Whether you’ve been to Bangkok many times, as I have, or for the first time, and looking forward to that first tantalizing taste of Thai cuisine, going on a food tour with a local is the answer. I never miss sharing a table with a local foodie, who always knows exactly where to find the best and freshest Thai fare in the city. In addition to memorable food, there’s always a bit of local history and culture shared around the table, too.
Flavors of Thailand
My five must-eat Thai dishes:
- Roast duck is always at the top of my list, and not just any roasted duck. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be on a food tour that included a tasting at Prachak Ped Yang. They’ve been busy serving up roast duck (Khao Na Pet) for over 100 years. I like my duck on a bed of rice. If it’s your first time, try it with noodles too, and let me know which you prefer.
- Tod Mun Pla Krai (Thai fish cakes) are a must-try! Kaffir lime leaves, local chilli, shrimp paste, various herbs and spices, and no heavy batter, give Thai fish cakes their distinctive flavor. Pair these tasty morsels with a spicy homemade chilli sauce and you’ll keep coming back for more. Chatuchak Market is where you’ll find my favorite vendor serving up these delicious morsels. However, when I’m on a food tour I let the guide surprise me with his/her favorite Tod Mun Pla Krai.
3. Phad Thai (Kway Teow Pad Thai) is one of the best-known dishes in Thailand. I don’t think I’ve met a visitor who hasn’t tucked into this tasty noodle dish at least once during a trip to Thailand. Travel back in time about sixty years ago and the country was in the middle of a rice shortage. Phad Thai is the direct result of a campaign to introduce noodles into the Thai diet, orchestrated by then prime minister Luang Phibunsongkhram. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Ask a local where to find the best Phad Thai in the city and the answer to likely to be the 50-year-old plus Thipsamai located in the city’s old quarter (close to Wat Saket, 313 Mahachai Road, Old City). I always order mine with shrimp and extra peanuts.
4. Som Tum (Spicy Sour Salad) is another Thai signature dish. Made from green papaya and a very spicy dressing. Even if you like spicy (like I do) tell them to hold the birds-eye chilli. Your mouth will thank you! With 29 varieties on offer, Michelin Star, Baan Somtum Restaurant in Bangkok’s historic Bang Rak neighborhood is the go-to restaurant for Som Tum. Word of warning; even if you opt out of the birds-eye chilli, there’s a good chance you’ll be wiping the sweat from your brow before you finish.
5. Thai Fried Bananas (Kway Tod) are sold by street vendors all over Thailand. In Bangkok, make your way to Jae Noe’s Shop (Charoen Krung Road & Si Wiang Intersection/ Everyday 10 am to late), where you find the locals lined up ten deep waiting for perfectly cooked fried bananas; crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Perfect to munch on as you wander the streets of Bangkok.
Let us know your favorite Thai food in the comments.