6 tips for navigating Bangkok’s street food scene

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September 4 pad thai street food in Bangkok

With one of the most active street food scenes in the world, no trip to Bangkok would be complete without a couple of meals curb-side. But without a trusted guide, you might miss out on some of the tips, tricks and nuances. Here are some essential tips to make the most of your experience.

1. Follow the crowds. Thais are passionate and opinionated about their street food and are known to drive across town to eat at their favourite stalls. If you see a long line at a stall, consider it a stamp of approval from the locals. Unfortunately, the long line probably means that the food will run out by the time you turn comes around. Make a note of the place and come again the next day.

2. Pay for quality. Street food is famous for its affordability, with the average bowl of noodles or stir-fried rice dish costing THB35. Do note, however, that vendors who prize quality and source better raw materials – like higher quality meats and fresh limes instead of bottled juice – tend to charge more. If you are paying THB50 or THB80 for a plate, it’s a good sign that the food will be delicious. Be sure, however, that the higher prices are clearly advertised on the menu or board. That means that the prices are the same for everyone – locals and tourists alike.

Noodle soup cart Bangkok

Noodle soup cart with clearly marked prices.

3. Watch them work. Luckily, street eats are prepared in open kitchens, which means that you can watch the vendors as they cook. Not only is it a fun experience and a good photo opportunity, it’s also a great sign that the ingredients at the stall are handmade. Be sure to make time to eat at stalls where the vendors are hand-rolling meatballs, stuffing and folding wontons, mincing meat by hand with a cleaver, et cetera. It’s a good sign that the food will go the extra mile in terms of flavour.

Jay Fai stir-fried noodle

Famous stir-fried noodle seller Jay Fai in Bangkok’s old town.

4. Ask for a fresh one. Many roving food carts that sell items like moo ping (grilled pork skewers), kluay thod (deep-fried bananas) or roti (fried crispy crepe) will have pre-cooked food on display, but it’s perfectly acceptable for you to ask them to make a fresh piece for you. You’re not being picky – all the locals do it, after all.

5. Consider the condiments. Most sidewalk stalls have the same set of condiments on their folding tables: white vinegar for sourness, sugar for sweetness, fish sauce for saltiness and red chili powder for heat. Thais feel free to doctor the food to their personal liking and you should do the same. As for the fresh condiments on the side – be it a wedge of lime with your fried rice or a piece of banana flower with your pad thai – use them. The food will taste better if you do.

6. Know the hours. Due to their makeshift nature, Bangkok’s street stalls rarely keep predictable hours. Some are closed on Mondays, some only open for dinner and some others sell out by 11am. If you like what you taste and want to come back, be sure to ask the cook about their days and timings to avoid disappointment.

Find some of Bangkok’s best street food along Thonglor area, right where Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Bangkok is located, so you can indulge in late night suppers and simply take a short walk back to your suite for a good night’s rest!

Image credits: Asia City Media Group

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