It seems that everything in Thailand revolves around food. The tempting sounds of sizzling barbecue, steaming broths, and the pervading scent of sweet Thai chilies seem to be present on every street corner, local market, and busy promenade in the country. Thailand truly is a feast for the senses, and you don’t need to be a gastronome to figure it out. Seriously, all you need to do is walk around and see/smell/taste it for yourself.
Last year Ana and I spent nearly a month touring this magnificent country. Like most other visitors, our first stop was Bangkok before heading out to other parts of the mainland. Known as a melting pot of Thailand’s various cuisines, Bangkok’s markets are the best way to get a feel for what awaits your taste buds in other parts of the country.
Marinated Prawns in Bangkok’s Chinatown
Quail Eggs in Chiang Rai
Among our favorite places to sample food in Bangkok is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Wang Lang Market, Boat Noodle Alley, Chatuchak Weekend Market, and of Chinatown (okay, not technically Thai but Chinese food plays major part in the local cuisine). As you may know, Bangkok gets quite hot, but thankfully there’s a fresh fruit juice or smoothie waiting for you just when you need it most.
Mango Smoothie Cost: 20 Baht (.60¢)
If you’re looking to experience Thai food in a more personal and unique way, I recommend connecting with locals who give tours of Thailand. Many of the locals signed up the site offer home-cooked Thai dining experiences and guided market/ sightseeing tours. But you could just as easily, and cheaply, do all the eating yourself like we did.
Red Chicken Curry Bowl
Chiang Mai definitely did not disappoint either. Its laid-back vibe and affordable lifestyle make it the city of choice for expats looking to stretch their buck in Thailand. Chiang Mai’s cuisine is definitely different, and spicier! And the best place to sample the local delicacies are at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, where local vendors come out by the dozens to make fresh, ready-to-eat food that you can eat while browsing the market stalls.
The more north you travel the hotter the food gets in Thailand. This type of northern Thai cuisine is known as Isan food, and is strongly influenced by the countries of Laos and Cambodia. Almost everything has chili and is served with sticky rice. Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar is a phenomenal place to try the flavors of northern Thailand. My personal favorite dish is Khao Soi, which is a bowl of wheat noodles, curry chicken, delicious broth, and topped with fried noodles. This is the quintessential comfort food for Thais.
Spicy Isan Sausage
Hot Biscuits at Chiang Rai Night Bazaar
Chiang Rai is also known for its spicy sausage and its iconic Som Tum, or “papaya salad.” It is made with shredded green papaya (not sweet like the one we know back home in the States), tomatoes, long beans, garlic, cashews, chilies (optional), and a lime juice dressing.
Glass Noodles in Sweet Coconut Milk
The most Western food we ate on the trip: Lemon Merengue Pie
Fresh Pomegranate at the Market
Now that you’ve seen several mouthwatering meals from Thailand and have heard a little bit about our Thai food experiences, we would love to know about yours! Leave us a comment below with you favorite Thai food and where you ate it.
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Miriam of Adventurous Miriamsays:
Great guide to Thai food! Bangkok has so many great restaurants and food stalls. I joined a cooking class there this summer and it was a great way to get introduced to the basics.
Miriam that sounds like a great idea for my next visit! Where did you take the cooking classes?
Hey! You forgot durian! Tasting a durian is like THE quintessential Southeast Asian experience.
I even took a group on a durian tour this past summer. Would love to have you along next year! http://www.yearofthedurian.com/2014/07/first-group-durian-trip-uttaradit.html
You’re correct! Unfortunately I didn’t actually work up the courage to try it until we arrived in Malaysia. Durian ice cream is delicious!! Thanks for your comment!