A Foodie’s Guide to the Best Food in Bangkok
Bangkok is, without a doubt, one of the best foodie capitals in the world. Delicious and original flavors and smells are wafting down every side street and there’s a scrumptious Thai street-food stall on every corner. In fact, there’s so many, that it can be tricky to single out the best places to eat in Bangkok.
You see, although Thai food is now an international cuisine, and almost everyone knows roughly what a Pad Thai is (we’ll tell you where to find the best Pad Thai in Bangkok), when tourists plan the best things to do in Thailand, they usually don’t know where to find the best food in Bangkok, so they visit predictable spots. The Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Khaosan Road, for example.
Many of these places are consequently crammed with touristy restaurants and places selling ‘home comforts’ like burgers and pizza, which are not remotely Thai. The food quality at places like this is also usually lower since visitors are easier to satisfy than the locals.
The trick to finding the best places to eat in Bangkok, and any travel destination for that matter, is to watch the locals. The places that the locals go to eat are usually much better than the tourist traps that litter the streets with sub-par chicken skewer stands. For Thai food that’s authentic and delicious, the places mostly visited by locals or ex-pats living in Bangkok are your best bets.
Hopefully, this food guide to Bangkok will make the process easier! You’ll have the best Thai dishes, the best Bangkok restaurants and places to eat, the best food markets in Bangkok, and the best Bangkok food tours all at your fingertips!
The food culture in Bangkok
Food in Bangkok is a major aspect of everyday life, and many of the restaurants and street food stalls that you’ll find are family-owned. Food is key to many social occasions, and due to the friendly nature of the Thai people, food often becomes the center of an event.
In Thailand, all group meals are shared. Families get together and split a variety of dishes among one another. Nobody would even think about ordering just for themselves. Usually, the older women at the table would get together and choose the dishes that best suit the group. Bonding between different families and friends is also commonly done through food.
Unlike many other cultures where eating fast is the norm, it’s also polite in Bangkok to slow down and savor the meal. This was actually one of my favorite things about eating in Thailand because it left plenty of room for socializing. I think all meals should be a social occasion instead of everyone rushing through dinner to sit on their phones not talking to one another. It’s much better to slow down and be present at the table.
Plus, although China introduced chopsticks to Thailand, the locals actually prefer to eat with cutlery. This is similar to the way we would eat in cities across Europe, but with a slight difference; instead of using a knife, Thai people will use a spoon.
This is most likely due to the watery nature of a lot of their dishes such as the soups and curries which are noted for having a lot of sauce. However, in some cases, such as with sticky rice, it’s customary to simply eat with your fingers.
The Flavors in Bangkok
Thai flavors literally are a combination of everything: sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter are all common flavors of the region. All of these 5 flavors often make an appearance in some of Thailand’s most well-known dishes.
The most common ingredients in Thai food are either meat or fish, a selection of vegetables, noodles, rice and possibly a soup. For sweet flavors of Bangkok cuisine, mango sticky rice is the most noteworthy choice, but rice dumplings, coconut-based desserts, or fresh tropical fruits are also popular including pineapple, dragon fruit, mango and the rather controversial durian.
As a city that savors its unique flavors, to truly find the best places to eat in Bangkok, you may have to step a little outside your comfort zone. Some of the Bangkok foods are spicy, and some of the combinations may seem a little peculiar to a foreign tongue. But overall, food in Bangkok is unforgettable, and will definitely leave you craving more.
The Best Food in Bangkok
If you’re planning the perfect trip to Bangkok and have been wondering what are some of the Thai dishes you absolutely must try, there are certainly a few options. There are a few specialties that stand out on the crowded Thai menus. I often found that there were Bangkok foods that both terrified and tempted me. But the following are the must-try dishes in Bangkok you can’t miss.
Papaya Salad—Bursting with Thai Flavors
I actually ended up trying this by accident as it was a free meal on our flight! However, after tasting the airplane version, I knew the restaurant version would be even better and rushed to find a dish when arriving in Bangkok.
A combination of freshly shredded green papaya and carrots, chillies, peanuts, tomatoes, and sticky rice with a sauce of garlic, sugar, fish sauce, lime, and tamarind juice make for a unique salad and one of Bangkok’s most famous meals.
Tom Yam Prawn Soup—A Signature Thai Dish
Certainly spicy, but also delicious, this soup is another blend of hot and sour. Lemongrass, galangal ginger, lime leaves, mushrooms, chillies, and tomatoes are blended together into this delightful signature Thai dish. It’s most commonly cooked with prawns, but can also be made with chicken or vegetarian if you’d prefer.
Pad Thai—The Most Famous Food in Bangkok
This was a dish that I’d had (or thought I’d had) countless times at home before I went to Bangkok and something that I’ve tried to reconstruct countless times since. But trust me, until you’ve tried an authentic Pad Thai, you really haven’t tried a Pad Thai at all!
The simplicity of it is what makes it so brilliant. We went for rather a long walk from one side of the city to the other and found a tiny little street food stall where a lady whipped us up a plate of the famous noodles in a matter of minutes. It was delicious, and only cost about $1!
Thin, rice noodles stir-fried with prawns, tofu, eggs, beansprouts, and a sauce made with tamarind paste, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, chiles, and palm sugar, and sprinkled with dry, roasted peanuts. Utterly delicious!
