For fiery, flavour-packed seafood
The chef at Soei, a former boxer, doesn’t hold his punches when it comes to cooking some of the best street food in Bangkok – and the restaurant’s location right on the platform of a major Bangkok railway station is just as beguiling. Watch trains on their way north and south pulling up as you tuck into deep-fried mackerel heads (better than they sound), a zingy tiger pla kung prawn salad in a potent marinade of lemongrass, garlic and shallots, or a knock-‘em-dead prawn ceviche loaded with wasabi.
Samsen Railway Station, Kampaeng Phet Road Soi 5; Sunday-Friday, 11.30am-10pm
For hard-to-find jungle curry
It’s all about high-quality and hard-to-find ingredients at Gaeng Pa Sriyan, where street staple pad krapao – a stir-fry of chilli, garlic, Thai basil and, usually, chicken or pork – comes with quail, winkles or century egg (eggs that have been preserved for weeks or months in clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls). Winkles also shine in a flash-fried dish of pad cha, loaded with young green peppercorns. But the signature dish is jungle curry. Made without coconut milk and traditionally cooked with whatever could be found in the forest, here it’s served with frog, wild boar or catfish.
954/2 Nakhon Chai Si Road, Phaya Thai; Monday-Saturday, 10am-9pm
For old-fashioned home cooking
The décor hasn’t been updated one bit since Sanguan Sri, a hole-in-the-wall, opened almost five decades ago but no-one cares since the food is so good. In a downtown setting, surrounded by embassies, banks and high-end hotels, Sanguan Sri is a bastion of old-school home cooking. Come for what is arguably Bangkok’s best grilled duck red curry – loaded with kaffir lime leaves, tomatoes and tangy pineapple, and unceremoniously ladled with splashes up the sides of the bowl – and stay for a refreshing grilled pork and lime salad, or a Chinese-influenced, gravy-like stew of pork belly and tofu simmered with star anise.
65/1 Wireless Road, Phloen Chit; Monday-Saturday, 10am-3pm
For Thai-style biryani
In a surprising location, steps from the backpacker enclave of Khao San Road, Areesaa Rote Dee has its own miniature food court tucked down a tiny alley that’s easy to miss. The office crowd and local Muslim families flock here for its Thai-style halal chicken biryani – a dish that literally translates as chicken in a mountain of (wonderfully turmeric-infused) rice – but the meaty beef satay is also some of Bangkok’s best. The rest of the menu largely sticks to southern Thai dishes plus a few dishes influenced by neighbouring Malaysia and India’s spice trade – among them laksa-like curry noodles, and both fresh and fried spring rolls.
178 Tani Road, Banglamphu; daily, 9am-4pm and 5-10pm
For dairy-free ice cream
Ice cream might not conventionally be considered traditional Thai food, but the dairy-free sherbet at Nuttaporn is worth taking time out for. Handmade the old-fashioned way using coconut milk, flavours here include young coconut, mango, a deep, dark chocolate and try-it-if-you-dare durian. Its historic village square setting makes Nuttaporn a perfect spot to cool off while you watch the world go by. Next door, the Bhuthorn hotel has just three rooms in a colonial-style house that’s been lovingly restored by a Thai architect couple.
94 Phraeng Phuthorn Road, Phra Nakhorn; Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm
For southern curries
It may look unpromising but don’t be deterred from a meal at Roti Mataba. Whatstarted out as a street stall, opened by an Indian immigrant to Bangkok in 1943, is now a busy spot at the heart of the old-town backpacker district. It’s packed with locals and tourists, all lured by its killer chicken massuman curry, made simply with falling-off-the-bone chicken in a sweet broth that goes easy on the coconut milk in order to let the southern Thai spices shine. Small but tasty mataba – fried roti-like pancakes stuffed with onions and minced chicken or beef – are a classic accompaniment, and the sweet banana-stuffed roti here are also rightly famous.
136 Phra Athit Road, Banglamphu; Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-9pm, Saturday-Sunday, 9.30am-9.30pm
For grilled pork skewers
Every Bangkokian has their favourite grilled pork vendor, and they’re hawked on street corners across the city. The one on the corner of Silom’s Soi Convent is particularly famous, just across the road from the capital’s most famous stretch of gay bars. But for something even better head out to the north of town where a 10-minute walk from the Saphan Khwai Skytrain station, you’ll find Moo ping – and a cheerful lady grilling fatty, juicy sticks of pork. For extra flavour, she swirls them in their own juices before bagging them up to go. They’re certainly not diet food but are oh so good with sticky rice.
Corner of Pradipat Road Soi 21, Saphan Khwai; most days until around 11am
For green papaya salad
Never mind pad thai – it’s somtum, grated green papaya salad loaded with everything from dried shrimp to salted egg, raw horseshoe crab and fermented fish and cockles, that is arguably Thailand’s national dish. Eaten with sticky rice or fermented rice noodles, this northeastern speciality is available all over the capital. But it is served with particular skill ata nameless stall at Mahasin market, on Bangkok’s eastern outskirts, a 10-minute walk from Punnawithi Skytrain station. The husband-and-wife vendors joke with regulars as they serve up a range of Isaan dishes including somtum, laab and namtok salads of grilled pork and beef, and the more daring but totally rewarding laab luad medley of raw beef marinated in fish sauce, lime, shallots and fresh mint.
Sukhumvit Road Soi 101/1; most days, around 4-11pm
For bloody noodle soup
Ironically enough, there are few better ways to beat Bangkok’s humidity than with a steaming bowl of noodle soup – and the boat noodles at Rose Boat Noodles, astreetside setup beneath Saphan Taksin Skytrain station, are as good as you’ll find anywhere. Conveniently located, with the central riverboat pier also just alongside, the star of the show here is noodles in a rich, meaty broth enriched with extra pig’s blood. Throw braised pork, water spinach and beansprouts into the mix and you’ve got a real winner.
Beneath Saphan Taksin Skytrain station; Monday-Saturday, 8.30am-7.30pm
For northern Thai noodles
Authentic northern Thai food can be hard to find in Bangkok, unlike its southern and northeastern counterparts. But Hom Duan – which started out as a coffee shop with a few dishes on the side, but quickly gave in to customer demand and expanded into a restaurant – is a reliable and centrally located source of the good stuff. Highlights include gaeng hunglay, a rich pork belly curry brimming with Burmese influences and loaded with ginger and pickled garlic, and Chiang Mai’s famous khao soi dish of chicken noodles in a curry broth topped with crispy fried noodles.
70/2 Sukhumvit Road Soi 63; Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
Chris Wotton is a Bangkok-based food and travel writer who spends far too much of his time eating Thai food. He’s the author of Choose A Way: Bangkok Food. See more on Chris’ website here, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
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