Street vendor serving Thai street food
Try Thai street food―you’ll love it.

Thai Street Food: 10 Top Dishes to Try

11 minutes

Thailand is a food lover’s paradise. And you won’t have to go far to experience the culinary wonders of this amazing country. Thai street food is all around you, with endless different delicious dishes to try. From quick bites you can eat on the go to more substantial options, Thai street food has it all.

One of the great features of Thai street food is that there are so many different dishes to try. The price is also low, meaning you can afford to sample lots of delicacies without breaking the bank. Sampling Thai street food is a great introduction to some classic Thai dishes.

Table of content

But What Exactly Is Thai Street Food?

Thai street food is a true smorgasbord of unique dishes
packed with flavour and bursting with colour.

You can eat Thai street food at markets, roadside stalls, or grab something from a rickshaw. There are even floating markets where the sellers hawk their culinary offerings from boats on the river. Whether it’s a fiery curry or a sweet treat, it’s always tasty and convenient. 

Thai street food ranges from stir-fried rice and noodle dishes to hot soups, spring rolls, salads, and curries. The common thread is they can all be quickly prepared and eaten on the go. You’ll also find tropical fruits like mango and papaya fashioned into desserts, in refreshing luscious drinks, or just as snacks. Also, classic Thai cocktails using palm sugar and lime are sure to get your taste buds tingling. Every bite reflects Thailand’s culinary history and influences. 

Discover our selection of Thai restaurants in London

Market stall with meat skewers
There’s a huge range of Thai street food to sample.

How Much Meat Is in Thai Street Food?

Thailand is a largely Buddhist country, and this is one of the reasons why Thai street food doesn’t feature huge amounts of meat. But it’s not a wholly vegetarian cuisine either. Instead, the meat is often cooked in strips marinated in herbs and spices, or roasted and then served shredded. 

Thai street food uses lots of fresh fish and vegetables as well as exotic fruits like mango, coconut, and papaya. Street stalls sell fresh grilled fish and mango sticky rice as well as desserts like banana roti (pancakes) and fruit drinks. 

Street Food in Thailand: The Culinary Influences That Have Shaped It

Centuries ago, Chinese immigrants brought with them techniques such as deep frying and stir frying. This can be seen in popular dishes like khao pad (fried rice) and pad thai (fried noodles) in Thailand’s street food.

From the 17th century Thai food absorbed culinary influences from Portuguese, Dutch, French, and Japanese explorers and settlers. Portuguese traders brought chilies to Thailand by way of South America during the 1600s. 

Thai street food and Thai cuisine in general also uses a lot of lemongrass, giving the food a fresh lemony scent with a hint of ginger. This is a reflection of the influence of Indonesian, Indian, and Sri Lanka cooking on Thai food. The same goes for coconuts, coconut oil, and milk, which feature in a lot of Thai recipes.

Green bowl of curry with coconut flakes
Coconut is a common ingredient in Thai street food and Thai recipes.

What Are Some Typical Thai Street Food Examples?

Although you might have eaten it in restaurants before, pad thai is a great example of Thai street food. It’s a hugely popular dish abroad but also with Thai people, and you’ll find it sold all over the country, at market stalls and other outdoor food places. You’ll also see sticky rice, often served with mango. But it’s not just food you should try. 

Don’t miss the amazing drinks sold by the street vendors in Thailand. Try delicious drinks like Thai milk tea, Thai lemon tea or pickled plum soda.

Discover our 10 Most Famous Thai Street Food Dishes!

Thai Street Food #1: Pad Thai (Stir-Fried Rice Noodles)

Pad thai has become one of the most famous features of Thai street food and is often people’s first taste of Thailand. You can try pad thai without even going to Thailand as it’s a star menu staple at lots of Thai restaurants. 

It’s an easy introduction to Thai cuisine for the uninitiated as it’s not spicy
but has a beguiling combination of salty, sweet, and sour flavours.

Pad thai is made from thin, flat rice noodles, stir fried with bean sprouts, scrambled egg, tofu and either chicken or prawns. It has a sweet-sour sauce and is topped with crushed peanuts. Chilli oil is often served on the side as well so you can adjust to your own taste.

