Thailand is perhaps most popular for its unique culture and delicious cuisine. Within its borders, tourists can find various dishes in every shop and restaurant. Each dish usually has its special ingredients, aroma, and taste.
One of my favorite things to do is dine on fantastic Thai food, especially when it’s tasty, costs only a dollar or less, and is usually served by very welcoming locals.
While dining at local restaurants and street food stalls is common in Thai culture, many travelers may be wary of trying unfamiliar dishes. But street food doesn’t have to remain a mystery. Many tasty offerings should not be missed when traveling through Thailand, and these popular local dishes are often easy to find.
This guide shares the best Thai street food dishes to help you navigate your culinary adventure. Be sure to check out these foods before your next trip to Thailand to ensure you don’t miss out on these delectable Thai dishes!
What We Cover
- Where to Find the Best Thai Street Food Dishes
- Best Thai Street Food: Dishes You Need to Try
- 1. Pad Thai
- 2. Pad See Ew
- 3) Mango Sticky Rice
- 4. Roti
- 5. Som Tam
- 6. Poh Pia Tod
- 7. Pad Kra Pao
- 8. Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
- 9. Thai Fried Rice
- 10. Moo Ping
- 11. Thai Coconut Ice Cream
- 12. Kai Jeow
- 13. Sai Ua
- 14. Kao Moo Dang
- 15. Khao Kha Moo
- 16. Guay Teow
- 17. Khao Man Gai
- 18. Thai Noodles
- 19. Insect Dishes
- 20. Curry
- What is the most famous street food in Thailand?
- Why is street food in Thailand popular?
- What Thai food should I try for the first time?
- Is street food safe in Thailand?
- About the writer: Kylie Nathan
Where to Find the Best Thai Street Food Dishes
- Yaowarat: Chinatown of Bangkok
- Nang Loeng Market
- Bangrak District
- Ratchawat Market
- Asiatique The Riverfront
Best Thai Street Food: Dishes You Need to Try
1. Pad Thai
This list of best street food is incomplete without including a very popular Thai dish: Pad Thai. It is a stir-fried noodle dish typically cooked with egg, carrots, green onion, bean sprouts, and peanuts. Then, a choice of protein between tofu, shrimp, and chicken is added to the dish. If you’d like an extra kick, top your Pad Thai with fresh lime juice!
This Thai food, from street vendors to higher-end restaurants, can be found nationwide. However, you can’t beat the street food version where your meal is prepared hot and fresh off the wok!
If you decide to dine at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask for modifications, such as less sweetness or no chilies. However, many street vendors prepare Pad Thai in bulk, so you may be unable to request any changes. But don’t worry. Just move on to the next vendor. Keep this in mind if you have peanut allergies as well!
As you travel around Thailand, you may find that not all street food tastes the same. I can’t explain anything besides its influence in each region (sometimes even restaurant to restaurant).
In general, I found this type of Thai street food to be much sweeter in areas most visited by tourists, such as Bangkok, and a tad spicier up north.
2. Pad See Ew
Another popular go-to Thai street food is Pad See Ew! Although it’s similar to Pad Thai, this street food has a much more distinct flavor without the often-added sweetness. Its name translates directly to “fried soy sauce” and is similar to other dishes eaten in Thailand’s neighboring country, Malaysia.
This Thai street food consists of flat noodles fried in a dark soy sauce with Chinese broccoli, chicken (or beef), and egg. Some street food vendors may add a few extra vegetables or garlic for flavor.
If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about the spice in Pad See Ew. No matter where you get it from, this Thai street food is more of a savory dish rather than a typical spicy meal. Personally, this was my favorite meal to grab after a long night out!
Here’s another tip: if street stalls and even Thai restaurants are closed, head to the nearest convenience store, and you may find some. Although its taste is not quite up to par with the Thai street stalls, it’s still delicious and just as affordable.
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3) Mango Sticky Rice
Khao Neeo Mamuang is a traditional Thai dessert dish that’s become increasingly popular in recent years.
When planning to visit Thailand, Khao Neeo Mamuang or sticky mango rice is, without a doubt, the first thing you should eat the moment you step off the plane (and once you try it, you’ll understand why).
This Thai dessert is exactly as it sounds: sweet mango slices perfectly complemented with sticky rice, sprinkled with yellow mung beans or sesame seeds, and drizzled with creamy coconut milk.
