Like many others, I believe that Bangkok is the world’s street food capital. I know of nowhere else that can match the sheer variety of food available at almost any hour of the day and night. Despite this, many tourists choose not to sample the delights on offer, I call that sad 🙁 I used to think that the main reason for this was the fear of food poisoning. And I know that for some people this still seems to be a factor. Should this be the case? I really don’t believe so. Many of the street food outlets are scrupulously clean and you can see that they are; you rarely get to see inside a restaurant kitchen to judge the hygiene standards for yourself.
However, when I’ve talked to tourists visiting Bangkok I was surprised to find out that often it’s a different type of fear that prevents them from finding out how good street food can be in Bangkok. Sometimes it’s the fear of the unknown, as in what’s in that dish and is it going to set fire to my insides? In some cases that caution is entirely justified….
I was surprised to find that the most common reason for not indulging more in Thai street food was the people felt intimidated! They were intimidated if there were no signs in English, they were worried that they wouldn’t know how to go about ordering, worried that no one would speak English. Entirely understandable but their fears were misplaced. I’m not talking about places like Khaosan Road, or other places thronging with tourists, but places a little bit more off the tourist track, where the clientele is largely Thai and our squiggly little alphabet is entirely undecipherable.
If you want to enjoy some of the best food that Bangkok has to offer you need to put aside those fears. Find yourself a collection of food stalls and just get stuck in! More often than not, the stallholder will have enough English to guide you in your order, if not, he or she will call out in Thai and a fellow stallholder, or customer, will come to your aid. An Italian friend of mine, Thai food fanatic, now resident in Bangkok, spent his first six months seemingly sampling almost every food stall in the area where he lived. He spoke no Thai and his efforts to communicate invariably caused the call for an English speaker to go out. Not that it did much good, as his English at that time was non-existent as well! It never deterred him though and neither should it deter you. Just point, you’ll get there!
Why should you do this? Why bother when you can order off the menu in a restaurant with staff who speak English? I would suggest the reason why you should do it is the same reason Bangkokians do it. It’s not about the money money, although it’s certainly light on the pocket, it’s about the food. “For the best food in Bangkok, hit the streets”, not my words but those of J. Kenji. Lopez-Alt, Managing Culinary Director of Seriouseats.com, one of the world’s most respected food websites. Another Bangkok street food fan is Leela Punyaratabandhu, author of Simple Thai Food and whose award-winning website, She Simmers, should be the first stop for anyone wanting to learn about Thai food.
Check out the picture below, whenever I see a queue like that in Bangkok I’m always tempted to take my place in it because I know something good is about to happen when I get to the head of it :-). In a city where it seems almost every corner has a food stall on it then the ones with the queues have to be doing something special.
In this case it’s takeaway Thai yellow curry. As with so many other good food stalls, they may specialise in just one dish and sometimes may only be there for an hour or so before selling out and packing up again!
Bangkok food stores have something to satisfy all tastes, whether it’s sushi,
There really is something for everyone. If you’ve missed the chance to eat street food in Bangkok then you’ve missed out on one of life’s great culinary adventures. Everyone likes to spoil themselves on holiday but to get the best out of Bangkok you need to forego the white tablecloth sometimes and do what the locals do. You won’t regret it.