32 BEST STREET FOODS IN THAILAND
Never let your predispositions hold you back from trying Thailand's most popular street food. Not only is it ridiculously cheap it is also very tasty and varied. It doesn't matter if you are in Bangkok or Chiang Rai all these dishes can be found all over Thailand although many have originated from certain places. We have listed 30 best street foods in Thailand that you will encounter in your travels. A lot of these dishes are also available in restaurants and not only in food carts by street vendors, although restaurants add a few little extras to justify charging you more.
There is no guarantee that as a tourist and foreigner Thailand's street food will be to your liking because everyone has different opinions and tastes. Some foreigners love it and brag about it when they return home whilst others wonder what the fuss is about. Some foreigners think that street food is unhygienic and avoid it altogether. Just remember that unless you are eating at a high-end five-star hotel how can you be sure that the food, the plates, and cutlery is hygienic at your local restaurant? You could be horrified if you took a close look at many kitchens just watch any Gordon Ramsey TV program where he reviews restaurants.
All Thais love their street food and one of the most common questions you will be asked by a Thai is " have you eaten yet". Eating food is a big part of the social culture and people in Thailand love to eat often even up to 5 times a day. Its a wonder how they all manage to stay slim but a lot of Thai food is based on natural ingredients which help. Eating is very much a social function and a time for some gossip and laughter. When you are with a Thai person get ready to eat often and never say you are not hungry because they will look at you in disbelief.
Many Thai people that work full time in the big cities do not cook at home and prefer to buy street food or eat in a restaurant instead. In fact, many new condos nowadays do not even come with kitchens or at best just have a small spot to plug in a rice cooker. However, this doesn't mean Thai women don't like to cook it's just that many simply don't have the time. Many working single people share rooms and go out together at night to their favorite street food vendors.
Street food is convenient and can be purchased just about any time of the day or night (except on days when there is official street sweeping and cleaning). In Bangkok, this is currently during the daytime on Monday's other cities have their own times.
You may wonder about the freshness of the food but remember that most street food is cooked on the spot and that is the only way to be sure it's fresh. In a restaurant, you can never be sure how fresh something really is because they can reheat pre-cooked food in a microwave oven that maybe a few days old. If you are unsure which vendor to buy from, observe which vendor has the most customers and go to that one. This rule applies to every type of food outlet because the local people know which places are good and which to avoid.
Thai Food stalls often specialize in certain types of dishes and it can be a bit intimidating for a first-timer.
If you depend on just pointing and smiling you may end up with something entirely different. Unless you learn the Thai terms for the different types of food it will be hard to choose what to order. Hopefully, this article will give you some idea of what is on offer and what each dish consists of and what food you may like to avoid.
Savory Thai Street Dishes
Here is a list of the most common savory Thai street food dishes with their English meaning. The desserts are listed further down the page.
Som Tam (Papaya salad)
Kao Pad (Fried rice)
Gai Tod (Fried chicken)
Pad Kra Pao (Stirfryed mince)
Khao Kha Moo (Pork trotters rice)
Kaao Laad Kaeng (Curry on rice)
Kai Jeow (Thai omelet)
Moo Ping (Grilled pork stick)
Sai Ooah (Thai sausage)
Pad See Eiw (Noodles and meatballs)
Pad Thai Kung (Noodles with shrimp)
Pad Thai (Thai stir-fried noodles)
Poh Pia Tod (Spring rolls)
Guay Teow (Noodle soup)
Rang Nok (Bird's nest soup)
Pla Pao (Barbequed fish in salt)
Goon Yang (Grilled prawns)
Pla Pao (Salt grilled fish)
Hoi Nang Rom Tod (Oyster omelet)
Khao Mun Gai (Steamed chicken with rice)
Sai Krok Issan (Sour sausage Issan style)
Ma Laeng Tod (Fried bugs)
Pad Kra Pao moo (Stir-fry pork with herbs)
Gang Kiew Wan Gai (Thai green curry)
Gieow (Boiled pork mince wrapped inside a yellow dough)
Kuay Teow Pet/Kao Na Pet (Duck noodle with rice)
Types of Noodles
Noodles come in different shapes, sizes, and dimensions and can be made from rice flour, wheat flour, or soybean flour. Noodles can be served with chicken, duck, red barbequed pork, beef and meatballs, eggs or with red soybean paste and fish balls, squid, and morning glory. You really need to understand the different types of noodles and what they are called.