Tourists can find this sweet treat at markets across Thailand, but tourists particularly love the one from Kor Panich. It’s easy to find, and you’ll see it in the same spot daily.
Mango sticky rice is commonly served in restaurants (usually for a much higher price) but can also be found at Thai street food stalls for a much better deal. So whenever you’re out grabbing street food for dinner, be sure to save room for some mango sticky rice for dessert!
Roti is a Thai street food that comes in both sweet and savory versions. Depending on your version, it can be the perfect sweet street snack for any time of the day!
Thinly hand-rolled dough (wheat flour bread) is fried to a golden brown and then your choice of toppings can be added, including bananas, chocolate spread, strawberries, and sweetened condensed milk. Some Thai street food vendors also prepare more options to pick from.
Roti is just what you need to satisfy your craving for something sweet when you need a little pick-me-up. This street food is sold at many different night markets because it is a convenient, light snack that can be eaten on the go. You can’t beat a sweet, warm snack prepared right before you.
Unlike the previous dishes on the list, Roti is hardly ever found on any menu of Thai restaurants. Instead, it’s a staple in the street market community. Sometimes, Roti being sold on carts can even be found outside tourist spots or along the sidewalks of busy streets.
5. Som Tam
Are you looking for traditional Thai street foods besides noodle dishes? Som Tam is one of my favorites that I ate nearly every day for lunch in Thailand!
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, this Thai street food is PERFECT. This dish, also called “green papaya salad,” combines fresh vegetables in one plate with a hint of spice.
This flavorful dish often includes shredded green papaya, carrots, Chinese long beans, peanuts, tomatoes, brown sugar, fish sauce, and chilies, but you can usually customize it to your liking.
You should be aware that it can be quite spicy in some places. Like most Thai street foods, if you’re in the city or a tourist hotspot (such as Bangkok or Phuket), you can anticipate Som Tam to be mildly toned down on the spice.
Before you make the trip, check out our top places to visit in Thailand to learn more about the country, its food, and what to expect as a visitor.
6. Poh Pia Tod
Poh Pia Tod, or fried spring rolls, are often served hot, fresh, and crispy. They can be dipped in a savory peanut or sweet chili sauce! As Poh Pia Tod is another of the best Thai street foods, it is offered at restaurants and every market you’ll visit around the country. This dish will undoubtedly leave your tastebuds satisfied!
These spring rolls are filled with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, and pork or shrimp. Poh Pia Tod is a dish that can be eaten and satisfy you at any time of the day. You can get these as an appetizer to share, a snack, or even a full meal!
This dish is another Thai street food that you won’t have to worry about when it comes to spice. After living in Thailand for nearly a year, I never had spicy Poh Pia Tod, no matter where I ordered it.
7. Pad Kra Pao
Here is another of the best Thai street foods to add to our list. If you are looking for a meaty, savory, and aromatic dish, Pad Kra Pao is the one for you!
Also known as “Kao Pad Gaprao Gai Kai Dao,” which translates to stir-fried chicken in holy basil and a fried egg, this tasty Thai street food dish can be enjoyed as a snack and a full meal.
Thailand’s street stalls and food carts usually partner this dish with rice, so it’s good and very filling. Aside from chicken, there are many more different versions that you can try. Some restaurants use minced pork or beef as their protein for this dish.
With mixed flavors of sweet and spicy, this stir-fried dish is also known for having its strong flavor of holy basil, which has a peppery taste. If you are not a fan of spicy food, you might want to tell the vendor to adjust it to match your liking so you can still enjoy this flavorful meal.
8. Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
This next Thai cuisine is something you might have already seen in many travel videos. This dish is popular in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Chicken Satay is typically served on a skewer after being grilled for a few minutes and is enjoyed with a peanut sauce that is also quite tasty.
It is also usually marinated in fragrant spices like cumin seeds, peppercorns, fresh turmeric, coconut milk, and many other ingredients. This Thai cuisine is indeed flavorful and can satisfy your taste buds!
When you go to Thailand and visit areas with a lot of food stalls, you shouldn’t miss eating the best Thai street food. As you walk down the streets of this country, where street food is very common, you will already smell the dishes rich with spices and flavors, and Thai Chicken Satay is likely one of them!
