Great Street Food in Bangkok (Dishes to Try and Where to Find Them)
Street food is a massive part of traveling and is especially enjoyed in Southeast Asia, particularly Bangkok, Thailand. If there is a dish you discovered in another part of Thailand, or have heard about and would like to try but have yet to come across, then you’re in luck. Whatever it is your stomach is craving, you’re sure to find it here.
What Street Food to Try in Bangkok
With so much variety and so many local delicacies, it can be a hard decision to make. Do you go for the Pad Thai or the Papaya Salad? The roti (Thai pancakes) or the ice pan (stir-fried ice cream—yes it’s a thing)? I’ll talk you through a few of the good, the bad and the downright nasty dishes that I have had the pleasure of trying in Bangkok. I have forgone some of the classics like spring rolls which most people know and enjoy.
Ok, let’s get the obvious one out of the way. The reason this dish is so well known not only in Thailand, but around the world is because of its simplicity, whilst still packing a punch of flavors and kick of spice right where it’s needed.
Made up of rice, noodles, egg, tofu, vegetables and usually some chicken or shrimp thrown in, this popular dish can be found absolutely anywhere in Thailand.
Unfortunately, I’m allergic to egg, so I don’t get to enjoy the dish to its full potential, but with so many people going for this as their dish of choice, it’s not hard to see why this makes the number one spot.
Shrimp Red Curry
This one is a personal favorite of mine, as I absolutely love seafood! Rice, basil, veg, curry sauce, and chilli peppers compliment the fresh juicy shrimp perfectly! At 50 baht a pop, you can not go wrong with this one. In fact, I think I’ve just decided what to have for tea.
Chicken on a Stick
You’ll find all sorts of things on sticks in Thailand, half of which I have no idea what type of meat it is, if it is meat at all. One thing I do know though is that the chicken on a stick that you can buy, with a bit of chili sauce, is a good thing all around. Wherever you see street vendors, it won’t be long before you see chicken on a stick. Priced at 10 baht a pop you can’t go wrong.
Tom Yum Goong
Thai people love to make everything spicy, and this dish is no exception. Tom Yum Goong is a spicy soup, made with a blend of herbs and spices and finished with some fresh juicy shrimp and mushroom. This dish will leave your eyes watering, so make sure you have a drink nearby.
More commonly found in Southern Thailand, but also makes a regular appearance around Bangkok, this spicy papaya salad packs a punch and makes for a perfect light dish in between proper meals. I’d recommend a couple of breath mints after this one though, as it’s packed with garlic, chili and a few different spices. Be warned, this dish is made in various ways, some of which will take you by surprise
I did say the good, the bad and the downright nasty didn’t I? Can you guess which category this one falls into? Head to Khao San Road and you will find plenty of vendors offering up a variety of crickets, worms, beetles, and grasshoppers. Usually fried in a small amount of sauce and then seasoned with a bit of Thai spice, these little critters are a favorite amongst tourists and backpackers.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Thai person eating them. I’m beginning to think they serve them purely to laugh at foreigners! It’s not a favorite dish of mine, but if you want the true Thai experience, you’ve gotta go for it!
Scorpion or Tarantula
Another one that makes the list purely just to say you’ve tried it. Tasting a bit like pork scratching/crackles, these deep-fried little suckers are usually found with a skewer through their bodies. I’ve only ever seen these on offer around tourist places, especially Khao San Road. Once again, I’m sure it’s just to give the locals something to laugh about.
Spicy Beef Salad
Quite a rare one to find amongst street sellers, this spicy beef salad is more commonly found in local restaurants. That being said, it’s not impossible to find a street vendor cooking up this dish. This tongue-tingling salad is made using lime, coriander, spearmint, chili, onion, and strips of beef. I’m sure this dish was invented purely to be eaten with a nice cold beer.
Ice Pan (Stir-Fried Ice Cream)
Just squeezing into the top 10 list here is Ice Pan, which is stir-fried ice cream, a popular dish with tourists and backpackers purely because of how it’s made. The vendor mixes up milk and your choice of ingredient and pours it onto a steel grill which is so cold; it actually turns the milk into ice cream. The whole process takes a couple of minutes, and you can usually spot these vendors by the number of people crowded around with their phones out recording them. Its really good ice cream, but at 250-300 baht a go, I’d give this one a miss.
