Today every major city in the world is home to at least a few Thai restaurants, and that’s no surprise; Thai food is delicious. The straightforward preparations are in perfect harmony between sweet, salty, spicy, and tart flavors.
Although accessible worldwide, no fine dining restaurant or Thai eatery outside the country gets the flavors just right, and travelers to Bangkok can testify to that. The best Thai food is made on the spot in the city’s street food stands.
Bangkok can come across as a chaotic city. The buzzing motorbikes, the night markets and the enticing aromas coming out every corner, but the Big Mango, as the city is fondly called, is ultra-modern, yet ancient, humbling and awe-inspiring.
Bangkok’s street food brings everything together. Locals, and tourists, they all feast on authentic Thai food every day, because they know something we don’t — often imitated, but never duplicated, the streets of Bangkok are the finest place to enjoy Thai food, and here’s a taste of what you’ve been missing.
Som Tam – Green Papaya Salad – ส้มตำไทย
When you think of street food, you think greasy and unhealthy. In Bangkok, it’s often the opposite.
Som tam is the famous papaya salad. Shredded unripe papaya makes for a refreshing base; chili peppers add the heat, dried shrimp, tomatoes, carrots and green beans add contrast and color, and tamarind sauce, together with the ubiquitous fish sauce balances the salad.
The papaya salad is spicy! So be careful. There are also different versions around Bangkok, but one thing that characterizes all som tam, is the freshness of the ingredients.
Som tam is delicious everywhere, but try the one from Som Tam Jay So, tended by the ‘Queen of Som Tam’ herself.
Soi Phiphat 2, Silom. Close to BTS Saladaeng. Map
Khao Pad – Thai-style Fried Rice – ข้าวผัด
You’ll find fried rice all around Asia, but the Thai version, khao pad, is quite exceptional.
Khao pad is cooked with the long-grained, aromatic jasmine rice and mixed with all kinds of veggies. Beef, chicken, pork, prawns, and even crab can be added to the mixture.
Fried rice is satisfying and never spicy, so it’s ideal for getting you started on Bangkok’s street food.
You’ll find an excellent khao pad everywhere in Bangkok, but Sornthong restaurant offers a great one mixed with some of the best seafood in the city.
2829-31 Rama 4 Rd. Khlong Toei. 5 minutes to BTS Phrom Phong. Map
Pad Thai – Thai-style Stir Fried Noodles – ผัดไทย
The most famous dish in Thailand’s repertoire is the Pad Thai, at least with the tourists.
The stir-fried noodles tossed with eggs, tofu, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, chili peppers, peanuts and palm sugar, embody all Thai flavors in a dish that has it all.
Pad Thai was the winning recipe at a public contest to find a new national dish after Thailand’s revolution, and although locals enjoy it from time to time, it’s worth mentioning it’s easier found in touristic areas.
Recommending a single pad thai in the bustling city is not easy, but if you’re around the Old City, visit Thip Samai, the restaurant is as old as the country’s national dish.
313-315 Maha Chai Rd, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon. 10 minutes to MRT Hua Lamphong. Map
Khao Man Gai – Thai Chicken Rice – ข้าวมันไก่
Khao means rice, and man (mun) gai means fatty chicken. Two elements that make this straightforward dish a favorite with the locals — jasmine rice and chicken.
Fairly complex to make, rice is flash-fried in chicken fat and cooked in chicken broth for a flavorful and fluffy rice topped with fork-tender chicken strips.
Served with a side of cucumbers and a savory dipping sauce, this dish is comforting and homey.
Khao Man Kai Jae Yi, a second-generation street food stall specializing in the chicken dish, is an outstanding option.
457/9 Thanon Chakkraphatdi Phong, Khlong Maha Nak, Pom Prap Sattru Phai. 10 minutes to BTS National Stadium. Map
Moo Ping – Thai Grilled Pork Skewers – หมูปิ้ง
This street food specialty is easy to remember and well worth seeking. Picture charcoal-grilled pork meat skewers, they’re to die for.
Expert cooks marinate the meat in coconut milk to give the skewers a tender texture, and the smoky, almost sweet flavor makes it very familiar. If you like barbecue, you’ll love these.
If you’re not into pork, you’ll find a chicken version by the name of gai bing.
Moo Ping Hea Owen is a popular hawker stand for the meaty skewers.
76 Si Lom, Silom, Bang Rak. Close to BTS Saladaeng. Map
Sai Krok Isaan – Fermented Thai Sausages – ใส้กรอกอีสาน
This juicy and spicy fermented sausage was created in the northern provinces of Thailand (in Isaan), but it’s widely found in Bangkok’s streets.
Sausage artisans craft the sausages with a mixture of pork meat, rice, garlic and herbs before being hanged to dry and ‘ferment’.
Isaan sausages are then grilled and often served on a stick. The sausage’s meaty, sour taste is hard to describe, but they’re not to be missed.
There are plenty of sausages in Bangkok’s streets, but for the real deal, you must travel north to the province of Khon Kaen, to the small town of Amphoe Phon where these sausages originate. You’ll find dozens of roadside stalls serving this delicacy.
Tom Yum Goong – Lemongrass Shrimp Soup – ต้มยำกุ้ง
Tom yum is a spicy and hearty soup flavored with lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves tamarind and a dozen other ingredients.
A complex broth is the tom yum’s soul, but you can embellish it with lots of tasty additions, including prawns (tom yum kung) and chicken (tom yum gai).
There are dozens of variations for this filling soup, and it’s a joy to trying to taste them all! Start your journey at the Thonkrueng restaurant, it’s very popular with the locals.
211/3 Soi Sukhumvit 49, Sukhumvit Rd. 5 minutes to BTS Phrom Phong. Map
Khao Niao Mamuang – Thai Coconut Sticky Rice With Mango – ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง
Because not all street food in Bangkok is savory, here’s a sweet treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
The mango sticky rice is world famous for its straightforward flavors; it’s beauty in simplicity.
Steamed sticky rice drenched in sweet coconut milk served with ripe sliced mango is the perfect way to end a meal in Bangkok. Popular in formal restaurants, local eateries and hawker stands, this dessert is hard to miss, and always perfect.
There’s lots more!
Bangkok has a dynamic street food scene, and it can be overwhelming.
There’s something delicious in every corner, making it impossible to try it all. This is not a problem, though; on the contrary, it’s an adventure; one that you live with every bite.
Visit Bangkok for its architecture, thriving nightlife, ancient history and warm people, but truly understand the city through its food.