Your quick, pocket-friendly Michelin food guide to Southeast Asia

Because great food doesn’t need to clean out your wallet.

The word “Michelin” in the world of dining needs little introduction.

It has become synonymous with premium, innovative cuisine brought to life by some of the world’s culinary geniuses. But being a Michelin-recognized restaurant doesn’t always mean hefty price tags. There are affordable, hole-in-wall ones and also the so-called Michelin Bib Gourmand establishments, which serve great food at reasonable price points. 

The Singapore Michelin Guide was launched in 2016, followed by Thailand in 2018, Malaysia in 2022, and Vietnam in 2023. Will the Philippines be next?

And trust our home turf Southeast Asia to have some of the world’s best and yet most affordable Michelin-recognized dining spots. After all, our region is a gastronomic powerhouse, one that prides itself on a confluence of flavors that trace their roots from time immemorial.

Michelin making its presence felt in SEA helps shine the spotlight on our regional flavors—from the fiery delights of Thailand to the soothing, aromatic dishes of Vietnam. 

Photo from Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, Singapore

And in true Southeast Asian form, good food doesn’t really have to break the bank. Here’s a quick guide to some of the most pocket-friendly Michelin-listed establishments in our neighborhood. 


The very first edition of the famed guide for the region was quite unsurprisingly the Singapore Michelin Guide, which was launched in 2016. This marked the first time the guide covered a Southeast Asian country (it took them a while!).

The guide has since been expanded to include other countries in the region, such as Thailand in 2018, Malaysia in 2022, and Vietnam in 2023. A website predicts the Philippines might *fingers crossed* be next!

Hawker Chan’s soya sauce chicken rice

The city-state is home to the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred meal—that of Hawker Chan’s which we also have in Manila—and boasts a plethora of Michelin-starred and Michelin Bib Gourmand-listed restaurants serving up exquisite yet reasonably priced dishes.

For now, the Singapore guide has three restaurants with three Michelin stars: Odette, Zen, and Les Amis; six restaurants with two Michelin Stars; 44 restaurants with one Michelin star; and 76 restaurants with Bib Gourmand recognition. It also has a lone street food stall with one Michelin star.

For value-for-money Michelin-starred restos, there’s Putien and its menu that’s inspired by the flavors of China’s Fujian province. Its offerings are known for their clean and light flavors that showcase fresh seasonal produce. And the good news for us Pinoys? We need not travel to the Lion City for a taste of Putien’s famed 100-second stewed yellow croaker and fried Heng Hwa bee hoon, as it already has a branch in Podium in Mandaluyong. 

Putien’s “100-second” stewed yellow croaker

Another one Michelin-starred restaurant in Singapore that’s quite affordable is Candlenut, which is popular for its classic Peranakan food with a modern twist. Helmed by chef Malcolm Lee, it is committed to creating “inspired and elevated” dishes using the freshest seasonal produce available. Candlenut has the distinction of being the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant.

When it comes to Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants, a must-try when in Singapore is Muthu’s Curry in Little India with its iconic fish head curry which is beloved by locals for over 50 years. Now run by its second-generation owners, the blend of spices used in its curry paste continues to be a fiercely guarded secret.

The author with her son and husband at Song Fa Bak Kut Teh in Clarke Quay

Then there’s Eminent Frog Porridge, a go-to diner for a budget-friendly late night meal. This humble stall serves delicious frog legs (as the name implies!) in traditional clay pots. Order their signature kung pao (a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish) frog, packed with dried chillies and best eaten with plain porridge. 

There’s also Hjh Maimunah which offers authentic Malay and Indonesian cuisine like beef rendang, tahu telur (fried beancurd in sweet sauce) and lemak siput sedut (sea snails in coconut gravy).

Song Fa’s bak kut teh

Love bak kut teh? Song Fa’s is arguably the best in Singapore (and a family favorite!). This establishment started operations in the 1960’s and they are still churning out their celebrated pork ribs in a peppery broth. Lines can be painfully long but a serving of their classic bak kut teh makes the waiting in the stifling Singaporean humidity worth it.

You can’t say you’ve been to Singapore if you haven’t had a taste of Hainanese chicken rice, and Tian Tian’s at Maxwell Food Center is one of the republic’s most famous and most well loved. Even Anthony Bourdain wolfed down a plate and famously said: “If there’s one dish that’s a must-try, it’s chicken rice. You may not like it the best, but it’s the dish that just might lead you to understand Singapore better.”

For the complete list of Michelin-listed establishments in Singapore, visit this site


The first edition of the Bangkok guide in 2018 included a total of 30 restaurants, with two earning the coveted three-star rating, and six restaurants earning two stars. The guide also included a bevy of street food vendors, but only one was awarded stars.

The guide has since expanded to cover other cities in Thailand, such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya. As of May 2024, 7 restaurants have two Michelin stars, 28 restaurants boast one Michelin star, and 196 are Bib Gourmand establishments.

