Thailand is synonymous with street food for good reason: it’s everywhere. From outdoor markets to roadside carts, there’s no escaping street food no matter where you go, especially in major cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Too many tourists skip out on street food for fear of food poisoning, but you’d be a fool to follow their paranoid lead. Street food is an integral part of Thai culture, and if it’s good enough for millions of locals, it’s good enough for you. Just be smart in your decision making:

  • Always choose stalls that prepare the food fresh in front of you. This ensures it hasn’t been sitting around for a long time and is safer to eat.
  • Look for vendors with long lines and a variety of customers (women, children, and men). This shows that the food is vetted to be safe (and delicious) for everyone.
  • Go to morning markets — they are set up to feed hungry shoppers so the food turnover is quicker.
  • Look at the color of the oil the vendors cook with — the darker the oil, the older it is.

Finding a good vendor is only half the battle, though. The amount of options even at one stand can be overwhelming, especially for someone who’s only experience with Thai food is delivery. Below are our picks for the must-eat dishes in Thailand, and our favorite spots to try them in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Just promise us you won’t fall into the habit of only ordering one dish over and over again — there’s a whole vibrant, diverse cuisine you need to work your way through.

Noodles

Pad See Eiw (Soy-Sauce Noodles)

Literally translating to “soy sauce noodles”, pad see eiw draws heavily from Chinese cooking for ingredients. The thick, flat rice noodles are fried with two different types of soy sauce to create the salty, bold taste that is quintessential to pad see eiw. Add your choice of chicken, pork or beef along with Chinese broccoli or cabbage. Top with dried chili flakes or vinegar for an extra kick.

Where to find it:

  • Victory Monument (Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok)
  • Ma Yodpak Radna (775/1 Nakhon Chaisi Road, Bangkok)

Pad Thai (Stir-Fried Noodles)

The classic Thai dish beloved by many can be found at almost any street market in Thailand. It starts with a base of stir fried-noodles mixed with bean sprouts, tofu, peanuts and green onions before being tossed with fish sauce, pepper, and garlic. Top with more peanuts and a dash of lime.

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Where to find it:

  • Pad Thai Thip Samai (13-315 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon)

Khao Soy (Crunchy Noodles With Coconut Milk)

A dish hailing from Northern Thailand, khao soy is a must try for any street food lover. Khao soy is a mixture of deep fried Chinese-style noodles and either braised beef or chicken, doused in coconut milk curry. Most vendors top the dish with green onion, lime, and raw shallots.

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Where to find it:

  • Khao Soi Samerjai (91 Charernras, Fahharm, Mueang Chiang Mai)

Soup

Kuay Teow Moo Daeng (Red Pork Soup)

One of the few Thai dishes found exclusively on the street, kuay teow moo daeng is a delicacy not to be missed. The secret to what makes this dish so delicious is the broth. It’s a combination of boiled pork bones and onions that simmer for hours to get its rich flavor. Red pork, sprouts, and bok choy are added to the broth to complete the dish. Make sure to top with chili, a dash of sugar, and fish sauce for maximum flavor.

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Where to find it:

  • Victory Monument (Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok)

Tom Yum (Shrimp/Pork Soup)

Tom yum is one of the most popular soups in Thailand. The broth is made by adding either shrimp or pork paste once the soup is boiled. Then fresh ingredients are added in, such as kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, lime, crushed chili peppers and fish sauce. Many vendors throw in mushrooms and tomatoes along with either shrimp or pork. The end result, like so many Thai dishes, is a bit of salty, spicy, sour, and sweet all interplaying perfectly. For a different take, try it with coconut milk and cream.

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Where to find it:

  • Jay Fai (327 Mahachai Road, Bangkok)
  • Petchaburi Soi 5 (Bangkok)

Kuay Teow Ped Toon (Egg Noodle Soup With Duck)

This dish begins with blanched rice noodles tossed in boiling water with bean sprouts and morning glories. The duck is simmered in star anise, cinnamon, galangal, garlic, and a variety of spices before it’s added to the broth. Add bean sprouts and green onions for an extra crunch.

Where to find it:

  • Gai Sainampung (392/20 Sukhumvit Road between Sois 18 and 20, Bangkok)
  • Udom Suk (Khwaeng Bang Na, Khet Bang Na, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, Bangkok)

Appetizers/Sides

Hoy Tod (Seafood Omelet)

Resembling more of crispy pancake opposed to an omelet, hoy tod is the perfect bite for any time of the day. Hoy tod begins with pancake batter cooked in a heavy iron skillet. Oil is constantly added throughout the cooking process to get that extra crispy outside everyone loves. Hoy tod is served with either mussels or oysters on a bed of bean sprouts and topped with green onions and chili sauce.

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Where to find it:

  • Nai Mong Hoy Tod (539 Phlap Phla Chai Rd, Bangkok)

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

After all of the rich flavors so prevalent in Thai, a plate of som tam is the perfect compliment. Som tam starts with finely grated green papaya. Crushed chilies and garlic are mixed with fish sauce, peanuts, tomatoes, lime, tamarind juice, sugar cane paste, dried shrimp, and beans before tossing with the green papaya.

