It’s hard to debate – Bangkok is voted one of the best cities in the world for street food. It has excellent variety, and you get great value for the money. Just step out of your doorstep, and you’ll be surrounded by a myriad of vendors selling everything from fruit smoothies and Thai iced tea to spicy noodles and tender meats with rice.
Pad Thais, Som Tums, and Tom Yums are Thai food favorites. You should definitely try them when in Thailand, but you should add some lesser known varieties to your bucket list.
The dishes below are because everyone has different tolerance to spice, and we wouldn’t want you to end up with your tongue on fire or with an upset stomach!
🌶 - mild
🌶🌶 - slightly hot/spicy
🌶🌶🌶 - very spicy
1. Khao Soi - Northern Thailand 🌶
Best described as curry soup - the Khao Soi is a Burmese-inspired dish that is found in both Laos and Northern Thailand. You can get Khao Soi in other regions too, but it’s just not the same (in my opinion).
The dish is comprised of boiled egg noodles, served in a spicy coconut broth, and topped with deep-fried crispy egg noodles. The flavor is enhanced with pickled vegetables and meat. You can add condiments such as sugar, fish sauce, lemon, or chilies. Whatever suits you.
2. Nam Tok - A Spicy Salad 🌶🌶🌶
When translated, the dish means waterfall. It is a soup, but some call it liquid salad. The salad, in this case, is made by combining meat (beef, pork or chicken) with ground roasted rice and dried chilies, fish sauce, lime juice, shallots, spring onions, and mint leaves. The mix of flavor will definitely challenge the taste buds.
Although quite spicy, you can ask to lessen the heat level. You can also enjoyed Nam Tok with a local beer. While most tourists prefer Singha or Chang, the locals tend love their Leo.
3. Guay Teow - Local Favorite, Loved by Everyone 🌶
Easily found on the streets of Thailand, the Guay Teow is a noodle soup that comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. You have the choice between chicken, beef, pork, or seafood. You then choose from one of the following noodles: flat, round, glass, small, or big. Finally, you can add a range of condiments to an already delicious broth to truly satisfy your taste.
4. Goong Che Nam Pla - Raw Prawns in Fish Sauce 🌶🌶🌶
The origin of this dish is unclear, but it's most popular with locals along the coastal regions and islands. The dish is not for the faint of heart, especially if you don’t care for raw foods.
It’s sashimi soaked in fish sauce, lemon, garlic and chilies. The taste is very strong, but those who try it love it. It’s often paired with a cold beer or ice tea.
5. Sai Krok Isan - Fermented Northeastern Sausages 🌶
You've heard of fermented foods, but have you ever heard of fermented sausage? In Thailand, you'll find street vendors selling Sai Krok Isan on mobile BBQ stands and in restaurants. It's usually eaten with bird's eye chilies, raw cabbage, and sliced ginger.
It's a favorite among locals and travelers alike.
6. Any Curry You Can Find 🌶🌶
Thailand is known for its curry. You have your typical green, red, and yellow curry. The yellow curry is also known as Massaman curry. It’s slightly milder than the former two curries and has a rich, creamy flavor.
There are two theories about the history of this dish. Some say it is of Persian descent, while others believe it has Malay or Indian influence.
No matter where curry originated from, it's a local favorite.
7. Krapao - Chicken/Pork/Beef with Basil and Chilies 🌶🌶🌶
For everyone and anyone who loves Thai street food, this is both a staple and comfort food. It's a must try dish when in Thailand. In fact, when locals don’t know what to order or eat - Krapao is there to save the day.
It’s an easy dish to make yourself. Between its rich flavor and aroma, this dish never gets old. A runny fried egg on top is a must!
8. Grilled/Steamed/Fried fish on the islands 🌶
Although seafood is abundant in most regions of Thailand, it’s freshest near the coastal regions. However, nothing beats having grilled, steamed or fried fish on any of the islands. Whether you’re in Koh Samui, Phuket or any off-grid islands in Thailand, make sure you don’t miss having their local fish delicacies.
The fish come with different kinds of sauces - spicy, sweet and sour. Grab a cold Leo while you’re at it. Remember, it's the local's favorite beer!
9. Khao Tom Mud - Banana Leaf with Sticky Rice
Sticky rice with mango is usually a favorite, but Khao Tom Mud is even more unique. This sweet treat is made from sticky rice mixed with coconut milk, sugar, and sweet black beans. It's then wrapped up in a banana leaf. The flavors burst in your mouth as you bite into this Thai dessert.
10. Khanom Krok - Coconut Pudding
Coconut is used in a lot of Thai dishes, so it was only natural for it to be featured as one of their most popular desserts. Khanom Kroks is sort of like bread pudding, which is made from coconut and rice flour. You will often find them being fried or baked in a pot with several circular holes that shape the mold into little round cakes. A hot and yummy dessert full of coconut aroma that just melts in your mouth.
11. Different Thai Iced Teas
Thais love their ice teas, especially in the hot weather. They'll drink it in the morning, between work hours, and in the evening. You can easily find vendors serving different varieties on any street. The most popular iced tea is Cha Nom Yen - Thai iced tea with sweetened condensed milk.
Have It Your Way
Thai food is pretty flexible. You can always find variations of almost any dish. Here are some phrases you should know if you want Thai food served your way.
Make it less spicy - phet nit noi
Don’t add chilies - mai sai prik
To ask for a vegan option, just say the dish name followed by ‘jay’
For vegetarian it is ‘mangsawirat’
Thailand is a beautiful destination with a lot to offer any foodie. It's always important to pay attention to these travel safety tips when visiting, and always be aware of the risks surrounding you. Happy and safe traveling!