In Thailand, pad thai is often eaten as a snack, especially if you eat it on the go from a street seller. Although it’s a popular Thai street food, you can also get it in restaurants in Thailand

Where can you try pad thai? You can try the ones served in Foley’s Restaurant or at Tootoomoo in London.

Example of thai street food: Pad thai with prawns and lime on a white plate
Pad thai is perhaps the best-known Thai street food.

Thai Street Food #2: Guay Tiew (Noodle Soup)

Guay tiew is a popular Thai street food and is also a dish that Thai people eat often at home. 

  • Guay tiew means noodle soup and can be made with egg noodles or rice noodles.
  • The meat that goes in it is usually pork, beef, or chicken, although you might come across versions with wantons of meatballs. 
  • The soup broth is a deep reddish brown and bursting with hearty flavours. 

One of those flavours is galangal root, called kha in Thai. Similar in many ways to ginger,
it has a milder taste and is used in many Thai soups and curries.

Guay tiew can be eaten as a main meal, often at lunch time, or just grab some from a street stall for a quick snack on the go.

Thaispice London features a large selection of noodle soups―give it a try!

White bowl of noodles with a spoon and chopsticks, example of thai street food
Guay tiew is a meaty Thai street food with noodles.

Thai Street Food #3: Poh Pia Tod (Spring Rolls)

With the pastry acting like edible packaging, spring rolls are a brilliant quick bite and super easy to eat when you’re out and about. You’ll see them on sale in most Thai markets. They’re also easy to find on the starter section of restaurant menus

The crispy pastry contains different fillings, depending on which you prefer:

  • They could be vegetables, meat, or rice noodles
  • Spring rolls are often deep fried but you can also get them fresh
  • Drizzle them with chilli sauce for a taste explosion 

Combine spring rolls with some other Thai street food specialties,
and you have a complete meal!

Spring rolls on grill mesh mats, iconic thai street food
Spring rolls are a common sight at Thai street food stalls

Thai Street Food #4: Mango Sticky Rice

Sticky rice, sometimes called glutinous rice, is a type of rice grown in Southeast and East Asia. 

As the name suggests, it’s especially sticky when cooked.
This is because of its low amylose content.

Thai cuisine has paired this comforting carb with the deliciously sweet flavours of mango and coconut to create a heavenly dessert called mango sticky rice. If you’re in Thailand during mango season (April and May), you should make mango sticky rice one of your culinary priorities. It's a popular Thai street food and is available from lots of street vendors and in food markets.

The dish itself is simple: sticky rice, fresh coconut milk and a ripe mango. The rice is garnished with sweetened coconut milk and served with pieces of ripe mango. There’s often a topping of dry roasted sesame seeds. Or you can ask for just the sticky rice and mango without the extras.

Tasting a Mango Sticky Rice dessert at the Sticky Mango restaurant? Obvious!

Rice, coconut milk and sliced mango on a banana leaf: a common thai street food for dessert
Desserts are a delicious part of Thai street food.

Thai Street Food #5: Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

Although they’re staple foods in Thailand, it’s not all rice and noodles in Thai street food. Green papaya salad is a refreshing combination of green papaya, tomatoes, carrots, runner beans, and garlic, with added peanuts, fish sauce, and chillies. It has a delicious sour, spicy kick to it. Although it originated in the north of the country, you can now find it everywhere. 

Bean sprouts, runner beans, tomatoes, and carrots in a salad in Thailand
Thai street food includes salads too, with delicious sweet, sour, and spicy tastes.

Street Food in Thailand #6: Ma Laeng Tod (Fried Insects)

Not for the fainthearted, another must-try when it comes to Thai street food is fried insects. 

Just the experience of trying something so unusual for Western culture is worth giving it a go. Fried insects are the easy-to-eat snack par excellence, almost like popcorn at the cinema!

Grab yourself a paper cone of grilled grubs, and you’re sure to be pleasantly surprised. Choose from worms, grasshoppers, crickets, or even scorpions. Your insect of choice is grilled with salt, pepper, chillies and lime. Dig in!

Tray of fried insects: experience of thai street food!
Fried insects are the more daring side of Thai street food.