Noodles and rice are the two most basic foods that form the base of every Thai dish. There are food stalls that specialize only in noodles and others that specialize only in rice dishes. Here is a list of the five different types of noodles with English translation.
Sen Mii – A small wiry looking noodle made with rice flour
Sen Yai - A flat and wide noodle made with rice flour
Sen lek – A medium wide flat noodle made with rice flour
Bah Mii – A yellow colored noodle made with egg and wheat flour
Woon Sen – A transparent looking thin and wiry noodle made with soybean flour
People usually have a favorite type of noodle but you have to try them all to find the one you like and looks can be deceiving. Noodles can be included in a soup or eaten plain with a just sauce. In the food stalls that specialize in noodle dishes, you will have to decide what to have with the noodle. The choice will be either meat, fish, or vegetables. Usually, these stalls have all their different dushes on display and all you have to do is the point. Prices can be anything from 30 to 90 baht and if you are really hungry and want a larger portion just say "pee sed" extra, please.
List of savory and dessert Thai dishes
1. Pad See Eiw (Noodles and meatballs)
This is the Thai version of spaghetti and meatballs but with a twist. Instead of using spaghetti, the Thais use wide rice noodles which are even tastier. These noodles are thrown into a wok and stir-fried mercilessly. Ingredients used are dark soy sauce, Chinese broccoli, cabbage, and a variety of meats either chicken, pork, or beef. This dish is simple and tasty and especially good for those of you that don't like spicy food. If you want it spicier it's simple, just add dried chili flakes and vinegar.
2. Pad Kra Pao (Stirfryed mince)
This is a simple dish that consists of pork and chicken which is minced then stir-fried together with basil and chili. It is served with rice a well as a piece of chicken and a fried egg. It is quite a hot dish because Thai basil has a sharp peppery flavor but perfect for spice lovers.
3. Som Tam (Papaya salad)
This is an unusual dish by Western standards and quite interesting but uniquely Thai due to its high popularity. The dish is made out of shredded papaya, carrots, tomatoes, peanuts, string beans, dried shrimp, fish sauce, garlic, lime juice, chili, and sugar. All these ingredients are turned into a paste using a mortar and pestle creating a spicy and sizzling taste experience. If you don't want it so spicy you can ask the vendor "pet nit noi" (only a little spicy).
4. Khao Kha Moo (Pork trotters rice)
Very popular in the markets you can always tell by the size of the big pots where the pig's legs are stewed. The pork is boiled together with a generous mixture of spices, soy sauce, and sugar until tender. If you don't like the skin just say "Mai ow nang (no skin please) and they will remove it for you. The pork is served with broccoli, hard-boiled egg, and rice.
5. Kai Jeow (Thai omelet)
This is a Thai omelet that is served over rice. The omelet is somewhat different in texture to a Western omelet but this is Thailand after all. The omelet is made with eggs and cooked together with fish sauce and crushed chili until it has a golden appearance then served with chili sauce.
6. Moo Ping(Grilled pork stick)
Grilled pork on skewers is one of the most popular on-the-go snacks in Thailand. The vendors make their own marinade that is sweet and savory at the same time out of a mixture of garlic, soy sauce, sugar. Sometimes sticks of chicken or duck meat are also available in a similar mixture blend. Often sold together with a small bag of the famous Thai sticky rice.
7. Sai Ooah (Thai sausage)
This sausage is unique to Thailand because even the Germans can't figure out how to make a better one. As with all Thai sausages, the main meat is pork and this sausage is filled with aromatic ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, and red chili paste. These sausages originated in Northern Thailand are particularly popular in Chian Mai although they are available throughout Thailand.
