Insider Tips: The Foodie’s Guide To Thailand’s Street Vendors

Expanding your cultural horizons and seeing far-flung parts of the world is a great way to open your eyes and inspire yourself to start something new. The further we travel afield, the more we can understand the cultures and people around us; each time we venture somewhere new, we take away a different part of every place we see. Visiting places like Thailand might seem to be all about exotic landscapes and perfect stretches of sandy beaches, yet there is a great deal more going on inland. Thailand is renowned for its street food vendors, who sell tastes of the country in tiny boxes along the island’s streets. Knowing where to start amidst the huge amount on offer is another kettle of fish entirely, and when it comes to tasting the very best, it pays to go in with a game plan.

When it comes to fresh and fragrant street food, few places do it better than the nation’s capital, Bangkok. Across the expansive city there are a huge number of different places to try, each showcasing a different element of the country’s street food culture. Head to Chinatown, for example, and you will be struck by some of the greatest choices on the market. In fact, this area of the city is often considered to be the birthplace of Thai street food, and whether you’re on the hunt for something sweet or spicy, you’re well catered for. If it’s your first time in the area, make sure to hunt down some satay. Bamboo-threaded meat that is grilled on an open flame is a dish that balances tastes of peanut, coconut, and chilies to perfect effect. With so many variations on the market, you can conduct your very own tasting.

Elsewhere in the city you can try your luck at a number of traditional dishes, tasting the types of foods that Thailand has been serving up for many years now. Bangkok’s Old Town is, unsurprisingly, the most traditional area of the region, looking to ancient recipes for foodie inspiration. Dishes like curry rice and lemongrass soup borrow inspiration from recipes whipped up for a number of generations, with chefs keeping tight-lipped on a number of secret ingredients. The food here might be among the city’s most expensive, but it is arguably some of the best on offer.

If time is short and you want to eat well, consider setting your sights on the city’s business district. With a huge number of vendors catering to the needs of busy businessmen and women, you are guaranteed something that is both tasty and whipped up in a flash. In the heart of Silom and Sathron, you can try picking up a plate of curried egg noodles, arguably Thailand’s most coveted dish. Cooked in a rich milk curry, the Chinese-style noodles are hot and spicy, perfect for stopping that midday hunger in its tracks. If you want something a little more meaty, however, the area also serves up a wide variety of braised duck dishes. Cut thick and served with plain rice, this meal is guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied.

It’s not all about Bangkok, of course, and wherever you are in the nation’s series of islands, you are practically guaranteed something spicy, tasty, and locally sourced. Across the country, desserts are a very popular way to finish off a spicy meal; wherever you go, you’re likely to find locals tucking into Thai marzipan and sticky coconut rice.

Tasting a nation’s foods is a great way of understanding more about its culture and people, gaining insight into the local way of life. Memories of your meals can remind you of a time spent abroad and, even when you’ve returned home, you can relive your trip by whipping up a traditional local dish. Thailand is a country best remembered by its foods and, after one dish, you might just be reminiscing for the tastes of the nation for weeks to come.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.