Street Food in Thailand #7: Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes)

Thai fish cakes are made by deep frying fish combined with Thai basil, lime leaves, and beans. The result is deliciously tender fish in a crispy coating, with the lime adding a fresh citrus touch. 

To complete the experience, the fish cakes are usually served with Thai dipping sauce. Like spring rolls, they’re a common feature of Thai street food and are commonly found at street stalls and markets. They’re easy to grab and enjoy as a quick snack. 

Just make sure to leave enough room for all the other Thai street food dishes you’ll want to try!

Plate of fish cakes with bowl of dipping sauce: example of thai street food
This Thai street food is usually served with a spicy, sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Street Food in Thailand #8: Moo Ping (Grilled Pork Skewers)

This is a must-try if you’re sampling Thai street food. It’s easy to get hold of; in fact, you’ll see grilled skewers at street vendor stalls and night markets wherever you go. Often featuring pork, it can also be other meats like chicken or beef, or even fish.

The skewer makes it easy to grab one and eat it as you walk around admiring the other stalls.

The meat is covered in a sweet and sour marinade before it’s grilled… Delicious!

You can taste a Moo Ping at Thai Pot restaurant or O’s Thai Café in London.

Meat skewers at a street market in Thailand
Meat skewers are a great hearty option if you’re trying Thai street food.

Street Food in Thailand #9: Pla Pao (Grilled Fish)

A popular type of street food all across Thailand,
you'll see grilled fish sold at night markets and floating markets everywhere.

The secret to its irresistible taste lies in part in the preparation:

  • The fish is stuffed with lemongrass and lime leaves and then heavily salted.
  • This adds flavour and protects the delicate flesh during the cooking process.
  • The result is moist, flavourful fish with a crusty skin and a smoky, spicy touch.
Skewered whole fish on a grill, common thai street food
Grilled fish is a Thai street food staple.

Street Food in Thailand #10: Gai Tod (Thai Fried Chicken)

Don’t be fooled by Gai Tod. It might look like any normal fried chicken you’ve tried before,
but it’s far from it. Thai fried chicken is less greasy, featuring a light and fluffy batter.

It’s a firm favourite with tourists and Thai people alike and is something you should definitely add to your Thai street food adventures. 

Gai Tod is often made with chicken wings or small drumsticks. They’re marinated in spices and dipped in rice flour for an extra crispy texture when fried. Once fried, it’s cooked briefly in a wok with Thai chilli paste. The result is a mouth-watering combination of tender, juicy meat with a crispy exterior. The chilli gives it that extra kick that you won’t get with other fried chicken.

Why not try the Pad Priew Wan or the Pad Krapao fried chicken options served at Shamoli in Edinburgh? One, sweet and sour, the other, thai basil and fresh chilli!

Fried chicken pieces with dipping sauces, a thai street food dish
Gai Tod is the Thai street food version of fried chicken.

The best way to experience Thai street food is on a visit to the country, where you can enjoy the atmosphere of the bustling food markets, get the best, freshest ingredients, and meet the wonderful people behind this exotic fusion of flavours. 

But if you can’t get away, there are lots of Thai restaurants in London, Manchester, Bristol, and Birmingham where you can try some of the most famous dishes, like pad thai or red or green curry. 

Book a Thai restaurant near me

And, if your interest in exotic cuisines has been piqued by all this talk of Thai street food, why not experiment further with Asian food? There’s lots more to explore, like Korean fermented foods or Japanese food

Go further and (re)discover the iconic English street food!

The lowdown on Thai street food!

One of the best loved street food dishes in Thailand is noodle soup, known as guay teow. Served piping hot, it’s a mix of noodles, meat, and broth, and you’ll find pots of it bubbling away in food markets across Thailand.

As the country’s capital, Bangkok probably has the most places to find Thai street food. You can sample some of the best Thai food at its many food markets, as well as from rickshaws and other informal street sellers.

One of the most popular and well-known foods in Thailand is pad thai. Flat rice noodles are fried with lime, tamarind, sugar, and sweet and sour sauce and combined with ingredients like prawns, egg, tofu, peanuts, and bean sprouts. This much-loved Thai street food can now be found in restaurants across the world.

Thai street food has something for everyone, but if you’re going to try only five, why not opt for pad thai, mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, banana roti, and grilled fish.

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