Best local food in Bangkok
We’ve all heard many things about the deliciously cheap food in Bangkok. Often, we find ourselves overwhelmed with options to the point of not knowing where to start. But this list is here to help.
To make it easier to digest, we’ve categorised this list into
- Street Food
- Drinks and Desserts
- Cafe Fare
- Popular Thai Main Dishes
- Soups and Curries
– STREET FOOD –
1. Fried Chicken (Gai Tod)
Do not miss out on these beautiful golden-brown morsels that have been deep fried to a crisp. Best served over sticky rice with deep fried shallots.
2. Chocolate and Banana Roti
Image credit: That Food Cray
Here’s all you need to know: The dough is stretched till it’s paper thin and placed onto the hot griddle, with banana slices placed generously in the middle. It’s then folded, fried, and topped with sugar, condensed milk, and drizzles of chocolate sauce.
3. Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Mun Pla Krai)
These fish cakes are unlike the Western deep-fried varieties which are battered before being deep fried. Best eaten hot out of the fryer and dipped into a slightly tangy and spicy chilli dip.
4. Thai Steamed Dumplings (Kanom Jeeb)
Coming in a myriad of colours looking very much like siew mai, Kanom Jeeb are Thai-style steamed meat dumplings with shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, and water chestnuts paired with a fried garlic-soy sauce.
5. Quail Eggs
These adorably sunny-side-ups can be found anywhere from street food stalls to food courts and restaurants.
6. Grilled Chicken/Pork Skewers
Meat skewers in Thailand are cooked over charcoal, which imparts a nice smokiness to the meat. The portion of meat on each stick is generous too.
You can get a variety of meats on your skewers too, depending on the stall. Some vendors prefer using leaner cuts like chicken breast, while others serve tender chicken thigh meat with vegetables instead.
7. Salt Grilled Fish (Pla Pao)
Don’t be put off by the amount of salt that is used to cook this dish. The salt actually helps seal in the natural juices of the fish when it’s grilled over charcoal. You’re not supposed to eat the skin either – pulling it away will reveal soft, tender meat which is awesome with jasmine rice or sticky rice.
8. Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang)
A whole chicken is halved before being pounded flat, marinated, and grilled over low heat on a charcoal flame slowly. Like many other Thai dishes, Gai Yang is best eaten with sticky rice and a variety of sauces and chillies.
9. Thai Crispy Crêpe (Khanom Bueang)
It’s common to spot these crispy snacks topped with meringue and sweet dried coconut in boxes at markets – but after trying the ones that are prepared fresh off the griddle, I’m a convert. Definitely a must eat when you’re in Bangkok!
10. Thai Traditional Sweet Rice Cake (Kanom Krok)
Cooked in a Kanom Krok griddle, these floury snacks possess a slightly molten centre encased with a lightly crisp, elastic casing – like a bite-sized lava cake. The ones we had at Eathai were divine.
11. Oyster Omelette (Hoy Tod)
Oyster omelettes are a delicacy all around South East Asia, and the ones in Thailand are slightly more starchy and crisp, which I love. Make sure to dip it in some tangy chilli sauce for a nice mix of flavours.
12. Thai Fresh Spring Rolls with Herbs (Kuay Teow Lui Suan)
These rolls are wrapped with large pieces of kway teow (wide rice noodles) and filled with a variety of ingredients such as meat or vegetarian options.
13. Sausages (Sai Oua)
There is a large variety of sausages sold at street food stalls. Some of the sausages are stuffed with real meat and are freshly cooked. Get the Sai Oua if you find them – they’re Northern Thai Sausages typically sold in the Northern regions of Thailand.
14. Seafood Pan
This is the savoury version of the Kanom Krok and can be found in Platinum Mall’s food court. Seafood Pan nibbles are filled with eggs and a variety of seafood before being served with a chilli dip at the side.
There are some stalls along the roadside selling a variety of street food, from huge grilled prawns to squid and crabs.
If you’re a sucker for oysters, definitely try the cold, fresh ones from Eathai. They are super fresh and huge – one of the oysters we got were literally palm-sized!
Drinks and Desserts
16. Coconut Ice Cream
Made from fresh coconut milk, this creamy confection is best eaten on a hot day at Chatuchak Market. There are many vendors around Chatuchak that serve this, all coming with a variety of toppings like sticky rice, corn, and crispy mung beans.
17. Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niao Mamuang)
You can’t go wrong with this classic Thai dessert. Best eaten when drizzled with coconut cream.
