Given that one of the first things Thais ask each other when they meet up is “Have you eaten yet?” it’s clear this is a nation that’s extremely passionate about its eats.
You want to know how good a Thai restaurant is? Don’t look at the menu, the decor or even the prices. Look at the number of people inside. That’s your quality indicator.
In celebration of Bangkok’s fantastic cuisine and the restaurants that have perfected it, we’ve rounded up 40 of the Thai dishes we couldn’t imagine living without.
Some are world famous, others are more obscure, but they’re all worth trying, at least once. If you’ve got your own favorite that we missed, let us know in the comments box below.
1. Tom Yum Gung
This Thai masterpiece soup is teeming with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.
It can be ordered loaded with coconut milk (tom yum gung nam kohn) and cream or without (tom yum gung nam sai) for a slightly more sour and healthy version.
This soup truly unifies a host of favorite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet, all in one bowl. This is an authentic Thai delicacy that many locals are passionate about and which has spread around the world.
Banana Leaf Restaurant serves all around delicious food, including great tom yum gung. Silom Complex basement floor, Silom Road, Bangkok. BTS: Saladaen. Open daily from 11 a.m.-9.30 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)2 231 3124.
2. Gang Som Pak Ruam
The Thai fusion of sweet, sour and spicy are all combined into another ultra vibrant soup.
This soup base can be packed with vegetables like carrots, cabbage and green beans (pak ruam) or it can be served with a deep fried omelet made from eggs and a stringy green vegetable leaf (Thai acacia leaf) called cha om (gang som cha om kai).
Tart and explosive gang som soup is served at Arhan Isan Rot Det Restaurant, located at 3/5-6 Thanon Rangnam Road, Ratchawithi. Opposite from King Power complex. Open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)2 246 4579
3. Gang Keow Wan
One of the most famous and sought after Thai dishes is Thai green curry.
Green curry paste, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, chicken, Thai basil, Thai eggplant and the ever present herbs and roots of Thai cuisine (lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves etc), make this curry an unforgettable blend of delights.
It is usually prepared quite soupy so a plate of rice is necessary to sop up every intricate drop.
Poi-sien Restaurant serves a vibrant green curry filled with all kinds of herbs and flavors. Soi Ratchawithi 6, Boonme Building. Open from about 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)84 527 5521
4. Panang Gai
Red curry paste fried up with chicken and then doused with coconut cream creates a succulent and spicy red curry.
The dish is then served with finely chopped kaffir lime leaves sprinkled on top.
Panang gai is a dish that if made correctly should explode with dynamic flavors as soon as it touches the tip of your tongue.
Poi-sien Restaurant also serves a divine panang gai. The thick coconut cream sauce is crafted to perfection and the lime leaf garnish is always fresh. Soi Ratchawithi 6, Boonme Building. Open from about 10 a.m-10 p.m. Tel +66 (0)84 527 5521
5. Gang Massaman
Massaman is a sweet curry that originates from Southern Thailand as a Halal dish.
The curry sauce is a mixture of curry paste, coconut milk, a strong flavor of peanuts, and a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Massaman is usually pre-made with chicken and always a few chunks of potatoes that have delightfully soaked up the coconut milk like a sponge.
Baan Ajarn Restaurant, 107/7-8 Soi Rangnam Rd, Phaya Thai, Ratchawithi. Open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)2 245 2775
6. Gai Pad Pongali
Chicken, onions, tomatoes and peppers are brought alive with a delicate Thai yellow curry paste.
What makes the dish spectacular is the egg that is cracked into the dish to curdle and thicken all the ingredients.
A generous portion of parsley is added for extra flavor and its unique taste.
Kun Su Restaurant, located on Phaya Thai, Soi Rangnam, across the street from Century Mall, fries up a light, less oily, and delicious pad pongali. Best to eat here for lunch, but open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)81 883 5487, (0)81 666 2901
7. Gang Jued
One of the more healthy Thai foods is a clear vegetable soup filled with a combination of carrots, cabbage, onions, minced pork, tofu, glass noodles, and garnished with fresh parsley.
Gang jued is a colorful medley of garden vegetables that compliments a spread of other dishes and can easily make up for the greasier ones.
Poi-sien Restaurant creates a perfect gang jued. Soi Ratchawithi 6, Boonme Building. Open from about 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)84 527 5521
8. Jim Jum
A fantastic way to relax over dinner is to enjoy Jim Jum with a few friends. A small clay pot filled with an outstanding porky aromatic broth sits over a bed of charcoal.
The host brings an assortment of raw morning glory, cabbage, meats (usually pork and liver), beat eggs, glass noodles, and the all important holy Thai basil.
The vegetables and meats are thrown into the pot to slowly boil into a nourishing and hearty soup.
A herb filled jim jum is served at Larb Yasothorn Restaurant, 1/37 Ratchawithi Soi 2, Din Daeng Road, Samsaen Nai, Phaya Thai. Open from 4 p.m.-4 a.m. Tel: +66 (0)84 709 9880
9. Kao Na Phet
Roasted duck is a specialty throughout Asia as the meat is fattier and has a more distinct flavor than chicken.
Thai kao na phet is served on a plate of rice with a selection of duck parts cut and then drizzled with duck stock. A simple but exuberant duck soup is served along with the rice.
It’s easy to distinguish a duck and rice/noodles eatery as the ducks will be hung from their necks in a glass cabinet.
In Yaowarat (Chinatown) head to Hua Seng Hong Restaurant, 371-373 Yaowarat Road. Tel:+66 88 536 6168
10. Kai Jiew Moo Saap
A real Thai comfort food and something everyone can cook is the Thai style omelet. Eggs are beat up with a dash of fish sauce and soy sauce and then minced pork is added.
The egg mixture is then quite literally deep fried into an omelet that pleases a palette of rice. It is best eaten with a squirt of chili sauce (sauce prik).
Every single restaurant in Bangkok that serves rice can provide a great omelet. Try Kun Su Restaurant, located on Phaya Thai, Soi Rangnam, across the street from Century Mall. Tel: +66 (0)81 883 5487, (0)81 666 2901
11. Kao Niew Moo Yang
Grilled pork skewers and sticky rice in little bags are available in all the nooks and crannies and at all hours in Bangkok.
Quick, easy, delicious, available, and filling are all reasons to grab a sack while you’re on the go. Kao niew moo yang are available everywhere you look and can’t be missed.
In Silom near the Sala Daeng BTS station, take a stroll on Soi Convent where a fantastic street stall grills up large skewers of juicy pork. Best to head there around lunch hour.
12. Moo Dad Diew
Small bites of deep fried pork are marinated in a dark sweet soy sauce and then deep fried to accentuate the flavors.
The succulent pieces of pork are served with the all-important chili sauce (jim jao) full of green onions. Sticky rice is also a necessity.
Ta Bun Tum, at Pin Ngen Market block R28-R29 next to Major Pinklao, serves a mouthwatering moo dad diew. Open from 12 noon-9 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)847 070 2950
13. Yam Khor Moo Yang
This prized meat salad consists of dripping and tender pork cutlets, grilled and sliced then mixed with lemon juice, parsley, sweet onions and a copious amount of fiery chilies.
This salad is a real asset to any Isaan food feast and must be eaten with sticky rice, which you should dip into the dressing.
A delightful yam khor moo yang is assembled from a street cart right outside of Tesco Lotus Express Rangnam