Above: A family-sized platter of mango and sticky rice – a wholesome sweet best eaten in Thailand.
What to eat in Bangkok? Or, more likely, what best to eat? Where to go for the best local Thai food? Thai food repertoire is so much more than Pad Thai and green curry, so here are 26 Thai dishes you need to try when in Thailand.
I have also written another blog post about Thai eating culture, Thai food culture, and also addressing the common misperceptions that Thai food always needs to be super spicy to be authentic. Interested? Read here.
For more food in Bangkok, read 17 Places to Eat in Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat) here.
1. Rice and Curry or ‘Khao Gang’ (ข้าวแกง)
Do you know that Thai food has altogether 10 different tastes in one plate? We usually eat together that that meal is called a ‘Samrap’ which means a selection of different savouries to be shared over an individual plate of steamed rice. Read more about Thai Samrap here.
A plate of Khap Gang or rice and curry can be considered as a mini Samrap or a complete, tasty, and wholesome Thai meal in one plate. Khao Gang is a hearty breakfast for Thais, then and now. It can be also lunch, but usually hardly dinner. A Khao Gang place always has a lot of dishes to offer; usually, we pick one or two (sometimes three as a clear soup on the side), to go with the rice or, oftentimes, fermented rice vermicelli or Kanom Cheen (ขนมจีน).
2. TOd mun (ทอดมัน)
Tod Mun is ‘fish cakes,’ usually made from featherback fish hand-pounded until naturally chewy before being mixed with red curry, finely julienned kaffir lime leaves, and long green beans. That mixture, when ready, is hand-shaped into a plump disc and deep-fried.
Generally considered as a side dish, a good Tod Mun should lean towards spiciness and saltiness. The provided dipping sauce is called ‘Ar-Jaad’ which is a light solution of vinegar, sugar and salt, with chopped toasted peanut, shallot, cucumber and chillies. The below Tod Mun is from an old-school Thai restaurant ‘Sa-Nguan Sri‘ on Wireless Road, read our full review of the place here.
3. thai northern Food – Khao Soi, Nam Ngiew, Namprik noom (อาหารเหนือ)
Northern Thai dishes are also very popular in Bangkok. Although with a rich repertoire, most people, me included, have favourite staples. My favourite Thai northern dishes include a bowl of Khao Soi ข้าวซอย (the coconut-based curry egg noodle) and Nam Ngiew ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว which is rice vermicelli with tomato-based pork soup. To go with them will be a plate of northern-style pork sausage (ไส้อั่ว Sai-Ua), deep-fried chicken wings, Nam Prik Noom (น้ำพริกหนุ่ม green chilli dip) and sticky rice.
This place has been listed in my previous post ‘Ramindra Best Cheap Eats.’
4. rice vermicelli with nam ya (ขนมจีนน้ำยา)
Rice vermicelli is considered a blank canvas for a selection or two of curry. In this case, it is the shredded fish red curry known as ‘nam ya น้ำยา’ which is a nationwide staple. Usually, a plate of kanom cheen nam ya is eaten with assorted veggies – from bean sprouts to pickled cabbages, but the mandatory must be the green leaves that are called ‘Maeng Luck’ แมงลัก or hairy basils.
5. sago sai moo or in this case sai Gai (สาคูไส้ไก่ หรือหมู)
Sago – the uniquely natural substance that used to be harvested from the trunk of the palm trees – is now being produced using the more abundant tapioca. Nonetheless, this is still one of my all-time favourite Thai snacks. The raw sago beads are hand-kneaded with hot water until forming, and then filled with minced pork or chicken, and then steamed to cook.
This might sound odd for non-Thai, but the perfect combination of a Thai sago bite is one sago, a sprig of fresh cilantro and fresh chillies. Delicious.
6. thai appetisers: chor Muang + Khanom jeep NOK (ช่อม่วง ขนมจีบนก)
The recent renaissance of Thai food brought back so many good things from the past. Our ancestors used to do this on a daily basis. Being meticulous and pay detailed attention to the looks of the food used to be the prime of a Thai meal, until… yes, we have no time left to do so as much.
