Whether you’re a backpacker or a plush passenger, there are kinds of Thai food for everyone.
Bangkok is the starting point for most great adventures through Southeast Asia. The largest city in Thailand has a reputation for mischievous night life, and the ability to turn your frugal plans into a wallet blowing opulent dream. Bangkok has invaded the thoughts and minds of travelers around the world, and in 2013 it was the most visited destination on the planet. Whether you fall in love with the hustle and bustle, the splendor of centuries old temples or the zoom of a tuk tuk, one thing for sure will capture your heart: Thai food. Full of intricate flavors and spice, Bangkok has delicious food of an incredible variety for any budget.
Tip: If you’re purchasing food from a street vendor, keep an eye out for yellow flags. This indicates that they sell vegetarian food!
Pad Thai (ผัดไทย)
This noodle dish is probably the most easily recognized outside of the country, as it has become fairly popular in restaurants around the world. As the Thai national dish, it’s popularity is well deserved. It was originally created to ease the rice consumption of the country during World War II, and has remained a staple ever since.
A seemingly simple stir fry, the combination of flavors are really an intricate dance. Fresh sour limes are combined with sweet fish sauce, sprinkled with savory peanuts and topped with delectable shrimp. These noodles should be eaten, and eaten often.
Som Tam (ส้มตำไทย)
Thailand is an expansive country, and the cuisine reflects that. What’s popular in Chiang Mai in the north, may not be common in Phuket down south. Bangkok is a great hub to experience all of what the nation has to offer. This particular salad is popular in isaan cuisine, northern style foods with heavy Laotian influence. Unripe green papayas are the real star here.
Though normally a fairly sweet fruit, being shredded before reaching maturity creates more of a savory flavor. The pieces are mixed together with chilis and a sweet and salty sauce. It’s crisp and crunchy, and can be eaten as a snack or with rice noodles and crab to make a meal. But be careful: unless you ask otherwise, som tam is VERY spicy. The noticeably and profusely sweating kind of spicy.
Mu Phat Sato (หมูผัดสะตอ)
Don’t let this dish’s translation discourage you from trying this. These green veggies, sato, are known in English as the ‘stink bean,’ even if there’s nothing particularly smelly about them! Similar in taste and texture to peas, recipes that include them are becoming fast favorites amongst foreigners. Mu phat sato teams them up with sliced pork in an excellent stir fry. Don’t be surprised if this becomes your go-to
Khua Kling (คั่วกลิ้ง)
Two common food misconceptions: 1. Curry is only in Indian food, and 2. Curry only comes as a sauce. This fare sends both of those rumors back down the grapevine. Southern style cooking hits a stroke of palatable genius bringing together minced meat (generally beef or pork, but sometimes also lamb) with an array of enticing flavors. It’s comparable to baby back ribs, choosing to use a dry rub rather than a BBQ sauce. The meal is heavily spiced, and the smell and taste are absolutely intoxicating.
Kaffir leaves, fresh peppercorns and the many other seasonings will entrench your senses. As is a trend with Thai food, this is not a dish for the light hearted or weak stomached. Diced chilli peppers are sprinkled throughout, in the same way a Western chef might use salt and pepper. Might want to keep a glass or two of Thai iced tea near by, just in case!
Khao Niao Mamuang (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง)
If you’re not from this neck of the woods, it might be very strange to think of rice as a dessert food. It’s meant to be served as a side dish, or under some type of meat. But this treat will completely change your perspective on how you’ve been eating rice your entire life. Similar to rice pudding, Thai sticky rice is boiled in deliciously sweet coconut milk. It’s paired with thick, luscious mango slices, only used if they are at their ripest. The entire plate is then doused in a heavenly coconut cream sauce.
When it’s mango season, stalls selling Khao Niao Mamuang are all over the city. Also keep an eye out for Khao Niao Moon (ข้าวเหนียวมูน), a fun variety where the sticky rice is dyed into different colors like purple or green. When indulging in this dessert, don’t get embarrassed if you feel the need to lick your plate clean!
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