When I first landed in Thailand back in November 2010, I was instantly drawn to the vibrant world of Thai street foods. Everywhere I turned, there were mouth-watering dishes waiting to be tried.
On that trip, I also met my wife, Saengduan, who introduced me to the authentic tastes of her homeland. Together, we explored a spectrum of flavors, from comforting favorites like Pad Thai Moo to the fiery Som Tam—a spicy papaya salad that is Saengduan’s favorite but is still a bit too spicy for my taste!
Ready to dive into my top street food recommendations from Thailand? Let’s get started! And when you finish seeing all of these authentic Thai dishes, let me know in the comments which one you can’t wait to try out!
I will also share some of the mistakes I’ve made when trying these and what you can do to prevent them.
Pad Thai is a classic Thai stir-fried noodle dish that masterfully combines sweet, sour, and savory notes, garnished with peanuts and fresh lime.
Personally, I really love the peanuts that come with it, because that gives it a nice bite.
There are multiple variations of this dish and my personal favorite is Pad Thai Moo, which is Pad Thai with pork.
The 3 most common variations of Pad Thai are:
- Pad Thai Goong; Pad Thai with shrimp. This is the most common version
- Pad Thai Gai; this is Pad Thai with Chicken
- Pad Thai Moo; this is my favorite and is Pad Thai with pork
If you’re someone who doesn’t really like spicy food, this is one of the dishes that’s perfect for you. It’s not spicy at all and therefore very popular among tourists who visit Thailand.
Som Tam (spicy papaya salad)
A spicy and green papaya salad that’s a favorite among locals, combining shredded green papaya, chilies, lime, and dried shrimp.
- Som Tam Thai: A sweeter variant with peanuts.
- Som Tam Pla Ra: Introduces fermented fish for a bolder flavor.
Som Tam is my wife’s personal favorite and it’s one of the most spicy dishes I tried myself. The texture is mostly crispy with lots of crispy vegetables.
Although Thailand offers so many different dishes, whenever I watch YouTube videos where people talk about food, it’s usually the Thai women where Som Tam is their personal favorite.
Grilled pork skewers marinated to perfection, providing a juicy and aromatic delight, often enjoyed with sticky rice.
Usually, when you buy them, they will give you a small bag with sticky rice, some sour cucumber slices, and sauce and you eat a bit of rice with the pork at the same time.
Crispy Thai-style crepes where you’ll taste the combination of sweet and savory fillings in each bite.
- Khanom Buang Yuan: Offers a savory filling with shrimp and coconut.
- Khanom Buang Sai Cream: Tempts with sweet meringue and golden threads.
Personally, I love these. They oftentimes come in small sizes where you’ll buy a bag with a couple but some places sell big ones and as it is with the Roti, which will come up soon, these crepes come in many different flavors.
I can highly recommend trying them at least once while in Thailand.
An aromatic and spicy soup, both rich and invigorating, infused with herbs like lemongrass and galangal.
- Tom Yum Goong: Centers on shrimp.
- Tom Yum Gai: Focuses on chicken.
Although my wife loves fish, personally I’m more of a meat lover. But Tom Yum soup is packed with many different vegetables, often shrimp, and is a thick soup that is very popular amongst Thai locals.
Mango Sticky Rice
A refreshing sweet dish pairing ripe mango slices with glutinous rice drenched in a salty-sweet coconut sauce. Some stalls offer variations like durian or jackfruit toppings.
Mango Sticky rice is one of those dishes that almost everybody loves.
It’s a perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors that create a mouthwatering dessert. The combination of juicy mangoes, sticky rice, and creamy coconut sauce is simply irresistible. Also, when you’re a fan of durian or jackfruit, you can find variations of this popular dessert to suit your taste buds. Don’t miss out on trying Mango Sticky Rice when you visit Thailand – it’s a treat you won’t want to miss!
Satay is a popular street food in many Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand.
It consists of skewered and grilled meat, usually chicken or beef, served with a flavorful peanut sauce.
The meat is marinated in a mixture of spices and herbs before being cooked over an open flame, giving it a smoky and delicious taste.
Satay is often enjoyed as an appetizer or snack, and its combination of tender meat and rich peanut sauce makes it a popular dish among tourists, as well as locals.
