As soon as people found out that we had booked flights to Bangkok we knew we would be bombarded with tips of what to do and eat, or in some peoples cases what not to eat.
The amount of people that warned us not to eat street food because we would be ill outweighed the advice to go for it! To begin with, I thought that this seemingly sensible advice came from those that knew what they were talking about.
After all, at first glance, anyone with any common sense would question how long the food has been sitting there and how many flies have landed onto it leading to regurgitated god-knows-what being left behind before moving on to debate how on earth the ‘chef’ is able to clean everything in anything other than grimy water that has probably been sat there all day.
Seems logical right? No, definitely not.
Whilst, yes, there are some dodgy street vendors that have left food festering for hours, reheating it as and when some poor, unsuspecting tourist heads their way, on the whole this is where you will find some of the best and cheapest food when travelling not just in Bangkok, but anywhere in Thailand.
Whether you want Pad Thai, the so-called travellers favourite, spring rolls or a hearty curry there isn’t much you can’t find when wandering the street stalls, especially around the Old Town of Bangkok.
Simply follow the Samsen Road, down towards the famous Khao San Road, and you will wander past hundreds of street vendors hopeful for a sale. This is the perfect place to stroll along looking at their foodie delights, however, for some it can also, in places, feel completely overwhelming.
With the overpowering cacophony of noises: the constant hum-drum of traffic, horns and tuk-tuk drivers insisting you want to spend the morning with them touring the temples for only 20 Baht mixed with the sometimes intense smells of random things simmering away in a hot pot, people often land in the city, spend perhaps 24 hours exploring before hopping on a bus or plane to head off somewhere they would consider more exotic.
Not us however, as soon as we landed in the capital we knew we were going to love every moment.
There is nowhere else quite like Bangkok.
With the ability to get food at every two paces, this has to be the easiest place to find food you fancy. Period!
Within moments of leaving the comfort of our hotel room on the Samsen Road we came face-to-face with our first set of street vendors offering traditional thai-style dishes – clear soups with noodles, Tom Yum Goong and Khao Pad – mixed in with a selection of meats on stick, chicken quarters and whole ducks that looked like they had spend a month on a sunbed waiting for customers to choose them for their lunchtime feast.
Whilst the rubbery, dark brown fowl did nothing to excite my stomach it didn’t take long for my eyes to land on the biggest, vegetable spring rolls I had ever seen. Paul, clearly beginning to feel a little peckish, had also taken note of the golden-coloured crispy snacks and before I could say anything was reaching into his pocket for the 10 Baht (around 23p) required to buy a portion.
Figuring that we would need a serving each, Paul was about to order a second portion when the gentleman handed him a plate with several steaming-hot veggie rolls on. Each one had been cut nicely into bite sized pieces and came accompanied by a slightly spicier sweet and sour sauce then we are used to. It turned out that one helping was more than enough for two people to snack on whilst wandering around the see what else we could sample.
On that first day in Bangkok not only did we sample the veggie rolls, we also snacked on pasty-style pattis covered in numerous tasty toppings, a variety of meats skewered onto sticks and the biggest bag of sweet cakes we could get our hands on. Stuffed to the brim and impressed by our lunchtime wares we ducked into a bar to see how much our lunchtime grazing had cost us.
Back in the UK, our local takeaway will happily charge us £2.50 for a small helping of veggie rolls, minus the dipping sauce, £5 for some chicken skewers and £1.60 for something similar to a bag of prawn crackers, therefore, we were expecting our lunchtime munchies to have cost us a fair amount of our daily budget.
I know, many of you are probably screaming at the computer screen right now, saying that UK pricing is not comparable to that of Thailand and whilst I agree, we were first time travellers to this South-East Asian country so whilst we knew things would be cheaper we were slightly shocked by how much cheaper.
The Veggie rolls were 10 Baht (23p), each skewer was 20 Baht (45p), and you got 3 pastries for 10 Baht with the bag of delicious cakes also costing just 20 baht.
That means that our lunch came to the grand total of £1.36 – result!
So that’s why so many people travel to Thailand.
