The best street food in Bangkok

Bangkok is famous for its delicious street food but it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. So I’ve gone to an expert to find out everything!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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The best street food in Bangkok

The sizzle hits my ears at the same time as the aroma reaches my nostrils. In the little stall on the side of the road, tonight’s dinner is being cooked.

Bangkok’s street food is famous – and for good reason. But it can be confronting for a foreigner.

All along the sidewalks of the busy neighbourhoods, there are dozens of options and not all look appetising to the untrained eye.

To get the inside word, I’ve decided to go to an expert on Bangkok’s street food, Chawadee Nualkhair.

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

Chawadee is a Thai-American writer who lives in Bangkok and writes a fantastic blog about food called Bangkok Glutton.

She’s also just written a book about the best street food in the city. I feel in good hands.

“There seems to be a convergence where street food vendors are getting more ‘restaurant-like’ and work as hard on their dishes as any chef (like Jay Fai, the Western food ‘street stall’ Uncle John,” she tells me.

“And restaurants are going more casual and serving dishes that are considered ‘street food’ (like Soul Food Mahanakorn). So, in a way they are influencing each other.”

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit
best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

Eating at Sukhumvit Soi 38

To get a good sense of these ‘gourmet’ street meals, Chawadee has recommended I head to Sukhumvit Soi 38, which is well-known for its cheap and casual food after 8pm.

Equipped with a few of her suggestions, I arrive hungry and excited.

One of the biggest fears of foreigners is getting sick from a meal off the pavement. Chawadee’s words ring in my ear.

“You can get sick from a food stall, but also from an upscale restaurant,” she explains.

“You have to be on the lookout for places that have high turnover, good quality ingredients that are refrigerated, and something of a name that they want to protect.

“That is part of the reason why I focus on very well-known food stalls in my book.”

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

All the vendors here at Sukhumvit Soi 38 seem to fit that description. There isn’t too much traffic but the little road off the main artery is busy with diners. Most are locals.

I wander up and down a couple of times to scope out the area and get a sense of the street. Everywhere seems clean and some of the stalls are attached to small street restaurants in the shops along one side.

There’s a huge selection of cuisine on offer and it’s hard to know exactly where to start.

Luckily here, because the vendors know tourists like to pop in, they have some menus printed in English. But that’s not always the case in other parts of Bangkok.

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

“What’s your advice for foreigners who want to try street food but don’t know what to order or how the whole thing works?” I ask Chawadee.

“Just copy everyone else,” she says quite simply.

“That’s the first and main rule to follow. If there’s something that looks good on someone else’s table, just point to it. That makes it easy on everyone involved!”

On this occasion, though, Chawadee has recommended I try the bamee with crab and pork. I ask at a couple of stalls until I find someone who is making it.

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

Another great thing about street food is that it’s quick. I’ve only been sitting down at the plastic table on the footpath for a couple of minutes when my meal arrives.

It’s a large bowl of noodles in a light broth with the meat minced and garnished with some vegetables and a cracker.

I take a couple of bites… and it’s delicious! I have not been led astray. Oh, and it cost 50 baht, which is less than two dollars.

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

Another recommendation of Chawadee’s is try the mango sticky rice. Now, this one I know a bit about!

I love mango sticky rice and it’s quite exciting to see how it’s done here on the streets of Bangkok. I walk across the road to the stall which is selling it exclusively. You’d hope they do it well if it’s the only thing they make.

This time it costs me 60 baht (two dollars) for the dish but it is worth every bit. The fruit is so juicy and sweet and the rice complements it perfectly. A great way to finish the meal.

best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit
best street food in Bangkok, Thailand, street food in sukhumvit

I have one final question for Chawadee – something that had been bothering me.

I was really curious to know what all the street food vendors thought of the tourists who, although they could afford to eat in nice restaurants down the road, came to the dingy stalls with the locals.

“Oh, they are thrilled!” Chawadee tells me, reassuringly.

“A lot of Thais think that, because it’s Thai, other people just won’t ‘get it’. So they are pleasantly surprised when foreign tourists like and want to try something that Thais themselves love.”

“I think Thais are just beginning to realize that foreign tourists love Thai street food… something I find incredibly amazing.”

Oh well, I think they’ll work it out soon enough…

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BANGKOK: SILOM

There are two areas I would recommend for good accommodation in a central location. The first is around Silom.

BACKPACKER

If you’re looking for a fun backpacker option, then I would suggest HQ Hostel Silom.

BUDGET

There are a few budget options, but I would recommend looking at Silom Serene.