18. Belgian Waffle
These can be found at several BTS stations around Bangkok, and we got ours at Platinum Fashion Mall’s Food Court. The waffles are soft on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside encasing a generous amount of filling like coconut and chocolate.
19. Red Ruby (Tub Tim Krob)
Best eaten after a hot and spicy meal, this sweet dessert can be found at most street food markets. Red rubies are actually crunchy water chestnut pieces, which are served with a variety of other ingredients like sweet potato and tapioca.
20. Durian Sticky Rice (Khao Niaow Tu-rean)
Image credit: Year of the Durian
Though not as popular a dessert as its mango counterpart, this is a definite must eat for durian lovers. Unlike the mango version, this is usually drowned in coconut milk – so forget about the calories and eat to your heart’s content.
21. Thai Iced Tea (Cha Yen)
The milk tea craze is hitting the world, but there’s just something special about the uniquely rich flavour Thai Milk Tea imparts. We loved the ones sold at Rod Fai night market, but you can get this pretty much anywhere in BKK and around Thailand.
22. Toast with coconut custard
These toasts come in thick slices, slathered with spreads of your choice. I decided to go with the classic option of kaya, which was ladled onto the freshly made toasts.
23. Butterfly Pea Juice
Made with butterfly pea flowers which are rich in nutrients, this aesthetically pleasing drink is slightly sweet and tastes a little like lemon barley – very refreshing!
24. Pomegranate Juice
You definitely won’t miss the roadside stalls selling freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in a brilliant pink colour. These are sold for cheap, at ฿20-40 per bottle. However, beware of scammers that serve fake pomegranate juice. One day to identify genuine sellers is to spot for those that are busy juicing the fruits and bottling them.
25. Thai Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
Image credit: Tiny Urban Kitchen
Though they look like they might have food colouring in them, rest assured that the bright neon colour of the oranges here is all natural. They’re sweeter than the usual orange juices we’ve had before too, so make sure to grab a bottle if you’re in need of some hydration.
– CAFE FARE –
26. Shibuya Honey Toast
A dessert cafe famed for their desserts, it was crowded when we visited their Siam outlet. But take one look at the other tables and you’ll know what to order. The Shibuya Honey Toast is essentially a thick slab of toast drenched in melted butter before being topped with ice cream, fresh cream and a drizzle of honey.
Our Strawberry Cream Shibuya Honey Toast came with chopped strawberries and chocolate sauce. Several other flavours are available too, like Sticky Toffee, Chocolate, Cheddar Cheese and Matcha.
Audrey Cafe & Bistro
27. Thai Tea Crêpe
At first look, the Thai Tea Crêpe seemed sickeningly sweet and off-putting, but surprisingly it wasn’t. The cake was super soft with paper-thin layers sandiwiched with smooth cream and then liberally doused with a Thai tea infused sauce.
28. Sizzling Milo Roti
This dish reminded us of the Chocolate and Banana Roti found at night markets – but way more indulgent. Honey infused roti is served on a hot cast-iron skillet with crumbles of Milo powder, ice cream, and marshmallows.
– POPULAR THAI MAIN DISHES –
29. Thai Duck Rice (Khao Na Bpet)
There are two types of duck commonly eaten in Thailand – Roast Duck (Ped Yang) and Braised Duck. We opted for the former and especially enjoyed the sauce that came ladled all over the rice, which was flavourful and didn’t leave the dish too dry.
30. Chicken and Rice (Khao Man Gai)
With soft rice that isn’t overly oily and tender, fragrant chicken, it’s no wonder that this is one of the locals’ favourite dishes. It is usually priced between ฿25-30, making for a super affordable yet filling meal when out and about.
31. Braised Pork Knuckle on Rice (Khao Kaa Moo)
Thailand’s version of pork trollers (ter ka) is chopped into bite sized pieces then topped onto white rice, with or without vegetables on the side. You know you’ve got a good plate of Khao Kaa Moo when the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender with just the right fat-to-meat ratio and a braised sauce that’s well absorbed by the meat.
32. Pineapple Fried Rice (Khao Op Sapparot)
Good pineapple rice uses fresh, ripe fruit and soft Thai jasmine rice, and comes beautifully presented in a hollowed-out pineapple. Plus, this makes for a unique dish to get some pictures off before scarfing it all down!
33. Thai Fried Rice (Khao Pad)
Thai Fried Rice is a typical variety of Fried Rice dish of Central Thai Cuisine. It can be served stir-fried with chicken, pork,or seafood.