9. Thai Fried Rice
Prepare yourself for rice as a mainstay of your diet while in Asia. Typically, rice is served plain, for it’s usually partnered with savory meat, seafood or vegetables that balance out each other’s flavor when eaten together. But when you are in Thailand, you can order a bowl of flavorful rice that can be eaten by itself.
Like any other Asian country, rice is a staple food in Thailand, making this fried rice possible to find anywhere. Whether you’re eating at a food truck or a five-star restaurant, you can always count on finding this rice dish.
Unlike Chinese recipes, which call for long-grain white rice, Thai fried rice relies on fragrant jasmine rice.
One other differentiating factor is the use of soy sauce. Authentic Thai fried rice does not include soy sauce because it is a Chinese condiment. Traditional Thai cuisine derives its flavor solely from adding other sauces, such as fish and oyster.
Meat (often chicken, shrimp, or crab), beaten or fried eggs, onions, garlic, and sometimes tomatoes are typical ingredients of this popular Thai dish. The ingredients are stir-fried with the seasonings, ranging from fish sauce to soy sauce, sugar, and salt to chili sauce.
10. Moo Ping
Can’t get enough of the Thai Chicken Satay but want to try more grilled goodness? Found primarily on the streets of night markets in Bangkok, Moo Ping is very famous for its tenderness and pack of flavors.
Moo Ping, which is Thai-style grilled pork skewers, is inclined to be the best Thai street food for picky eaters. This street food dish is easy to find when you’re a tourist in Thailand trying new cuisines, but it’s also a safe bet if you’re trying to develop a refined taste.
Seasoned and marinated with almost the same ingredients as Chicken Satay, this is one of the most savory dishes that’s easy to find anywhere on the streets. The only difference for this one is the protein used for this is pork.
To achieve a more flavorful and tender result, the fantastic vendors at night markets marinate the pork in a mixture of coconut milk, lemongrass, and fish sauce for a considerable amount of time. This is also great when paired with rice and ensures a full meal.
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11. Thai Coconut Ice Cream
“There’s always room for dessert.” You have heard this saying over and over again, and yes, there always is!
After eating a lot of savory food, and presumably, most of them were spicy when you are traveling around Thailand, you can wash your palate with some fantastic desserts. This brings us to our next best Thai street food on the list: Thai coconut ice cream.
Forget about the frequent go-to flavor you have with ice cream. When you are on a journey all around the world, one of the best experiences is to check out the culture-specific foods that you can only try in certain places.
Known for its rich and creamy coconut taste, it’s one of the good desserts you can devour when you’re all done with salty foods and just want to end your meal with a light flavor. Restaurants and creameries from around the world offering Thai food might have these on their menu, but it’s more fun when it’s traditionally made.
Also, don’t be shocked when you find street vendors offering bread rolls to eat this coconut ice cream with. It is common in Thailand to eat ice cream with bread, just like ice cream sandwiches.
12. Kai Jeow
Growing up, you have watched an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory where he was just saying “Omelette du Fromage” repeatedly, which means “Cheese Omelette” in English. Mouth-watering, isn’t it?
Well, why not make it better?
A popular dish in Thailand, Kai Jeow translates to “Thai omelet.” Cheese is delicious; however, what is better than cheese when combined with eggs? Meat!
Uniquely made with flavors of fish sauce and sugar to extract its flavors, some local restaurants put this Thai food in their specials. With its puffy texture and minced pork inside, this is definitely a dish you could indulge in with a cup of rice.
Other vendors also make their versions of the dish. You can customize Thai omelets by adding herbs or meat, such as fresh oysters, ground pork, crab meat, etc.
13. Sai Ua
Down at Ton Payom Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, stands an excellent place to find Sai Ua. This market is a popular place to buy food to take home with you or to give to friends or relatives who want to sample Thai cuisine. The area is also well-known for a variety of vendors selling Sai Ua.
Sai Ua is sometimes weighed when bought; you can buy them in boxes and eat straight out of them. Once you open its box, you can already smell the aroma of a Northern Thai sausage, which entices you to eat immediately.
The usual ingredients are ground pork, dried chili, curry paste, lemongrass, and other herbs and spices packed with flavor.
