Thai culture revolves around its mouthwatering food, and if you ever get the chance to visit the beautiful Asian country, there are countless meal options you can try – many that are extremely affordable – in restaurants and on the street.
World-famous for its noodle dishes, fiery spices, and intoxicating aromas, no matter where you go in Thailand, you can find amazing food that will awaken your taste buds. Thai dishes offer a wide range of tastes and flavor, and you can order many of them with chicken (Gai) or pork (Moo), as well as different kinds of vegetables.
With endless options, it’s fun to experiment with the different combinations. And, if you have a little bit of knowledge of the dishes and the ingredients used, it can make your Thai food experience significantly better.
There are some single-plate exceptions, but Thai food is traditionally eaten family style, where you order a variety of dishes to place in the middle of the table. Etiquette dictates that you start with your own plate of rice, and then grab a little of one dish to eat. Then, after you finish, you grab another.
So, the next time you find yourself in Bangkok, make sure to try some of these dishes, so you can truly get an authentic taste of Thailand.
20 Pad Thai (Thai Style Fried Noodles)
When exploring Thai food, the place to start is with Pad Thai, a fried noodle dish made with shrimp or chicken. You can find it on pretty much every street corner, and it is an incredibly budget-friendly option that you can never go wrong with.
Pad Thai is thick fried noodles topped with shrimp or chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, tofu, green onions, garlic, and peanuts stir-fried together, and you can add things like carrot stripes or Chinese cabbage. It is not served spicy, and instead comes with dry chili so you can decide how spicy you want the dish to be.
Grabbing this dish at a food stall will only cost you about a dollar, and it is an entire meal.
19 Gaeng Keow Wan (Thai Green Curry)
Originating from Central Thailand, one of the most famous Thai dishes – and a healthy part of the Thai diet – is Gaeng Keow Wan, or Thai green curry. It features green curry paste, chicken, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, Thai basil, Thai eggplant, and herbs like lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves – making it a symphony of flavor in your mouth. The dish is served soupy, so you eat it with rice to get every drop.
Green curry is the spiciest of them all, but the sweet coconut milk balances it out. And, eating it with rice brings down the spice level.
18 Jim Jum (Soup Hot Pot)
From Northeast Thailand, Jim Jum is served in a small clay pot with a porky broth that sits on a bed of charcoal. This is a fun, interactive way to share a meal with friends, and it starts with a meat platter that usually includes pork, liver, beef, or chicken.
The host also brings an assortment of cabbage, raw morning glory, beat eggs, noodles, and Thai basil. When the broth starts boiling in the pot, you add the vegetables and then the meat. Once you cook the meat, you put it in a dipping sauce and then eat it with the soup from the pot.
17 Kao Na Phet (Roasted Duck)
An Asian specialty, Kao Na Phet, or roasted duck, has a more distinct flavor than chicken and is a fattier meat. This simple, yet flavor-filled dish is served on a plate of rice with duck soup and cut duck parts drizzled in aromatic duck stock.
Extra spice is added to the dish because duck meat absorbs flavors quicker than chicken. And, it is easy to find duck eateries in Thailand because ducks hang from their necks in a glass cabinet. And, rumor has it, you can find the best Kao Na Phet in Thailand at the Hua Seng Hong restaurant in Chinatown.
16 Moo Dad Deaw (Thai Pork Jerky)
A sweet and salty Bangkok street food snack, Moo Dad Deaw, also known as Thai Pork Jerky, is sun-dried pork that is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, and ginger, then laid out in the sun for a day to dehydrate before getting deep fried or grilled for more flavor.
Street vendors usually tie three or four pieces together with bamboo string, and you can eat them by themselves or with sticky rice and chili sauce (Jim Jao). Moo Dad Deaw is available on street food carts throughout Bangkok, and sometimes you can find the deep-fried version in restaurants.
15 Kuay Tiew (Noodle Soup)
Another popular Thai dish is Kuay Tiew, and you can find it anywhere. It is any kind of noodle soup made with chicken, beef, or pork and rice or egg noodles. Vendors often add meatballs or wontons to the broth and top it with condiments like dried chili peppers, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce.
