It’s no surprise that Anthony Bourdain inspires me, and I’ve written about my endeavours to be more like him and eat without inhibition. I was a foodie long before I came to Thailand but being here made me truly a Bangkok foodie. When we’re out, whether it is a cafe in Bangkok or street food I try to find different things to eat there are times we get great meals and times we don’t. Sometimes it’s not easy to identify what’s on the menu if there even is a menu at all. During our time in Bangkok, I have noticed that there are a handful of staple dishes that you can find at any food stall, cafes in Bangkok, night market or food court and I’ve included the English pronunciation to help when you order.
If you’re feeling adventurous, we have some new dishes equally as delicious that you would be able to find on most menus. Vegetarian? We got you covered too. Most times, I find that I have to still communicate with pictures or pointing because my pronunciation is rubbish. That’s okay too. A cafe in Bangkokor street stall will truly bring you delight!
Five dishes you can find in any cafe in Bangkok
Khao pad (fried rice) – this dish is made with chicken, pork or shrimp, most times they will ask what you like or else they’ll make the house speciality, a combo of all proteins.
Pad thai (stir fry noodles) – usually tossed with vegetables and protein of your choice. Generally made with rice noodles but we have also enjoyed vermicelli noodles, and flat noodles, which would then be called pad see ew.
Khao mun gai (steamed chicken on rice) – This one place we found only served this dish. At lunch, the line was out the door, and so we decided to come back for dinner. They did not disappoint. Dress it up with dark soy sauce or chilli sauce. This dish is a Bangkok foodies dream.
Gai/Moo bing (chicken/pork grilled skewers) – The meat is usually marinated in a sweet soy sauce and grilled. We have also seen all kinds of seafood (baby octopus, squid, scallops) meatballs and tofu on sticks as well.
Pad krapao moo (stir-fried pork with basil) – it comes with rice and a fried or boiled egg. Like the American burger or the Aussie meat pie, everyone has their version of this simple and delicious dish.
Additional dishes to try – level up your cafes in Bangkok street cred.
Pak boong (morning glory) – similar to spinach or kale it’s stir-fried with garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce and chili. It comes heaping with steam and flavor, a great side dish or main dish for vegetarians. This is a great dish to try during a Bangkok foodie tour with 2019 Responsible Tourism Companies: Courageous Kitchen Homemade Noodle Making Class.
- Guay teow (egg noodle soup) – it describes any egg noodle soup whether it be beef, pork or chicken. Depending on where you go the meat comes thinly sliced (beef), chunky bits (crispy pork) or meatballs (assorted variety) floating atop a handful of noodles and a ladle of broth. Dress it up with dry chilli flakes, dark soy sauce or lime.
- Tom yum (spicy soup) – this is a well-known dish within Thailand and internationally. Typically served with seafood, the spicy soup layered with staple botanicals like galangal (ginger family), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves to name a few. If you’re feeling a bit jet-lagged, this is the first dish you should have to perk you up!
- Laab (spicy meat salad) – served cold, this meat dish tossed with spices and herbs in a slightly sweet sauce. I gathered the sauce is made of soy and fish sauce with citrus, but I can’t be sure! We first tried this with beef and in then in Pai tried it with pork, and it was equally delightful.
- Pad See Ew (flat noodles) – unlike pad thai, these noodles are flat noodles stir fried with green leafy veggies, egg and chicken. They are drowned in a mixture of dark soy, fish and oyster sauces. Condiments provided will be sugar, dried chilli flakes and a slice of lime. We recommended using a bit of everything to dress this dish.
Even a vegetarian Bangkok foodie can find something amazing!
If you’ve read the above, you’ve probably already gathered where you can make it veggie and where you can’t. Most stir fry dishes can easily be made without meat or with tofu if the stall has that. Pak boing (morning glory) is a great dish to try if they don’t have morning glory ask for any greens (pak choy, choi sum, kale, spinach) they will throw something together for you. They do use oyster sauce which you can ask for vegetarian and they’ll either do without the sauce or substitute with a mushroom sauce instead.
Unfortunately, we found that most soups are pre-made with meat and bone broth so these dishes will not be suitable for you.
Fruits are plentiful here with a wide variety of tropical fruits such as papaya, dragon fruit, rambutan, snake fruit and the infamous durian. I have eaten more fruits in this country than I have in the last year because they are so perfectly ripe and delicious here.
I hope this helps you become a Bangkok foodie! Have any other questions? Need help finding a cafe in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments, via email or our ask a question in our Facebook Group! We also had a great cooking class with the Courageous Kitchen that we would recommend checking out.