the best thai food you need to try street food

I’ll make any excuse to return to the ‘Land of Smiles’ to devour another Thai dish I’ve yet to find.

Here are 12 of the Best Thai Food Dishes to Try in Thailand

1) Pad Krapow (Fried Basil)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Pad Krapow
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Pad Krapow

I’m beginning my list of the best Thai food with a personal favourite, Pad Krapow.

The minced pork or chicken (or tofu) dish is stir-fried with Thai basil, fresh garlic, and finely minced chilli. It’s a spicy dish; however, you can ask the cook to tone down the spice level. Ask them to make it “pet nit noi”, which translates to just a little spicy.

Pad Krapow comes with steamed rice and a deep-fried egg on top. The egg is the hero that brings this whole dish together for me. The egg is perfectly cooked when the sides are crispy and the yolk comes oozing out. You will be in food heaven once you mix those three dish elements. 

Pad Krapow is my go-to dish to enjoy at any. For breakfast, lunch or dinner, this dish ticks all the boxes. I usually order it when I can’t decide what to eat as it’s reliable.

This is the best Thai food to eat when travelling in any region of Thailand.

2) Pad See Ew (Fried Noodles with Soy)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Pad See Ew
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Pad See Ew

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve got a thing about wide rice noodles in Thailand. I’m convinced they’re the best Thai food or noodle choice when craving a noodle dish. It’s no surprise that Pad See Ew is a rockstar of the noodle family for me! 

What is Pad See Ew? Flat rice noodles, a protein of your choice or tofu and Chinese broccoli are seared in a hot wok and coated in a slightly sweet but savoury sauce. (a blend of dark & light soy and a little sugar). 

The secret to a good Pad See Ew is the noodles’ freshness. You can tell they’re fresh as they’re springy when cooked and have this lovely chewy texture when eaten. And second, the wok has to be super hot. If it is, the noodles get a ‘char’ or roasting from hitting the pan, adding flavour to the noodles. 

Trust me on this one; if you find a place serving Pad See Ew with both elements, you’ve found the best Thai food available! 

3) Gaeng Keow Wan (Green Curry)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Green Curry
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Green Curry

Deriving from the central region of Thailand, green curry is the most piquant (spiciest) of the lot. The heat from this dish balances perfectly with the sweetness of coconut milk, a key ingredient in this aromatic dish. 

The most flavourful, fresh herbs and ingredients are pounded or blitzed first to make a curry paste. Ingredients like lemongrass, green chillies, galangal, coriander root, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp paste, to name a few. Once the paste is lightly cooked and coconut milk, protein and vegetables are added, it’s a warming (and spicy) dish.

Enjoy it with a big bowl of steamed rice, which also helps to take the heat level down a notch.

NOTE: If you’re not a fan of spicy food, ask the cook to make you a green curry that isn’t spicy. It’s usually not a problem at all.

4) Khao Kha Moo (Braised Pork Leg on Rice)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Braised Pork
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Braised Pork

This dish comes to mind if we were talking about the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten in Chiang Mai.

Lucky for you I wrote an entire post about the 15 best Chiang Mai restaurants and places to eat so you don’t miss a dish if you plan on visiting.

I love that this dish is from a street vendor in one of the night markets too. At 60 baht a plate (with the expertly cooked egg), it’s a win! 

Don’t worry; you can find the best Thai food dish of braised pork leg all over the country; it’s very popular with locals.

Why is this dish among my best Thai food to try in Thailand? The braised pork leg meat is incredibly tender, the flavours are delicate, and the gelatinous egg on the side and the fermented mustard greens are lovely.

The Best Thai food Cowboy Hat Lady Stewed Pork Chiang Mai
The Best Thai food in Chiang Mai – Cowboy Hat Lady Stewed Pork in Chang Phial Gate, Chiang Mai

The Umami-rich gravy over the top of the meat and rice is just the best.

Where to find this dish in Chiang Mai? Go to the Chang Phuak Gate Night Markets and look for the Cowboy Hat Lady street vendor (in the above pic)

5) Pad Kana Moo Krob (Crispy Pork Belly & Chinese Kale)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Pork Belly Kale
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Pork Belly Chinese Kale

The best Thai food to eat in Thailand is a dish loaded with greens! Kana Moo Krob is the ideal way to get your green-veg fix while enjoying a fantastic plate of food at the same time. 

Pad Kana Moo Krob is stir-fried Chinese kale (broccoli) over a high heated wok with fresh garlic, chilli, and crisp pork belly pieces. Combining soybean and oyster sauce is the key to bringing this dish together.

Sweet and salty goodness! Enjoy it with steamed rice.

RELATED POST – Best eSIM for Thailand – A Complete Guide

6) Khao Soi (Coconut Curry Noodle Soup)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Khao Soi
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Khao Soi

A regional dish of Northern Thailand, and it’s a good one. Khao Soi is the best Thai food to enjoy if you ever visit Chiang Mai or areas in the North of the country. There’s an amazing Evening Street Food Tour in Chiang Mai that I highly recommend. There is so much great food included in this experience.

What makes this dish so remarkable is the silky coconut broth that covers the soft egg noodles inside, and then there are crispy egg noodles on top. It’s a dish full of textures. 

What protein you’d like for this dish (chicken, pork, beef, or even fish) is your choice. A small plate of raw shallots, pickled mustard greens and lime cheeks alongside helps bring it all together. 

Where can you find the best Khai Soi in Thailand? I like to eat this dish at Khao Soi Maesai in Chiang Mai. The price starts from 45 baht for chicken Khai Soi and it’s AMAZING!

7) Som Tam ( Papaya Salad)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Papaya salad
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Papaya salad

If you haven’t already noticed from some of the best Thai food I’ve mentioned above, Thai food is all about the right balance of sweet, savoury, sour, salty and spicy. The best Thai food salad to try, in my opinion, is Som Tam, or papaya salad.

