There are a lot of food destinations in the world and Bangkok is one of them. In fact, it is consistently ranked number one among the top street food cities in the world, with fierce competition from known foodie destinations like Singapore and Penang.
In Bangkok, great food is central to the local way of life. Bold, rich, sensuous, complex, and always bursting with exquisite flavours – Thai food is like no other. It is impossible not to be drawn by the beckoning aromatic smells of food as you explore the city.
Everywhere you go, there’s always something good to eat, from sunup to sundown. But for a full-on Bangkok culinary experience, skip the upscale restaurants and head to street food streets, rundown family-run eateries, and mall food courts.
Here’s a helpful guide on what to eat in Bangkok.
1. Pad Thai
Ask foreign visitors in Bangkok about what their favorite Thai dish and pad thai is almost always top of mind. This sweet and salty noodle dish has gained international recognition as the representative noodle dish of Thailand. Pad thai consists of chewy rice noodles, crunchy vegetables, seafood or meat, and tofu that are stir-fried to perfection, and topped with ground peanuts and scrambled eggs, and flavoured with an assortment of condiments and spices.
There are a lot of food stalls and eateries selling their version of this ubiquitous Thai dish. However, if you want to sample what most tourists and bloggers consider as the best pad thai in Bangkok, hail a cab and tell the driver to bring you to Pad Thai Thip Samai or simply say “Pratu Phi Phad Thai.”
There’s another pad thai place that’s gaining attention online, and it’s located on Sala Daeng Soi 2. The place is old and a bit rundown but they serve really good pad thai, and a lot of locals say that their version is even better than that of Thip Samai’s bestsellers. Take note, though, that they open at 9 a.m. and close at 2 p.m
2. Tom Yum Goong
If pad thai is Thailand’s national noodle dish, then tom yum goong is the country’s national soup. You can find a lot of eateries and restaurants in Bangkok serving this hot and sour soup but for your first authentic tom yum goong experience, go to Pee Aor Tom Yum Goong Noodles, one of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets. Located on Phetchaburi Soi 5, the popular eatery serves superb tom yum goong – just the right amount of richness and huge fresh prawns. The place can get packed with locals and tourists during peak hours so be prepared to wait in line.
3. Som Tam Salad
You can find different kinds of salads being sold on the streets of Bangkok but if you have to taste just one type during your trip, then pick som tam. Som tam, an Isaan traditional dish, is basically green papaya salad, with the papaya sliced or shredded into thin strips and flavoured with chilli, sugar, garlic, fish sauce, and lime. Some variations of som tam may include cherry tomatoes, peanuts, dried shrimp, and even salted crabs.
Before you put a hefty spoonful of this salad in your mouth, remember that although it is insanely good, it is really, really spicy. If you can’t tolerate spicy food that well, a mouthful of this appetizing dish is enough to make you tear up.
4. Gai Tod
Gai tod is essentially Thai fried chicken. But don’t think it’s just plain fried chicken, because Thai-style fried chicken tastes so good a piece or two will never be enough. That’s how good it is. Slightly salty and garlicky, gai tod is one of the most popular street foods in Bangkok. You can find gai tod food carts all over the city, especially in areas where there’s a lot of foot traffic like Pratunam.
If you’re that huge a fan of fried chicken, you should also check out Gai Tod Jae Gee and Soi Polo Fried Chicken, considered the best fried chicken restaurants in Bangkok. Many travellers claim that these two establishments are giving KFC a run for its money so go ahead and find out.
5. Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice or khao niao mamuang is definitely a must-try in Bangkok. It is a popular Thai dessert made from cooking glutinous rice in coconut milk, sugar, and tapioca starch and served with sweet ripe mangoes. Mango sticky rice is sold anywhere; you can find it at markets, food courts, and even in posh cafes and restaurants. But if you want to try the best mango sticky rice in the city, you buy it from Mae Varee, located on Sukhumvit Soi 55, although a serving will set you back around 100 baht.
There’s also a food cart on Soi 38 that sells this really delicious classic Thai dessert at more affordable prices. It is really popular so it is pretty easy to spot. Just follow the crowd!
6. Khanom Krok
Khanom krok or Thai coconut pudding is made from cooking corn, green onions, rice flour, steamed jasmine rice, grated coconut, and coconut cream in a special cast-iron pan. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, this creamy, coconut custard-filled dessert makes for a great afternoon or mid-morning snack.
7. Pla Pao
Pla pao is simply grilled fish, only that it’s salt-encrusted and tastes heavenly. The secret is in the cooking method because the fish is coated with lots of salt before it is grilled over low coals. Do not be discouraged by the copious amounts of salt used in preparing the dish because it doesn’t really ruin the taste by making it too salty or anything like that. The purpose of the salt is to help keep the juices of the fish inside, making the meat moist, tender, and more flavourful. And besides, the skin is not meant to be eaten and should be discarded. Pla pao is usually served with a bowl of steamed rice or a bunch of fresh leafy greens.
8. Coconut Ice Cream
If you’ve never tried coconut ice cream, you’re missing a lot! It is sweet, creamy, and oh-so-refreshing! You can find it being sold along busy Bangkok streets and touristy areas like Khao San and Chatuchak Weekend Market. This dessert is usually served on a small coconut husk and topped with chopped peanuts, corn flakes, toasted coconut, fresh coconut meat, red rubies, and even kidney beans. A serving of coconut ice cream plus two toppings usually costs between 30 to 40 baht.
9. Boat Noodles
Kway Teow Rua or boat noodles is a stongly flavoured pork and beef noodle dish that was once served from the boats coursing through Bangkok’s klongs or canals. This traditional dish is now being sold at stalls at the Victory Monument. You can’t miss the stalls because they are located near a canal.
Each bowl costs 10 baht but the servings are really small so be prepared to order at least five to seven bowls, or more if you have a large appetite.
10. Hoy Tod
Another must-try when in Bangkok is hoy tod or crispy oyster omelet. Made from eggs, oysters, spices, bean sprouts, and a starchy batter, hoy tod is usually cooked until it’s crusty on the edge but still soft and gooey in the middle. But most restaurants serving this savoury dish would accommodate requests for softer or crispier omelets, depending on your preference. If you prefer mussels over oysters, do not hesitate to ask as they just might have them as well.
Making plans for your Bangkok trip? Check out these top-rated Bangkok tours and excursions from Travezl.com.
By: Brendelyn Balaga