6 Bangkok “Must Eats” That Every Traveller Should Try
For all you foodies from Singapore, let’s make it clear that as much as Bangkok is a shopping paradise, it is an even bigger culinary paradise. A look at the sheer variety of Thai food available will get you salivating in no time. From roadside snacks, to affordable food court favourites, to restaurant classics fit for a king, here’s a list of the dishes you just can’t afford to miss when you’re in Bangkok!
1. Khanom Bueang (Crispy Crepe)
A delectable snack, these paper-thin rice flour based crepes are curved like a little taco shell, cradling a coconut cream filling within. We have a sweet tooth, so we always go for the ones topped with sweetened grated coconut, but you will find khanom Bueang sold with a variety of toppings both savoury and sweet, such as raisins, persimmon, minced shrimp/pork and coriander. One of the toppings you should definitely try is foi thong, Thailand’s version of the classic Portuguese fios de ovos, delicate strands of egg threads boiled in sugar syrup.
Khanom Bueang is crispy on the outside, with a comforting creamy goodness that accompanies every bite. It’s no wonder you can find them everywhere in Bangkok, from the local markets to the shopping malls, and pretty much at most tourist areas. They go for a very affordable 20 to 25 baht (around 1 Singapore dollar) for 5, with the expensive ones usually loaded with more filling and toppings. At that price, you can try khanom bueang all over as you’re exploring Bangkok, and find out which is your favourite one!
2. Pad Thai (Thai Fried Noodles)
A Thai noodle preparation, Pad Thai is perhaps the most ubiquitous Thai takeout dish ever, and probably the starting point for any newbie’s foray into the world of Siamese cuisine. Food elitists might turn up their noses at how mainstream the dish has become, and some might even challenge its Thai roots (there are those who believe it was brought over by Chinese immigrants), but its uniquely Thai flavours are what continues to make Pad Thai considered one of Thailand’s national dishes.
Essentially, Pad Thai is rice noodles wok-fried with a variety of proteins like prawns, tofu and eggs. A tamarind pulp and fish sauce mix gives it a distinct sweet and tangy taste, while a garnish of red chili flakes, crushed peanuts and lime allows you to fine tune your experience.
One of the better known places to sample this is Thip Samai (better known locally as Pratu Phi Pad Thai), which has been whipping up this dish faithfully for the past 50 years. Be prepared for a bit of a queue, but your patience will be rewarded with an expertly cooked plate of noodles wok-fried over a charcoal fire, cocooned in the softest of omelette skins.
3. Tom Yum Goong Noodles
This spicy and sour soup is so well-loved and recognizably Thai that in 2005, the producers of Thai martial arts actor Tony Jaa’s latest movie named it Tom-Yum-Goong. And just like its gastronomically explosive namesake, the action-packed flick set the Thai box office on fire, and to this day, remains the 8th highest grossing movie of all time in Thailand.
The “goong” in Tom Yum Goong refers to the version of the dish that uses prawn as its main ingredient. And while Tom Yum Goong itself is an extremely popular soup, combining it with noodles makes it even better.
Pee Aor Restaurant (sometimes spelt P’Aor or Pe Aor) comes highly recommended. Over here, they serve the creamy variant of Tom Yum Goong, made so with the addition of tinned evaporated milk and a rich stock of boiled prawn heads. This is complemented with aromatics like lemongrass and kafir lime leaves to build on the sweet, sour and spicy flavours of the soup. Huge fresh jumbo prawns (or opt for the lobster if you feel like splurging) and soft chewy noodles complete the package, the latter perfect for soaking up every last drop of glorious soup. Do note that the menus here are all in Thai, but there are lots of photographs, so you should have no problems pointing your way to a satisfying meal.
4. Kway Teow Reua (Boat Noodles)
Another traditional Thai dish, Kway Teow Reua, or boat noodles, were known by that name because they were originally sold by boats peddlers traversing the canals of Bangkok. Historically, boat peddler served Kway Teow Reua in small portions and bowls to minimize spillage when the food was handed over to customers on the river banks. These days, even though the closest Kway Teow Reua stalls get to the water is by being situated on the riverside, the practice continues as a charming reminder of the dish’s heritage.
If you look hard enough, you can find Kway Teow Reua in Singapore, but it will never taste the same as an authentic bowl from Thailand, mainly due to the lack of one key ingredient. The robust flavours and dark colour of the Kway Teow Reua broth in Bangkok comes from nam tok (cow or pig blood) which is added in as seasoning. If you’re feeling uneasy after reading this, fret not, for the blood is cooked instantly when it comes in contact with the boiling soup, and imbues the broth with a rich, meaty goodness. The noodles are normally served with meatballs, pig liver, pickled bean curd and water morning glory (that’s kangkong for us).
You’ll find Kway Teow Reua all over Bangkok, but the boat noodle alley at Victory Monument has several stalls for you to choose from. With each delicious bowl of boat noodles being a mere mouthful or two (and only around 10 baht or 40 Singapore cents), you’re definitely going to keep asking for more!
5. Som Tum (Papaya Salad)
If your only exposure to salads is of the milder Caesar or Waldorf variety, then Som Tum will be something of a shocker for your taste buds. Simultaneously sweet, salty, sour, spicy and savoury (that umami taste that all of us love), you’d never expect that a fruit-based dish could be this much of a flavour bomb.
The beauty of this dish which originates from Laos and the north-eastern Isaan region of Thailand is how deceptively simple it is to make – all you need is green or unripened papaya, chilies, fish sauce, coarsely ground peanuts, lime and palm sugar. The green papaya is cut into thin strips, and being unripe, gives the salad a crunchy texture and a tangy taste. This is mixed and pounded with the rest of the ingredients with a pestle and mortar.
A good place to get your Som Tum fix is at Som Tum Nua, which has two branches conveniently located at Siam Centre and Siam Square Soi 5. Aside from their signature Som Tum, the fried chicken here is definitely worth the calories, being crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and full of flavour. If what you’re looking for is variety, then check out Bann Somtum in the Sathorn area, which serves up a whopping 22 versions of salads among other Isaan style dishes.
6. Poo Pat Pong Kari (Fried Curry Crab)
Don’t get us wrong, Singaporean Chili Crab is always going to have a special place in our hearts. However, Thai Fried Curry Crab can definitely hold its own in the flavor department. Deliciously spicy, and with coconut milk and egg white providing a smooth creamy texture, this unique curry is made with a spice blend that leaves your mouth tingling. Add to that some fresh succulent mud crab, and we have a winner!
The best place to experience Fried Curry Crab is at Somboon Seafood, the original inventors of the dish way back in 1969. Do be careful though, as Somboon Seafood is so famous these days that fakes have started to pop up. Make sure you get the restaurant address correct (taxi and tuk-tuk drivers are known to mislead tourists for a kickback), dress for a messy, hands-on meal, and bring along an empty stomach and a full wallet, and we promise you’ll have an epic seafood meal you’ll never forget!