Not unlike the above ‘Sago Sai Moo,’ these steamed dumplings are filled with quite similar stuffing and served the same with fresh cilantro, lettuce, chillies and toasted garlic. The difference is the skin. Instead of using the sticky sago, these dumplings use rice flour combination which is more tender to bite. Still very delish. And so pretty.
7. miang kham (เมี่ยงคำ)
A favourite Thai snack made from ‘Bai Cha Plu’ or Piper sarmentosum with the trimming including toasted coconut, lime, toasted peanuts, shallot, dried shrimps – all to be ladled with palm-sugar-based sauce – before being wrapped and eaten. Imagine the crunchy, tasty, sweet, salty, spicy, aromatic, nutty, and sour combination! Just wonderful.
8. mee krob (หมี่กรอบ)
We have so many versions of Mee Krob – or sweet, crispy rice vermicelli – now, but I still like the old-style the best. The rice vermicelli is deep-fried and then mixed with the sweet and salty sauce before being served with fresh bean sprouts, chives and a healthy zest of Som Sa or a type of citrus particularly required for this dish.
9. pad thai (ผัดไทย)
Yes, you cannot skip the most famous one-plate Thai dish when you are in town. Like many other Thai dishes, a good plate of Pad Thai should be well-flavoured, with the rice noodle tender and well-distributed with the well-seasoned and well-rounded sauce, but never soggy. The noodle, when eaten with the fresh bean sprouts, tart-flavoured green banana blossoms, are usually very delicious, especially after a good squeeze of fresh lime and a spoonful of dried toasted chillies.
10. guay tiew reur (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ)
Boat noodle was once actually sold from the boat. And the area abundant with this original floating fare used to be Rangsit – the suburban area north of Bangkok – whose intertwined canals exist for trades and daily commute. Now, however, the boat noodles are cooked and served everywhere, including the urban malls. Small bowl, thick dark broth, with choices of pork or beef. Usually spicy and vinegary tangy. The greens, in this case, is morning glory and a spoonful addition of toasted chillies is always approved.
11. guay tiew look chin pla – Fish ball noodles (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวลูกชิ้นปลา)
As you might have known, rice and egg noodles are of Chinese origin. But because it is so good, noodles have found their way into the hearts of Thai people. But some places still cook their noodle Chinese style, like, say, this place in the Chinatown. When I say Chinese style, I mean, no toasted garlic, no cilantro, always – always – clear and naturally sweet broth. Read: 5 Best Fishball Noodles in Bangkok.
12. edo-style japanese meal (อาหารญี่ปุ่นสไตล์เอโดะ) (Sponsored)
Amidst the abundance of Japanese food outlets in Bangkok, there is one real traditional Edo-style restaurant. Listed in the Michelin Guide Bangkok’s Plate section, Yamazato at the Okura Prestige Bangkok offers a no-nonsense Japanese fare with precise preparation and premium ingredients. This place is a favourite for local Japanese expatriates as well as those connoisseurs of neat and delicious Japanese food. Read: Yamazato, The Okura Prestige Bangkok (Full Review).
13. som tam and the whole ‘Isan’ meal (ส้มตำและอาหารอีสาน)
A plate of spicy, tangy, crunchy, and refreshing Som Tam always uplifts my moods. There are more types and versions of Som Tam in Thailand than you can try, but when in town, try whatever you can, as much as you can. Seen here are the simple versions of Som Tam with dried shrimps (Som Tam Thai) and with salted black crabs (Som Tam Pu). And why not go for a full she-bang meal with larb moo and gai yang, too?
14. larb – squid or something else (ลาบ)
I have a soft spot for squid. Love to eat them. Here is a favourite of mine when we go to a Som Tam place – squid larb.
Larb is included in an Isan meal. It is a type of minced meat (pork, beef, chicken, duck, catfish, or tofu) slightly cooked and dressed with toasted chillies, toasted rice powder, limes, fish sauce, shallots, spring onions, and Thai mints.
15. tom yum goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง)
Let’s face it, Tom Yum Goong can easily be the most famous Thai dish, ever. It is also my favourite, and a go-to bowl when I feel under the weather. The clear herbal broth infused with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lime and fresh chillies always does wonder to a cold.
