When it comes to Thai cuisine, one cannot overlook the vibrant and flavourful street food that has become an integral part of the country’s culinary heritage.

Thai street food is known for its bold flavours, aromatic spices, and unique combinations of ingredients. From cheap eats to savoury snacks to delectable desserts, the streets of Thailand offer a culinary adventure like no other.

In this article, we will delve into some of the traditional Thai street food favourites that you must try if you ever find yourself wandering the bustling streets of this Southeast Asian country we call home.

Thai Street Food - Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is perhaps one of the most famous Thai dishes that has gained popularity worldwide. This stir-fried noodle dish is a harmonious blend of rice noodles, shrimp or chicken, eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts. The flavours are enhanced by the tangy combination of tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Here are three reasons why you should try Pad Thai:

  1. Versatile Ingredients: Pad Thai offers a variety of ingredients that can be customized to suit your preferences. You can choose between shrimp or chicken as the protein, or even make it vegetarian by opting for tofu. The addition of bean sprouts and crushed peanuts adds a delightful crunch to the dish.
  2. Balanced Flavours: The combination of tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar creates a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and savoury flavours. The tanginess from the tamarind paste complements the richness of the fish sauce, while the palm sugar adds a touch of sweetness.
  3. Garnishes: Pad Thai is often garnished with lime wedges, chili flakes, and fresh coriander. These garnishes not only enhance the visual appeal of the dish but also add additional layers of flavour. Squeezing fresh lime juice over the noodles adds a refreshing citrusy kick, while the chili flakes provide a hint of spiciness.

Som Tum - Green Papaya Salad

Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad)

Som Tum is a spicy and refreshing salad made from shredded green papaya, cherry tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and dried shrimp. The Thai chili peppers give it a fiery kick, while the lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar provide a perfect balance of sour, salty, and sweet flavours.

Here’s why Som Tum should be on your Thai street food bucket list:

  1. Refreshing and Healthy: Som Tum is a light and refreshing salad that makes for a perfect appetiser or side dish. The combination of shredded green papaya (unripened), cherry tomatoes, and green beans provides a refreshing crunch, while the lime juice adds a tangy twist. It’s also a healthy choice, as it incorporates fresh vegetables into your meal.
  2. Spicy and Flavourful: The Thai chili peppers used in Som Tum give it a spicy kick that adds excitement to each bite. The combination of lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar creates a harmonious balance of flavours. The sourness from the lime juice, the saltiness from the fish sauce, and the sweetness from the palm sugar come together to create a burst of flavours.
  3. Versatile Pairings: Som Tum is often served with sticky rice and grilled chicken, creating a perfect balance of textures and tastes. The sticky rice absorbs the flavours of the salad, while the grilled chicken adds a smoky and savoury element to the dish.

 

Thai street food is not just about the food; it’s a social activity

Moo Ping (Grilled Pork Skewers)

Moo Ping Thai street food is a popular snack loved by locals and tourists alike. It was a favourite of my brothers on a recent trip here. These succulent grilled pork skewers are marinated in a flavourful blend of garlic, coriander root, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and palm sugar. The skewers are then grilled over charcoal, giving them a smoky aroma that is simply irresistible.

Here’s why Moo Ping should not be missed when exploring Thai street food:

  1. Tender and Flavourful: The marination process gives the pork skewers a tender and juicy texture, while the blend of garlic, coriander root, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and palm sugar adds layers of flavour. The combination of sweet, savoury, and smoky flavours makes every bite a delight.
  2. Charcoal Grilled Perfection: Grilling the skewers over charcoal imparts a distinct smoky aroma and flavour to the pork. This cooking method ensures that the pork is cooked evenly and retains its juiciness. The charred edges add a delightful crunch to each bite.
  3. Accompaniments: Moo Ping is often served with sticky rice and a tangy tamarind-dipped sauce. The sticky rice complements the grilled pork by providing a neutral base to balance the flavours. The tamarind-dipping sauce adds a tangy and slightly sweet element to the dish.

Khao Man Gai - Chicken Rice

Khao Man Gai (Chicken Rice)

Khao Man Gai is a simple yet satisfying dish that showcases the beauty of Thai cuisine. It consists of tender poached chicken served on top of fragrant jasmine rice, accompanied by a flavourful ginger and garlic sauce. The dish is garnished with cucumbers, cilantro, and a side of chicken broth.

Here’s why you should give Khao Man Gai a try:

  1. Tender and Fragrant: The poached chicken in Khao Man Gai is cooked to perfection, resulting in tender and juicy meat. The fragrant jasmine rice adds a delightful aroma and complements the flavours of the chicken.
  2. Flavourful Sauce: The ginger and garlic sauce served with Khao Man Gai is the star of the dish. It is made by blending ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and chicken broth to create a rich and savoury sauce that elevates the flavours of the chicken and rice.
  3. Refreshing Accompaniments: The dish is garnished with cucumbers and cilantro, which add a refreshing and crunchy element to each bite. The side of chicken broth provides a comforting and flavourful addition to the meal.