This tasty snack is not typically found in restaurants and is more common in markets where you can buy and eat them on the spot. Considering that it is already made when you purchase it, you might want to ask the vendors first for the level of spiciness of their Thai sausage or buy a small one first to sample.
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14. Kao Moo Dang
Imagine a pork belly so tender that it melts in your mouth, and there is a red sauce on top of the rice to complement the meat perfectly – Kao Moo Daeng, translated as “red-pork rice,” is just that!
It is available in a wide variety of Thai restaurants and with just cause: the meat is incredibly tender, and the flavor is out of this world.
This could be a good option if you’re hungry after a long journey but don’t like trying out new, unfamiliar food. The taste may be similar to char siu pork – a Chinese dish and a barbecue pork dish from Asia.
This dish is assembled with steamed rice with red pork, kun chiang, half-boiled duck eggs, and crispy fried pork, then topped with sweet bean sauce and served with cucumber slices and green onions.
15. Khao Kha Moo
Khao Kha Moo is a slowly braised pork leg that provides tender and fatty goodness once you get a taste of it. This one is usually served with rice and can also be found in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Its not-so-overpowering sweetness is so rich in flavor that you might get a second plate. Pork legs are usually fatty, so make sure that you ask the vendor not to put the fatty parts on your plate if you are not a fan of it.
We know it’s strange to eat pork legs in some parts of the world, but what’s traveling without trying the local dishes, right? It’s time to indulge yourself with the culture and try new things.
So, get on that trip and order some Khao Kha Moo for yourself!
16. Guay Teow
Guay Teow (also spelled as Kway Teow) is a highly popular local cuisine, so you might not have any trouble locating it on restaurant menus. This stir-fried noodle dish is a staple in Thai cuisine and is commonly served with chicken and vegetables.
This is quite similar to the popular Chinese meal called Char Kway Teow, which is usually made with shrimp instead of chicken.
Around the streets of Thailand, different restaurants from left and right offer different types of noodle dishes with different flavors. Some are spicy, some are sweet, and some are just really bursting with lots of flavors. It’s great not to miss out on these kinds of food, especially when you can only get the authentic flavors in specific places.
This dish tastes best when finished with a variety of condiments, such as sugar, lime juice, dried chili peppers, and fish sauce.
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17. Khao Man Gai
The Thai variation of Hainanese chicken rice, Khao Man Gai, is a light dish that’s good when you are not into some dishes with intense flavors. This traditional cuisine sold on Thailand’s streets is also considered the best Thai street food. It consists of both soft and tender chicken, served with rice with the most flavor you’ve ever experienced.
The boiled chicken might look straightforward and bland because it’s just chicken and water. Still, it’s actually quite delicious and can be flavorful. The skin may look rubbery, but trust me, it is very tender and one of the best parts! Even while the chicken is delicious, the rice tops it all.
As you wander the streets, it’s impossible not to see a cart that offers Khao Man Gai. It is full of taste but not too overpowering; this also could be a full meal, as it is usually served over rice.
18. Thai Noodles
What’s terrific about the streets of Thailand is that most dishes are cooked fresh in front of you. You can usually arrange your dishes based on your liking so you won’t have an unsatisfying experience.
You will come across different foods in every corner of any city, such as Bangkok, Phuket, and more, and most of them are made with noodles. Noodles can be served in tasty soup or with lots of meat and vegetables. Here are some of its variations:
Rice noodles are usually used for stir-fried dishes like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew and can vary in thickness. It has a glass-like appearance and is easy for flavors to cling to, making it ideal for serving savory dishes.
Most dishes served with egg noodles are light and hearty warm soups. Guay Tiew Ruea and Tom Yum noodles are two of the most popular noodle soups.
Tom Yum is a delicious sour and spicy Thai soup typically topped with seafood, sometimes with coconut milk. Guay Tiew Ruea, in contrast to Tom Yum, uses only pork or beef broths, yet it is still light and flavorful.
Wide Rice Noodles
Wide rice noodles have a glass-like appearance and a soft and chewy texture and can be enjoyed with various flavors. This rice noodle variation is commonly used for stir-fried dishes. These noodles are also used in Pad Thai and can be found in Asian markets worldwide.
19. Insect Dishes
Have you ever tried eating bugs? The edible insects in Thailand have been featured in hundreds of documentaries and vlogs worldwide, and since you’re already in the country, this is your chance to try them!