16. kha nom cheen sao nam (ขนมจีนซาวน้ำ)
This is another version of fermented rice vermicelli (kanom cheen), and also my favourite. Everything on this plate is room temperature, and that’s perfect for summertime, or every time considering Bangkok’s perennial weathers. Please read details under the picture.
17. Khao Chae (ข้าวแข่)
Khao Chae is an old-school summertime Thai meal. It can be an acquired taste because the cooked rice is served chilled, in chilled aromatic water and sometimes with ice cubes, too. Some pople might find it strange eating cold rice, but for me, this is a perfect meal come summer months.
From March each year until the first day of the rain, many Thai restaurants in Bangkok make it their top agenda to cook the best Khao Chae they can. Below is the savouries served in a set of Khao Chae – stuffed, steamed and draped with egg net is green chilies, candied radish, candied shrimp paste, stuffed shallot (with dried fish) and sweet fish. Also, the fresh green mango and finger roots add to the freshness and herbal aromas.
18. kha nom krok (ขนมครก)
This is one of my all-time favourite Thai desserts which is now harder and harder to find good and proper. There’re only three ingredients going into the batter of this dessert, but the secret is in the freshness and the richness of the coconut cream, and the right balance between the rice flour and the coconut cream. Kanom Krok can be plain or prepped with green onion, corn, pumpkin or taro. Watch more about Kanom Krok here.
19. pa tong go (Iew Ja Guay – fried Chinese dough) and sock coffee and condensed milk (ปาท่องโก๋)
The old town of Rattanakosin Island is still thankfully packed with old-school eateries. Among my favourites is this place that is open on and off that makes their dough fresh from the leftover mother. How super cool and delicious! I am craving this as I write. เรื่องของร้านปาท่องโก๋ภูเก็ตที่ถนนมหรรณพ กรุงเทพฯ อ่านที่นี่ค่ะ here. For the video of this wonderful fried goodie in Bangkok, watch here.
20. khanom tom (ขนมต้ม)
A Thai dessert made from glutinous rice with candied coconut filling. The dumpling is green from pandanus leaves and it is boiled to cook. The deliciousness is the balance of the sweetness, the chewiness and the quality of the young coconut hand-grated to coat. So perfect. Watch our video about this classic Thai sweet here.
21. assorted thai desserts, jasmine ice cream and ancient Portuguese dessert of khanom mor gang and foi thong (ขนมไทย)
The Blue Elephant restaurant in Bangkok has its special way to serve Thai food. The case in point is this wonderful lovely and beautiful dessert. And a history buff will love to learn more about the Portuguese-inspired Thai desserts on this dish, too, given the fact that the traditional Thai desserts didn’t contain eggs. But here are the golden Thai desserts that started to get proliferated in the era of King Narai almost four centuries ago.
22. thai-style granita (ไอติมไทย)
Prang Phuthon (แพร่งภูธร) is an old charming community in Bangkok Old Town. And, if you happen to be there, you must visit this old place that has been serving Thai style granitas since forever. I love their toppings of corns, job’s tears, and red beans.
23. khanom beung (ขนมเบื้อง)
With this below picture, I will get a rolled eye from those self-proclaimed real and authentic foodies. I happen to like this version of Kanom Beung – the thin crepes filled with soft meringue, egg floss for sweet and shrimps + coconut for salty.
24. thai desserts with coconut cream top (ขนมไทยหน้ากะทิ)
Coconut cream is a big thing when it comes to Thai desserts. Usually, the coconut cream on top of these bowls is made a little salty to make a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the dessert.
25. green mango with sweet fish sauce (มะม่วงน้ำปลาหวาน)
Mango is also another summertime fruit. Some mangoes are better eaten green, especially the sour ones because they go so well with the sweet nam pla made from palm sugar and fish sauce (seen in the bowl). A perfect snack. A perfect pick-me-up. Love it.
26. mango and sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง)
And some mangoes are better eaten ripe. You can have ripe sweet mango all by itself it paired with the luscious scoop of coconut-milk-cooked sticky rice that is called ‘Khao Niew Moon.’ I love mine with way more coconut milk top than the orthodox. And I just simply choose to denounce self-control in this case. 😀
Mango and sticky rice served family-style. Sticky rice colourfully dyed with pandanus leaves (for the green) and the butterfly pea (for the blue).