Must Eat Foods In Bangkok And Where To Eat Them
By Zarut Suriyaarunroj who, between business development and audio translation, loves to travel the world and show guests around Bangkok, where he was born and raised.
Edited by Jessica Wright
In this dynamic city, almost electric with an energy that never seems to sleep, there is always something happening and always something tantalising to eat. Bangkok is a city in which you will never go hungry with authentic, affordable and abundantly tasty food always close at hand whether it is the comforting treat of sweet and sticky barbecue pork skewers or chicken satay on the go. Even the corner 7-Eleven offers some seriously drool-worthy options like steamed buns filled with tiny quail eggs! Thai food in general is known for its delicate balance of flavour, with every mouthful promising a little sour, salty and sweet. Located right in the middle of the country, Bangkok is privileged to an influx from north and south, offering cuisine from all over the country. In essence, Bangkok for foodies is a dream come true! With so much delicious food to get to (and only one lifetime in which to try it all) you won’t want to miss a thing, so I’ve compiled a must eat in Bangkok list to help you out. After a lifetime in Bangkok, picking my favourites wasn’t easy, but here you have it – a Bangkok food guide that will show you exactly what to eat in Bangkok, and where to find all the most scrumptious dishes!
To really get to the heart of Thai food – and Bangkokian food in particular – you simply have to delve into the street food. All over Bangkok you will find an abundance of cheap and delicious food on the street, and more authentic Thai food you simply will not find anywhere. And with some insanely quick meal turnovers, good hygiene is virtually guaranteed in the street food so even the more hesitant eaters can dive right in to the delicious and cheap wares of the populous food stalls. Moo Ping is one such treasure – a comfort food comprising of good-old-fashioned charcoal grilled pork, fatty and succulent on the skewer, and sometimes served with a side of sticky rice. The pork is first soaked in coconut milk, so that when barbecued it takes on a sweet, finger-licking flavour. In my opinion this dish makes up some of the best street food in Bangkok, and is best eaten fresh and warm right off the cart.
The skewers come in a multitude of meat varieties and side sauces and the best part is that a decent portion shouldn’t cost you more than 5-15 Baht. The dish is a common on-the-go snack of locals, so if you’re ever lost on where to eat in Bangkok just take a look around you; some of the best food in Bangkok is likely just a few meters away from where you stand! Enjoy this dish as a late night party snack at Moo Ping Hea Owen (Silom, Soi Convent) which is usually operating till the small hours, or during the daytime from the Moo Ping stall at Sukhomvit (Sukhomvit Soi 19, Watthana).
A dish so synonymous with Thailand that no Thai trip could conceivably be complete without it. Surprisingly, the wildly popular dish has only been around since the 1930s when it was cooked up by a Chinese-Thai chef and has subsequently taken the country by storm, now readily available at every turn from restaurants and food stalls alike. A definite must eat in Bangkok, this dish of stir fried rice noodles, egg, tofu and chicken or shrimp is seasoned with fish sauce, sugar and tamarind and topped with bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and dried chilli to create a dish that has earned its place among the best food in Bangkok. To find the yummiest versions of this dish I would look no further than food stalls nearest to you, particularly the busy ones, where you will get this hot off the cart with all the accompanying condiments. If you’re seeking a sit-down meal you can’t go wrong getting it from the oldest Pad Thai spot in the country; Thip Samai. This spot was elevated to legendary status when the prime minister proclaimed it “truly authentic” and can be considered one of the best local Thai restaurants in Bangkok. Alternatively you can get the dish in the quaint and vintage setting of Baan Phadthai, which takes the dish to the next level with variations of crab or pork Pad Thai.
Coconut Ice Cream
It won’t take you very long to realise that in Thailand, coconut is king. The people here use it in just about every dish and even all on its own as a refreshing drink or a fresh snack or in the form of a creamy delicious ice-cream. As with many of the Thai favourites, you’ll find coconut ice-cream widely available from street vendors where it comes as a welcome and cool snack when exploring the streets in the intense tropical heat. Made from the milk, cream and crunchy flesh of real coconuts and served in a coconut shell it makes for an exciting alternative to the typically artificial, sugary varieties of ice-cream you might be used to. For an even more delicious version of this dish try pairing it with roasted peanuts, coconut milk and soft sticky rice one the side. Though incredibly easy to find, you might consider coinciding your first experience of this creamy treat with a visit to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can taste the authentic favourite in an equally authentic setting that perfectly captures the loud and vivacious nature of Bangkok. Charmingly overwhelming, the market is chock-full of hidden gems and just about every product and service you could expect in Thailand from beer and massages to some of the best Thai food in Bangkok.
