For the first time visitor, Bangkok is nothing less than a multi-sensory explosion of sorts! A heady concoction of eclectic sights, smells, sounds and tastes – you’ll soon realise, Bangkok is more than just a city. It is an experience. And an integral part of that experience is the local food in Bangkok that has become exceptionally popular all over the world. Hence, a trip to this magical city is not complete without a full-fledged Bangkok food tour and this article aims to demystify all the things you must eat during your trip to the city.
It is true that there is absolutely no dearth of unique things to eat in Bangkok. There are restaurants and then there are street markets teeming with delicious food that’s bound to send your taste buds on a frenzy. But this list is comprised of those selected dishes which I think you shouldn’t miss out on if you truly want a taste of the city, more so if you’re visiting for the first time. If you are planning a trip here and have been wondering what to eat in Bangkok, here’s a comprehensive food guide to get you started!
Bangkok Food Guide – What to eat in Bangkok
Local food in Thailand is shrouded in mystery for many travellers. They don’t know where to start, what to eat and what to miss because there’s so much going on. Every street in Bangkok is lined with small stalls and restaurants that serve a multitude of dishes. We don’t blame you if you don’t know what to eat as a first time visitor in Bangkok. That’s exactly what this Bangkok food guide is meant to do – help you navigate the vibrant world of Thai cuisine.
Most of us have probably heard of some of these dishes in our home countries, some of us may have even tasted some versions of the real stuff and others may just be apprehensive about giving Thai food a shot. Well, if you’re planning a trip to Thailand, this is your chance to let go of your apprehensions and dig in. Whether you’re a fan of the sweet, spicy, tangy or savoury, a food tour in Bangkok is bound to leave you salivating for more!
Best things to eat in Bangkok
- Som Tam
Thai food is known for its delicate balance of bold flavours. And if there’s one dish that epitomises that balance, it is the Som Tam – a refreshing salad made from shredded, unripe green papaya. Touted as one of the tastiest dishes in the world by CNN, a well-made Som Tam hits all the right chords. It is spicy, sour, salty, with a hint of sweetness, all in the right proportions. A perfect accompaniment to any Thai meal, there’s no other food that can make you salivate like a Som Tam salad can!
- Thai Fried Chicken
You may have had the American fried chicken all your life, but the Thai-style fried chicken is a world apart and a welcome change from the stuff we are used to having. Imagine perfectly crispy, flavourful chicken minus the thick coating that usually comes with fried chicken. A thin crispy skin and punchy Asian flavours set this dish apart from its Western counterpart. An extremely popular snack found on every street of Bangkok, this is the perfect partner-in-crime to your shopping spree!
- Thai Fish Cakes
Another extremely popular street-side snack, Thai fish cakes are little bites of delicious happiness! Made with fresh fish paste and Thai spices like lemongrass, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and red curry paste, and served with a side of spicy chilli sauce, Thai fish cakes are a must-have while exploring the streets of Bangkok. Oh, and in case you were wondering, they do not actually look like cakes, but are more like meatballs, just made with fish and ten times more flavourful!
- Thai Sweet Rice Cakes
Almost resembling mini pancakes, Thai sweet rice cakes are made from coconut and glutinous rice batter. Crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside, this dessert is a welcome break from the fried savoury street food. It is also fun to watch roadside vendors efficiently make these delightful little cakes. And while you’re at it, sample some fresh off the pan. Mildly sweet, chewy and crispy, these Thai rice cakes can be quite addictive!
- Thai-style Skewered Meats
Meat lovers rejoice! Think of these as a meatier and chunkier version of the Indonesian satays. Bamboo skewers loaded with chicken/pork/beef marinated in aromatic Thai flavours and then grilled to juicy perfection. There’s no way you’d want to miss these as you walk around the local markets. Also, anything on skewers gets bonus points for being super convenient to eat on the go!
- Coconut Ice Cream
When in Thailand, don’t let a day pass without treating yourself to the local coconut ice cream. With all that heat and humidity trying to bring you down, this delicious, icy dessert is the perfect way to recharge yourself. But hold on, in case you are under the assumption that the ice cream is just “flavoured” with coconut, here’s the surprise! In tropical Thailand, coconut ice cream comes with real coconut, sometimes even served in a coconut shell. Chunks of tender coconut and a variety of other toppings like roasted nuts, sweet corn, jelly etc. elevate this into a complete dessert from just a scoop of ice cream. Sublime coconut flavour in every bite, there’s truly nothing more heavenly than a bowl of this ice cream.
