Thailand, a smaller country tucked in the heart of Southeast Asia, notorious for its street food and exceedingly insane levels of spice! If you’re anything like me, street food is without a doubt what I was most excited for (aside from adventuring of course)! Street food is a staple among many Asian countries; after all, Netflix created an entire docuseries (Street Food) featuring Asia in its first season.
And what better way to get a taste of Thai culture than by sampling an array of flavorful street foods!
There are SO many options out there, but do you know which ones you absolutely HAVE to try? Don’t sweat – this guide shares 7 of Thailand’s most popular (and very yummy!) street foods!
Save this post for your next trip to Thailand, so you don’t miss out on these sweet and savory dishes!
Table of Contents
Best Thai Street Food to Try
Note: while you can find these at just about any Thai restaurant, they are significantly cheaper (and often tastier) from street vendors!
1) Pad Thai
I couldn’t create this list without including the infamous pad thai.
Pad thai is a stir fried noodle dish typically cooked with egg, carrots, green onion, bean sprouts, peanuts, and a choice of protein between tofu, shrimp, and chicken. If you’d like a little extra kick, top it off with a bit of freshly squeezed lime!
Pad thai can be found anywhere around the country, from street vendors to higher end restaurants. However, you can’t beat street food where your meal is prepared hot and fresh off the wok!
As you make your way around Thailand, you may find that not all pad thai tastes the same. Honestly, I can’t offer any explanation besides it’s influence in each region (sometimes even restaurant to restaurant). In general, I found pad thai to be much sweeter in touristy areas such as Bangkok, and a tad spicier up north.
If you decide to dine at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask for modifications, such as a lessened sweetness or no chilies. However, many street vendors prepare pad thai in bulk, so you may not be able to request any changes. Keep this in mind if you have peanut allergies as well!
Keep this list of useful Thai words for ordering food handy as you travel around the country!
When ordering pad thai from a street vendor, you can expect to pay around 25 to 80 baht ($0.80 to $2.56 USD).
2) Pad See Ew
Another popular go-to is pad see ew! Although it’s a little similar to pad thai, pad see ew has a much more distinct flavor without much added sweetness.
Pad see ew consists of flat noodles fried in a sweet soy sauce with Chinese broccoli, chicken (or beef), and egg. Some vendors may add in a few extra vegetables or garlic for flavor.
In fact, the name translates directly to “fried soy sauce” and is similar to other dishes eaten in Thailand’s neighboring country, Malaysia.
Unlike pad thai, I wouldn’t worry too much about the spice in pad see ew. If you are sensitive to spicy meals, definitely speak up, but in general, pad see ew doesn’t have much spice to it no matter where you get it from.
Pad see ew 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! When you’re not in the mood for pad thai, but still crave noodles, pad see ew is your best bet.
Pro tip: if restaurants/street vendors are closed, head over to your nearest 7/11 for pad see ew! Although it’s not quite up to par with street vendors, it’s still very delicious and just as affordable.
Pad see ew will generally cost anywhere between 30 to 100 baht ($1 to $3.50 USD).
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3) Mango Sticky Rice
The next time I’m back in Thailand, mango sticky rice is without a doubt the first thing I’m eating the moment I step foot off the plane (and once you try it, you’ll understand!).
This traditional Thai dessert is exactly as it sounds: sweet mango slices perfectly complemented with sweet sticky rice and yellow mung beans drizzled in creamy coconut milk.
This is definitely one of the most popular desserts you’ll come across around Thailand! In fact, I ate mango sticky rice at nearly every night market I went to!
Mango sticky rice is commonly served in restaurants (usually for a much higher price), but can also be found at just about any night market between 50 and 100 baht ($1.50 to $3.00 USD).
So whenever you’re out grabbing street food for dinner, be sure to save room for some mango sticky rice!
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Got a little extra room for some more dessert? Always! Roti, similar to a crepe, is the perfect sweet street snack for anytime of the day!
Thinly hand-rolled dough (wheat flour bread) is fried to a golden brown and then filled with your choice of toppings including: bananas, nutella, strawberries, and of course, sweetened condensed milk (plus SO many more options to pick from!).