BOUTIQUE

A cool funky hotel in Silom is the W Bangkok.

LUXURY

And for the ultimate luxury, I would recommend going across the river to the beautiful Peninsula Bangkok.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BANGKOK: SUKHUMVIT

The other main area for accommodation in Bangkok is around Sukhumvit.

BACKPACKER

There’s no better party hostel in Bangkok than the Slumber Party Bangkok in Sukhumvit.

BUDGET

A good cheap and comfortable hotel that I would suggest is the 41 Suite Bangkok.

BOUTIQUE

For a very cool boutique hotel, I think the Bangkok Publishing Residence is awesome.

LUXURY

And although there are quite a few good luxury hotels, I think the best is the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.

46 thoughts on “The best street food in Bangkok”

  1. The street food thing looked so unusual to me when I first got here – the idea that one tiny cart can basically hold a whole ‘restaurant’, with the complete kitchen and all the little chairs and tables. And having all the rules and restrictions of my home country regarding commercial kitchen regulations in the back of my head I did wonder: “Is this ‘clean’? Is this ‘safe’?”, but it just smelled and looked too good:). In the past two months we have mainly dined on street food – no meal has ever tasted bad or caused any digestive trouble. Don’t worry – I would totally go into full detail if it were so:) So, anyway, street food is definitely the way to go, and since you see very much what you get and how it is prepared, it’s quite honest and open. One thing I haven’t found out yet is wether every street food cart/seller needs some kind of license or if you can just rock up with your goodies wrapped in banana leaves and sell them (mmm, sticky rice banana…). Hungry now. Cool post:)!

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  2. I can’t believe I was so close to all this good food. My hostel was superclose to Sukhumvit 38 and I never knew about it. I’ll be back in Bangkok in a few weeks and will definitely go check it out!

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  3. I am also a bit iffy of street food after I suffered a bout of food poisoning once. Slowly coming back into it now but i do like it says in the article. Follow the crowd!

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    • It can take a little while to get back to the street food if you get sick from it once. It’s happened to me before too. But once you start eating it again, you’ll forget very quickly about that one bad experience!

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  4. Love, love Thai street food! Even though I’ve just had dinner am salivating just looking at the pictures. So nice to know the locals are thrilled tourists eat from the stalls. I couldn’t imagine it any other way!

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    • I always try to avoid places that are empty. But then I wonder if they’re actually quite good but everyone else is just using the same tactic. As soon as a few people sit down, the place would become packed!

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      • hehehe!! We have never gone to Sukhumvit yet. Might as well head there on our next visit. I love Thai street food, very cheap and yummy, no need for restaurants for us. We’re ok with pad thai, roti, mango rice for our meals. kkk. When we crossed the border from Cambodia, I was so thankful it’s already Thailand, no more expensive Cambodian food. kk.

        Will follow Bangkok Glutton, thanks thanks for introducing it!

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  5. It looks really tasty. We had some really good luck with street vendors in Turkey so I think I would be ok with it in Thailand.
    The tip to look for refrigeration sounds good. I can imagine that in such a warm climate stuff would go bad pretty quickly without it.

    Do they have spicy chicken dishes as well? That is what I know from Thai restaurants in the West. I will definitely try whatever looks good, but that is the type of dish I’ll look for. The main downfall of pointing at another plate for ordering is if you are a picky eater. I don’t like fish or crab, so pointing could be dangerous.

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    • There’s always a good chance the street stalls will be able to do something with chicken. It’s one of the easiest meats. A lot of places will give you the chilli on the side so you can make it as spicy as you want. I went a bit overboard last night and burnt my mouth – be careful! 🙂

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  6. Thanks so much for the advice.
    I’m going to Bangkok and Chiang Mai for a few months, i want to try street food but “safe” and good street food.
    I have an adress to go in Bangkok now !
    If you have one in Chiang Mai, let me know please 🙂

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    • I don’t know of the best place in Chiang Mai, I’m sorry. But I think you’ll get a sense of what is safe and what isn’t quite quickly. Try the Bangkok one first and then you’ll be able to look for similar things in the rest of the country. Enjoy!

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  7. Hey, I know it’s late from like 2 years ago these comments but I’ve just literally found this blog! I’m in Bangkok at the moment. Just signed up for updates from you!

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    • A cooking class is a great idea – I’ll have to try that sometime. I should not here (and this is for everyone) that because of a major development next to Sukhumvit Soi 38, a lot of the street food vendors have been moved on. There are still some stalls there and you can get meals, but it’s lost the atmosphere I first encountered there, unfortunately.

      Reply

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