For intrepid foodies willing to put their taste buds to the test, here's your chance to venture out and really taste Thai food as the locals know it. Can we take your order?
Khao Krapow Gai Kai Dao
Ask any Thai who has been abroad for more than a week what they’ll order upon returning home and Khao Krapow Gai Kai Dao (rice with chicken in basil leaves and fried egg) would indeed top the list. This dish encapsulates everything that is Thailand. The grittiness, the heat, the speed, and most importantly, the potpourri of smells and flavours that make up the dish will blow your mind. Add to that the mouthwatering fragrance of garlic, chilli and basil stir-fried with chicken (or any meat) in a burning hot wok and you have a dish most Thais would swear by. Served over a plate of steaming hot rice topped with a crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside fried egg, it’s the perfect homecoming meal.
Recommended establishment: you can find this dish pretty much everywhere!
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Pad Thai Goong Sod
This ubiquitous noodle dish has been a longstanding favourite among Thai and foreign visitors and available at streetside stalls as well as at most Thai restaurants. Usually made with sen jan – flat, chewy rice noodles hailing from Chantaburi Province - fried in a mixture of pork, tofu, beansprouts, fresh prawns (goong sod) and peanuts with just the right balance of sweet and sour from tamarind juice, lime, fish sauce, and sugar to name but a few, it’s a dish that will put your taste buds into overdrive.
Recommended establishment: Eat Pad Thai (Bib Gourmand)
Khao Kha Moo
Everyone has a cheat day and if you’re going to do it, why not go all out? While Khao Kha Moo (pork legs and rice) is a weight watcher’s guilty pleasure which hours of pilates cannot make up for, it’s definitely worth breaking off your regime for just one day. You’ll swoon over the succulent pork legs, braised for several hours (overnight) in a thick, five-spices gravy, it comes out off-the-bone tender. Enjoy this with a boiled egg, some kale and top it off with some preserved cabbages and a sweet and sour dipping sauce and officially declare that day National Pig-Out Day. Pilates, what pilates?
Recommended establishment: Charoen Saeng Silom (Bib Gourmand)
Kanom Jeen Gaeng Kiew Wan
Kanom Jeen or fermented rice noodles is believed to have originated from the Mon people, an ethnic group native to neighbouring Myanmar’s Mon State and has been a constant Thai staple for centuries. The three-day fermentation process gives Kanom Jeen its soft strands and distinct taste. Coupled with a variety of choices (including namya, nam ngiew or sao naam), a popular and more filling choice is the green curry or Gaeng Kiew Wan which is equally addictive. The list of herbs and spices that go into the preparation of the curry paste alone is endless and includes local herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander, galangal, and lemongrass to name but a few. As for the meat of choice added to this curry? Absolutely anything goes!
Recommended establishment: Sanguan Sri (Bib Gourmand)
Guay Tiew Pad See Eiw
It’s nearly 12pm and you’re distracted by the vicious growl of your stomach protesting for a well-deserved reward. Because of its accessibility – on the streets and at most restaurants - Guay Tiew Pad See Eiw isn’t only a treat for the local palates but easy for anyone to enjoy, even first-timers. Just choose the type of noodles you want (small strands of noodles - sen mee or large strands - sen yai) and the kind of meat you want. Once stir-fried over a wok-fire with some dark soy sauce, white soy sauce, some kale and eggs, the fragrance of the charcoal-fire is the perfect energy boost to get you through the rest of the day. Either that or be prepared for a food coma.
Recommended establishment: Jay Fai (One MICHELIN Star)
Khao Mun Gai
This dish takes a well-deserved place in our list of top must-try dishes in Bangkok for obvious reasons. Not only can the Khao Mun Gai (Hainanese chicken rice) be found virtually anywhere on Bangkok’s streets, it’s almost always a big hit at lavish wedding banquets (even at five-star hotels), and it’s simply off-the-charts delicious. The boiled chicken and chicken-fat infused rice are to die for, but some might say the real star lies in the dipping sauce. Although the recipes will vary according to where you go, the basic ingredients include soy sauce, vinegar, bean paste, ginger, chilli and fresh garlic.
Recommended establishment: Watsana Khao Man Gai (Bib Gourmand)
Khao Niew Gai Yang Somtum
Sure, everyone knows Som Tum but any Bangkokian would swear by the marriage of gai yang (grilled chicken) with the world-famous Thai papaya salad. Be prepared for a sensory overload as your pleasure buttons go wild. Do this: Take a small helping of sticky rice with clean fingers, tear off a piece of grilled chicken and roll it onto the sticky rice as if making sushi, then add a spoonful of some spicy Som Tum on top of your food tower. Now open wide and feel your worries disappear with every bite.
Recommended establishment: Polo Fried Chicken (Soi Polo) (Bib Gourmand)
Bamee Giew Moo Dang
A combination of soft egg noodles with minced pork wonton, slices of barbecued pork and Chinese mustard greens, Bamee Giew Moo Dang is among the most popular street noodle dishes. When you are feeling a little under the weather, there is nothing a big bowl of soupy Bamee Giew Moo Dang can’t fix. The steaming hot pork broth infused with nutrients and filled to the brim with delectable carbs and protein does wonders for both body and mind and will leave you refreshed and ready to take on anything in no time.
Guay Tiew Reua
Sold by small boat vendors who ply their trade along Thailand’s waterways, the name Guay Tiew Rua or “Boat noodle”, has become synonymous with a quick and delish meal that’s easy on the pocket. For the more adventurous, probably what sets this dish apart from other types of noodles is a splash of beef blood (optional) can be added to the herb-infused stock to add depth and texture. Add meatballs, stewed/fresh beef, flank, entrails, some morning glory and you’re in for a real treat.
Khao Moo Kratiem Priktai
Considering you won’t be able to kiss anyone for a few hours after enjoying this dish, we’ve saved this dish last. Thais’ love of garlic or kratiem can be reflected in the generous helping of garlic used in this irresistible dish. Moo Kratiem Priktai is simply pork stir-fried in plenty of garlic, white pepper, some soy sauce and fish sauce. Served over steamed rice and garnished with fresh coriander, it’s hard not to fall under the spell of this captivating dish. Kissing plans? That can wait.
Recommended establishment: like Khao Krapow Gai Kai Dao, you can find Khao Moo Kratiem Priktai in most of Thai street food stalls.