Bangkok has an estimated 500,000 street vendors, and you’ll want to try them all. Most street carts in the capital of Thailand cook generations-old recipes to perfection and specialise in making one thing – so they do it really well. Here’s our pick of the best street-food spots you need to try when in this lively city.
Guay Tiew Mu Rung Rueang Tung for a steaming bowl of minced pork
You know a dish has been perfected when it’s the only thing served. This steaming bowl of flavoursome minced pork has received Michelin’s Bib Gourmand award every year since 2018. You can personalise your dish to your taste – choosing size, spiciness and whether it’s dry or drenched in clear broth – and for extra texture and flavour, top it with bouncy fish balls and crispy fish skin.
Sae Phun for hug-in-a-bowl chicken stew
Don’t be fooled by this modern exterior; despite recent renovations, Sae Phun has been at this spot on Mahannop Road for 80 years. Recipes have been passed down through generations of family chefs, who have perfected the art of chicken stew on rice or noodles. The chicken is tender, the rice fluffy and the gravy smooth – it’s no surprise that Sae Phun won Michelin’s Bib Gourmand award.
Guay Jab Mr Joe for crispy pork belly
Enjoy lunch at this Bib Gourmand-awarded destination on Thanon Chan; it’s open from morning until late afternoon. Guay Jab Mr Joe’s is famed for its incredibly crispy pork belly that can be enjoyed as an entrée or with guay jub (a peppery rice noodle soup). This speciality is so good that the eatery is named after it.
Charoen Saeng Silom for braised pork leg
Due to the quality of its braised pork – particularly its pork leg – Charoen Saeng Silom, off Silom Road in Bang Rak, has been a local favourite since 1959. Think caramelised tender meat in flavoursome gravy with Chinese herbs. Diners can have fun adding home-made vinegar, spicy sauces and pickles to this Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded dish, which is great value for money.
Wattanapanit for melt-in-the-mouth beef stew
Beef stew gets a makeover at Wattanapanit, in Bangkok’s hipster paradise, Ekkamai Road. Perch on your stool and slurp the juicy, meat-infused broth and chewy noodles. Simmering for hours in a giant wok, the Michelin Plate-awarded beef falls apart in your mouth.
Jok Khlong San for comforting pork rice porridge
Late-night feasts are a Bangkok staple, and they don’t get much better than at Jok Khlong San, on KanChanaPhisek Road. Its specialities are mhoo deng (minced pork balls) and Thai-style congee (rice porridge) with pork. This ultimate comfort food comes with different kinds of eggs, such as salted or century, plus a sprinkling of greens. It’s the perfect dish to enjoy after a day of exploring.
Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai for eggy chicken noodles
Head to this Bib Gourmand joint on Luang Road for chicken noodles with a twist. You’ll find noodles wok-fried to perfection (with a crispy outside and gooey centre), along with a choice of fried or runny eggs and chicken pieces; garlic and spring onions are sprinkled on top. It’s a chicken noodle experience unlike any other.
Chakki for famously good deep-fried noodles
Chakki, on Rang Nam Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown, is renowned for its thick gravy sauce – a salty and sweet concoction – on its lad na (deep-fried noodles). Slick beef or pork slices can be added, along with a helping of vegetables and, if you like, a side of crispy fried wontons. The same family has run Cantonese Chakki for 30 years, and they’re so confident in their perfected dishes that they don’t refer to recipes or offer a menu.
Lim Lao San for fierce fishball noodle soup
This humble street-food stall is famous for its bowls of noodle soup, generous hunks of fish and hearty fish balls. Run by a brother and sister team (and their father before them), Lim Lao San is a 50-year-old operation that has perfected every element of its bowls, from the chewiness of the egg hor fun to the stickiness of the rice noodles made fresh every day. The eating area is tucked down a tiny alley, with tables set against exposed brick walls and old wooden door frames – you’ll feel like you’re on an outdoor movie set.
Kway Tiew Heavy for pork noodles with a rock’n’roll twist
Head chef Ekkarin “Ek” Sae-Guay is known locally as the “Carabao Noodle Guy in Thonburi”, as he belts out tunes by the Thai rock band Carabao while serving up the best pork noodles in the city. His stew is infused with a secret blend of spices for hours before the stall opens for dinner; it’s then topped with milk to help create a richer texture. There’s usually a long queue of locals at his stall, but Ek whips up the bowls in no time, entertaining the waiting crowd with a side of dance moves.
