Hot, humid, and pulsing with energy, Bangkok is rapidly developing whilst retaining its culture, making it home to both cheap street food and white tablecloth restaurants.
The first food that comes to mind when one thinks ‘Thailand’ is pad Thai—it’s the quintessential dish in Thai restaurants in America, and can be found in many food stalls by the streets in Bangkok. But as I explored the various wats, the ornate Buddhist temples sprawled throughout Bangkok, and strolled through the bustling markets, I discovered that there is so much more to Thai cuisine than pad Thai. Bangkok’s culinary scene is nearly unparalleled by other cities, making the outrageous heat and humidity all worth it.
I’ve always been apprehensive of restaurants with shoddy decor, but in Bangkok, some of the best gems are found in unassuming restaurants with harsh lighting and plastic chairs. These certainly aren’t Zagat-rated restaurants, but rather the places the locals frequent. At such a restaurant near Wat Pho, I had the perfect tom yum goong, a hot-and-sour soup with prawns, seasoned with lemongrass and lime juice. While the broth’s bright orange-red hue seemed alarming, the sour notes from the lime balanced out the spiciness of the chili peppers, making it a refreshing dish.
My favorite Thai noodle dish is pad kee mao, which translates to “drunken noodles”—a misnomer, because the dish contains no alcohol. The basis of pad kee mao is broad rice noodles, soy sauce, holy basil, and chili peppers, and each restaurant has its own take on the dish. I had it in various places with tofu, chicken, and pork, and the seasoning differed throughout: it ranged from sweet to mouth-numbingly spicy.
MUST TRY: Fried curry crab at Somboon Seafood: Juicy crab meat is submersed in a delicious golden curry sauce—perfect when eaten with the fried rice.
Hundreds of vendors line the sidewalks of Bangkok with seemingly everything, from soup to scorpions to fresh fruit. While I wasn’t brave enough to try the scorpions, I did take advantage of the vast array of fresh fruit offered! For 20 baht, which is less than $0.60, I could have any fruit of my choice—mango, pineapple, guava, papaya, watermelon, mangosteen, dragonfruit—either sliced for me or made into a juice. So much cheaper than Arlee’s and any other juice store in the States!
A seemingly incompatible pairing of mango and sticky rice (sticky white rice drizzled with coconut milk) is one of the most common desserts throughout Bangkok, in both food stalls and restaurants. The sticky rice, after being drizzled with coconut milk, is almost mochi-like in texture. With the mango it serves as an addicting, filling treat that provides a boost of energy so that more streets and eats of Bangkok can be explored.