Pandan cake

Touted as the vanilla of Asia, pandan cakes in Southeast Asia are about as popular as the vanilla slice is at a bakery in Australia. The extract gives a vibrant green colour that'll leave your picnic pals talking long after they taste.

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