Som Tam originates from Isaan region in North-East Thailand. It is made in many different ways, swapping out or adding in different ingredients depending on taste, however, the original Som Tam is great, especially if it’s your first time. So what is Som Tam made of? 

Ingredients to make Som Tam salad include shredded green papaya, carrots, tomatoes, roasted peanuts (the best ingredient), dried shrimp, green beans, palm sugar, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and, of course, fresh chillies.

The ingredients are freshly sliced, cut and tossed into a mortar and pestle, and bashed to literally drive flavour into the salad.

I like to eat Som Tam with sticky rice on the side. I recommend you try it, too.

8) Kao Niew Ma Muang (Mango and Sticky Rice)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Mango Sticky Rice
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Mango & Sticky Rice

Mango and sticky rice is not a ground-breaking Thai dish that’s difficult to make. It’s the best Thai food to try in Thailand because it’s simply delicious. 

Coconut-flavoured sticky rice, freshly cut ripe mango, and a mouthwatering sauce made of coconut milk and palm sugar (or condensed milk) drizzled over it is the quintessential taste of Thailand. Don’t miss this wonderful tropical dessert.

9) Larb (Spicy Salad)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Larb
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Larb (Spicy Salad)

Larb is a fresh, zingy, spicy salad of ground meat (both cooked and raw) mixed with fresh herbs, lime juice, fish sauce, shallots, chilli, and chilli powder. Adding toasted ground sticky rice brings this dish together and makes it yummy! A vegetarian option using mushrooms or tofu is fantastic, too.

It’s a salad from Northeastern Thailand and a much-loved dish in Laos.

Usually served with a good dose of chilli, you can also ask for it without heat. Larb is another dish best eaten with sticky rice. 

10) Gai Tod (Fried Chicken)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Fried Chicken
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Fried Chicken

Some may wonder why fried chicken is on the best Thai food list. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s different from the fried chicken in other countries. And when I say different, I mean that fried chicken here is better than you’ve tasted elsewhere. Don’t believe me? Come and try it.

Ok, so why is fried chicken here so good? The key ingredient is rice flour, giving the chicken a crispy outside. Fresh chicken pieces are marinated in Thai spices and aromatics and dredged in rice flour. After this process, they go into the deep fryer to cook. 

Street vendors all over the country sling out excellent Gai Tod, and if you watch the lines of motorcyclists, taxi drivers and people passing by who want a piece of the action, you have to bet that you need to try it too. 

I’d say this is the best Thai food (or the most popular among locals). 

TIP: Get a packet of sticky rice to eat with your fried chicken and don’t forget your bag of spicy dipping sauce that the vendor should provide to you – it’s always excellent.

11) Pak Boong (Morning Glory)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Morning Glory
The Best Thai Food You Need to – Try Morning Glory

Oh, how I love this vegetable. Packed with iron and crunch, it just feels so healthy! Water spinach is tossed into a sizzling wok and flavoured with soy sauce, oyster sauce, soybean paste, fresh garlic and chillies. It certainly lives up to its name – spicy, sour and salty flavours all come together to create a glorious dish! 

You can add any protein you wish, such as chicken, crispy pork or tofu to pimp out this dish. Eat it with steamed rice, a highly satisfying dish for sure.

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12) Guay Teow (Noodle Soup)

The Best Thai Food You Need to Try Morning Glory
The Best Thai Food You Need to Try – Morning Glory

Guay Teow is the best Thai food to try in Thailand; it has all the key elements of great tasting Thai food. Guay Teow describes any Thai noodle soup. It comes with chicken, beef, or pork with your choice of noodles (egg noodles, wide rice noodles, or thin rice noodles, to name a few). 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a vegetarian version of this soup as the broth has usually been cooked with meat bones or pieces to flavour.

Sometimes, the vendors add fish balls or wontons to the broth, and they’ll usually have a selection of condiments such as fish sauce, lime, sugar and extra chilli to flavour the broth more to your taste. 

The best Thai food, in terms of noodle soup I’ve eaten is from street vendors in the capital city of Bangkok and around the famous beaches in Phuket (my favourite spot is Kata Beach, so many things to do here). 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the best Thai food you need to try when you get the chance. If you’re travelling to Thailand, our 26 Best Travel Tips for Thailand will give you a good idea of what to expect.

Join a Small-Group Trip to Thailand and Southeast Asia

Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia are ideal regions of the world for every traveller. But, if you’d rather not travel solo, consider joining a small-group trip.

You can share the adventure with like-minded travellers on a trip around Southeast Asia with G Adventures. I love this tour company, and I think you will too. CLICK HERE to view the range of trips G Adventures offer in Thailand.

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Travel Tips for Thailand

You may have guessed that I love this country, it features in our top 10 Best Countries for Food Lovers.

There are many reasons why it’s the perfect destination, and here are 15 Amazing things to do in Thailand to help plan your next trip.

Our Ultimate Southeast Asia Packing List covers what to take (and what to leave at home).

If you plan on travelling to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand (which I highly recommend), then our post about Where to stay in Chiang Mai – our accommodation guide will be very useful to you.

And, Chiang Mai is a food lover’s paradise! Our Food Guide on Chiang Mai’s best restaurants and places to eat is essential to read!

For those looking to stay a little longer in Thailand, this country is a digital nomad & remote workers’ heaven! Read our detailed digital nomads guide to both Chiang Mai vs Chiang Rai and Ko Samui vs Ko Phangan for remote workers.

Perhaps our Food Map of Asia will inspire your next culinary adventure in this region of the world.

If you’d like to read more of our best travel advice and tips for travelling anywhere in the world, head to our Travel Resources Page.