Roti is the perfect light snack to eat on-the-go, making it widely popular at many night markets. If you’re wanting a little pick-me-up to satisfy that sweet tooth, roti is what you need!
Plus, you can’t beat a sweet, warm snack prepared right before you.
Unlike the previous dishes, roti is hardly ever found on restaurant menus. Instead, it’s a staple in the street market community. Sometimes, roti carts can even be found just outside of restaurants or along the sidewalks of busy streets.
Roti typically sells between 20 and 50 baht ($0.65 and $1.50 USD). How’s about that for a midnight snack?!
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5) Som Tam
So what other traditional Thai street foods can you find besides these famous noodle dishes?
Som tam is one of my personal favorites that I ate nearly everyday for lunch when I lived in Thailand! If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, som tam is PERFECT.
Som tam, also known as green papaya salad, combines fresh vegetables with a hint of spice (beware – it can be quite spicy in some areas!).
This flavorful salad includes: shredded green papaya, carrots, Chinese long beans, peanuts, tomatoes, brown sugar, fish sauce, and chilies. Just writing that has got me craving a bite!
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. However, where I was living, I always had to ask for it without chilies.
As I stated earlier, if you’re sensitive to spicy food, keep this in mind as you eat your way around Thailand!
A plate of freshly made som tam typically costs between 40 and 80 baht ($1.20 to $2.50 USD).
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6) Poh Pia Tod
Hot, fresh, crisp spring rolls dipped in a sweet chili sauce or savory peanut sauce – MMMMM YES PLEASE!
You can’t go wrong with poh pia tod! Offered at restaurants and at literally every market you’ll visit around the country, poh pia tod will certainly leave your tastebuds satisfied!
Did I eat this for lunch almost every day in Thailand in addition to som tam? You bet I did! Poh pia tod is best when served hot and fresh! These spring rolls are filled with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, and either pork or shrimp.
Poh pia tod is another perfect snack (or meal if you’re like me) if you’re on the go! You can eat poh pia tod plain, or dipped in a savory peanut sauce or sweet chili sauce.
This is another traditional Thai dish 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 from.
Street vendors sell poh pia tod anywhere between 20 and 80 baht ($0.64 and $2.56 USD).
Order it as a shared appetizer, a snack, or meal for yourself! Poh pia tod is perfect at any time of the day.
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Last but certainly not least – curry! No trip to Thailand is complete without sampling all of its mouth-watering (and sometimes tear-producing) curries.
But out of them all, which ones are worth trying? There are SO many to taste as you explore Thailand and honestly, they’re all so good!
Before we get into it, let me debunk this common curry myth: red curry isn’t actually the spiciest; it’s green!
Yes, red is still hot and spicy, but don’t let the color mislead you! The level of spice has to do with the types of chilies and amount of coconut milk used. Trust me on this one … I’ve learned the hard way (back when I wasn’t used to really spicy food).
While they’re all fairly spicy, the order goes like this (from hottest to most mild): green, red, yellow
Let me break three of Thailand’s most popular (and some of my favorite) curries down to help you decide which ones to sample! Naturally, I recommend them all!
Khao Soi: Native to Chiang Mai, khao soi is a spicy coconut curry noodle soup often cooked with chicken. This is definitely a curry you’ll HAVE to try up there! It’s a fan favorite for a reason!
Being up north, it’s safe to assume it’ll be spicy whenever you order it. So be wary! Honestly, even when the spice was a little too much for me to handle, I powered through (tears and all) just because it was THAT delicious!
Massaman Curry: Originating on the border of Thailand and Malaysia, my go-to curry when I wasn’t in Chiang Mai was massaman curry! Massaman is mild, savory and thicker in texture; perfect for those not wanting too much spice. Unlike your typical spicy Thai curries, massaman is a rich, sweeter curry with a hint of cinnamon.
Panang Curry: 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! Panang curry is typically cooked with a variety of vegetables and chicken. What makes this one unique? Roasted peanuts combined with the curry paste AND sweetened coconut cream (vs. milk like others).
Curries range anywhere from 80 to 150 baht ($2.50 to $5.00 USD).
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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). In this case, 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!