Thai Street Food
No visit to Thailand is complete without sampling the dizzying array of food available. And you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy a tasty lunch or a satisfying dinner. For a quintessential Thai experience, be sure to try the wonders of Thai street food. Eating at a simple Thai street vendor stall is not just about the food. It’s watching the chef improvise in his outdoor kitchen. It is to marvel at organized chaos. It’s the heat. The smells. The noise. There is nothing like that. So on your next trip to Thailand, grab a little plastic chair and immerse yourself in the delights of Thai street food. Everyone will have their particular favourite, but here’s our pick of 10 of the most popular Thai street food dishes to try.
Pad Krapao Moo (Stir-Fried Pork with Holy Basil)
Pad krapao is a classic street food dish. The main ingredient is usually pork (moo) or chicken (gai) which is stir-fried with holy basil (krapao) in oyster and soy sauce and a combination of chillies, green beans and garlic. Served with rice and an optional fried egg (khai dao) on top, this is a Thai comfort food and a dish you’ll see at street vendor stalls and restaurants across the country.
Muuping (Grilled Pork)
Grilled pork skewers known as moo ping are a quick and easy snack or can be enjoyed as part of breakfast. Thin slices of pork are rolled in a salty marinade and placed on a wooden stick. To keep the meat moist, it is brushed with unsweetened coconut cream while cooking over charcoal. This is about as simple as it gets for Thai street food with skewers costing around 5-10 baht each. Add a serving of sticky rice (10-15 baht) and you have a tasty snack to go on.
Jok (Rice Porridge)
A popular breakfast, a hearty bowl of jok is a great way to start the day. In almost every morning market in Thailand, there will be at least one vendor selling this comforting rice porridge. Pork is usually the main protein added to the porridge with the addition of a soft-boiled egg before the jok is topped with ginger and onion.
Khao Man Gai (Chicken and Rice)
Khao man gai is another simple and inexpensive street food dish that makes an ideal breakfast or lunch. Sometimes you may see signs outside a khao man gai stall advertising it as Hainanese-style chicken. The secret of the dish is all in the preparation with the boiled chicken and the chicken broth reserved so that it can be used to cook the steamed rice. Tender sliced chicken is layered over rice with a small bowl of chicken broth also served as part of the meal. Sauce is what can make or break a good khao man gai. The dark brown sauce is a flavorful mix of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and soybean paste.
Pad See Ew (White Rice Noodles)
The main ingredient in pad see ew is wide rice noodles (sen yai). The noodles are fried with chicken, pork, or beef along with Chinese broccoli and garlic. The dish is not spicy, but you can add dried chili flakes for a little more zing. Pad see ew is ideal for a one-dish lunch or dinner.
Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
No list of Thai street food would be complete without mentioning som tam. This deliciously addictive spicy papaya salad is one of Thailand’s most famous street food dishes and something of a national institution. Although som tam is associated with the northeastern region of Isaan, the dish can be found at street vendor stalls and markets across the country. If you walk past a food stall with a mortar and pestle, the vendor is most likely selling som tam. Unripe green papaya is mixed with a number of other ingredients, including chili peppers, dried shrimp, green beans, peanuts, and tomatoes. It’s the chillies that give this dish its kick and for some Thais, som tam isn’t som tam unless there are enough chillies to bring tears to their eyes!
Try this som tam recipe
Kuay Tiao Reua (Boat Noodles)
The name kuay tiao reua translates to boat noodles and is a nod to the heritage of the dish that was traditionally served from boats on the canals of Bangkok. You can still see some old-style vendors in the floating markets, but now it is a common dish on the streets of Thailand. In some cases, a small boat may appear at the street vendor’s stall or in front of the store.
Typical ingredients for a stuffed bowl of kuay tiao include a choice of wide noodles (sen yai) or thin noodles (sen lek), and one or two forms of protein, which is usually beef, chicken, or pork, but sometimes includes duck or shellfish. . Meatballs or organ meats can be added and the dish is seasoned with soy sauce and spices. Pig or cow blood can also be used and, although this may not sound appetizing, it enhances the flavor and richness of the broth. The vendor will also add a variety of other ingredients including basil, garlic, bean sprouts, morning glory, pork crackling, and chili flakes.
Khao Ka Moo (Braised Pork with Rice)
Khao ka moo is another street food dish that can be described as comfort food. The leg of pork is braised until it is so soft and tender that it falls off the bone. Served with rice and garnished with chillies, pickled mustard greens and a hard-boiled egg, this is a must-try dish for anyone traveling to Thailand.
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles)
One of the most popular dishes for foreign visitors, pad thai is a satisfying lunch or late breakfast. Versions of this classic dish include chicken or pork, but it’s arguably the fresh shrimp version, pad Thai kung sod, which when done right is the best. Traditionally made with flat rice noodles (sen Chan) from Chanthaburi province, the noodles are fried with a combination of bean sprouts, tofu and peanuts. Squeeze the lime on top to enhance the flavor and enjoy this tasty treat.
Khao Niao Mamuang (Sticky Rice with Mango)
This delicious dessert can be a bit more difficult to track down compared to other street food dishes, but you can often find at least one vendor at many morning or evening markets. Eating khao niao mamuang for breakfast is a great way to start your morning or enjoy it as a snack at any time of day.