Traveling with kids doesn’t have to mean they are always eating chicken nuggets and fries. Nor should what your kids eat stop you from venturing to developing countries further afield. Even with kids on the road, you can still sample hawker and street fare as the locals do – on a small stool on the roadside – rather than feeling restricted to the hotel buffet. As proof, here are the suitcases&strollers family travel tips for 10 Asian street foods the kids will love.

1. Chicken Rice

The official dish called Hainanese Chicken Rice is a proudly proclaimed national staple in Singapore and Malaysia but chicken fried, steamed, poached or roasted with rice is a really common dish all around Asia.

It may go by differing names, depending on the country you are in, and sometimes the rice can be cooked in chicken stock, coconut rice or appear in the form of fried rice or simply plain boiled rice. Do keep in mind that in some countries it is traditional to serve the chicken pink to keep it moist – this doesn’t mean it’s undercooked but if you have any concerns request the breast meat where this is less likely to be a problem. Also look out for the spicy chilli that sometimes arrives served on the side of the plate.

2. Chicken Rice Noodle Soup

A bit like a soupy verison of chicken rice, chicken noodle soup is a healthy way to feed fussy eaters while you are traveling with kids. In countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia the versions are all slightly different but the end result is the same – the broth is innocuous enough that the kids won’t complain but is still delicious, nutritious and served piping hot so you can avoid any potential gastro issues.

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3. Satay

Chicken, mutton, beef or seafood marinated and then grilled on a stick is always a hit with the kids. All along the streets of Singapore, Malayisa and Thailand you can see vendors doing this right off the back of motorcycles fresh to order. In places like Japan or Taiwan you might also spot meatballs made of various different proteins on skewers available for sale too. It is a good idea to just order one first, to ensure the satays aren’t spicy, and then request the additional peanut dipping sauce on the side (which can also be hot for little palates). If your kids are loving the sauce, traditional satay often comes with condiments such as rice cubes, vegetables and fruit – another way to get additional nutrients into your children.

4. Fried Rice

Rice, meat, vegetables and egg all fried together are a great way to get the kids to eat all the food groups while you’re on family holiday. In places like China, Singapore or Vietnam fried rice is usually unadulterated with other spices and sauces but in places where stronger flavours are more common (such as Thailand or Indonesia) you might have to make a special request for no added sauce.

If you’re in India with kids, briyani is a verion of baked rice that might go well for kids that enjoy curry flavours.

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5. Roti

Roti is an Indian word for bread and it takes on various forms depending on which country you are in. While it is not necessarily particularly nutritious (indeed, the Southeast Asian version is very high in fat), it is a delicious filler that might encourage your kids to try out the accompanying curry dipping sauce. Otherwise opt for the dessert versions which are roti wrapped around fruit, chocolate or both.

In countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia there is some interesting culinary theatre to witness as the roti vendors stretch, flip and massage the dough that can be entertaining to watch. 

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6. Sushi

Even in many Western countries now sushi can be bought on the streets as a quick eat-on-the-run option. For kids who won’t try the versions with raw fish, sushi with tamago egg, cooked tuna, fried prawns or cucumber are less intimidating options. A sushi train restaurant makes for a fun pit stop where the kids can be fed as well as entertained by the colourful plates going past on the conveyor belt. Alternatively, for something very Japanese, try out the Standing Sushi Bar restaurants all around Tokyo where the sushi is made to order and placed on the bar for you to immediately pop into your mouth. (Standing Sushi restaurants are as they sound – standing room only – so not suitable for strollers and young preschooler children.)

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7. Spring Rolls

Family travel tip: If you didn’t know this yet, deep fried spring rolls are a super easy way to get kids to eat their vegetables without realising it. The children will love that they can use their hands and will be happily distracted crunching away while you can order some other tasty treats to try. If you prefer your kids not to eat fried foods, in Vietnam there are fresh rice paper roll options and in Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia you can opt for popiah (where the skin is made from a fresh wheat pancake) instead.

8. Dumplings

Dumplings are another easy way to get kids to try new flavours and introduce them to new cuisines. Typically made of pork, seafood and/or vegetables, dumplings are a staple in any yum cha or Shanghainese restaurant but can also be found roadside in countries like China and Taiwan. Fried dumplings are the most transportable and easy for kids to eat but, if you have older or more adventurous eaters, there are also boiled dumplings, steamed dumplings, dumplings in soup and even dumplings filled with soup to try.

9. Sticky Rice

Eggs, chestnuts and stewed meats wrapped in sticky rice and then tied up in banana leaves make for a delicious and very filling meal or snack.

As well as being a regular feature in many a Chinese restaurant, you can often see them roadside all across Asia, hanging from stalls or shop windows. If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, purchase a few extra as unopened cold ones can be easily reheated with a little steaming.

10. Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit is sold all along the streets in Asia and – if you buy locally grown – is incredibly cheap. Indeed, if you are lying on a beach in Vietnam, Thailand or Indonesia the chances are that someone will come up to you and offer you a fresh pineapple, cut before your eyes, and served in an easily transportable and disposable plastic bag with a skewer. Fresh coconuts are always on offer too – especially in beach resorts. After you’ve finished quenching your thirst with the juice, don’t forget you can eat the delicious white flesh on the inside as well.

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Use your overseas travel experience as an excuse to introduce new fruits to the kids that they’ve never seen before (such as jackfruit, star fruit or rambutan). But if you’re in a developing country where water sanitation is a problem always remember to stick to fruits you can peel (such as bananas or mangosteens) to avoid gastro.

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Images: Singapore Tourism Board