Mango Sticky Rice—A Sweet Food in Bangkok
Perfect for a sweet tooth, this was something I tried whilst sipping on a giant coconut through a straw! It was a sugar overload, but still super tasty. The freshly made sticky rice is soaked in a coconut milk which has been cooked slowly with sugar and salt. After the milk settles, the juicy mangoes are peeled and sliced over the plate. Certainly not the most nutritious meal in Bangkok but definitely a must-try.
Durian (if you dare)—Infamous Thai Fruit
A rather curious fruit that looks a bit like a giant lychee, there are mixed opinions on durian across Thailand. Whilst some people love this Thai fruit and you can often buy it from street stalls, purchase packets of dried durian and durian flavored sweets from supermarkets or even have it blended into smoothies, some places in Thailand ban it completely.
This is because of its distinctly potent smell. And when I say distinctly, I mean the smell is so strong many hotels forbid people from bringing it inside!
Durian is something you will either love or despise, but only a small minority actually love it. Once you’ve cut into the prickly exterior, the fruit’s flesh is occasionally eaten raw or is cooked and used to flavor a number of traditional Asian dishes or sweets. It can also be used in medicine and is a traditional anti-fever treatment.
Massaman Curry—Popular in Bangkok Cuisine
Similar to the Pad Thai, if you think you’ve tried a Thai curry before going to Thailand, you most probably haven’t! Spicy and full of flavor, curries are plentiful across Bangkok and you’ll often see green, red, and yellow varieties on the menus.
The massaman is different because it uses the delicious massaman curry paste. The dish is then cooked lovingly with potatoes, onions, coconut milk, and either meat, prawn, or tofu for a veggie option, until it is perfect. Pour it over rice for an unforgettable meal.
Best Places to Eat in Bangkok
From street food stalls to the fanciest of restaurants, Bangkok’s vibrant food scene never fails to impress. Here are a few of the best places to eat in Bangkok to tickle your tastebuds.
Rawanstar Roasted Duck—Traditional Bangkok Foods
This spot on Thanon Nakhon Chai Soi is famous for its incredible roasted duck. Served with a dark, spicy sauce over rice or noodles, it is truly delicious! The chefs manage to achieve the perfect balance of perfectly crispy skin over succulent juicy meat. Find it at 955/6 Thanon Nakhon Chaisi, Kate Dusit, Bangkok 10300
Yaowarat Road—Chinatown in Bangkok
Also known as Chinatown, and incidentally the largest Chinatown in the world, Yaowarat Road is definitely one of the best places to eat in Bangkok. The colorful streets are lined with food stalls and restaurants, and, despite it being super busy, there are some marvelous food finds tucked beneath the crowds.
Walking around, you can find all kinds of Thai food: from Satay, pad Thai, peanut butter spears, many varieties of chicken, noodles, fried rice, soups, and different kinds of curries. Barbecued seafood is also really popular here, and you can find plenty of types of fish on sticks. My best advice for Yaowarat is to start with small portions, and follow your nose!
Raan Jay Fai—Michelin Star Street Food in Bangkok
For fancier dining in Bangkok, though of course, still street food, head to Raan Jay Fai. Run by 75-year old Jay Fai, the restaurant is the only street food stall in Bangkok to be awarded a Michelin star.
Their signature dish is the Thai Crab Omelette Kai-Jeaw Poo. The omelettes are stuffed with big chunks of soft, juicy crab meat and fried over a coal fire. It’s definitely not cheap for Bangkok street-food, but considering the quality, it’s worth the extra cost.
Thip Samai—The Best Pad Thai in Bangkok
Claiming to have the best Pad Thai in Bangkok (which is quite a claim as this dish is literally everywhere), Thip Samai has grown dramatically in popularity and now has 6 restaurants across the city. This includes one on the same street as the restaurant above and another at Icon Siam, which is where we saw in the New Year in 2019.
Curiously presented wrapped in an egg, their Pad Thai is full of flavor and won’t disappoint. Their menu is mainly consisting of different types of Pad Thai, including Padthai song, which is cooked with prawns, crabmeat and sliced mango.
Best food markets in Bangkok
Sukhumvit Soi 38—Authentic Thai Food in Bangkok
Selling traditional Thai street food at very reasonable prices, Sukhumvit Soi 38 is an excellent find. The food-court type street stalls are tucked away down the side of a supermarket. It’s one of the best places to head for quick, authentic Thai food in Bangkok. The homemade coconut ice cream is delicious!
Terminal 21—Cheap Eats in Bangkok
Dozens of stalls crammed on the bottom floor of an airplane themed shopping mall (which is also an excellent place to find some bargains), Terminal 21 is a great stop for foodies in Bangkok.
This was our dinner on our first night in the city and, after a day of temple hopping, the Bangkok cheap eats and refreshing drinks were incredibly welcome. I recommend you start small because I kept wanting to go back and try different things!
Food Tours of Bangkok
Another great way to sample the best places to eat in Bangkok and try some of the most delicious dishes is to go on a food tour. There are plenty of tours offered, some also including a tuk-tuk tour of the city and others including a cooking class!
The tour guide will be able to give you plenty of additional information about the dishes and unravel many of the mysteries about Bangkok food culture.
I normally use tour companies or apps like Get Your Guide to find great tours but you can often also find tour companies in Bangkok that are likely to be cheaper. But if you’d rather book in advance, here are a couple I recommend:
About the Author
Alice is the author of the adventure travel and lifestyle blog, Adventures of Alice, featuring destination guides, money-saving tips, foodie guides, and travel advice from around the globe. An ex-culinary whizz turned adventure traveler and seriously lover of bucket-lists, she created Adventures of Alice to help others travel for less and inspire people to explore more of the world. Find Alice online: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest