When it comes to exceptional gastronomic destinations, there are few places in the world which can even hope to compete with Bangkok. It’s not just that authentic Thai cuisine is one of the most internationally revered, but it has more to do with the fact that this delicious city offers a mind-boggling choice of fare (from every corner of the globe), style (from street carts to 5* extravaganzas) and setting (from riverside shacks to rooftop havens).
Eating out in Bangkok is an integral part of every visitor’s cultural exploration and, while you may not need guidance sourcing out Bangkok’s most luxurious restaurants, you may want some assistance navigating your way through its at-times daunting street-food scene.
If you’re worried about getting sick, then simply don’t! It is the very excessive Western OHS practices which have virtually wiped out the whole street-food scene in the European and North-American world; and what an absolute shame that has been. In a city of a gazillion people and stalls, the street food you’ll find here will be freshly cooked, safe and taste-bud-exploding.
From fresh and healthy to triple-fried and delicious, Bangkok’s street-food carts are like a whole universe onto themselves. You could literally eat no other way during the whole duration of your stay and be much happier for it. Moreover, you could try your hardest to taste everything you come across and still barely skim the surface.
Don’t shy away from the weird and wonderful concoctions you’ll find on every other corner in Bangkok and, if you don’t just wish to jump in blindfolded, follow our detailed guide to what many culinary experts rate as THE best street food capital in the world.
Tod Mun Pla Krai (Fish Cakes).
One of the cheapest snacks to be had in Bangkok is the unmistakable fish cake. A staple in all exported Thai restaurants the world over, the authentic ones you find here are much thinner and spicier than what you’re used to, and infinitely tastier. They come in a bag complete with lime wedge and toothpick and will set you back merely 20bht.
Tom Yum (Hot & Sour Soup)
Another well-known Thai staple is the hot & sour soup, even though you may find the original version a rather different ball-game. The explosive brew of fish sauce, palm sugar, kaffir lime and chili paste always confirm the fact that our taste buds really do go into some kind of hibernation in-between Bangkok visits.
Hoy Tod (Oyster Omelet)
This Chinese delicacy, unsurprisingly, is best savoured in Bangkok’s Chinatown district, by far the most exciting kerb-eating hub in the entire city. This is considered the birthplace of the city’s street-food scene so it all stands to reason that one of the favoured street treats in Bangkok be of Chinese origin. This doesn’t mean it’s a Chinese dish however; hoy tod is very much a Thai specialty nowadays.
The intense fish, pork fat and egg mix can be overwhelming at first try, yet if you persevere (and perhaps keep a cold beer handy) you’ll find the flavour and texture both satisfying and addictive.
Although you’ll find this dish served just about everywhere, be it known that Nai Mong (on Thanon Phlap Phla Chai ) is reputedly the king of hoy tod, so skip the trial & error and head here pronto. Ask for the extra-crispy version, it’s incredibly delish!
Kwai Tiao Rua (Boat noodles)
A boat full of sweet and spicy noodles is about as close to culinary heaven as one can get in Bangkok. These delicious snacks (small servings mean an average diner will slurp on at least 5 bowls per sitting) can be found cooked in a variety of way and with a variety of meat and noodles. For the former, beef, fish and tofu are the crowd faves, while for the latter glass, rice and wheat varieties can be ordered.
What most boat noodle dishes have in common is the soupiness (although a few dry-noodle boats are offered) and the addition of pork blood as a coagulant. Oh don’t be so squeamish! The use of a million and one spices means the likelihood you’ll taste any actual blood are zilch!
As this delicacy was initially created in the maze of Bangkok’s floating markets, hence the name, it is still there that you’ll find the widest variety and best quality. Head to Victory Monument and meander along what is affectionately known as ‘noodle boat alley’ for the ultimate noodly feast.
Kaprao Moo Grob (Pork belly with spicy basil)
A firm contender for Bangkok’s best pork dish, Kaprao Moo Grob takes no prisoners: we’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t simply melted into oblivion at first taste. The spicy basil and deep fried pork belly dish is one of the most delectable meals to be had on the streets of Bangkok and a dream come true for anyone who loves to chew their way into a garlicky, meaty and super-spicy utopia.
Everything…at MBK Food Court
If you’re salivating right now, yet are still hesitant about hitting the street stalls, then we suggest you start your Bangkok gorging session in a rather more sanitized way…and work your courage up from there.
MBK is Bangkok’s prime shopping mall and its in-house food court is bloody brilliant to put it bluntly. If you want to savor it all without any fuss whatsoever, then head here and scour the stands at leisure. It may still be somewhat crowded, but it will still be nothing compared to what you’ll have to deal with out there.
Street stall, Oleg Sidorenko via Flickr
Fish Cake stand, Alpha via Flickr
Tom Yum, Bobuc via Flickr
Hoy Tod, Maurina Rara via Flickr
Noodle Boats, J2Kfm via Flickr
Pork belly galore, Junefoo via Flickr
MBK Food Court, Hajime Nakano via Flickr