Thai Curry (Gaeng)
A Thai specialty that has infiltrated every corner of the globe with it’s smooth and spicy flavour, there is naturally no better place to taste Thai curry than ground zero. For newcomers to the curry sphere of flavour green curry (khiao wan) makes for a mild introduction, with the combination of gently spicy herbal paste – a blend of coriander, chilli, basil, ginger and eggplant – and rich coconut milk to mute the heat. Usually cooked with tender, juicy chunks of chicken and bamboo shoots the delicate and complex flavours of green curry couple perfectly with a side of fragrant, steaming jasmine rice, ideal for soaking all the juices up. Red curry (gaeng daeng) is equally easy to find and equally delicious with a red curry paste in place of green, and a feast of meats from seafood to roasted duck. Topped with the distinctive flavour of thinly sliced regional lime, this dish packs a flavour punch unlike anything. Smooth curry is (as the name might suggest) an excellent place to sample Thai curries of all varieties; conveniently located near the BTS Skytrain Station Phloen Chit, and infused with a delectable aroma, great atmosphere and wonderfully hospitable staff, the restaurant is a crowd-pleaser and arguably one of the best restaurants in Bangkok.
This sweet and juicy fruit whose nickname, queen of fruit, resonates so deeply with me – being as it is my ultimate favourite fruit – is a regional treasure. Having been given its nickname due to the love that Queen Victoria of England had for this then rare and coveted fruit, mangosteens are nowadays fairly readily available throughout Thailand, the largest producer of the fruit, particularly in the peak season between May and September. Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, the mangosteen is a small round fruit about the size of a tangerine, with a dark purple skin that – be warned! – is quite tough to penetrate and can leave a nasty stain! The tough skin, about 10 millimeters in thickness, houses an edible middle that is soft, white and sectioned, each section of which is tangy and sweet and may or may not contain a small seed. The best way to peel and serve a mangosteen is to use a knife to cut through the skin around the middle, then lift the top off to get to the segments within, which can be easily removed with a fork. Get this strange and sought-after fruit at fresh-food markets, or ask the friendly locals where to buy them – they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction!
Mango And Sticky Rice
Mango and sticky rice, or Khao Niaow Ma Muang as it is known locally, might come as a surprising combination to outsiders but makes for the most luscious sweet dish, popularly eaten as a snack or dessert and perfect to have for brunch on those sweltering Thai mornings! The combinations of flavour from the warm sticky rice, the uniquely sweet and flavourful Thai mango and the topping of cool coconut milk which brings it all together is heavenly and silky smooth. Get your on-the-go fix of this healthy sweet treat at Mae Varee which has been around for over two decades and where just enough portions of mango and sticky rice are made daily to ensure selling out, making room for a fresh batch each morning! If for some strange reason you don’t want to have this for breakfast every single day, here are some other scrumptious Bangkok breakfast ideas sure to set you up with a good start to your day! If you’d prefer to end off your day, rather than start it, with a slightly more decadent variety of this dish try the hipster hangout Mango Tango in Siam Square where the mango-based desserts and setting are picture perfect.
Spicy Shrimp Soup
Often referred to as sour Thai soup, this tasty combination of tart and spicy broth – a flavourful blend of lemongrass, tomato, chilli, galangal, lime, shallots and fish sauce – with juicy, succulent prawns and woody straw mushrooms is a legend in its own right, and not for the faint of heart. Typical of a Thai flavour amalgam, the soupy dish is overwhelmingly fragrant, with an exotic perfume that – if correctly reproduced – has the power to bring you straight back to Thailand with just one eye-watering bite, no matter where in the world you find yourself. Tom Yum Goong, as it is locally known, can be found at specialist food stalls throughout the day and across the country but to fully appreciate the taste-bud tingling effects grab a bowl from Tom Yum Goong Banglamphu, which can be told apart from would-be imposters by the long and tell-tale queue of locals winding out the door. A cramped space with tiny tables, no air conditioning and no English menu – this spot is all about the food! If you’re looking for something a little more luxe, splash out on a lobster variety of Tom Yum at P’Aor, found at 68/51 Soi Petchaburi 5.