When ordering your noodle dish, you can specify the meat, noodles, and spices you prefer. So, you can order Kuay Tiew multiple times at a number of different places and always get a different variation. Some of the more popular bowls include blood-filled boat noodles, pork ball soup, and chicken noodle.
14 Kai Med Ma Muang (Chicken with Cashew Nuts)
Both locals and tourists love Kai Med Ma Muang – chicken with cashew nuts – which is a sweet and savory dish of stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, honey, onions, soy sauce, pepper, chilies, mushrooms and any other vegetable you want to add. This dish is on the menu of many Thai restaurants in America, but it is also just as popular in Thailand.
With tons of flavor and kick, this Thai staple is simple yet delicious. So, if you are making your way through Thailand, do yourself a favor and try this popular dish, even if you have tried it in the States.
13 Pad Krapow Moo Saap (Fried Basil and Pork)
A popular “one plate” Thai dish that is both delicious and cheap, Pad Krapow Moo Saap is stir-fry pork cooked with holy basil leaves, chilies, sugar, soy sauce, green beans, and garlic on white rice and topped with an egg. Again, you have control over how spicy this gets, so make sure you let your vendor know your preference. Ask for pad Krapow, “a little spicy,” or you will get something that could set your mouth on fire.
This mouth-watering meal will leave you wanting more, and it is perfect to eat at any time of the day. And, if you had a little too much to drink the night before, Pad Krapow Moo Saap is perfect hangover food.
12 Khao Niaow Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)
The thought of eating fruit and rice together may seem a bit odd, but this popular dessert is a must. Khao Niaow Ma Muang is fresh cut sweet mango and sticky rice topped with sweet coconut cream and toasted mung beans, and the taste is nothing short of awesome.
Soaked in coconut milk, sugar and salt – then steamed in pandan leaves – the sticky rice is the perfect balance of salty and sweet.
You can find this Thai dessert in food courts around the country, and occasionally it will show up at a Bangkok street stall. Expect to pay around 40 Baht, which is a little over one dollar.
11 Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
This salad is addictive because of the mixture of fresh papayas, crispy peanuts, and spiciness. Made with papaya, carrot, tomato, garlic, chilis, fish sauce, and crispy green peas with lime sauce (and occasionally shrimp), Som Tam is Thailand’s most famous salad. The sweet, salty, and spicy flavor along with the crunch of papaya and sticky rice is simply to die for.
Other variations include a salad with crab (Som Tam Boo) or fermented fish sauce (Som Tam Plah Lah).
It is the ultimate side dish – with the perfect blend of texture and flavors – that goes with anything, and you will want to eat it every day.
10 Khao Moo Daeng (Thai Red Pork and Rice)
An extremely popular Thai Chinese dish, Khao Moo Daeng is something you can find in every food stall and food court throughout Bangkok. Served on a plate of rice, this dish features Thai barbecued pork, Thai sausage, and a hard-boiled egg smothered in a red barbecue sauce. But be careful, there are a lot of bad versions out there that taste like pork and rice with ketchup.
But there are still good places to find Khao Moo Daeng, including Si Morakot Restaurant at the edge of Chinatown. They have served the dish for over half a century, and they still make the barbecue pork, pork belly, Chinese sausage, and sauce themselves. They also roast their meats on a charcoal grill, including the pork belly.
9 Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp)
Tom Yum Goong is the ultimate in Thai flavor, with shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, onions, and multiple herbs and spices. This soup has a magical taste and it comes in two different ways – Tom Yum Nam Sai, the clear version, and Tom Yum Nam Kon, the creamy version.
As with many Thai dishes, the sour, spicy soup has countless variations, so you can get the seafood mix and spice level you prefer. Top it off with fresh cilantro and Thai chili jam, and you will get a dish with a bright orange color and a more pronounced chili flavor.
8 Hoy Tod (Oyster Omelet)
If you want to lick your plate and fingers clean, a sizzling plate of Hoy Tod from a food stall is what you need. In Thai, they call Hoy Tod “deep fried oysters,” but it is actually oysters inside of a crunchy omelet on a bed of bean sprouts and topped with pepper and cilantro. You can also add to the flavor with a side of sauce prik (tomato sauce).
