From street stalls and shophouses to Michelin-acclaimed restaurants, you can find street food everywhere in Thailand. But not all of them are created equal. Pick a wrong shop and you might end up disliking a beautiful dish for the rest of your life. Fortunately, some people are serious about these street eats enough to focus on making the best version out of them.
Here are six eateries and their best elevated street food dishes.
#1 Som Tam and Isan dishes at Phed Phed
Som Tam Thai with Salted Egg
Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) is a popular dish from Northeastern Thailand (also known as Isan), and a symbol of Thailand’s shared culture with Laos. It’s basically a salad of sliced raw papaya and other local vegetables, pounded in a mortar with spicy dressing made with fish sauce or fermented fish, lime juice, palm sugar, chilli and garlic. Just like a meal from other parts of Thailand, a proper Isan meal goes beyond Som Tam and consists of some grilled or deep-fried meat, soup, salad, steamed dish and a carbohydrate source (usually sticky rice or rice noodles).
Mangosteen Som Tam
Phed Phed is a small restaurant with a big character. It offers Isan dishes from the owner’s family recipes from Nakhon Phanom. Besides quality ingredients and reasonable prices, Phed Phed is also known for its variations of Som Tam. You can pick from the classic ‘Thai’ (sweet and sour) or ‘Laotian’ (salty, spicy, and seasoned with fermented fish) versions, add in the likes of salted egg, Thai-vermicelli and fresh shrimps, or go well beyond that to one of the fruit som tam options (strawberry, mangosteen, pineapple, etc. in place of green papaya).
Pro tip: Phed Phed now has five locations with different names and menus. We recommend visiting Phed Phed Hey at the newly-opened Mahanakhon Thai Taste Hub food centre. Though it has a shorter menu there, you wouldn’t have to wait long for table and food. Phed Phed Lhay in Ari has a completely different focus, which is on simple Thai dishes. We find Pad Kaprao there one of the best in town.
Phed Phed Hey (Thai Taste Hub Mahanakhon Cube) – Nearest BTS: Chong Nonsi, Open daily 10AM-8:30PM [Map]
Phed Phed Cafe (Pradiphat 20) – Nearest BTS: Saphan Khwai, Open daily 11:30AM-8:30PM [Map]
Phed Phed Lhay (Phaholyothin 8) – Nearest BTS: Ari, Open daily 11AM-7PM [Map]
Phed Phed Bistro (The Circle Ratchapruek), Open daily 11AM-9PM [Map]
Phed Phed Ground (Klong Lat Mayom), Open daily 11AM-7:45PM [Map]
#2 Pad Kaprao at Prow
Pork Pad Kaprao with Fried Egg
If you go to a ‘taam sang’ place (an eatery that cooks to your order, normally for simple, one-dish meals) and pay attention to what people order for a bit, you’ll likely hear the word ‘Kaprao’ at least once or twice in less than ten orders. Pad Kaprao is a staple like that. It refers to a popular stir-fry dish of Thai holy basil (called Kaprao in Thai) with garlic, chilli and meat. While the dish can range from not spicy to super spicy, it’s often served on rice and a fried egg to help handle the heat. Another common variation is Pad Kaprao fried rice where the stir-fry gets mixed with rice.
For such a local staple, it’s surprising to see Prow among a small handful that only specializes in Pad Kaprao. What the shop does is to make it as customizable as the dish can get. You have options for rice (white or brown or noodles), protein (10+ meat, seafood and non-meat options), spice level, down to the egg (fried, boiled or omelette) and the doneness of your egg. The best part, though, is how you can add in as many toppings as you like, including vegetables, shrimp roe and cheese!
As Prow is located in the heart of a CBD, it can get crowded during lunchtime. It’s best to avoid noon-1pm on weekdays.
Prow (Chong Nonsi, Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra Rd) – Nearest BTS: Chong Nonsi, Open daily 11AM-9PM [Map]
#3 Crab Fried Rice at Here Hai
Personally, nothing speaks comfort home-cooked food to us better than a plate of fried rice. In a country where rice is the main staple, it’s convenient to make it with any leftover ingredient in your fridge. You also can order it from any taam sang (cook-what-you-order) place, not to mention how the dish appears in both Thai and Thai-Chinese restaurants.
Insane Crab Fried Rice
Crab Fried Rice is a more particular dish that we’d give credit to the Chinese for setting the bar of a good version: glistening Jasmine rice that doesn’t clump together, simple seasoning and some wok hei. Here Hai gives you just that, plus a generous amount of premium crab chunks sprinkled over. On the side is Thai-style seafood sauce, which will give you a kick of sweet, sour and spicy. We also recommend their stir-fried cabbage with fish sauce and pork crackling, another simple dish made special by texture contrast and charred aromas.
Stir-Fried Cabbage with Fish Sauce and Pork Crackling
A recent Michelin Bib Gourmand award makes the busy place even busier.