Pad Krapow is a classic Thai dish that will tantalize your taste buds.
It typically features stir-fried minced meat, such as chicken, pork, or beef, with Thai basil leaves, chili, garlic, and soy sauce.
The dish is known for its bold and aromatic flavors, with a perfect balance of heat and freshness.
It is commonly served with jasmine rice and a fried egg on top, creating a satisfying and complete meal. Pad Krapow is a staple in Thai cuisine, loved by locals and tourists alike for its simplicity and deliciousness.
Pad Krapow is one of those dishes that if you don’t know what to order and this is on the menu, you know you’ll be good by ordering this.
Hoy Tod, also known as Thai-style oyster omelet, is a popular street food dish that you must try in Thailand.
It consists of fresh oysters mixed with a batter of rice flour, eggs, and water, then fried until crispy. The omelet is typically served with a tangy and savory sauce made from fish sauce, lime juice, and chili.
Hoy Tod offers a tasty combination of textures, with the crispiness of the omelet and the juiciness of the oysters. This dish is a favorite among seafood lovers and is often enjoyed as a delicious and satisfying snack.
Gaeng Keow Wan
Gaeng Keow Wan, also known as Thai green curry, is a popular and flavorful dish you should try in Thailand.
It is made with a paste of green chili peppers, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, and other aromatic herbs and spices, cooked with coconut milk and your choice of meat or vegetables.
Gaeng Keow Wan offers a perfect balance of spiciness, creaminess, and sweetness. The vibrant green color of the curry is a feast for the eyes, and the fragrant aroma will make your mouth water.
This curry is typically served with steamed rice, allowing you to enjoy the rich sauce that coats each grain.
Even my dad loves to make this dish in the Netherlands, although we can never really make it taste like it does in Thailand.
Roti is a popular and delicious Thai street food that you must try during your visit.
It is a crispy and flaky flatbread that is usually served with a variety of savory or sweet fillings.
The dough combines flour, water, and a pinch of salt, which is then stretched and folded to create layers.
Once the dough is prepared, it is cooked on a hot griddle until it becomes golden brown and crispy.
Personally, I find it a fun experience to watch the cooks create the Roti.
Roti can be enjoyed plain or filled with ingredients such as banana, chocolate, condensed milk, or savory fillings like curry or chicken.
In the video below, you’ll see the famous Roti lady, Puy from Bangkok making her Roti.
I have already tried out many different variations but my personal favorite is still the one with Nutella and banana and I can highly recommend it.
Khanom Krok is another delicious Thai street food that you shouldn’t miss.
It is a traditional coconut pudding that is cooked in a special pan with round molds.
The batter is made from a mixture of rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and sometimes pandan juice for added flavor.
Once the batter is poured into the molds, it is cooked over low heat until the edges become crispy and the center is soft and custard-like.
The final result is a sweet and creamy treat that melts in your mouth.
Poh Pia Tod
Poh Pia Tod, also known as Thai spring rolls, are a popular street food choice.
These crispy rolls are filled with a combination of vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, and bean sprouts, along with flavorful seasonings.
The filling is wrapped in a thin spring roll wrapper and then deep-fried until golden and crispy.
Poh Pia Tod is often served with a sweet chili dipping sauce, adding a delightful balance of flavors.
These Thai spring rolls make for a satisfying and tasty snack or appetizer option.
Khao Soi is a traditional Northern Thai dish that combines rich flavors and textures.
This fragrant curry soup is made with a mix of spices, coconut milk, and tender pieces of chicken or beef.
The soup is then served over egg noodles and garnished with crispy fried noodles, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lime.
The combination of creamy curry broth, tender meat, and crunchy noodles creates a delightful balance of flavors and textures in each spoonful.
Gaeng Massaman is a popular Thai curry dish known for its rich and complex flavors.
This curry is typically made with a combination of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, which give it a unique and fragrant taste.
The curry base is made with coconut milk, adding a creamy and slightly sweet element to the dish.
Gaeng Massaman is traditionally prepared with tender chunks of beef or lamb, but can also be made with chicken or tofu as a vegetarian option.
The curry is usually served with jasmine rice, allowing you to soak up all the delicious flavors of the dish.
Kuay Teow Rua
Kuay Teow Rua, also known as “Boat Noodles,” is a popular Thai street food dish that originated from the floating markets of Bangkok.