What to Do When You Don’t Fancy Wandering the Streets Eating
Street food is not only tasty, it is most definitely attractive. With the low prices it is easy to see why some people spend their entire trip eating from street vendors. Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely tempting to eat on the streets, and the food is extremely good, but sometimes everyone fancies something a little different.
Plus, the fact that I struggle to use chopsticks means that occasionally I would like to sit down in a nice restaurant and watch the world go by whilst eating my dinner.
So, where should you head for a nice meal when visiting the Banglumpoo area, in the heart of old Bangkok City?
#1 Cozy House
This was the location of our first evening meal and remained one of our favourites throughout our entire trip. We would often compare dishes around Thailand to the ones we had at Cozy House.
Even before landing in Thailand Paul knew that his first meal would be a bowl of massaman curry. Thanks to friends, who had visited the year before, he had done his research, deciding that this could be the thai dish for him.
Thankfully, Cozy House delivered. Paul’s chicken massaman curry arrived, steaming hot, containing his favourite curry ingredient – potato. He also loved the fact that rather than whole peanuts the chef had blended them, making the creamy sauce even thicker.
I however, having never ever been to Asia before decided to jump in and order the famed dish Pad Thai with shrimps. This stir-fried noodle dish, probably best known as a staple of the budget-conscious backpackers, can come accompanied by various different meats or tofu but is most consumed with a side helping of prawns – hence my choice. If I am being brutally honest, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
Neither of us were disappointed – Paul’s curry came with just the right amount of spice whilst my noodles were cooked just right with not a single soggy bean sprout in sight.
We loved the fact that the owner was happy to chat to his customers and that the kitchen was open plan so we could watch as our food was prepared.
If you choose to eat at only one place whilst in this area, we wholeheartedly recommend stopping off here.
This is an Italian restaurant with a Thai twist. Set on the corner of the road, this bamboo decorated restaurant opens its doors early each morning to catch those in search of a hearty breakfast. Whether you are after a traditional fry-up, a healthy museli-yoghurt concoction or a buttery croissant anything is possible here.
The coffee is delicious and the smoothies mango or pineapple – stand out as some of the nicest we had.
In fact, the breakfast was that good; we went twice during our stay. This is unusual for us; we try to avoid visiting the same place twice but we just couldn’t help ourselves.
#3 Jade House
We wandered into Jade House after walking pass and seeing its popularity; it didn’t seem to matter what time of day we wandered by both the tables inside and out where jammed full of customers.
After listening to Paul wax lyrically about how wonderful his massaman curry had been I dived in and ordered the vegetarian massaman at Jade House. I like curry but if it is too spicy I fail to find it enjoyable.
Perhaps it was the shock of seeing veggie massaman curry on the menu that led to me ordering it – I had been pre-warned that the chances of finding one in Thailand was slim – but I really didn’t think about the fact that it would also come with potatoes and so ordered a large side of stemmed rice as well.
Paul opted to try the panang curry, a rich red thai curry, which when it arrived looked potentially more like a curry suited to my taste buds because it lacked the heaviness of an added carbohydrate.
When asking Paul whether his panang was as good as his massaman curry he mumbled that whilst lacking potatoes, it was a flavour he would be revisiting during our trip because of its slightly spicier kick – and revisit he did, on several occasions.
Food For Thought…
Ultimately, wherever you visit in Bangkok you will not be short of choice. We, very quickly, realised that, whether you prefer to sit down for your dinner or wander the streets, there is something for everyone.
Yes, if you are price-conscious, street food will be more appealing but don’t forget that there are also numerous restaurants with fabulous chefs also waiting for you. They may come with a slightly higher price tag but when you are used to Western pricing even the restaurants do not seem expensive.
On the flip side, if you are one of those individuals that warned us to stay away from street food, especially those that have never tried it – get out there and explore. We were not sick once during our month of travelling and I think that comes down to simply being sensible.
We never ate anything that had been sat out, anything that was cold and in need of being reheated or anything that had spent its day going around and round on a hot plate.
Don’t jump in and try the first thing you see, take your time, explore for a while and see where others are eating – if it’s popular that’s normally a good starting point.
Whether eating in a restaurant or from a street vendor, all the food we tried in Bangkok was amazing. It was a city where our taste-buds were truly treated well.
Have you visited Bangkok? Have you got a favourite restaurant or street that others should try?