What to Eat in Thailand | Where Has the Best Street Food?
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Thai food is a fragrant collision of flavours and textures. Think silky coconut curries, salty-sweet meats barbecued until sticky and caramelised, chilli-laced fried rice tossed with basil and topped with a crispy fried egg, or noodles sprinkled with peanuts and a juicy squirt of lime.
Food in Thailand is also incredibly good value. Some of the most delicious dishes you’ll ever taste can be found at street stalls for a fraction of the price you’d pay back home. Most of the market stall vendors sell just one dish, fried up to perfection. So pull up a plastic stool by the roadside, grab a fork (locals typically don’t use chopsticks), and dig in to our guide to what to eat in Thailand. These are the incredible Thai dishes you really don’t want to miss.
What to eat in Thailand
Minced pork and basil stir fry (pad krapow moo)
One of Thailand’s most popular dishes, this is a fragrant stir fry made with minced pork, basil, chillies, garlic, and a splash of fish sauce. It’s spicy and absolutely delicious, served with rice and topped with a fried egg.
Mango sticky rice (khao niaow ma muang)
Mango sticky rice is the ultimate comfort food, and can be eaten for dessert or as a snack. It’s made from pillowy rice doused in coconut cream, with palm sugar or condensed milk, and slices of mango on the side. It makes for a tropical, sticky rice pudding. The fresh juicy mango cuts through the creamy, carb-laden rice perfectly.
Thailand is famous for its aromatic, creamy curries. Spicy-sweet Thai green curry (kaeng khiao wan) blends hot green chillies with coconut milk, palm sugar, coriander, and lime, usually served with aubergine and chicken or fish.
Panang curry, with its luxurious blend of salty, sweet, and nutty flavours, is a good choice if you prefer milder dishes. It’s usually made with pork, coconut milk, peanuts, chilli, and lemongrass, with more subtle hints of shrimp paste, coriander, and lime.
It’s not uncommon to be served curry for breakfast in Thailand and, trust us, you won’t be complaining.
Tom yum soup
Thailand’s most famous soup is hot, sour, sweet, and citrusy all at the same time. Every sip is a fresh burst of unexpected flavour. It’s made with a fragrant clear broth of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, spicy chillies, and fish sauce. Chunks of chicken or prawns, tomatoes, and mushrooms soak up these incredible ingredients and explode with hot, juicy flavour when you bite into them. Bangkok tom yum often includes coconut milk, making it creamier and richer than the clear broth you might find further north.
Another must-try is tom kha kai, a hot and sour coconut soup with chicken.
This ubiquitous Thai noodle dish is famous for a reason: it’s a perfect balance of flavour, texture, and general deliciousness. Pad Thai is an egg noodle dish, usually fried with chicken or tofu, peanuts, egg, and bean sprouts. This is among the best Thai street food on offer, and you can find it everywhere in Thailand. It’s a great option if you prefer less spicy foods.
Khao soi is northern Thailand’s best kept secret: flat hand-made egg noodles and slices of meat served in a curried soup or sauce, with coconut milk, shallots, chillies, and lime. It’s topped with a nest of deliciously crunchy deep-fried egg noodles for texture. If you haven’t tried khao soi before, it’s a bit of a revelation, not least because it isn’t very well known outside Thailand.
For seriously compulsive foodie viewing, watch this video from Thailand-based food vlogger Mark Wiens as he hunts out the best khao soi in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
Thai iced coffee
Not a food, but Thai iced coffee is enough of a national treasure to deserve a mention on this list. It’s made with very strong coffee, evaporated milk, and heart-stoppingly sweet condensed milk, poured over ice. This drink is absolutely not for the health conscious, but on a sweltering day there’s nothing more refreshing or more delicious. Be warned: it’s addictive.
Thai coconut pancakes (khanom khrok)
These tiny bite-sized pancakes are made from rice flour and coconut milk, fried on a special indented hot plate and filled with coconut. They’re golden and crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, and absolutely scrumptious all the way through.
Khanom khrok are a sweet dessert snack, but be aware that they’re often topped with spring onions, corn, or grated carrot. It’s quite common to mix sliced spring onions with sweet dessert foods in Thailand, and we recommend giving it a try! But it can be an acquired taste, so if you prefer not to lavishly sprinkle onion on your dessert, keep a beady eye on the toppings.
Green papaya salad
A crunchy, refreshing side dish or a meal in its own right, this famous Thai salad is made with shredded green papaya, tomatoes, shrimp, coriander, and generous splashes of lime juice and fish sauce. It’s a fantastic light dish to enjoy on a hot day.
Larb is a stir-fried meat dish — sometimes referred to as a meat salad — which is popular in northern Thailand. It’s made with minced pork, chillies, and spices.
Pad see ew
Pad see ew is a Chinese-influenced noodle dish stir fried with soy sauce, chicken, chilli, and green vegetables. It’s made with wide flat rice noodles that have a sticky, chewy texture. Satisfying, yet moreish.
Pork skewers and Thai sausage
Thai pork skewers (moo ping) are a typical Thai street food snack. You’ll see them at market stalls everywhere. The sliced pork is marinated in a sweet, sticky sauce, and barbecued for added chargrilled flavour.
Slightly more unusual is Thai sausage (sai ooah), which is a popular street eat in the north. It has the same lush, slightly fatty texture that you’d get from grilled chorizo (with the oils and flavours released by the flames), but with a surprising burst of Thai spices and flavour combinations, such as lemongrass and chilli. For our money, this may be the best Thai street food out there.
Check out our handy collections of the best Thailand deals or browse some of our other Thailand guides below:
- The Ultimate Guide to Travelling in Thailand
- Where to Eat in Bangkok
- Thailand Safety Laws and Culture Guide
- When's the Best Time to Visit Thailand?
Nick Elvin contributed to this post.