This dish features a flavorful broth made from beef or pork bones, combined with a mix of aromatic herbs and spices.
The noodles used in Kuay Teow Rua are typically thin and flat, adding a chewy and satisfying texture to the dish.
In addition to the noodles, the soup is often garnished with tender slices of braised beef or pork, along with fresh bean sprouts and Thai basil.
The combination of savory broth, tender meat, and fresh herbs makes Kuay Teow Rua a beloved dish among locals and tourists alike.
Kanom Jeen is a traditional Thai dish consisting of rice noodles served with a variety of flavorful curries and toppings.
The rice noodles used in Kanom Jeen are thin and round, providing a soft and delicate texture that pairs well with the rich curries.
Common curries served with Kanom Jeen include green curry, red curry, and fish curry, each offering a unique blend of spices and ingredients.
Toppings for Kanom Jeen can vary but often include fresh vegetables, herbs, pickles, and sometimes fried or grilled fish.
This versatile dish can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, making it a popular choice among Thai food enthusiasts.
Tips for your First Thai Street Foods Experience in Thailand
Listen, I get it. A lot of people fear trying new things and you might worry you’ll get sick when eating from the street stalls. In their defense, I’ve been going to Thailand every year since 2010 and recently even twice a year and the only time I got food poisoning was when I ate breakfast at a hotel in Krabi.
So let me give you some of my best tips for when you want to have the best experience while trying out some of these Thai street foods.
- Start with Popular Stalls: Seek out stalls that are crowded with customers, especially locals. They’re often a good indicator of great taste and fresh products and are super affordable since Thai people often don’t make a lot of money.
- Watch and Learn: Observe how the locals order and eat. This can provide invaluable insights into local customs and also reveal which dishes are the most popular.
In the beginning, I was confused sometimes because when they would eat one dish with chopsticks, they would eat other dishes with fork and spoon.
- Hygiene Matters: While most stalls maintain good hygiene, it’s always wise to give a quick scan. Look for clean serving utensils, fresh ingredients, and a general sense of tidiness.
- Spice Levels: Thai food is known for its heat! Always indicate your spice tolerance when ordering. A simple “not too spicy” (in Thai: “mai pet”) can save you from an unpleasant experience.
- Try a Little Bit of Everything: Diversity is the spice of life. Don’t limit yourself to familiar dishes; order a variety of items and share them if you’re traveling with companions.
I get it, when you’re traveling with kids, that can make it more challenging, since most kids only eat what they know. But you can try to have them eat just a little bit and if they really don’t like it, at least they tried.
- Ask for Recommendations: Don’t hesitate to ask the vendor for their recommendations or the day’s special. They’re often proud to share their best dishes with curious travelers.
- Stay Hydrated: The tropical Thai climate combined with spicy foods means you’ll need to keep drinking water. Bottled water is readily available from nearby convenience stores. and most of the street food vendors will provide you with clean drinking water on your table. You are usually expected to grab a cup yourself and put ice cubes in it and most often the water is free.
- Know Basic Thai Phrases: Learning simple phrases like “Aroy” (delicious) or “Khop Khun” (thank you) can enhance your street food experience and the locals always respect it if you show them you try to speak in their language.
- Allergies and Dietary Restrictions: If you have food allergies or specific dietary needs, do your research ahead of time and be clear when ordering. It’s helpful to carry a translated card or phrase that explains your restriction.
- Enjoy the Experience: Thai street food is not just about the food, but also the atmosphere. Relish in the sounds, sights, and smells around you, and immerse yourself in the authentic Thai experience.
Bonus Tip: When your ordered food turns out to be too spicy for you, mix in a bit of sugar. Drinking water usually won’t fix it.
My personal mistake when I first went to Thailand was when I tried some green beans that turned out to be green peppers. I ate a spoon full of them and my mouth was on fire. And drinking water didn’t do me any good. Haha. So don’t make the same mistake I’ve made.
Remember, every street food stall has its unique charm and flavor profile.
After I came back from Thailand for the first time, I tried to find Thai food in the Netherlands, and trust me, it’s nearly impossible to find restaurants where they make the food taste the same as in Thailand.
So you better enjoy these Thai street foods while you’re there.
Which one of these dishes are you going to try out first?