Eating is a huge part of why I love travel so much. The traditional meals of any country, and eating in general form a huge part of any culture. From eating fois gras in France, to eating bowls of Pho at street stalls in Hanoi, I have always found eating to be an important part of my adventures.
Food transcends any language barrier you might have and is a great way to not just to learn about a country’s food culture but also puts you in a situation where you meet and interact with locals.
Asia is one of the best places to embrace food culture- the meals are extremely cheap if you stay out of the tourist traps and stick to the local cuisine.
Upon arriving in Bangkok my sister and I were both really keen to eat some street food.
While eating street food may seem a bit scary to some people, and I know so many people that have gone to Asia and never even dared to do so, if you follow a few simple rules than eating off the street is perfectly safe.
We don’t eat anything that is sitting there- cooked food goes off a lot quicker than uncooked meat. We lean towards the stalls where we can see the meat sitting on ice- and you’ll find many. We also need to see the food getting cooked really hot in front of us- high heat is the biggest killer of germs.
When it comes to fruit we try not to eat anything that isn’t peeled infront of us or we can’t peel ourselves. And our number one golden rule- look for street food stalls with lots of locals.
Despite their iron stomachs the locals wouldn’t be coming back if the place was making them seriously sick,i f the food doesn’t taste any good, or if it’s badly priced.
A line of locals waiting to be served is usually a sure sign of really tasty and really safe street food.
After our exploration of the Golden Temple we both felt that spending the rest of our day eating sounded like a good plan. We promptly hopped into a tuk tuk and headed towards Chinatown- having been told by many that Chinatown/Yaowarat was one of the best places in Bangkok to get street food. Apparently it’s the oldest food street in Bangkok!
We arrived in Chinatown at around 4pm. We were soon to find that the Chinatown stalls themselves wouldn’t be bustling until around 7pm- this is definitely a place you want to go for dinner. However by walking one block in the other direction we were able to find a bunch of street stalls serving food.
The first dish we ate was Gui Chai Ga Tiam (Chinese Chive Dumplings). It’s this delicious mix of vegetables- chives obviously included wrapped up in pastry, steamed beforehand and then pan fried right in front of you.
There are also a version without pastry that is more of a Chive cake and we tried that too. We knew the stall we got them from would be good as we could see a newspaper write up taped to the stall. We could also see the long line of locals- we had to wait about 10 minutes just to get them.
They come with this spicy soy sauce that has an aniseed flavour to it. I don’t like aniseed so I skipped the sauce but these things were really delicious. It was a great way to start our mini Thai food tour. These were 24baht ($1) for three.
Having wetted our appetite we continued up the street until we found some Moo Satay (satay sticks). Everything looked really fresh and really good- they were cooked right in front of us. We got 5 chicken and 5 pork for 40baht ($1.50) and they came with a peanut sauce and a salad. We decided to skip the salad as washed vegetables can get you into trouble. But the satay was awesome!
We then ate a lot of fruit- we got pomegranate and pineapple and green mango before we finally found what I had been looking for all day- young coconut water.
This cute lady at the front of a shop was serving them. Everyone around there was super nice so we sat and drunk our coconut water and communicated in broken English to the women and the guys that owned the shop.
No one tried to sell us anything- they were just up for a chat and wanted to know how our journey was going. The lady also scooped out all the flesh for us when she saw us struggling with the spoon which made eating it so much easier.
We ended up spending about half an hour with these guys just soaking up the atmosphere and charm that is Chinatown. It was a really great moment.
Needing to kill some time and make some room in our stomachs we headed in to a nice looking massage place advertising a one hour foot massage for 200baht- about 50baht cheaper than in the touristy areas.
After a long day it was heavenly to set back and be pampered by some really friendly women. A foot massage in Thailand isn’t just the feet- it includes legs and even ends with a small neck and shoulder massage.
The tea they brought us out after was really good- filled with ginger which was a perfect way to relax.
Reenergised we were excited to exit the massage place and find that Yaowarat road was bustling with street vendors that had seemingly popped out of no where.
The choices were overwhelming- we ended up doing a big lap of both sides of the street before deciding on a dish. We started with some squid salad from a stall down one of the alleys off Yaowarat. T
his was especially refreshing as it tasted very citrusy and had lots of earthy flavours.
I couldn’t help but think it would taste better served the usual way- spicy, but I was sharing with Maddy so we had to order it ‘mai phet’ (no spice). This one costs us 50 baht ($2)
We didn’t move very far for our next dish. The smell and the crowd gathering around the street stall next door lured us in.
The woman was cooking a version of pad thai with chicken known as Kuay Teow Kua Gai. This turned out to be our favourite dish in all of Bangkok- the balance of flavour was just perfectly right.
This plate took us straight to food heaven and we sat there moaning about how good it was as we stuffed our faces.
We ended up heading back here the following night just to eat this dish again- to the delight of the lady on the stall. A plate of this will set you back 40 baht ($1.50).
Our final savoury dish for the night was this brothy soup made with chicken and basil. It was really earthy and homey and kind of reminded me of hot chicken soup that mum or dad used to quickly whip up whenever one of us got sick.
We both couldn’t help feeling that it was slightly bland- needing a bit more flavour. But we probably had high expectations having come straight from eating that Kuay Teow. The bowl cost us 40 baht ($1.50).
We changed over to dessert after this- finding some coconut icecream. At the time this seemed pretty good but now having had real coconut icecream since I would have to say that it was about average.
The real highlight for dessert was the next dish- mango sticky rice. Having heard good things about this dish from many friends I was still a bit hesitant- I wasn’t sure how I felt about rice for dessert.
However the minute I scooped that first spoonful of sticky rice into my mouth I knew I was so wrong. The rice was absolutely delicious and combine it with some coconut milk and perfectly ripened mangoes and you have another one of my favourite dishes in Bangkok.
We also returned for this on our second night in Bangkok. Mango sticky rice seems like a luxurious street food given its price tag of 120 baht ($5).
Next came the banana pancakes topped with nutella and condensed milk. These were so good that we ordered another plate straight away!
We also tried some coconut griddle cakes (20 baht/$1)- which were slightly weird as they were stuffed with corn which kind of ruined them for us. We also grabbed some donuts with condensed milk (20 baht/$1) that were soooo yummy!
Exploring Yaowarat and the surrounding areas on an eating feast was one of our highlights in Bangkok. We ate some really good food, saved lots of money by going local and had some great experiences sitting at rickety tables with the locals.
Where Should You Stay in Bangkok?
If you are a budget traveller or are just looking to make some friends, I always recommend staying at hostels.
AirBnB is also a great option if you are on a budget or looking for a bit of space.
For all of your bookings, whether hostel or hotel I always recommend Booking.com, specifically because most of the time you can make a reservation without a deposit and many bookings are fully cancellable and refundable. I love being able to lock in my accomodation early, but then shift things around if my plans change!