Pro tip: Visit the shop early in the morning, around 11am to guarantee a seat with minimal wait time. Or just get your fried rice delivered if you don’t want to queue. The dish travels perfectly.
Here Hai (between Ekkamai 10 and 12) – Nearest BTS: Ekkamai, Open Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-6PM [Map]
#4 Nam Prik at Krok
Grilled Pork Jowl with Kapi Namprik
A simple dish that has complicated flavour combinations, Nam Prik refers to a side dish made with herbs, spices and sometimes also seafood or meat. The ingredients are pounded together in a pestle to crush and mix the flavours. The dish is also versatile; you can enjoy it as a relish or dip with your choice of vegetables. You’ll see different types of Nam Prik in different regions of Thailand, depending on the speciality produced in each area.
Krok (meaning pestle in Thai) is a brainchild of Napol Jantraget, Saki Hoshino and New Suthichoti, the chefs behind one-Michelin-starred 80/20. The chefs took the advantage of exposure to different combinations and techniques to elevate their Nam Prik, making sure you get extra umami from natural ingredients, good smokiness from grilled eggplants, complexity from well-sourced fermented fish, and more. At Krok, Nam Prik is not a side dish but the main event, and the starting point before you go on to pick other elements to complete the order, namely protein and rice options. The customization reflects how easy the dish is in Thai food culture–you eat it any day with anything available.
Krok’s original shop is located in Talad Noi area on Charoen Krung Road, accessible by MRT and Chao Phraya ferry. For an easier commute by BTS, they also have a shop in The EmQuartier shopping mall too.
Krok (Charoen Krung, 78 Yotha Rd) – Nearest MRT: Hua Lamphong, Open Tuesday-Sunday 11AM-7PM [Map]
Krok (EmQuartier) – Nearest BTS: Phrom Phong, Open daily 10AM-10PM [Map]
#5 Braised Beef at 26 Braised Beef
Braised Beef Soup
Braised beef noodles is one of the most popular noodle options in Thailand, alongside fish ball and roast pork alternatives. Taking influences from Chinese cuisine, braised beef soup is usually seasoned with the likes of star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves and soy sauce. There are two ways to enjoy braised beef: with noodles or as ‘gao lao’ (braised beef soup) with rice.
Braised Short Ribs Rice Pot
What’s special about 26 Braised Beef (also known as Yih Sahp Luhk) is how the owner builds on his family’s famous braised beef recipe. The second generation of Nai Soie Braised Beef on Phra Athit Road continues his family’s legacy in his own way-offering more than the noodles, in a Hong Kong-inspired stylish space.
Rest assured that despite not looking anywhere close to the original shop, the owner himself has been trained to work hands-on for more than a decade. The shop offers several cuts of braised beef that are not only tender and aromatic but also retain the unique character of each cut. The flavour-packed soup is also worth ordering as a hot pot to cook sliced meat right at your table. Another must-try is their clay pot rice, seasoned following an old family recipe, cooked to perfect doneness in an individual pot with protein options ranging from braised short beef ribs to scallop.
26 Braised Beef is also recognized with a Michelin Plate. Visit the original shop on Charoenkrung (MRT Sam Yot) or their kiosk at Mahanakhon Thai Taste Hub (BTS Chong Nonsi)
26 Braised Beef (Charoen Krung) – Nearest MRT: Sam Yot, Open Tuesday-Sunday 11AM-7PM [Map]
26 Braised Beef (Thai Taste Hub Mahanakhon Cube) – Nearest BTS: Chong Nonsi, Open daily 10AM-8:30PM [Map]
#6 Thai Desserts at Farm to Table Hideout
Assortment of Gelatos
If you already explored some Thai desserts, you’d likely notice some common ingredients in a lot of them: rice flour, sticky rice flour, sugar, coconut milk, egg, coconut, mung beans, pandan leaves, etc. What makes the real difference is how each dessert is presented, how delicate it looks and the complexity in the preparation process.
Farm to Table Hideout is an expansion of the original Farm to Table organic cafe, which focuses on making additive-free ice cream from organic ingredients. Here, you’ll find a lot of fruit and vegetable-based options like pumpkin, coconut-butterfly pea, black sesame, sweet potato-ginger and jasmine rice leaf, in addition to classics like milk, chocolate, and cookies ‘n cream.
Coconut Rice Dumpling with Coconut-Butterfly Pea Ice Cream
What we particularly like about Farm to Table Hideout is the Thai desserts and ice cream combo, where ice cream either replaces an ingredient or complements the flavours. They serve bua loy (rice dumplings in coconut cream) with a scoop of salted egg ice cream in place of real salted egg yolk and the likes of khao tok tung (popped-rice dumplings) and lod chong (chendol) with coconut milk ice cream. Totally cute and tasty!
Farm to Table Hideout (15 Soi Tha Klang) – Nearest MRT: Sanam Chai, Open Thursday-Tuesday 9AM-8PM [Map]
What is your favourite Thai street food? Let us know in the comments and share with us your most-loved shops.