Thailand is famous throughout the world for its cuisine – and with good reason! If you were to ask a Thai why their food is so great, you’ll get a different a variety of answers. The men will proudly boast of the perfect balance of powerful flavors combined with natural, fresh ingredients. The women will tell you it’s the physical benefits that make it so popular. Light, healthy and filling – you could eat it all day and still fit into your high-waisted shorts!
By far, the majority of locals would probably say it’s really the price and availability that does it for them and no wonder when you can buy delicious, salt-roasted tubtim fish stuffed with lemongrass and wrapped in banana leaves for $3. Top that off with some sticky rice with coconut cream and fresh mango for dessert and wash it down with a mixed-fruit smoothy for less than $2 combined. No doubt about it, Thailand is a food paradise and Bangkok has got it on lockdown.
Food Gems of Bangkok
With restaurants and food vendors on every street corner, it’s hard to tell the diamonds from the not-so-good. With a little help from a fellow foodie, I’ve carefully compiled a list of my favourite ‘hole in the wall’ spots to eat authentic, affordable, and amazing Thai food.
(Hua Mark, Soi 34) Having lived and studied in the Hua Mark area for over 3 years, this spot has a special place in my heart and never fails to impress my foodie friends. A bit of a trek to get to but ridiculously low prices and a limitless variety of dishes will keep you coming back to satisfy your cravings for fresh, spicy, and delicious northeastern (Isaan) Thai food.
(BTS Thong Lor) Arguably the best place for street food in Bangkok, it’s not so much a restaurant as a road full of vendors and food stalls. A great place to take friends who want to experiment and taste everything but aren’t very familiar with Thai food. Here you can experience comforting noodle soups from the North, tasty stir-fries from Central Bangkok, spicy salads from the Northeast, and creamy curries from the South. This is also a great place to try exotic tropical fruit smoothies and load up on seafood BBQ.
(313 Th Maha Chai, Banglamphu) This list would not be complete without a reference for Thailand most popular dish: Pad Thai. A great place to soak up some local culture and watch the cooks prepare your food while drinking the best orange juice ever (Note: Thais like to put salt in their orange juice). If you are looking for a great Pad Thai experience, this place is almost legendary for it and they have over 6 versions for you to choose from – including a vegetarian option.
(Sukhumvit 101/1 – BTS Udomsuk) I was fortunate enough to stumble across this place one night out in the Udomsuk area. Flipping through an extensive menu of traditional dishes, fusion food, and some foreign classics (Baked Cauliflower with Cheese), I quickly realized this was not your average humble street food stop. Turns out the chef and owner of this place used to work in a hotel and eventually opened up his own restaurant. Do not leave without trying the Tom Kha Gai with Penne (see banner photo) and Hor Mok Talay if you’re a seafood lover.
(Sukhumvit 11) Conveniently named after the famous street it’s located, Suk 11 features traditional Thai dining complete with floor seating, open air and great service. This restaurant gem is a rare treat in downtown Bangkok and a sure favorite with visiting backpackers. The menu is more limited than most Thai restaurants – and perhaps a bit pricier – but everything is prepared beautifully. Special mention goes to the Paneng Curry and Fish in Tamarind Sauce.
These places are not the easiest to find – the best ones never are – but they are totally worth it and will open your eyes to a side of Thailand that rarely makes the postcards. Visit the maps page for directions to these hidden food gems and start hunting!
Be prepared though, local chefs do not mess around with the chili when it comes to their food. Arm yourself with your best Thai impression and repeat after me: “Mai Pet = Not Spicy”.
What’s your favourite Thai dish? Know any great ‘Hole in the wall’ spots that you’d like to recommend?