We lived in Bangkok for nearly two years and barely scratched the surface of this amazing foodie destination. There are more food options available than you can imagine. In our Bangkok Food Guide, we share a few of our all-time favorite Thai dishes to eat in Bangkok.
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The Best Food To Eat In Bangkok
Not only have Amber and I been fortunate to travel several times to Bangkok, we called Bangkok home for just under two years. Bangkok is an incredible city for tourists and expats alike.
Bangkok is a massive city with thousands of small alleyways lined with tons of incredible Thai street food. Knowing what and where to eat in Bangkok is very important. And challenging.
The food scene in Bangkok is one of the most dynamic in the world. With the exception of the food in Hong Kong and the food in Singapore, no place beats Bangkok for food. On the one hand, you will find tons of street food vendors cooking mouthwatering Thai dishes.
On the other, you will find many of the best restaurants in the world, including 4 of the top 10 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Ask anyone where the best Bangkok food is and you’ll get 100 different answers. When we lived in Bangkok and were looking for great food, we followed one rule, eat where the Thais are eating.
Nobody knows Thai food better than the Thais. If there’s a restaurant packed with Thais, we’d eat there. And 9 times out of 10 we weren’t disappointed.
Eating Street Food In Bangkok
During our first trip to Thailand in 2004 I was terrified I get sick from eating street in Bangkok. It took me a couple of days to get used to things, after all this was our first trip to Asia. By the end of our 10 day trip to Thailand, I couldn’t get enough Thai street food.
I mentioned this because I know not everyone has traveled to or lived in Bangkok. Not wanting to try street food in Bangkok is a perfectly valid concern for any first-time traveler.
Hopefully, as somebody who had these same concerns, I can alleviate them and make you feel more comfortable with these simple “guidelines” for eating street food in Thailand.
As a big fan of the “Rule of Threes,” I’ll keep my suggestions to these three tips for eating street food in Bangkok.
- Always Look For A Line: If there’s a line for food, get in it. This usually means the food is good and the food is not sitting around.
- Look For Locals: As I mentioned before, the Thais are the best judge if a street food stall has good food. So if you see local Thais eating there then you know to try it.
- Trust Your Senses: If you see or smell something that doesn’t look right don’t eat there. This is tricky with smells if you’ve never been to Bangkok, but your eyes can easily tell if a street food stall isn’t clean.
With all this in mind, let’s look at some of the best and must-try dishes in Bangkok.
If there is a National Dish of Thailand it has to be Pad Thai. It’s without a doubt, the most famous Thai food in the World. You can find it nearly everywhere. But for many inside and outside of Thailand, Pad Thai isn’t held in such regard as we hold it.
For the record, Amber and I LOVE Pad Thai. We ate it all the time when we lived in Bangkok. We order Pad Thai at Thai restaurants near us and when traveling. And since moving out of Thailand, we even make Pad Thai at home.
Many people don’t think Pad Thai is authentic Thai food. After living in Thailand for nearly two years and seeing Pad Thai everywhere, I don’t understand why people think this. Pad Thai is one of the most popular local foods in Bangkok. We’ve seen plenty of Thai people eating Pad Thai.
Just in case you don’t know what Pad Thai is, Pad Thai consists of stir-fried rice noodles, bean sprouts, and green onions with chicken, prawns, and tofu. It is a beautiful combination of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Pad Thai is topped with crushed peanuts, a squeeze of fresh lime, and some dry chili pepper.
In our food travels it’s always been the most simple food we’ve enjoyed the most. And nothing could be more true than with Moo Ping in Bangkok. Regardless if it’s for breakfast or after one too many Chang beers, there’s nothing better to eat in Thailand.
Moo Ping or grilled pork, is a popular Thai street food snack in Bangkok. Moo Ping is a combination of sticky sweet and grilled fattiness flavors. And who doesn’t think that sounds delicious? Cooked over charcoal, the smoke adds an additional layer of flavor.
To make Moo Ping, the pork collar of the pig is used. This cut has a bit more fattiness compared to other cuts. And as we know, fat is flavor. The meat is marinated in oyster and soy sauces along with palm sugar.