8. Gai Tod (Fried chicken)
You may think that KFC makes the best-fried chicken but the Thais have made some modifications using different spices that is just as tasty if not better. In fact, fried chicken in Thailand is one of the most popular to-go dishes. You can buy Gai tod anywhere from simple street carts to the train stations and night markets.
The vendors marinade chicken pieces, usually drum sticks or wings in a blend of spices (trade secret like in KFC) and rice flour then deep fry them until they are crisp and just right. Once they come out of the deep fryer they are garnished with chili paste. These are then sold with a spicy dipping sauce and a bag of sticky rice for dessert.
9. Guay Teow (Noodle soup)
There are a few varieties of these noodle soups than can be made with chicken, pork, or beef stock. In fact, there are many variations in the taste of this very common soup between vendors depending on the cooking method and ingredients used. The noodles can be made from eggs or rice flour which makes a difference in the taste. Often vendors add meatballs to the soup. Thais like to add fish sauce, lime juice, dried chili peppers, and even sugar for even more flavor.
10. Poh Pia Tod (Spring rolls)
This classic spring roll usually deep-fried are very tasty and made for people on the go.
These rolls don't break any culinary boundaries but they make for a tasty snack in between meals. These long rolls can consist of meat, vegetables, or rice noodles and are long and cut into bite-sized pieces and dipped in a sweet chilly sauce and served inside a small clear bag together with a toothpick for easy handling. If you prefer a more healthy version which is not deeply fried called "pa pia sod" is worth trying as it is just as tasty.
11. Pad Thai (Thai stir-fried noodles)
This dish consists of rice flour noodles, eggs, tofu, minced peanuts, and prawns that are stirfried in a wok. It has a good sweet and sour balance caused by the mixed blend of chili, palm sugar, tamarind pulp, and lime juice.
12. Kuay Teow Pet/Kao Na Pet (Duck noodle and rice)
If you like duck meat then this dish is simple and tasty. The dish consists of roasted duck that is sliced into strips normally served with boiled rice and duck broth. It is served with sliced chili peppers in soy sauce as a condiment.
13. Rang Nok (Bird's nest soup)
One of the favorite delicacies of Thailand. The soup is made up of the small white nest of the swiftlet bird. This is a very small bird that builds its nest using materials such as saliva which when dries act like a glue to hold the nest together. Once the baby birds grow up and leave the nest it is collected by people that collect these nests commonly known as white gold. This soup is served together with a cooked egg and honey. This soup is believed to promote better health and vitality so naturally its a bit more expensive than average soup.
14. Goon Yang (Grilled prawns)
Served without any spices these prawns are fresh and charcoal-grilled ready to eat. Sometimes the vendors sell river prawns that come from Ayutthaya that are much bigger than the usual variety.
15. Ma Laeng Tod (Fried bugs)
Thailand has a great variety of bugs to choose from such as locusts, worms, scorpions, crickets, basically anything that crawls. These bugs are simply fried in oil and then covered in a seasoning oil and then served. The taste is not for the squirmish but in times of famine, they are a good source of protein.
16. Pla Pao (Salt grilled fish)
This dish consists of grilled fish and boiled rice with a chili dip. The grilling method of cooking the fish is unique to Thailand and is done by removing the skin and covering the fish in salt. This retains the moisture and flavor in the fish during the grilling process.
17. Gang Kiew Wan Gai (Thai green curry)
This curry is made from chicken, eggplant, coconut milk, basil leaves, green chili, and lemongrass. Normally served with boiled rice.
18. Hoi Nang Rom Tod (Oyster omelet)
Not quite an omelet but in Thailand, an omelet can be anything. The oysters are dipped into a batter mix and then deep-fried until crispy. The omelet which consists of a batter made from eggs and flour is cut into squares and then served together with the oysters.
Thai desserts are produced using different preparation methods to that in the West. Thai cooks often use scented fragrances such as jasmine and aromatic flowers in their mix to produce scented desserts. Cooking methods involve either deep frying, steaming, or using an old process of cooking egg yolks in a syrup. Tropical fruits are often included as part of the desert making them generally far more healthy. Thai People love sweet things and sit together eating dessert in a market food stall. They eat frequently and will often eat dessert before a savory dish or just randomly.
