Whether you are in Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai, street food in Thailand is sure to be a star attraction. Thailand’s street food culture is major – locals and foreigners alike love street food because it’s cheap and delicious. Thailand, especially Bangkok, is dotted with street food on almost every soi (street). Just walking down a local street or market will make your stomach growl for food. And, after trying some of the best street food, you’ll soon be coming back for more.
From grilled pork marinated in its own unique sweet sauce to sticky rice paired with mango, one thing about Thai dishes is that they incorporate every flavor from sour to spicy in most of their recipes. As some foods are indicative of their origins, from Isaan to the South, foodies will surely have plenty to try. Here are some of the popular street foods in Thailand!
1. Moo Ping (grilled pork skewers)
This delicious street food is one of the tastiest to try, found almost anywhere as it is very popular with Thais and locals alike. Literally translated as “grilled pork”, please know that this is no ordinary grilled pork. The meat is marinated in ground beef, coriander roots, garlic and peppers then slowly grilled to bring out the essence and juices.
Although the recipe can be modified, coconut milk is an essential ingredient. This is because the milk tenderizes the pork to make it soft and juicy. For those who try this delicious meat on a stick, it almost always comes with sticky rice. However you consume it, Moo Ping is famous for its ability to fill you up while giving you a bite of flavor. You will definitely be addicted!
2. Pad Kra Pao (sautéed basil)
Pad Kra Pao is perhaps the most famous Thai dish. It’s definitely a must-try dish among locals and travelers can’t help but crave it! Made with Thai holy basil, garlic, sugar, chili peppers and oyster sauce, this dish combines all the flavors to create an explosion of taste. The dish uses Chinese-influenced stir-frying methods to meld the spices into one incredible meal.
When eating Pad Kra Pao, ask for the condiment platter as you can add more flavor by sprinkling sugar, or a mixture of vinegar and chilli as well as more spices. Plus, the dish is best when you add a Thai-style fried egg, as it offsets some of the spice and adds a bit more muted flavor. But if you can’t stand the spice, remember to say ‘mai phed’ because you will surely find the original spicy taste.
3. Kluay Tod (fried bananas)
In Southeast Asia, fried bananas are a common dessert and snack. Thailand has also embraced the food in its street markets because it tastes undeniably delicious. The recipe can be a little difficult to imitate because only the natives of the region seem to have mastered the taste.
The delicious snack often comes with coconut ice cream, which can be hard to find if you’re not in Asia. However, vanilla ice cream can also be used as a substitute. If ice cream is a bit too much for you, just try it hot, as this option will surely amp up the banana taste. Found in nearly every street vendor cluster, fried bananas are a classic example of a dessert done right.
4. Thai Coconut Ice Cream
If you haven’t been to Thailand yet, you might not know that its desserts are light and fluffy. Thai coconut ice cream is no exception as it looks like a fusion of ice cream and sorbet, creating a lighter taste in your mouth. Bursting with coconut flavor, the dish is definitely healthier than most Western ice creams.
To make the ice cream, you don’t even need to use an ice cream maker because it can be made by hand. Simply combine eggs, sugar, heavy whipping cream, whole coconut milk, flaked coconut, and vanilla or coconut flavoring. These ingredients are easy to find and once you’re ready, the ice cream will melt in your mouth in no time. Don’t forget to add mango or another fruit to top it off – or enjoy it with delicious fried bananas!
5. Som Tam (papaya salad)
Som Tam or papaya salad is certainly the most famous dish in northeast Thailand. Cheap and mostly healthy, the dish consists of crushed chili peppers, tomatoes, papaya and other ingredients, along with a mortar and pestle. Despite the hard work of crushing different ingredients, this Thai salad is known for its extremely spicy taste.
But don’t worry if you don’t like spicy food, because when ordering, you can just ask for it not to be spicy or for the cook to use only one chili pepper. It may seem like using a chili pepper isn’t going to make your eyes water, but when it’s crushed, the spiciness of the chili multiplies, making it much stronger than just cutting it and may even leave you feeling mouth on fire. Either way, finding Som Tam is easy because almost everyone who comes from Isaan or northeast Thailand eats it. In fact, many Thais in this region seem to crave the spiciness of Som Tam, with nothing to replace it.
6. Khao Niao Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice)
Who hasn’t heard of mango sticky rice? Given the popularity of Thai cuisine around the world, chances are you’ve thought of this refreshing and fruity dessert at some point. And when you’re in Thailand, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to try this refreshing street food. This dish is simple and only requires a few ingredients. The mixture of coconut milk, mango, sticky rice and sugar results in an unparalleled sweet treat.
Popular throughout Thailand, even the capital of Bangkok is known as “The Big Mango”. Therefore, finding mangoes in Thailand is as easy as looking at a tree, where the yellow fruit is sure to hang. Plus, for that refreshing sweet taste, look no further than your local market or street vendors.
7. Kai Jiao (Thai Omelet)
Thai omelet is probably one of the cheapest and most satisfying dishes. This egg and rice recipe, popular for helping people stay full longer, uses fish sauce to give it the flavor that most Thais prefer. Thai people fry the omelet using lots of oil to make it crispy and delicious.
For a tastier option, you can make the omelette with any meat you like (ground pork is the most popular). Even the Thai eggplant definitely adds a unique flavor to the dish. But, the best thing about the meal is that you can make it quickly if you are in a hurry and it costs next to nothing for the ingredients. Add some chilli or tomato sauce and you have a meal ready to fill you up while you’re on the go!
8. Banana Roast
A popular snack and dessert, Banana Roti’s ability to incorporate all sorts of toppings makes it a winner. And since locals and visitors appreciate it, you can find it practically everywhere. Also, if you visit a large market, the choice of toppings is overwhelming.
From Nutella to chocolate sauce, getting creative when choosing a topping is definitely encouraged. Most foodies choose banana and chocolate, but many young children usually choose sweeter tastes. After choosing a filling, watch the vendor magically fry it. And don’t forget to enjoy the scent that will soon be reflected on your tongue!
The abundance of delicious food in this magnificent nation is arguably its best feature. With many street food options to choose from, this list won’t do all the amazing street food justice. Follow locals to locate award-winning food vendors or ask seasoned expats for the most appealing street food stalls.
And if you want to learn how Thais prepare these magical cuisines, why not join a cooking class! Here you can learn the art of hammering a mortar and pestle while taking the pizzazz to a whole new level. One thing is for sure, leaving Thailand with a new found love for street food will leave you wanting more.