Where Foodies Eat in Bangkok
For a true Thai food fix, head straight to Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat to the locals), where the city’s famous street food scene got its start. There are Thai and Chinese dishes for days … think meat, seafood, noodle soups, fried rice, curry, dim sum and more. Cleanse your palate in between feasts at one of the numerous tea shops. Grab a few varieties to bring home, from white to oolong, lotus to jasmine.
Why settle for one great Thai dish when you can head to the Chatuchak area on the weekend and try many all at once. The neighborhood’s large weekend market reigns supreme, but there are plenty of options throughout the week, as well. The food court at the Or Tor Kor Market is a fun stop for its ready-made som tam (spicy papaya salad), satays and khanom krok (a Jell-O-like snack with coconut milk and green onion). If you’re only visiting Bangkok, the markets are a fantastic way to taste other regional flavors from out in the countryside.
Look for the gold dome of the Siri Guru Singh Sabha temple and you’ll find Little India. Browse the textile shops of Little India, then stick around for some great curry. The prices are low and the authenticity high. Buffet-style curry restaurants offer rotis, naans, chapattis and so much more.
Dine the day away in Bang Rak between Silom Road and Saphan Taksin BTS station. Look for pad Thai, fruit, spicy grilled duck and Chinese sausage. Another street food option is the small streets around Khao San Road in Banglamphu. The farther you get from that busy backpacker hub, the more surprises you’ll find, including the sour-spicy tom yam gung (Thai shrimp soup), pad see ew and pad kee mao.
Ready to elevate your dining experience in Thailand beyond street food? Join the local hipsters in Thonglor, where you’ll find everything from Thai to Korean, Italian to Japanese. This is the place to sit down in a classy setting and try whale or grilled beef tongue (Japanese specialties) or the only-in-Thailand experience or a restaurant that serves up both spicy northern regional dishes and foot massages between courses!
Now that we’ve established where to eat, here are the dishes you have to try while you’re visiting Thailand:
Try this popular noodle soup wherever you find it on the menu. Guay Teow is a catch-all name for any noodle soup, whether it contains chicken, pork or beef, or rice or egg noodles. Try it with a variety of different condiments, like the locals do, including sugar, dried chili peppers, fish sauce and lime sauce.
If you’re a Thai food fan, you may have attempted to make this spicy favorite at home, but nothing beats the real thing. If you favor fire, grab a steaming bowl brimming with lemongrass, fish sauce, fresh prawns, chili, lime leaves, mushrooms and galangal. Prefer it creamy? Ask for coconut cream. If you’re not as into the heat, ask for tom kha gai (chicken in coconut soup), similar to tom yum, but with less kick. For both soups, it’s easy to leave out or substitute for the meat and fish and make it vegetarian.
8. Som Tam (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
From the northeast Isaan region of Thailand, som tam is a fresh, spicy dish with a delightful blend of flavors and textures. As with many Thai dishes, there are several varieties, but the most classic som tam will have shredded green papaya, tomatoes, carrots, peanuts, dried shrimp, beans, palm sugar, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and chiles. A couple other favorite salads to try include yam talay (spicy seafood salad) with a combination of squid, mussels, crabmeat, scallops and mussels (alongside tomatoes, onions and rice noodles) and laab (spicy salad), a blend of meat or mushroom and mint.
We can’t discuss top Thai dishes to try without mentioning the perennial favorite, pad Thai. It’s a great jumping-off point for those new to Thai cuisine. You’ll find this fried noodle dish almost anywhere you look throughout the country, from street corners to upscale eateries. Eat it with shrimp, chicken, tofu or without a protein – it’s delicious no matter which way you try it! Branch out from pad Thai to try pad see eiw, with wide rice noodles and dark soy sauce, served with chicken, pork or beef and Chinese broccoli or cabbage.
Hailing from northern Thailand, khao soi also has a Burmese influence. This coconut curry noodle soup comes with meat or veggie options and a rich base, egg noodles, crispy deep-fried egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, lime and ground chilies. Definitely try it if you’re in northern Thailand, particularly around Chiang Mai.
We hope we’ve whet your appetite for a delicious Thailand adventure. If you’re serious about your Thai culinary experience, consider a food-focused trip to Thailand. You’ll get all the sightseeing and Thai experiences you crave, while diving deep into the culinary traditions and tastes of different regions, from bustling Bangkok to charming Chiang Mia. Expert local chefs will share their secrets and you’ll return home with new knowledge that keeps on bringing you back.