- Mango with Sticky Rice
Another must-have dessert in Bangkok, Mango with Sticky Rice has become iconic in its own rights. Thick slices of ripe Thai mango is served with mildly sweet glutinous rice, topped with creamy coconut milk. The dessert is comforting and subtle and is the perfect way to finish off any meal in Bangkok.
It is said that some of the best versions of this dish are found in Chiang Mai. So if you have the time to visit, here’s a detailed guide to Chiang Mai to help you explore this fascinating Thai city.
- Pineapple Fried Rice
Let’s get this straight. Even though the term “fried rice” is used for any generic rice dish that’s tossed in an Asian sauce, every Asian country seems to have its own style of this ubiquitous dish. Thailand’s version of fried rice is also unique in the spices and sauces used and has several variations. One of those is the widely popular pineapple fried rice. Typically made with shrimps and juicy chunks of fresh pineapple, this dish has a unique sweet, tangy, and spicy flavour profile. If you’re looking for a quick, filling dish for lunch or dinner in Bangkok, this is it!
- Minced Chicken with Chilli and Basil
One of my absolute personal favourites, this Bangkok food guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this chicken dish. Ideal for having with plain steamed rice, this minced chicken dish a burst of wonderful flavours with a kick of Thai chilli and fresh basil. In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best local foods to eat in Bangkok!
- Pad Thai Noodles
No Bangkok food tour can be complete if you haven’t tasted the legendary Pad Thai, which is essentially a stir-fried flat rice noodles dish. In my opinion, if there’s one dish that’s truly representative of the best Thai flavours, it is the Pad Thai! The best thing about Pad Thai is that it is available everywhere in Bangkok, from its streets to the fanciest restaurants. Typically made with prawns, egg and tofu, this is a wholesome dish to keep you going during your city sightseeing tour.
- Tom Yum Goong
If you’re looking for something light to take a break from all the meat dishes, here’s a hearty soup for your soul. The Tom Yum Goong is a hot and sour shrimp-based soup, flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass and chilli paste. The most common version of this soup is made with prawns or seafood, but you will also find ones prepared with chicken/pork/beef. The Tom Yum soup is also one of the most widely known Thai dishes and is sure to please your taste buds. But here’s a friendly warning – be prepared shed a few tears and a lot of sweat if you’re not used to spicy food coupled with the tropical humidity.
- Thai Red/Green/Yellow Curry
Is your food tour in Bangkok even legit if you haven’t tasted one of the local Thai curries? The three most common curries are denoted by their distinct colours – red, green and yellow, which they get from the core ingredient used, the chilli. While the red curries have a ton of fiery red chillies, the green curry is made from green chillies, coriander and kaffir lime leaves. The yellow curry, on the other hand, gets its colour from turmeric and is much milder than the other two. Not just delicious, these signature Thai curries are extremely versatile and go with any kind of meat or vegetables.
- Massaman Curry
A lesser-known Thai curry, you could call this is a milder cousin of the Thai curries we spoke about earlier. But personally, if I had to pick a favourite Thai curry, I would pick Massaman over everything else on any given day! It is rich, creamy, fragrant, with just a slight hint of chilli. This curry also has a peanutty flavour so probably not a wise choice for those with nut allergies. But if you’re looking for some respite from the spicy food, definitely give the Massaman curry a shot and I promise you’ll not be disappointed.
Why take a Bangkok Food Tour
A gastronomic tour of Bangkok is one of the best ways to experience the city. And the dishes listed above merely scratch the surface of the plethora of food you can expect to discover. As a first time visitor, it may all seem overwhelming, but that’s no excuse to miss out on such delicious food! Even though Bangkok is fairly easy to navigate and food is available literally everywhere, you could also sign up for a local food tour if you’re not sure where and how to start your Bangkok food tour.
While scanning the Internet to see which food tours are available in Bangkok, I chanced upon a platform that caught my attention since it seems like a good starting point if you plan to visit Bangkok for the first time. It is called Withlocals, and the cool thing about it is that it empowers travellers by connecting them with local hosts who offer private and customizable tours and activities on the platform. For example, check out this curated food tasting tour for your first taste of some of the best local food in Bangkok and embark on a memorable culinary journey. A food tour like this makes sure that all your energies are focused on relishing the food and not on scrambling around the city trying to figure things out. Taste some of the dishes you read about earlier and let us know which ones you liked the most!