It goes without saying that Thailand is an absolute foodie’s paradise. With the countless numbers of markets everywhere and variety that Thai cuisine offers, it would be a sin to not try the street food in the country ! Walking through the markets, it is impossible to ignore the street food vendors with their pushcarts, sounds from the sizzling woks, smoke from meat roasting over the barbeques and the aromas drifting from these food stalls; all enough to make you drool.
Contrary to popular belief, getting vegetarian food in Thailand is not that difficult. We were in fact able to get it in most of the restaurants we ate at, when we specifically asked for it. Simple rule we followed – Say “Vegetarian” (va-egge-tarian; that’s how they say it !) – no eggs, meat, no fish sauce, no oyster sauce and you’re fine; unless they don’t get what you’re saying 🙂
Head to any famous market/night bazaars to experience authentic local Thai cuisine.
Here are a list of foods we loved eating and recommend you guys to try in Bangkok/ Thailand.
1. Pad Thai
How can you go to Thailand and not eat Pad Thai ? The one dish which is available in almost every restaurant you go. While every place will have it’s own variation, it is stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, tofu and flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar and served with lime wedges and chopped roasted peanuts. It may be topped with seafood, chicken or bean sprouts and pickled vegetables. Luckily for the vegetarians out there, Pad Thai comes in a veg avatar too !
2. Thai curries and steamed rice
Another regular at all restaurants, steamed rice and thai curries are a great tummy filler when you are ravishing hungry. Coconut milk based curries, popular and common ones include red or green curry.
Couple of other interesting ones we tried were the “Thai yellow curry” or “Massaman” curry , a rich, mildly spiced, thick coconut cream curry either with chicken, duck or beef paired with potatoes. The “Roasted duck red curry” was another one we really liked which had fruits like pineapples and grapes added to the gravy. Coconut soup curries paired with rice also make a great combination. We found the menus in every restaurant to have pages of different curries, spoiling us for choice, so take your pick and devour with some mildly flavoured steamed rice for some good ol’ tasty comfort food 🙂
3. Raw papaya salad (Som Tam) / Raw Mango salad
Crunchy, tangy and spicy, this was one of our favourite dishes which we ended up ordering at every restuarant we ate. Shredded unripe papaya, sour lime, hot chili, salt, savory fish sauce (replace with soy sauce if vegetarian) and palm sugar – the ingredients are mixed and pounded in a mortar. While the ingredients stayed the same, the taste was different at every place we tried it. Make sure to specify the spice levels prior to ordering as some of the salads we had were really high up on the spice meter. This is definitely a must try on our list !
4. Larb or Lap
Larb or lap commonly made with chicken, pork or beef is a spicy, sweet and very tart salad. The nutty and tangy flavour comes from a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, ground dried chillies, sugar and ground dry roasted glutinous rice. Coriander leaves and chopped spring onions finish off the dish.
You will find these skewered nibbles everywhere on the streets with every possible kind of meat. Served with a sweet chilli dip and peanut sauce, this is a must try. We loved the pork satay (Mu ping) and the chicken satay. Grab some as you walk down the markets and gulp down with chilled beer ! 🙂
6. Spring rolls
Basic, non fussy and familiar tastes, try the spring rolls – vegetarian, chicken, seafood or meat . They can’t go wrong 🙂
7. Baked pineapple rice
Fried rice served in a scooped out pineapple. Could be closely related to the “navratna pulao”. Tweak your rice preference for vegetarian, eggs, chicken, meat or seafood and hog in!
8. Tender coconut and roasted coconut water
Coconut water is something you will find everywhere in Thailand; huge tender coconuts chilled in ice containers. They are sweet, refreshing and quenches your thirst on a hot sunny day ! But heard of roasted coconut water ? It is a unique variant of your regular tender coconut. The outer shell and husk of a young coconut is removed and roasted over a fire or barbeque giving the warm coconut water a unique smoky and pungent flavour.
9. Thai tea – Iced or hot
The tea is made from strongly brewed Ceylon tea, or a locally grown version of Assam tea. Other ingredients may include: orange blossom water, star anise, crushed tamarind seed or red and yellow food coloring, and sometimes other spices as well. It has a unique, strong taste and worth a one time try ! But I tell you, nothing beats the good old Chai !
10. Mango and sticky rice
Traditional Thai dessert and probably the only sweetmeat we found almost everywhere – Glutinous sticky rice and fresh mango with coconut milk. The coloured rice can leave you wondering was goes into it, but the chewy rice with the fresh mangoes and coconut milk is just about enough to satisfy your sweet craving after a meal.
Dubbed as the “Thai king of fruits”, this fruit looks like a mini version of the jackfruit. It tastes like a cross between mango and jackfruit and will leave your car/house with its distinct smell for hours together. Though none of us particularly relished it, try it to know what it tastes like :). Try the fruit as such or in its many varied forms (chips, bars, freeze fried) you’ll find in any supermarket
Great snack, doubles up as dessert, this is a thin crispy pancake available with a variety of toppings like condensed milk, Nutella, banana and fruits. We loved this as a perfect energy booster after a couple of long swims in the blue waters of the Andaman sea. So, forget your calorie count and dig in!
13. Coconut ice cream
Nope, it doesn’t taste like the tender coconut ice-cream you get at Naturals. This one is very mildly flavoured and served in a coconut shell with mangoes and garnished with moong dal 🙂 Perfect treat to beat the heat !
14. Fried insects
If you’re the experimental kinds and have the stomach for it, please do try the fried crickets, snails and silkworms. We didn’t, but if you, do let us know how it was! 🙂
This isn’t an exhaustive or definitive things to eat in Thailand since Thai cuisine offers a lot of variety in terms of flavour. While we tried a lot of other things, these were the ones we kept going back to and enjoyed eating! Do comment and let us know about interesting food you’ve tried in Thailand 🙂