This is where the sticky sweet flavoring come from. Moo ping is grilled over an open flame and served with sticky rice. And like most Thai food, it’s very cheap. You can buy 6 Moo Ping skewers for less than $1 USD.
When we lived in Bangkok the best Moo Ping could be found outside the Aloft Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 11. Only available at night, this Moo Ping was made by the nicest Thai women we’ve ever met.
At the time, she had been making moo ping from her street food cart for 5 years. If we didn’t visit her for a while, she’d still remember our names and faces. I have no idea if she’s still there but look for her outside the Aloft.
When people hear “Thai curry,” they automatically think of Thai Green Curry. It is after all the most popular version of Thai curry. As delicious as Thai Green Curry is, by no means is it the only type of Thai curry. There are at least a half dozen other types of Thai curries.
Some of the most popular Thai curries include Yellow Curry, Red Curry, Massaman Curry (my favorite), and Penang Curry (my second favorite).
Thai curries usually come with some type of animal protein. These proteins are chicken, pork, beef, and seafood. If you are a vegetarian, don’t worry you can always have any of these Thai curries with just vegetables.
If you are vegan, eating Thai curries is more difficult. Like most, if not all food in Southeast Asia, Thai curries may include fish sauce.
If you are eating in Bangkok at a street food stall or a smaller, hole-in-the-wall restaurant, it will be difficult to communicate any food preferences. Your best bet is to find a “normal” restaurant in Bangkok where you might have a better chance of communicating what you do and don’t eat.
Som Tum with Fried Chicken
Som Tum, or Green Papaya salad, looks like an innocent, healthy salad, but be warned, this Thai dish packs a kick. A blend of freshly shredded green papaya, garlic, fish sauce, Thai chilies, and dried shrimp, Som Tum is Thai food.
Som Tum perfectly represents the main elements of Thai cuisine salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter. Often enjoy with grilled chicken, Som Tum is so simple yet so good. Remember I said Som Tum can pack a kick? Depending on how fresh the Thai chilies are, Som Tum can be incredibly spicy.
*Warning: If you want a taste of how local food in Bangkok tastes for locals, order Som Tum or any other Thai dish, Phed Mak Mak. This loosely translates to Thai spice. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Many Thai restaurants won’t honor this request. But if they do, watch out, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Pad Kra Pow
Pad Kra Pow is my #1 must-try food in Bangkok. I’ve been in love with this dish since our first trip to Thailand in 2004. It’s no surprise as I love all types of pork. And in Thailand, they really know how to cook pork.
For me, Pad Kra Pow is street food in Bangkok. Pad Kra Pow is easy to make and it’s super cheap, costing approximately $2. These are two of the many factors with street food in Bangkok.
Pad Kra Pow is a popular dish across Bangkok, as well as the rest of Thailand. The key ingredient to a good Pad Kra Pow is plenty of fresh Thai holy basil. It’s what makes Pad Kra Pow, Pad Kra Pow. If you’ve never had Thai basil before, it has a distinct flavor compared to Italian basil. And it’s used in many Thai dishes.
This incredibly popular Bangkok food is often made with ground pork, green onions, and plenty of garlic. Pad Kra Pow is served on a bed of rice (naturally) and best of all, with a fried egg. I love enjoying Pad Kra Pow with a cold Thai beer or any other refreshing Thai drink.
Tod Man Pla
Tod Man Pla is often compared to a type of Thai fish cake. Not my favorite Thai dish, Tod Man Pla is a blend of red curry paste, flaked fish, kaffir lime leaves. Green beans, lemongrass, and eggs are also added. Tod Man Pla can be made using various fish. But often where Bangkok food is concerned, they will use fresh clown featherback fish.
The most common way to serve these tasty little fish snacks is with a cucumber salad. Relish and sriracha sauce often accompany Tod Man Pla. They make for an excellent street food choice in Bangkok and are often served as appetizers in restaurants.
After Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup is arguably the most famous dish from Thailand. One of my personal favorite Thai dishes, Tom Yum encapsulates everything about Thai cooking. Tom Yum features all the elements of Thai cooking, that make Thai cooks so special; salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter.
Because Tom Yum is one of the most popular Thai foods in Bangkok you can easily find it. When we lived in Bangkok we would eat Tom Yum at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall, street food restaurant.
The Tom Yum was loaded with spice and flavor and packed with prawns. All for less than $5.
This famous Thai soup uses rice noodles, herbs, chilis, and vegetables. The base of the soup is made using a paste called Nam-prik-pai. Nam-prik-pai is made from roasted chilis, shallots, and garlic cooked on charcoal before blending. This is what gives the soup its depth of flavor.
Despite being a Northern Thai dish, Khao Soi is a very popular dish to eat in Bangkok. You’ll have to ask around where to find it, but once you do, you’re in for one of the best Thai dishes. Aside from mango sticky rice, this is Amber’s absolute favorite dish to eat in Thailand.
Like many Thai dishes, Khao Soi is a complex yet simple dish. At the center of Khao Soi is its thick, creamy, coconut sauce. Fresh egg noodles are combined with fried noodles and chicken drumsticks. Garnishes like cilantro, sliced shallots, and pickled mustard greens complete the dish.
While the best Khao Soi is found up north in cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, you can find great khao soi in Bangkok. For us, the best khao soi restaurant in Bangkok is Madame Musur Bar & Restaurant.
Kuay Teow Reua (Boat Noodles)
This isn’t one of our favorite dishes in Bangkok. But Kuay Teow Reua is a very popular dish in Thailand. Kuay Teow Reua aka Thai Boat Noodles are a traditional Bangkok food with a rich, intense flavor. Boat Noodles are usually made with beef or pork, soy sauce, spices, and pickled bean curd.
Some places serve boat noodles with other ingredients, such as pig’s liver and meatballs.
What makes this dish so distinctive is the fact that the soup base is made using cow or pig blood, which is mixed with seasonings and aromatic Thai spices.
Jok (Thai Rice Porridge)
I’m not ashamed to say Jok, or Thai rice porridge, is one of my favorite Thai breakfast dishes to eat. Rice porridge might not sound delicious but like most Thai food it is. And I say enough that it’s a must-try food in Bangkok.
Jok is served as a Thai breakfast food. You’ll find it nearly all hotel breakfasts. Jok is made using jasmine rice. It’s slowly cooked until it has the texture of rice pudding. In a way, it’s very similar to Western oatmeal but with rice instead of oats.
The best part of Jok is customizing it. To give jok some actual flavor, it’s seasoned with fish sauce, fried garlic, and pickled ginger. Want some heat? Add some Thai chili and enjoy. You’ll find different versions of jok made with pork meatballs or pouched eggs.
Mango Sticky Rice
When Amber sees mango sticky rice, her world stops. This delicious Bangkok street food is sweet but not too sweet. It’s refreshing and addicting. And like most food in Bangkok, cheap.
You might never think to pair mango and coconut milk with rice. However, it works and is an extremely popular dessert in Bangkok.
Making mango sticky rice is fairly straightforward. Rice is soaked overnight before being steamed. It’s sweetened with coconut milk and sugar, similar to a traditional rice pudding. Thai mango is sliced and served together.
Mango sticky rice is enjoyed warm with a drizzle of coconut syrup. It’s topped with roasted sesame seeds. Although this might seem like an unusual combination, this is definitely a must-try dish in Bangkok.
FAQs – What To Eat in Bangkok
As somebody who lived in Bangkok, what food from Bangkok isn’t famous? Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Among the most popular food in Bangkok include Pad Thai, Moo Ping, and mango sticky rice. Best of all, food in Bangkok is everywhere and cheap.
Hands down, rice is the main food eaten in Thailand. Not only is rice the main food eaten in Thailand, but Thailand is also one of the largest producers of rice in the World. Rice, fish, pork, and vegetables are the next main foods eaten in Thailand.