No visit to Thailand is complete without sampling the dizzying array of food available. And you don’t have to spend much to enjoy a tasty lunch or satisfying dinner. For a quintessential Thai experience, be sure to sample the wonders of Thai street food. Eating at a simple Thai hawker stall isn’t just about the food. It’s watching the chef improvise in their al fresco kitchen. It’s marvelling at the organised chaos. It’s the heat. The smells. The noise. There really is nothing like it. So on your next trip to Thailand, pull up a tiny plastic chair and delve into the delights of Thai street food. Everybody will have their own particular favourite, but here is our selection 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 Thai comfort food and a dish you will see at hawker stalls and restaurants across the country.
Moo ping (grilled pork)
Grilled pork skewers known as moo ping are a quick and easy snack or can be enjoyed as part of a breakfast. Thin slices of pork are rolled in a savoury marinade and placed on a wooden stick. To keep the meat moist it is brushed with unsweetened coconut cream as it cooks over charcoal. This is almost as simple as it gets for Thai street food with the skewers costing around 5-10 Baht each. Add a portion of sticky rice (10-15 baht) and you have a tasty snack to keep you going.
Jok (rice porridge)
A popular breakfast, a hearty bowl of jok is a great way to start the day. At just about 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 onions.
Khao man gai (chicken and rice)
Khao man gai is another simple and inexpensive street food dish that makes an ideal breakfast or lunch. You may sometimes see signs outside a khao man gai stall that advertise it as Hainanese-style chicken. The secret to the dish is all in the preparation with the chicken boiled and the chicken stock reserved so that it can be used in the cooking of the steamed rice. Sliced layers of tender chicken are placed over the top of the rice with a small bowl of chicken broth also served as part of the meal. The sauce is what can make or break a good khao man gai. The dark brown sauce is a tasty mixture of chillies, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and soybean paste.
Pad see ew (wide rice noodles)
The main ingredient in pad see ew is wide rice noodles (sen yai). The noodles are fried with chicken, pork or beef alongside Chinese broccoli and garlic. The dish isn’t spicy, but you can add dry chilli flakes to give it a bit more zing. Pad see ew is ideal for a one-plate lunch or dinner.
Som tam (papaya salad)
No list of Thai street food would be complete without mention of som tam. This deliciously addictive spicy papaya salad is one of Thailand’s most famous street food dishes and something of national institution. Although som tam is associated with the north-east region of Isaan, the dish can be found at hawker stalls and markets across the country. If you pass a food stall with a mortar and pestle, there’s a good chance the vendor will be selling som tam. Unripe green papaya is mixed with a number of other ingredients including chillies, dried shrimps, green beans, peanuts and tomatoes. It’s the chillies that give this dish its kick and for some Thai people som tam isn’t som tam unless there are enough chillies in there to make your eyes water!
Try this som tam recipe
Kuay tiao reua (boat noodles)
The name kuay tiao reua translates as boat noodles and is a nod to the heritage of the dish which was traditionally served from boats on Bangkok’s canals. You can still see some old-style vendors at floating markets, but this is now a common dish on streets across Thailand. In some cases, a small boat may feature on the hawker stall or in front of the shopfront.
Typical ingredients in a filling bowl of kuay tiao includes 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 will include duck or seafood. Meatballs or offal may be added and the dish is seasoned with soy sauce and spices. Pig or cow’s blood may also be used and while this might not sound appetising, it enhances the flavour and richness of the broth. The vendor will also add in a variety of other ingredients including basil, garlic, beansprouts, morning glory, pork crackling and chilli flakes.
Khao ka moo (stewed/braised pork with rice)
Khao ka moo is another street food dish that can be described as comfort food. The pork leg is braised until it is so soft and tender it just falls off the bone. Served with rice and accompanied with a side of chillies, pickled mustard greens and a hard boiled egg, this is a must-try dish for anybody travelling to Thailand.
Pad Thai (fried noodles)
One of the most popular dishes for overseas visitors, pad Thai makes for a satisfying lunch or late breakfast. Versions of this classic dish include chicken or pork, but it is arguably the fresh shrimp version – pad Thai kung sod – which when done well 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 lime over the top to enhance the flavour and enjoy this tasty treat.
Try this pad Thai recipe
Khao niao mamuang (sticky rice with mango)
This delicious dessert may be a little 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 fine way to start the morning or enjoy it as a snack at any time of the day.
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