Look Choob (miniature fruits)
Kanom Pang Ping (Toast bread and jam)
Roti Kai/Gluay (Banana egg Prata)
I Tim Kati (Coconut ice cream)
I Tim Pad (Rolled ice cream)
Cha Yen (Milk tea)
Kanom Bueang (Crispy pancake)
Kulay Tod (Fried Mini bananas)
Roti (Banana crepe)
Roti Sai Mai (Thai candy floss)
Khao Niao Mamuang (Mango sticky rice)
Kanom Krok Bai Toey (Pandan cake)
Nam TubTim (Pomegranate juice)
Ruam Mit (Thai social drink)
19. Look Choob (Miniature fruits)
This is a popular dessert in Bangkok that resembles real fruit and vegetables but in miniature. It's very glossy and colorful appearance makes this dessert popular at official ceremonies and weddings.
20. Kanom Pang Ping (Toast bread and jam)
A lightly buttered piece of bread that is toasted to a slight crisp and covered with either jam or condensed milk. There is a variety of spreads to choose from including hazelnut, peanut, and strawberry. Quite tasty as an in-between snack.
21. Roti Kai/Gluay (Banana egg prata)
This is one of the most popular desserts and consists of pan-fried pastry style bread that is filled with sliced bananas and comes with a topping of chocolate sauce or condensed milk.
22. I Tim Kati (Coconut ice cream)
This is a non-dairy ice cream made entirely from coconut. Sometimes served with fresh mango and peanuts.
23. I Tim Pad (Rolled ice cream)
This is a sweetened frozen dessert made using milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring. The mixture is rolled onto an ice pan and frozen. It is served in an ice cream cup with various toppings and fruit.
24. Cha Yen (Milk Tea)
This is a traditional Thai tea made from tea, milk, and sugar served hot or cold.
25. Kanom Bueang (Crispy Pancake)
These are bite-sized treats made from pancake mix and filled with a creamy mixture.
26. Kulay Tod (Fried mini bananas)
This is a tasty treat and a favorite for many tourists. It is made by deep-frying semi-ripe bananas that are dipped in a batter consisting of coconut and sesame seeds. This results in a crunchy exterior and a soft center. Served freshly made and can be eaten immediately or left to cool down for later.
27. Roti (Banana crepe)
This tasty dessert is a newcomer originating in Iran but has become popular in the markets in the last decade. Roti consists of a mixture of banana, chocolate sauce, and condensed milk that is rolled into a crepe. This is then made into a square and chopped into bite-sized pieces. This dish is fun to watch being made as the dough is rolled and stretched as far as it can go to make it thin then frying it in a frying pan.
28. Roti Sai Mai (Thai candy floss)
This is a Thai version of candy floss which has become a favorite of Thais and is commonly sold by Muslim vendors.
29. Khao Niao Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice)
This is another Thai dessert that is very popular throughout Thailand. This dessert consists of glutinous sticky rice seasoned with sticky sweet coconut milk that is served with sweet mango.
30. Kanom Krok Bai Toey (Pandan Cake)
This is a Thai muffin that is made out of flour, coconut sugar, and pandan leaf extract which giver the muffin that green color and an amazing aroma. It is nothing like you would expect a muffing to be, because it is chewy, fluffy, and not too sweet.
31. Nam TubTim (Pomegranate juice)
This is another popular Thai dessert drink made from the pomegranate fruit. This juice is very healthy and rich in vitamins.
32. Ruam Mit (Thai social drink)
This is a very popular and refreshing Thai social drink that is served with ice and perfect for those hot Thailand days. There is no set recipe for this sweet tasting concoction because every vendor uses their own ingredients. However, expect any of these items which are coconut milk, sugar, tapioca pearls, corn, lotus root, sweet potatoes, beans, taro, and jackfruit. Every Ruam Mit is flavored and colored and uses starchy noodles and grated ice.
If that has made you hungry then you should definitely taste the best Thai street food when you are next in Thailand.