Mango Sticky Rice, ข้าวสวยมูลมะม่วง

Mango Sticky Rice

No exploration of Thai street food would be complete without indulging in the famous Mango Sticky Rice dessert. This heavenly treat features ripe and juicy mango slices served alongside a generous portion of sticky rice, which is cooked in sweet coconut milk. The dessert is then topped with a drizzle of coconut cream and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Here’s why mango Sticky Rice is a must-try Thai dessert:

  1. Perfect Balance of Flavours: The combination of the sweet and fragrant mango, the creamy coconut-infused sticky rice, and the rich coconut cream creates a delightful harmony of flavours. The sweetness of the mango complements the creamy and slightly salty taste of the sticky rice, while the coconut cream adds an extra layer of richness.
  2. Texture Contrast: The sticky rice provides a chewy and glutinous texture that contrasts beautifully with the soft and juicy mango slices. The toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top add a nutty crunch to the dessert.
  3. Iconic Thai Dessert: Mango Sticky Rice is a quintessential Thai dessert that is loved by locals and visitors alike. It represents the tropical flavours and ingredients that are abundant in Thailand, making it a must-try for anyone exploring Thai street food and a must-have for me. I love it!

 

In every bite of Thai street food, there’s a story.

Michelin-starred Khai Jeaw Poo (Crab Omelette)

In the bustling heart of Bangkok, a city renowned for its vibrant street food culture, lies a culinary gem that stands out even in this rich landscape: Jay Fai, a Michelin-starred street food stall. Founded in the 1980s by Supinya Junsuta, Jay Fai is a testament to the extraordinary flavours and culinary skills found in Thai street food.

Jay Fai’s signature dish, the crab omelette, priced at 1,200 baht (around $33 or £26), is an embodiment of traditional Thai cuisine, infused with an element of gourmet sophistication. This dish, known locally as ‘khai jeaw poo‘, is a marvel in itself—a fluffy, light omelette brimming with generous chunks of succulent crab meat. The contrast between the crispy exterior and the tender crab inside creates a delightful sensory experience.

But Jay Fai is not just about the food. It’s about the experience of dining at a street food stall unlike any other. The 75-year-old Junsuta, often seen wearing her signature goggles and gloves, single-handedly cooks each dish over a blazing flame, maintaining a laser-like focus that reflects her passion and dedication to her craft. Her restaurant, featured on the Netflix show “Street Food,” has gained a cult following, drawing in celebrities and food enthusiasts alike.

Eating at Jay Fai is more than just a meal; it’s a journey through the heart of Thai culinary tradition, a blend of the humbleness of Thai wok street food and the finesse of high cuisine. Despite its popularity and acclaim, Jay Fai remains a street food stall at its core, where the chaos and vibrancy of Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, form the backdrop to an unforgettable dining experience. For those seeking to explore the depths of traditional Thai street food, a visit to Jay Fai is an absolute must, though it requires patience, given the long wait times and bustling atmosphere.

Jay Fai’s crab omelette not only reflects the rich flavours of Thai cuisine but also symbolises the extraordinary culinary skills that can be found in the most unassuming places. In a city teeming with culinary delights, Jay Fai stands out as a beacon of excellence, a must-visit for anyone eager to experience the true essence of Bangkok’s street food culture.

Let’s Wrap This Up

These are just a few examples of the numerous traditional Thai street food favourites that await you in the bustling streets of Thailand. From the mouth-watering Pad Thai to the refreshing Som Tum, each dish offers a unique experience that will tantalise your taste buds. So, the next time you find yourself in Thailand, or if you’re visiting Thinglish Kitchen, be sure to immerse yourself in the vibrant street food scene and savour the culinary treasures it has to offer.

FAQ

What are the ingredients in Pad Thai?

Pad Thai consists of rice noodles, shrimp or chicken, eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Why should I try Pad Thai?

Pad Thai offers versatile ingredients that can be customised to suit your preferences.

The combination of tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar creates a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and savoury flavours.

Pad Thai is often garnished with lime wedges, chili flakes, and fresh coriander, adding additional layers of flavour.

What is Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad) made of?

Som Tum is made from shredded green papaya, cherry tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, dried shrimp, Thai chili peppers, lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Why should Som Tum be on my Thai street food bucket list?

Som Tum is a light, refreshing, and healthy salad that incorporates fresh vegetables into your meal.

The Thai chili peppers give it a spicy kick, while the lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar provide a perfect balance of sour, salty, and sweet flavours.

Som Tum is often served with sticky rice and grilled chicken, creating a perfect balance of textures and tastes.

Exploring Traditional Thai Street Food Favourites

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