Where to find it:

  • Nomjit Gai Yang (corner of Ekamai Soi 18, Bangkok)

Khao Pad (Fried Rice)

An often underrated side dish, khao pad uses Thai jasmine rice opposed to the traditional long grain rice. Although there are many variations of this dish including adding carrots, shrimp, eggs, and tomatoes (khao pad goong), the base always starts with fish sauce, salt, sugar, and soy sauce.

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Where to find it:

  • Talat Phlu (Dao Khanong, Thon Buri, Bangkok)

Gai/Moo Bing (Grilled Chicken/Pork Skewers)

A staple of any night market in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, gai/moo bing is the perfect light night snack. Chicken or pork are thinly sliced, skewered on a bamboo stick, and grilled on an open flame. Gai/moo bing is often topped with a peanut sauce or a sweet and spicy ajid relish made of shallots, chilies, cilantro and cucumbers.

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Where to find it:

  • Jay Eng (105 Charoen Krung Road, Bangkok)

Meat/Fish

Pla Pao (Whole Fish)

With Thailand’s close proximity to the ocean, it’s no surprise that the seafood is on point (especially in Bangkok). One of the best dishes to get a feel for Thailand’s seafood is pla pao. Unlike many Thai dishes, the preparation is very simple. A whole fish, usually red tilapia or snakehead fish, is stuffed with lemongrass and crushed with salt before grilled to blackened perfection.

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Where to find it:

  • Yaowarat (Chinatown, Bangkok)

Khao Kha Moo/Khao Man Gai (Stewed Pork Over Rice/Steamed Chicken Over Rice)

Although this dish may appear simple, it packs a lot of flavor. The pork legs are stewed for hours with a concoction of spices, soy sauce, and sugar until the meat is tender. The dish is served with Chinese broccoli, a hard-boiled egg, and chili dip.

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Where to find it:

  • Tang Meng Noodle (corner of Sukhumvit Soi 49, Bangkok)
  • ‘Cowboy Hat Lady’ — Chang Phuek Gate (Bangkok)

Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai (Green Spicy Curry)

Northern Thailand is famous for its flavorful (and very spicy) curries. At one point in time patrons used to bring green curry, often with chicken bones, chicken blood, and gizzards, as an offering to monks at temples. Gaeng kiew wan gai starts with fresh green thai chili peppers. Then ingredients such as fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, thai basil, and coconut are added. The whole mixture is usually served over rice.

Where to find it:

  • Khao Gaeng Rattana – Nang Loeng Market (Bangkok)
  • Ratchawat Market / Sriyan Market (Bangkok)

Gai Tod (Fried Chicken)

Although fried chicken isn’t exclusively a Thai dish, Thailand’s version is definitely worth trying. Chicken wings or drumsticks are marinated in rice flour and spices before frying. What makes Thailand’s version so tasty is the finishing touch of chili paste and spicy dipping sauce. You can find gai tod at most night markets or trains, frequently paired with sticky rice.

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Where to find it:

  • Wang Lang Market (Taling Chan, Bangkok)
  • Sam Yan (intersection of Rama IV Road and Phaya Thai Road, Bangkok)

Massaman Gai (Sweet Persian-Style Curry)

If you want to try out one of Thailand’s curries but want less heat, Massaman curry is an excellent choice. Heavily influenced by Persian cooking, the curry paste starts with coconut milk, chicken, and potatoes. Bay leaves, sugar, cinnamon, peanuts, and tamarind sauce are added to the curry for flavor. Massaman gai is also a great option for vegetarians, as many vendors will make it with tofu instead of chicken.

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Where to find it:

  • Ratchawat Market / Sriyan Market (Bangkok)

Dessert

Bua Loy Nam Khing (Black Sesame Dumplings)

Bua loy nam khing translates to “floating lotus” in reference to the dumplings similar appearance to lotus floating on a pond. The rice flour dumplings are stuffed with black sesame butter and served in ginger syrup broth. Some vendors will serve them topped with gingko nuts, chunks of cantaloupe, and green tapioca pearls.

Where to find it:

  • Silom Soi 20 (Bangkok)

Khao Niew Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)

Khao niew ma muang is the most iconic of Thai desserts. The dish begins with steaming sticky rice with coconut cream and sugar. Ripe yellow mangoes and coconut cream are added on top of the sticky rice, finished with crunchy yellow mung beans and sesame seeds. Some vendors will even add a few petals of butterfly pea flower to dye it a vibrant blue, or even mold it into fun shapes like hearts and bears for the young ones.

Where to find it:

  • Boonsap Thai Desserts (1478 Charoen Krung Rd, Bangkok)

Kluay Tod (Fried Bananas)

A great street snack or dessert, you can find kluay tod at most street markets. The dish begins with unripe bananas coated in a batter of coconut and sesame seeds, which is then deep fried. The end product is a perfectly golden, crunchy outside and a gooey, creamy center.

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Where to find it:

  • Tha Pra Chan / Banglamphu (Bangkok)
  • Wang Lang Market (Bangkok)