Thai cuisine is popular worldwide. A walk through the city’s alleyways often results in a stop at a food stall, where you can enjoy skewered meats, fried rice, noodles, and spicy soups at rather affordable prices.
If you prefer dining in a more comfortable setting, Bangkok has plenty of restaurants offering an extensive menu of classic Thai dishes. Sample the very best of the city’s local offerings by referring to our guide to the best Thai food.
1. Tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup)
Tom yum goong is a bold, refreshing blend of fragrant lemongrass, chilli, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, lime juice, and fish sauce. Containing succulent river shrimps and straw mushrooms, this spicy and sour soup is best paired with steamed white rice.
2. Som tum (spicy green papaya salad)
Som tum, or spicy green papaya salad, comes from Thailand’s north-eastern state of Isaan. Garlic, chillies, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and shredded raw papaya are pounded using a pestle and mortar, which release a sweet-sour-spicy flavour that's quite distinctive. Regional variations include peanuts, dry shrimp or salted crab into the mix. This dish can be polarizing, as some can't get enough of its taste, while others simply can't handle the spice.
3. Tom kha kai (chicken in coconut soup)
A mild, tamer twist on tom yum, tom kha kai infuses fiery chillies, thinly sliced young galangal, crushed shallots, stalks of lemongrass, and tender strips of chicken. The dish also includes coconut milk to reduce the spiciness, before topping it off with fresh lime leaves. Like most Thai-style soups, you can pair your bowl of creamy tom kha kai with steamed rice.
4. Gaeng daeng (red curry)
Gaeng daeng is an aromatic red curry containing meat, red curry paste and smooth coconut milk, along with a sprinkling of sliced kaffir lime leaves on top. Despite its striking colour, gaeng daeng is quite mild though you can request for fresh chilli if you’re in the mood for spicy foods. Vegetarians or vegans can still enjoy this curry by asking the chef to replace the meat with tofu.
5. Pad Thai (Thai-style fried noodles)
Pad Thai is one of Thailand’s most recognised dishes. Fistfuls of small, thin or wide noodles, along with crunchy beansprouts, onion, and egg are stir-fried in a searing hot wok. The dish is also flavoured with condiments such as fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chilli, and palm sugar. Pad Thai usually contains seafood – especially fresh shrimp, crab or squid – but some places serve it with chicken, beef or pork. The stir-fried noodles are often plated with a slice of lime wedge, crushed roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs.
6. Khao pad (fried rice)
Fried rice, or khao pad, is often enjoyed for lunch in Bangkok. You easily bulk up this simple dish of rice, egg and onion with your choice of ingredients, from prawns, crab or chicken to tofu, basil or leftover vegetables.
7. Pad krapow moo (stir-fried basil and pork)
Pad krapow moo is a 1-plate Thai dish you can enjoy for lunch or dinner. Minced pork, holy basil leaves, large fresh chilli, pork, green beans, soy sauce, and sugar are stir-fried in a wok. The cooked mixture is piled onto a plate of steamed white rice and topped with a fried egg (kai dao).
8. Gaeng keow wan kai (green chicken curry)
Gaeng keow wan kai gets its unique colour from green chillies, though ingredients used are like most Thai curries. This green chicken curry contains coconut milk, cherry-sized eggplants, bamboo shoots, galangal, lemongrass, coriander and sweet basil. It tastes richer and sweeter than the classic tom yum, and pairs well with flatbread or steamed rice.
9. Yum nua (spicy beef salad)
Yum nua is a refreshing Thai salad topped with strips of tender beef. It uses a zesty dressing made with lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, and palm sugar. You can enjoy yum nua on its own, but having it with rice helps cut down the sour-sweet flavour.
10. Kai pad med ma muang (stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts)
Kai pad med ma muang is basically stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts. This dish also contains soy sauce, honey, onions, chillies, and pepper, as well as a variety of vegetables (usually chopped bell peppers or carrots). There's dried chilli mixed in together with the chicken and cashew nuts, but it's hardly spicy. This dish is suitable for children or those who can't handle spicy foods.