Mit Ko Yuan, an old-town Thai diner of the past
Mit Ko Yuan, the oldest diner on Dinso Road, is a culinary institution that stands out on a street famous for its food. People also come here for its signature tom yum soup, which the shop owners have been perfecting for 80 years across two generations. The small dining area, complete with wooden stools and teal-blue tabletops, is a time capsule of a bygone era of Bangkok – unique in the Old City area near the giant swing.
Jay Fai, Michelin-star street eats
Renowned for her legendary crab omelette, Jay Fai was the first street-food vendor to be awarded a Michelin star. Her simple street stall has since ballooned into an operation with a months-long waiting list. While her simple yet flavourful crab omelette steals most of the limelight, her guay tiew pad kee mow (drunken noodles) is another highlight. It’s best to book early, but if you’re willing to wing it on the day of, add your name to the waiting list written on a paper sheet outside the diner before doors open at 2pm. Prepare to pay restaurant prices even though you’re eating shophouse style.
Jok Kitchen, no-frills Thai-Chinese cuisine in a secret locale
This Thai-Chinese restaurant has a menu that changes daily, depending on what’s available at the market. The space is a no-frills shophouse with only four tables in the front room and up to a two-month waiting list; to say that this place is exclusive is an understatement. But for travellers without a reservation, there’s still hope. During the daytime, chef Jok sets up a table in front of his restaurant in the alley and sells his Michelin Plate shrimp dumplings to passers-by; they’re outstanding and worth the visit alone.
Jay Noi Kui Chai for streetside snacking
Kui chai (chive dumplings) were brought to Thailand by Teochew Chinese immigrants and were originally offered to the gods during religious ceremonies. Over time, though, this cheap yet delicious dumpling has become a popular vegetarian appetiser and can be enjoyed both steamed and fried. You’ll find the best in Bangkok at Jay Noi’s food stall, which also sells fried taro and jicama, all served with a spicy black soy sauce.
Hea’ Sa for satay on the go
Satay sticks are a popular street snack for those on the go; pieces of chicken, beef or pork are marinated in a turmeric-based spice mix, then skewered before cooking over a hot grill. The best place to get them in Bangkok is from Hea’ Sa street cart in Chinatown’s bustling market precinct. Choose between an array of 10 to 50 sticks, which all come with a peanut dipping sauce and ajad (a salad of pickled cucumber, shallots and chillies). Don’t forget to order a side of grilled white bread to mop up the leftover sauce and satay juices.
Pa Tong Go Savoey for Thai-style deep-fried doughnuts
Patongko (deep-fried doughnuts) are an indulgent treat best served with coffee sweetened with condensed milk, and you’ll find the best ones at Pa Tong Go Savoey, which was awarded a Michelin Plate in 2019. They’re freshly made and fried in clean oil, making them super crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside; they come with condensed milk or pandan custard for dipping. There’s usually a queue of customers, but it’s worth the wait.
Nai Ek Roll Noodle for peppery bowls of pork soup
Nai Ek has been serving up giew jab (sometimes spelt guay chub) rolled rice noodle soup in Bangkok’s Chinatown for almost 60 years and has built a reputation for lightning-speed service. What started as a street cart is now a simple shophouse. It sells lovingly cooked meat dishes, along with veggie options, such as its herb broth, for those craving a non-meat fix. Its signature dish is the noodle soup filled with minced pork balls, crispy pork and pork offal in a pepper broth.
Gu Long Bao for pillowy pork-filled steamed buns
This 90-year-old shophouse, in a narrow alley in Chinatown, makes pillowy pork-filled steamed buns. It caters to locals and restaurants in the area, so it’s best to place your order a few days before visiting. However, if you don’t have time to pre-order, swing by and see if you can charm the owners to sell you one fresh off the cooling racks.
Pad Thai Nana, the best spot in Bangkok for the Thai national dish
Pad Thai Nana is run by two sisters, who make the eponymous dish by mixing fresh rice with dried sticky noodles before wok-frying it with a healthy dose of tamarind paste and a handful of large prawns. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall place that claims to have been around since pad thai was first invented some 80 years ago. It’s within walking distance of the legendary Khao San Road, party central for backpackers, making it an ideal spot to line your stomach before a night out.
Mae Varee for mango sticky rice with a creative twist
Mango sticky rice is always a hit, and the famous Mae Varee shop in Thonglor has been selling this delicacy to the upscale residents of Sukhumvit for decades. It serves slices of sweet, ripe mango and sticky rice that comes in multiple flavours, including butterfly pea, turmeric, pandan and green tea. It’s a takeaway-only venue but more than worth the visit to taste Thailand’s unofficial national dessert at its best.
Kim Gregory contributed additional reporting to this article.
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