Even though eating fried insects isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, Thai restaurants take great care to ensure their bug dishes are safe for human consumption. These dishes are also known for their protein and other nutritional content richness. Here are some examples of the best ones:
Rot Duan (bamboo worms) is the most typical snack you might want. These worms are caught in bamboo tubes commonly found in northern Thailand and are frequently served fried. The texture of these worms is very crunchy and slightly salty, similar to eating crackers.
Once you bite on the crispy skin of these silkworms, you’ll discover that the inside has a creamy flavor. This pairs well with soy sauce and pepper or chili flakes. These worms are typically from the families of various butterflies and are also raised on farms.
Tak Ka Tan
Eating fried insects, such as Tak Ka Tan, can feel like eating shrimp without the shell if you enjoy shrimp. Grasshoppers are a good source of protein and calcium, but before eating them, you should clip off their legs to prevent them from scratching your mouth.
This cricket dish, like grasshoppers, is a crunchy snack, typically fried, and its flavor has been likened to that of popcorn and nuts. When these fried insects are cooked and served, some still have wings, while others do not.
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Last but certainly not least – curry! No trip to Thailand is complete without sampling its mouth-watering (and sometimes tear-producing) curries. But out of them all, which ones are worth trying?
Allow me to elaborate on three of my favorite curry dishes from Thailand. With any luck, this will help you narrow your options and settle on a few (if not all) to test out.
Native to Chiang Mai, Khao Soi is one of Thailand’s most famous dishes and is a spicy coconut curry noodle soup often cooked with chicken. The curry has dried chili, turmeric, cumin, coriander root, ginger, shallot, and cardamom. This is definitely a curry you’ll HAVE to try out!
Originating on the border of Thailand and Malaysia, Massaman curry is mild, savory, and thicker in texture, perfect for those who don’t want too much spice. Several seasonings give the curry its distinctive flavor, including sugar, cinnamon, bay leaves, tamarind sauce, and roasted peanuts.
One of Thailand’s most popular dishes, Panang Curry, is a thicker curry with complementing sweet and salty flavors. While it’s sweeter than most other red curries, it’s VERY spicy! This Thai dish is typically cooked with a variety of vegetables and chicken. Regardless, what sets this one apart is the fact that it is made by blending curry paste, sweetened coconut cream, and roasted peanuts.
What is the most famous street food in Thailand?
When hearing about street food in Thailand, the first ones that come to mind are Pad Thai and mango sticky rice. Both of these recipes are well-known worldwide, though these versions rarely capture the original flavor as well as when they’re prepared in Thailand.
Why is street food in Thailand popular?
Aside from street food being cost-effective, which is surely a bonus, it’s also easily accessible and delicious.
What Thai food should I try for the first time?
As a first-timer, you should try either Pad Thai or mango sticky rice. Most of the dishes in Thailand are spicy, so you might want to try one of these first before jumping into the spicy, bursting flavors of other Thai recipes.
Is street food safe in Thailand?
In general, yes. But as always, it depends on how the food is handled and prepared. Most of the street food in Thailand is cooked in front of you, but sometimes it isn’t. Food quality and vendor preparation can vary from one stall to the next. Be mindful. Also, take note of the allergens in some food, specifically those with peanuts or seafood.
Have I got your tastebuds watering? Mine sure are!
One more note before you embark on your eatery journey across Thailand!
Be sure to have a good variety of baht on you. Street markets don’t accept credit cards or large bills. Try to stay close to the exact price because many vendors don’t carry much change.
For instance, if your meal costs 30 baht, don’t hand them 1000 baht. They’ll either refuse it, or have to ask other vendors to borrow change (which will take a while). If all you have is 100 baht, that’s perfectly fine – I wouldn’t exceed that amount.
For more tips and pointers as a visitor, check out these 15 mistakes to avoid on your first trip to Thailand (ps – they’re common and easy to avoid!).
Thailand will certainly leave your bellies satisfied with their mix of savory, sweet, and altogether flavorful cuisine.
About the writer: Kylie Nathan
Hi! I’m Kylie, a travel enthusiast who said YES to pursuing wanderlust after feeling “stuck and stagnant” for years. My hope is to empower other young adults to do the same and explore new perspectives through travel! Follow me around the world on Instagram and my travel blog!