When in Bangkok, nothing else screams “cheap Michelin” louder than Jay Fai’s. The begoggled granny’s establishment—with its iconic crab omelette—is the only Michelin-starred street food in Thailand—and deservedly so. Its other specialties include Drunken Noodles (sticky and chewy stir-fried flat rice noodles in hot and spicy sauce, fragrant basil leaves, fresh chili, coconut palm, and tender and fresh prawns, squid and cuttlefish) and Crab Yellow Curry (crab meat stir-fried with eggs and onions in a fragrant and creamy yellow curry sauce). Pro-tip: Try to be early to get a table, as the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations. 

Unknown to many travelers, just a stone’s throw away from Jay Fai’s is another Thai culinary gem: Thipsamai Pad Thai Pratoopee, which was built in 1939 just before World War II. This establishment is widely regarded as the oldest pad Thai restaurant in the country. I prefer enjoying a plate of Thipsamai’s pad Thai with a large order of ice-cold Thai-style milk tea!

Thipsamai’s pad Thai. Photo from Feastography Blog

Another Michelin-recognized pad Thai joint in Bangkok (and also just a short walk away from Jay Fai’s!) is Pad Thai Fai Ta Lu. If Thipsamai’s bestseller is its prawn-topped pad Thai, Fai Ta Lu uses Berkshire pork that’s sauteed in its own fat, giving its pad Thai a meatier and smokier flavor. 

For the complete list of Michelin-listed establishments in Thailand, visit this site


Malaysia is another contender for having the best Southeast Asian cuisine, especially with its gastronomic hotspots Kuala Lumpur and Penang, each with its own Michelin Guide. The guide lists 53 Michelin Bib Gourmand establishments in the country, while five have received one Michelin star each, and one restaurant boasts two Michelin stars. 

Nam Heong’s chicken rice. Photo from the Michelin Guide

Just like next-door neighbor Singapore, Malaysia also loves its Hainanese chicken rice, and when in KL, Nam Heong Chicken Rice is the place to go. Since 1938, this household name has been hugely popular among locals for its chicken rice. It now offers two kinds of chicken: a pricier “veggie farm” chicken with leaner and firmer flesh, and a free-range version with softer yet fattier meat. 

If claypot rice is what you’re hankering for, Heun Kee Claypot Chicken Rice, also in KL, is a must try. Beloved among locals, this restaurant uses a charcoal stove that helps infuse the rice with intense charcoal aromas. It also serves a variety of soups, vegetables, and side dishes.

Siam Road Char Koay Teow’s owner Tan Chooi Hong cooking up his iconic dish.
Photo from The Star

When in Georgetown, Penang, and you’re craving a plate of char koay teow, or stir-fried flat rice noodles, make sure to make a beeline to Siam Road Char Koay Teow. This well-loved spot serves only that one dish and it’s worth lining up for. 

For the complete list of Michelin-listed establishments in Malaysia, visit this site


There was much excitement when Michelin announced the very first guide for Vietnam in June 2023, emphasizing Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh as the country’s food destinations. Currently, five Vietnamese restaurants have been awarded one Michelin star including Anan Saigon, Camille, Gia, Hibana by Koki, and Tam Vi; and 56 have been recognized as Michelin Bib Gourmand establishments. 

Going to Vietnam anytime soon? We have some great news if you’re looking forward to a food trip in the country as there are street vendors in hidden alleys honored on the Bib Gourmand list, with 13 restaurants in Hanoi and 16 in Ho Chi Minh. Plus, the country is known to be among the cheapest for dining out in Southeast Asia. 

Phở Chào’s phở bắp hoa, featuring crunchy medium-rare beef. Photos from the Michelin Guide

In the mood for a piping hot bowl of pho? Phở Chào is one of the best places to go for this iconic Vietnamese dish. Diners can choose between a three-day beef-bone stock or chicken broth, with stand-out dishes including the phở bắp hoa, featuring crunchy medium-rare beef, and Mama Dung’s gà tôm mắm sốt (crispy fried chicken). Meanwhile, Phở Phượng’s oxtail pho—braised for 40 hours until the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender and the skin gelatinous—is a must try.

If you want to try other Vietnamese fares aside from pho, head out to Bếp Mẹ ỉn for its signature Vietnamese pancake with shrimp. Its pork and fried rice with shrimp and egg served in a coconut shell is also worth trying. 

Chả Cá Anh Vũ’s fish spring roll

Going up north in Hanoi? Try Chả Cá Anh Vũ’s grilled catfish seasoned with turmeric. This homey restaurant also serves other sumptuous fish dishes such as fish spring rolls, fish soup, and fish stomach as extras. 

The Vietnamese capital also has a number of excellent pho establishments such as Phở Gia Truyền (Hoan Kiem), Phở Bò Ấu Triệu, and Phở Gà Nguyệt—all of which serve a mean bowl of pho that’s as sumptuous and filling as it is affordable. 

For the complete list of Michelin-listed establishments in Vietnam, visit this site

The new lifestyle.