Published On: Thu, Sep 27th, 2018

An Intro to Thai Street Food

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Cheap, colorful, and delicious, Thailand’s food vendors and carts offer some of the best eating in the kingdom. Perhaps most importantly, Thailand has a reputation for safe street food, since much of it is boiled or fried to order. With a little bit of research and a lot of pointing, travelers can find fresh, authentic food almost anywhere, anytime. Vendors, and their foods, are easy to recognize by their equipment or decorations.

An Intro to Thai Street Food

Thai Noodle Soups

Thai people eat noodle soups at any time of day, and these are quick, cheap, and filling. Noodle shops display shelf of fresh and dried noodles , often with meats and vegetables, next to a vat of boiling broth. By pointing, choose rice or wheat noodles, fresh or dried, and in thin, medium, or thick widths — a variety will always be available, and most people have their favorite style.

A few leafy green vegetables go into the soup, along with grilled or boiled meats (often grilled red pork), fish balls, bean sprouts, and fresh green onions and cilantro. Depending on the style of soup, vendors sometimes add fried garlic, congealed blood, or other types of meat or fish. If you don’t want one ingredient added to your soup, point and say “mai sai.” One kind of soup, Yin da fo, is colored bright red with fermented soybean paste. At the table, add chilis, fish sauce, sugar, or vinegar for the right balance of flavors.

Thai Fried Noodles

Pad Thai is one of Thailand’s most famous foods, but other styles of fried noodles are common. Pad Thai is usually made with thin rice noodles fried with meat, bean sprouts, green onions, tofu, dried shrimp, and topped with peanuts and sometimes a sauce. Pad see ew is wide rice noodles stir-fried with meat, chinese broccoli or kale, egg, and soy sauce. Pad kee mao, or drunken noodles, are stir-fried noodles with chili paste and basil. Stir-fried noodles are topped with a sweet, thickened broth to make Rad na. All of these dishes are seasoned at the table like noodle soups.

Stir-fried Thai Foods

Street stands have a standard list of dishes that they make fresh, on-request, like fried noodles, fried rice, and stir-fried meats and vegetables. These stands make many of the dishes popular in Thai restaurants abroad. Food is ordered by the name of the meat and the style of seasoning, like pork, chicken, beef, or seafood Pad krapow (stir-fried with holy basil), Pad gratiem (stir-fried with garlic and pepper), or Pad nam prik pow (stir-fried with chili paste). These stands usually have a wok or two up front, surrounded by meats and vegetables, with tables and chairs to the side.

Spicy Thai Salads

Thailand’s most famous salad is Som tam – papaya salad made with slivers of unripe papaya and a spicy dressing of fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, and chilis, pounded in a mortar and pestle. Most vendors make several kinds of salads, with different kinds of vegetables and meats pounded in a similar dressing. These are some of the hottest foods in Thailand, and even saying “Mai pet” — “not spicy” — will usually mean that at least 1 chili pepper gets added to the salad. Most stands sell sticky rice alongside these salads, and sometimes a plate of fresh herbs and vegetables. These stands usually display bowls of grated papaya and mango, a huge mortar and pestle, and straw containers for holding sticky rice.

Meats and Sticky Rice

Salad vendors usually offer fried or grilled meats beside the salads. The grilled meats are usually coated in a mix of dried seasonings. These skewers sometimes come with peanut sauce (satay-sauce) and fresh pickled cucumbers and chili peppers. Grill and fry carts sometimes sell meat and sticky rice by itself, usually grilled fresh to order.

Other Thai Snacks

Street snacks range from chunks of fresh fruit on ice, served with chili, salt, and sugar, to spring rolls, to fresh mangoes on coconut sticky rice. Many vendors walk from place to place pushing a cooler full of coconut ice cream, a cart full of green mangoes, or a grill covered in fresh ears of corn, taro, and bananas.

Different regions and growing seasons change what foods are available, but this overview covers foods that should be available all over Thailand. Some of the most interesting foods are only available sometimes or in particular places, though, so it’s always worth investigating an unfamiliar cart.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at

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