Top 5 Bangkok good eats
New Zealand native Brendan Lee takes us on a foodie tour of the top five eats in Bangkok. And guess what? Pad Thai isn't on the list.
Bangkok is a city that often polarizes travellers; some love it, some hate it, and some are so bewildered by the chaos, they can’t make up their mind. But there’s one thing that few people disagree on, and that is the food. Cheap, delicious and exotic, the food in Bangkok is world-class, and an absolute haven for Thai food experts and newbies alike. Here we run through five yummy must-eat dishes that you should try while on your tour.
Fried bananas (kluai thot)
Every morning (and afternoon) in Bangkok, you’ll find street vendors out bright and early, selling these little gems on the side of the road. The bananas are lightly battered and then deep fried, giving you a sweet treat with a nice crunch on the outside. They’re much better when they’re fresh out of the fryer, so try and find a vendor who’s cooking a fresh batch and ask for a serving of those. A bag to fill your stomach on a hungry morning will run you around 20 baht, and they’re easy to find. In the main areas of Bangok you’ll find them being sold on every second corner. Be warned though – they’re slightly addictive, and not exactly great for the waistline!
Get it here: Commonly sold street-side all around Bangkok, especially in the early morning.
Boat noodles (kuai tiao ruea)
Back in the day when Bangkok’s famous canals were still alive and busy, it was popular for vendors to sell bowls of noodles from small boats as they drifted in the water. Of course, today the canals don’t serve Bangkok in the way they used to but ‘boat noodles’ remain popular and can still be found in restaurants near the waters where they were once sold. Boat noodles are characterized by their tiny bowls, a few mouthfuls at most, and are served with various types of noodles and toppings. Pork and beef are the most common, and various types of rice and wheat noodles are available. Because the bowls are so tiny and cheap (10-12 baht each), you’ll surely be able to try them all.
Get it here: Head to Victory Monument Station and take the north exit. As you walk along the elevated walkways, look for the canal and you will probably see the alley of boat noodle restaurants; they’re not far from the station. If you don’t see them, just ask someone. It’s a famous spot amongst the local people and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Tom yum kung
This spicy soup dish is popular both in Thailand and around the world, but there’s no better place to try it than Bangkok. The soup is made with a mixture of classic Thai ingredients, and is an absolute explosion of flavour that you simply must experience for yourself. Most commonly the broth is made with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers, and in some cases, coconut milk and/or condensed milk. While the soup can be made in a variety of ways, tom yam kung, or shrimp tom yum, is definitely a favourite among with the local people and tourists.
Get it here: Served throughout the city but the best I’ve had was at P’Aor Restaurant in Pethaburi Soi 7. You may need Google Maps to help you find this one. It’s a bit out of the central zones, but well worth the search.
Chicken rice (khao mun gai)
Probably one of the most popular street eats in Bangkok, this simple yet beautiful dish of chicken and rice is a favourite that you could easily eat every day. (I did!) A local variation on the famous Hainanese dish, the Thais cook both the chicken and rice slowly in a chicken broth, and once cooked, the chicken is tender and the rice extremely flavourful. On the side you’ll have a garnish of cucumber, chicken blood tofu, a spicy dipping sauce and a bowl of clear chicken broth. When eaten together, the flavours complement each other so perfectly, that I can almost guarantee you’ll eat it more than once.
Get it here: This is extremely popular in Bangkok and you will see it being served everywhere, especially around lunchtime. (Tip: look for the chickens hanging in the window). The Sukhumvit area has several great places to try it, two of which you’ll find on the famous Soi 38 food street.
Mango sticky rice (khao niao mamuang)
It’s a dessert that sounds strange said out loud but you'll be surprised at how quickly you fall in love. The dish itself is rather simple – sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and sugar, topped with fresh, ripe mango, and then drizzled with a bit of coconut cream and a handful of toasted mung beans for a nice crunch. The mixture of textures and flavours is as unique as it is delicious, and Thailand’s incredible tropical mangos make it just that much better. This has become a favourite for tourists over the years, and it’s not uncommon to see backpackers huddled around the stands at night getting their fix before bed or a night out. An absolute must-try.
Get it here: Soi 38 in Sukhumvit has two vendors who serve a great sticky rice. There are also a few popular stalls along the famous backpacker street Khao San Road. As one of the country’s favourite desserts, most Thai restaurants have this on the menu.
Article originally published on December 17, 2014. Updated on April 30, 2021.
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