What Is Your Favorite Thai Street Food?
Best Places to Eat Street Food in Bangkok
You can buy great street food all over Thailand, so it’s obvious that Bangkok is going to be a top place to enjoy some real, authentic tasty Thai food. Whether it’s from a pop-up vendor that moves from place to place or one of the more permanent places that serve tasty Thai dishes at tables on the pavement, you can always find something that will tickle your taste buds.
Where to Find Great Street Food in Bangkok
As there are so many street vendors around, it’s sometimes hard to spot which ones are good, which ones cater mainly to tourists—thus the quality of food may not be up to "Thai standards", or those that pride themselves in what they do, and build a reputation by serving quality food.
I’ve visited Bangkok several times in the past decade, and I always like to try something new or eat at a place I’ve not been to before. Sometimes though, I’ve found the food to be a lot nicer at one place, compared to eating the same dish at another.
I’ve put down a few suggestions on where to visit, and where you can enjoy some of the best dishes in Bangkok, if not Thailand.
Sukhumvit Soi 38
One of my favourite places to go to in Bangkok when I’m craving a bit of street food is Sukhumvit Soi 38. I was told about this place from a fellow traveller that told me to check out the market there. All I can say is wow! I have tried lots of different street food all around Thailand and this place has to be one of the best.
All of your favourite Thai dishes are on offer here, ranging from Pad Thai, Barbeque skewers, all the different ways of cooking chicken you can imagine, as well as noodles, soups, every type of curry, steaks and pork. Best of all, the dishes come with genuine Thai prices (not tourist prices), as a lot of Thai people, as well as expats, enjoy eating here. It’s definitely a place to visit, and one I will go back to next time I’m in the capital.
Everybody Seems to Be "The Best"
As you travel around Thailand you will constantly notice signs outside restaurants, or in windows saying "Bangkok’s best Pad Thai" or "Chiang Mai’s best Som Tam". You’ll see the same nonsense everywhere you go. My advice—avoid them. It’s usually to try and get tourists in, and on top of that, how can 5 places all near enough next to each other have "the best Pad Thai"? In actual fact, these places sell some of the worst food because they cater purely for tourists, who are usually easier to please.
No, what you want is personal recommendations, from real people—especially Thai people! Which is who recommended me to check out Thip Samai, a small street restaurant located on Thanon Mahachai and is well known for its tasty authentic Pad Thai. You can pick up a Pad Thai on every street corner in Thailand, so it’s really hard to tell which ones are amazing and which ones are pretty standard, but I do know that this place serves one hell of a Pad Thai.
Another favorite place of mine to visit when I’m in need of something cheap, tasty and fast is Chinatown (Yaowarat). You’re probably thinking ‘huh, you can get Chinese food back home’, and you’d be right, you can—but, if you want some real authentic Chinese food, cooked fresh, right there in front of you, then this is the place to come.
Don’t let the name fool you though; Chinese food is not all you will find here. There are also many restaurants and street vendors selling all of your favorite Thai dishes too, just in case you’re struggling to find something to eat—yeah right.
Victory Monument Bangkok
Outside of the Victory Monument are some of the very best places to get traditional Thai street food. There are lots of options to choose from in this area, as vendors gather, knowing that there will always be a crowd of tourists to feed. There are options for those that just want something light and those looking for a full meal.
You might already be in this market, basking in the wide variety of goods that can be bought there. If you are, don’t forget to take a look at what this market has to offer in the way of street food. You’ll find some very strange options, like entire vendors devoted to different types of stink beans, but you’ll also find some less intimidating fare like roasted duck and noodle stands.
This is one of the oldest street food sectors in all of Bangkok, and the quality of the food definitely shows why it has been able to survive for so long. The streets are lined with food stalls, and many have actually won prestigious awards for their dishes.
Khao San Road
There is, of course, Khao San Road—where you will find everything from worms to steak—which is perfect if you’ve just enjoyed a night session on the street and want something full of grease that’s gonna fill you up before you stumble back to your hostel.
The vendors are usually more expensive, but of course, you don’t mind paying after a few buckets of rum and coke. They will also taste like the best thing ever too, but I’d recommend checking out some of the others on the list instead when you’re sober.
Have a look at my article about other things to do in Bangkok. When your belly is full you'll have some time for nice activities or some sightseeing.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sam Shepards