There is also a fancy version of the dish in restaurants called Aor Suan, which is served on a hot plate.
Hoy Tod is so popular that it is challenging Pad Thai as the hottest dish on the streets of Bangkok.
7 Durian (The King of Fruit)
You can find a variety of fresh fruits on the streets of Bangkok, with some being familiar (pineapple and watermelon) and others, not so much (dragon fruit and rambutan). But there is also the Durian, a big, spiky, green fruit that is famous for its smell more than its taste. The taste is pure heaven, but the smell is so pungent you might feel like you are in hell.
However, you have to give it a try because the creamy texture and sweet taste of the yellow fruit inside is an obsession for many. And, you can’t find it outside of Southeast Asia because of its short-lived ripeness.
6 Khao Kha Moo (Soy Sauce Pork)
This little gem of a dish is for the true meat lover visiting Thailand. For hours, the pork leg is boiled in soy sauce, sugar, and cinnamon five-spice, resulting in the meat being so tender it will fall apart. Served over rice and drizzled with pork broth, you can add chilis, pickled mustard greens, and garlic to your Khao Kha Moo if you prefer an extra kick of flavor.
A popular location to get the dish is Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, and you will know you are at the right spot when you see the lady in a cowboy hat next to a mountain of pig legs.
5 Larb Moo (Thai Pork Salad)
This staple Isaan dish from Northeast Thailand features minced pork and liver with fish sauce, lime juice, onions, chilis, mint leaves, and toasted sticky rice for crunch. This meat salad is a real treat and is often part of a set with papaya salad and sticky rice. The set also comes with a sliver of cabbage, water spinach, string beans, and Thai basil.
You can eat it as an appetizer or main course, and it is popular throughout the country, so you will find this treat for your taste buds at restaurants from the far north to the deep south.
4 Gai Pad Pongali (Thai Yellow Egg Curry with Chicken)
Locals call this dish Kai Jeow Moo Saap, and it is the perfect mix of chicken, tomatoes, onions, and peppers cooked in Thai yellow curry paste. The flavor is a blend of mild and sweet, but you can add peppers if you want a spicier taste.
The secret ingredient in this rich dish is an egg which is added to thicken the ingredients, and then parsley adds extra flavor. Kai Jeow Moo Saap is in many food markets, and only costs around a dollar.
Another version is Boo Pad Pongali, or crab Pongali curry, that you can find in many of Bangkok’s seafood restaurants.
3 Plah Pow (Grilled and Salted Fish)
You will either love or hate this fish concoction, but it’s definitely worth a try. Plah Pow features fish like snapper, snakehead fish, or tilapia that is stuffed with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and other flavors. The entire fish is also rolled in a thick layer of salt before being grilled to perfection.
The soft and sweet white meat melts in your mouth, and when you pair it with Som Tam and Sticky Rice, you will experience a popular Thai treat. If you are a fan of seafood, take a chance with Plah Pow when you are in Thailand because chances are you won’t find it anywhere else.
2 Pad Pak Bung Nam Man Hoy (Morning Glory)
Even if vegetables aren’t your thing, there is still a chance you might like morning glory – a stem-oriented hollow veggie with small leaves. This is a vegetable that most people in Thailand love, which means it is available in just about every restaurant and food stall that sells stir-fried dishes.
Basically, it is stir-fried morning glory with red chilies and tons of garlic. The crispy veggie is served flaming hot and scorched because it is lightly stir-fried on an extremely high heat to retain the fresh flavor and is also seasoned with oyster sauce and fermented soy bean sauce.
1 Sang Kaya Fug Tong (Thai Pumpkin Custard)
This sweet Thai dessert begins with a hollowed-out pumpkin that is then filled with the creamiest coconut custard on Earth. Once the custard hardens, the whole pumpkin is then sliced like a pizza, and a spoonful of coconut custard and candied pumpkin is added to the rich, sweet treat.
It may be a bit strange to think of pumpkin as part of a dessert, but this is an incredibly popular and unique dish, and is something that shouldn’t be missed. You can find it at markets and street stalls throughout Bangkok, and it only costs about 10 Baht – which is roughly thirty cents.