While most people have at least sampled street food at some point in their lives, such as a hot dog, pretzel or muffin, many haven’t experienced the wonders that are Thai street food.
What originally started as floating markets, such as the one you can still visit in Bangkok, vendors would line up along the canal’s or beaches to cook and serve food. Now, there are stalls and mobile vendors, plus those who still serve out of boats, providing a chance for all to sample some of Thailand’s street food scene.
While there are some undoubtful classics, here are the most popular and famous Thai street food you have to try when you visit.
To kick off our list with something you may have sampled once in your life, the classic living amongst the classics. This stir-fried noodles dish usually comes with tofu, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts, a lime wedge and a selection of meat of your choosing. Most will let you choose from either chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or squid.
A popular dish in Thailand, Gai tod is typically prepared by marinating chicken in spices and rice flour before deep-frying the whole mixture. Usually, to add a little extra flavour, chilli paste or a serving of a spicy dipping sauce accompanies this dish, with a side of sticky rice.
Or Noodle Soup is a firm Thailand favourite. The best thing about this dish is that you can order from several vendors and get a new experience altogether. You can opt to have it made with chicken, beef or pork stock, rice-noodles or egg-noodles, and can opt for which vegetables you wish to be made with it. Some even offer the chance to add meatballs or wontons (similar to dumplings), providing the opportunity to truly customise your experience.
A great breakfast option if you’re passing a street market in the morning, as Kai Jeow is an omelette, sometimes served with a small portion of rice. They are usually prepared with fish sauce and chillies, and topped with chili sauce.
A sweet, and unique food, Kluay Tod are deep-fried mini-bananas and are prepared in a batter of desiccated coconut and sesame seeds.
While there are many excellent Thailand curries, Massaman is incredibly unique as it has noticeable Persian influences. Like most, it’s made with coconut milk and can also come with chicken and potatoes. Usually, it’s also flavoured with roasted peanuts, cinnamon, and bay leaves,
Also known as skewers, are often present at street markets and for a good reason. All marinaded uniquely by vendors, you get the choice of pork, chicken, or even other meat often served with rice too.
This dish consists of minced pork or chicken, and even egg, Pad Kra Pao is stir-fried with Thai basil and chillies, all served over white rice. This dish tends to have a lot of spice and has a heavy peppery undertone.
While you may be able to get your hands on this at home, Poh Pia Tod also known as Spring Rolls, are freshly made in Thailand right in front of you. Usually, they are also much healthier than those you can buy at home and are loaded into a plastic bag before they are drenched in sweet chilli sauce.
This dish comes in a variety of serving styles and is super popular. It consists of shredded green papaya, and peanuts, dried shrimp beans, garlic, tomatoes, and plenty of chillies. While it’s spicy by default, it is also sweet and sour and one of Thailand's healthiest meals.
Accessibility is one of the things that makes street food in Thailand so popular, it’s available closeby and is often freshly cooked, meaning you can have a good meal on the go. The price is another factor, with street vendors that get a lot of tourist traffic typically not charging more than 30-60 baht (£2-£3) per their offerings, making it affordable for all who visit.
Thai street food is also healthier than most expect, often serving their dishes with vegetables and rice, meaning it won’t sit overly heavy on your stomach. Because it is usually made in front of you, you can ask for it to be made how you wish, even asking if it can be made a little spicier or less, depending on the vendor.
But, the most significant benefits are the various experiences you can get just in one district. In Bangkok alone, there are at least five different districts, all offering a unique food experience. For example, in Old Town, you can find famous vendors who have been around for decades and serve up cult classics such as Khao gang. However, Silom and Sathorn roads in the business district will have quick and easy bites on the go.
It wouldn’t be so famous if it didn’t have people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths. Thailand’s famous street food scene is because of the unique and vastly different tastes the vendors concoct. While you may be expecting spice, it’s the undertones of the meals such as sweetness from sugar, sour from certain sauces, and saltiness from how it’s prepared.
Thailand’s vendors offer something you can’t imagine trying at home, bringing food you’d never considered and placing it in front of you. Such as the ever-popular giant water-bug, which looks like a cockroach or fried quail eggs. Thai’s street food scene makes these accessible, something you can’t say about anywhere else.
While we could go on and on about how amazing and unique, Thai’s street food scene is, it is something one needs to experience for themselves. With it being so cheap, so readily available, and having something for all, you can be rest assured that if one meal doesn’t go down well, there’s always another round the corner, or even in another district.