Don’t just fill your heart’s content with shopping… fill your bellies too with Thailand’s famous street food!
Thailand is famous the world over for it’s street food that’s cheap, delicious and oh so unique. We’ve picked some of the favourites we’ve encountered on our travels.
WARNING. You will get hungry after reading this.
#1 – Boat Noodles
a.k.a. Kuai Tiao Ruea, ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ
A popular dish amongst the local working class since 1942, Thai Boat Noodles were first served from boats that ply Bangkok’s (then) many canals. Today, you can find them everywhere, and they’re absolutely delicious.
Perfectly chewy rice-noodles or egg-noodles swim in a silky-smooth broth of fried garlic, radish, cinnamon, bean sprouts, parsley, paprika, morning glory and a smattering of marinated meats boiled over a day.
Talad Rot Fai Ratchada sells our favourite variation of this noodle (pictured above). The portions there are huge, meant for more than one person. That’s a big difference from the usually tiny servings found elsewhere.
We absolutely love the juicy steamed dumplings, crispy fried wontons, tea-boiled eggs, fresh green vegetables, deep fried crackers (giving every bite that satisfying crunch) and meatballs. And you simply can’t beat that special crab cake baked within the topshell of the crab itself. It perfectly captures an intense crab flavour that sends this dish to the top of our list here.
#2 – Grilled River Prawns
You can smell the distinctly mouthwatering aroma of these juicy-grilled yumminess from afar. Yes, it’s the famous (giant) grilled prawns that are so tender, so fragrant, and so irresistible they’ll draw you in even if you aren’t hungry.
First up, these are not your usual grilled prawns. They’re massive in size, and look almost like lobsters. But make no mistake, this is a prawn. They’re a unique species of freshwater river prawn that’s native to Southeast Asia. Their heads are monster-sized and bigger than the rest of their bodies, overflowing with succulent natural juicy goodness. You know what that means – the irresistible prawn flavour is unbelievably fragrant here, made even more so thanks to expert char-grilling done by Thailand’s master street chefs. They’re often served with a special Thai dip sauce, which goes really well.
Each prawn can weigh up to 500g (that’s like half a kilogram! Holy hell!) and as such, they’re on the expensive side. But they are oh so worth it.
Trust us. You’ll want more than just one.
#3 – Thai Crispy Pancake
a.k.a. Khanom Bueang, ขนมเบื้อง
You’ll find the classic and extremely popular Khanom Bueang, (or Thai Crispy Pancakes/Crepes) all over Bangkok. They are palm-sized pockets of sweet, succulent coconut goodness.
A crispy, delicately thin layer of rice flour forms the base for a freshly whipped coconut merengue cream bed. Thereafter, you’ll get a choice of topping it with juicy shredded white coconut, or Thai Foi Thong (golden egg yolk threads boiled in caramel). Some places offer a savoury alternative, with toppings made of marinated chopped shrimp.
You usually buy a packet of them (not just one, because who does that with these babies?) and are expected to finish them ASAP. They can get soft really quickly, so gobble them up fast to enjoy them at their crispiest and juiciest.
#4 – Watermelon Shake (Real Fruit Cup)
Where else other than in Bangkok can you find freshly blended watermelon shake served with spheres of frozen watermelon juice? What’s more, your cup (or bowl) is the whole hollowed-out watermelon itself! This is the perfect drink to quench your thirst, freshen up and cool down after a hot day.
#5 – Grilled Scallops with Cheese
Scallops. Melted cheese. A sweet-spicy Thai sauce. All flame-grilled atop sizzling barbecues right before your eyes. Although not unique to Thailand, grilled scallops are becoming extremely popular amongst Thais. Indeed, Bangkok’s street food hawkers now sell them nearly everywhere.
The best part? They taste as good as their restaurant counterparts and are a lot cheaper. This means you can indulge on them, absolutely guilt-free!
#6 – Fried Chicken (Thai Style)
Fried Chicken is a staple street food found anywhere in the world. But we’re talking about Thailand’s unique variety here, and we think they’re simply the best in the world.
Each stall boasts their own special blend of Thai spice marinate, but wispy hints of lemongrass – a fragrance that’s classic and characteristically Thai – always form the base. Most importantly, the chicken is perfectly done, complete with crispy skin, tender and springy white meat oozing with natural juices and flavour.
#7 – Fried Banana Roti
a.k.a. Roti Kluai Khai, โรตีกล้วยไข่
This is sure to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. Roti Kluai Khai is a decadent delight of sliced fresh banana and beaten eggs fried within a wrap of traditional Indian flatbread. Drizzle on (or ladle on, if you prefer) sweet condensed milk and you have yourself an indulgent dessert that’s simply irresistible and uniquely Thai.
It’s very addictive (and also very sinful), but if you ever need a reason to let yourself go, this is it.
#8 – Green Papaya Salad
a.k.a. Som Tum, ส้มตำ
When you think of ‘Thai food’, a dishes of sweet, sour and spicy instantly come to mind. Well, the Som Tum embodies the five main tastes of local Thai cuisine with unabashed pride: hot chili, savoury fish sauce, sour lime, sea salt and palm sugar.
Made mainly from shredded unripe green papayas, this dish is now ubiquitous in almost all Thai restaurants both locally and over the world. It is a fragrant, spicy and savoury salad that packs a real punch found nowhere else.
Enjoy Som Tum with traditional Thai sticky rice to help mellow the strong flavour of the salad.
(Psst…. we’ve heard from the locals that the spiciness and sour acidity of Som Tum is incredibly effective at burning fat and reducing weight, which might explain why most Thai people are so slim and slender.)
#9 – Grilled Cuttlefish
a.k.a. Pla Muek Yang, ปลาหมึกย่าง
Cuttlefish gives of a strong, distinctly delicious aroma when grilled to crispy perfection, and you’ll be smelling lots of these all over Bangkok. Tenderly cooked and smoked over glowing embers of charcoal, this savoury street-side seafood snack is sure to pacify your hunger pangs.
Pair this with unique Thai sweet-and-sour chilli sauce, and you have yourself a winner. The chilli kicks your tastebuds into full gear, preparing your palate to receive oozes of flavourful natural juices that’ll bathe your tongue in a rush of rich, salty seafood-y decadence. Despite appearances, grilled cuttlefish is chewy and tender rather than crispy, giving you lots of bite that completes your enjoyment of Pla Muek Yang.
#10 – Fried Quail Eggs
Snack on quail eggs on a platter! Made just the way we love them: sizzle-fried sunny side up until the whites are a crispy brown, and the yolk is a molten lava of golden delightfulness that’s just about to harden. Sprinkle a little salt, crushed white pepper and drizzle fragrant light soy sauce, and you can snack on these all day.
Quail eggs taste just like chicken eggs, but have a more robust flavour because there’s a greater yolk-to-white ratio. In other words, prepare yourself for bursts of flavour with each bite!
#11 – Pad Thai Noodles
What list would be complete without Pad Thai noodles?
Rice-noodles are first soaked in a delicious sauce mix and then stir-fried ’til al dente. The springy bite of the noodle is incredible, and nothing matches the tastiness of the sauce. Then, stir in the succulent chunks of tofu, dried shrimp, garlic, shallots and roasted peanuts or cashews (and more) yourself – it’s all part of the experience!
You’ll usually have a choice of seafood, pork, chicken or beef flavours at the street stalls. This is a classic Thai dish that is a must-try. It is, after all, one of Thailand’s national dishes.
#12 – Fresh International Oysters
Fresh oysters as street food? We say YES!
Prim and proper oyster bars have been popping up all over in Bangkok’s classy night markets and serve a wide selection of fresh oysters, shellfish and seafood. These bars import fresh oysters daily from all over the world, giving you a choice creamy, sweet and juicy varieties. Fresh-cut lemon and a fruit vinaigrette accompany these juicy gems, just like at the restaurants.
Well set-up and elegant, we’ll forgive you if you thought these Oyster Bars are restaurants from Thonglor. Indeed, that’s the key reason why we feel perfectly safe eating fresh seafood off the streets like this. (Also because crowds suckle on these freshly shucked oysters daily.)
#13 – Grilled Pork
Grilled pork meat on a skewer. It’s as simple as that. But the way they do it on the streets of Bangkok are a different level of delish. Hawkers marinate these in a special mix of spices and masterfully grill them over burning charcoal. Perfect timing is the key to infusing the meat with an arousing musk without overcooking. Take a bite, and feel the natural juices sealed within the tender-fresh cuts burst over your tastebuds.
They’re extremely popular and found everywhere in Bangkok, and go very well with Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad) and traditional Thai sticky rice.
#14 – Bingsu (Shaved Ice Desert)
Bingsu is a famous Korean dessert of shaved ice topped with ice cream, fresh fruit or nuts. They’re certainly not Thai, but the Thai do them extremely well. You’ll find them everywhere, from night market stalls and even shopping malls.
Many things make Thai Bingsu special. The first is perhaps their technique. Ice is shaved so fine it’s like snow. Next, only the choicest ingredients are used. Fruits are fresh, sweet and juicy, and the ice cream are rich in flavour. Finally, it’s the presentation. They simply look too good to eat!
They’re a great dessert to escape the Bangkok heat with, so help yourself to one when you get the chance!
#15 – Fried Insects
Fried meal worms, larvae, crickets, beetles and even roaches. These are exotic delicacies you hear about but never dare to try. TRY THEM.
It’ll be an unforgettable and exciting gastronomical experience, and you’ll have lots of fun picking out your favourite grub. It’s not all gimmick though, these insects are incredibly tasty too (we’ve tried!). They’re perfectly safe to eat.
Lastly, if you think about it, what makes it any different from other deep-fried meat dishes?
So there you have it! Our list of 15 must-try street food in Bangkok that we absolutely cannot miss. What do you think?