34. Thai Sticky Rice (Kow Neuw)
Many Thais eat their meals with sticky rice – also known as glutinous rice – which has a chewy, sticker texture to it. It can also be seen served with desserts like mango or durian sticky rice.
35. Chicken with Basil and Egg on Rice (Pad Gra Pao)
Basil is a type of herb commonly found and used in Thai cuisine. Instead of chicken, pork can be used. The meat is minced and stir-fried with basil leaves and served on top of rice, usually with a fried egg on the side. This dish can get pretty spicy, so make sure you’ve got some water handy.
36. Thai Chicken Biryani (Khao Mok Gai)
This dish can be found in many places in Thailand from street hawkers to food courts and restaurants. This is a heavily spiced dish with Indian influence and is usually served with a sweet chilli sauce or a cucumber vinegar sauce.
37. Stir-Fried Rice Noodles (Pad Thai)
This has to be one of Thailand’s most quintessential dishes. Thin rice noodles are stir-fried with fish sauce, eggs and seafood/chicken/pork and is usually slightly sweet. After the noodles are cooked, they are further topped with mounds of white sugar, peanut shavings and dried chilli flakes finished with a squeeze of lime.
Sweet, sour, spicy and salty – check, check, check, and check.
38. Stir Fried Glass Noodles (Pad Woon Sen)
Glass noodles are made out of mung bean or green pea flour and turn transparent when cooked. It is a light dish which is stir fried with a variety of ingredients. They absorb most of the sauce they are cooked with so the sauce has an essential role to play for a flavourful Pad Woon Sen.
39. Thai Wanton Noodles
Springy yellow noodles come tossed in fragrant pork lard sauce and topped with slices of char siew (barbequed pork), wantons, and meatballs.
40. Boat Noodles (Kway Teow Reua)
Served cheaply and in really small portions, these noodles were originally served from boats along Bangkok’s rivers. These days boat noodles can be found served in restaurants or at food courts, but still continuing the practice of being served in small portions. Thin rice noodles are used and each bowl can cost as low as ฿10.
41. Dry Fried Rice Noodles (Pad See Ew)
Pad See Ew is a pretty popular dish on the Thai menu and is usually fried with ingredients like leafy greens, egg, and meat or seafood.
Soups and Curries
42. Hot and Sour soup (Tom Yum Goong)
The perfect mix of spicy and sour, this soup is definitely not for the weak hearted. The soup can come with a variety of ingredients, from fresh seafood like prawns and scallops to chicken or vegetarian options.
43. Massaman Curry
Though not as popular as red or green curry, Massaman curry is a definite must try. This variation is milder in taste and slightly sweet. Beef, lamb, and mutton are usually cooked in this curry.
44. Yellow Curry
Yellow curry might look unassuming, but beware – the spice kicks once you’ve swallowed it! We had our curry with a serving of raw veggies and rice noodles, which helped quell the heat.
45. Green Curry
Green curry gets its signature colour from the green chillies that are used to make this dish. But don’t worry too much about the spice – lots of coconut cream is used, which adds a nice sweetness to the curry.
46. Red Curry
The difference in the color of these curries lies in the ingredients used. Red curry uses a paste made with red chili peppers, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, coriander roots, peppercorns, salt, shrimp paste and kaffir lime zest.
47. Pomelo Salad (Yum Sum O)
This has got to be one of the more interesting salads I’ve eaten, and it’s amazing how Thai cuisine can feature a complex mix of flavours in a single dish. Along with bits of juicy pomelo tossed in a savoury dressing comes a side of betel leaves and chilli padi pieces, which you can use to encase the filling.
48. Green Mango Salad (Yam Mamuang)
A good mango salad has to have the fruit finely sliced into thin strips, well marinated and finally topped with some nuts for a crunch.
49. Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
This salad uses unripe papayas which impart a slight tang to this dish. It is often thought as a sweet salad, but it is actually a savory one.
50. Grilled Pork with Dressing (Nam Tok Moo) – Meat Salad
Though this salad is quite meat-heavy, it wasn’t too overwhelming. The pork is sliced thinly and tossed in a light dressing, which help counter the strong flavours of the meat.
Enjoying authentic local dishes in Bangkok
I love how a single dish can hit almost every mark in the flavour department, whether sweet, salty, sour, or spicy – all while using humble ingredients.
So there we have it; 50 different dishes to try the next time you find yourself in the Land of Smiles!