Bangkok, Thailand: one of my favorite travel destinations. I love it so much, I headed back for a third time and stayed over a week. There are so many incredible things about this city and one of them is definitely THE FOOD. If you love street food as much as I do, the one place you need to hit is Bangkok’s Chinatown, also know as Yaowarat (named after the main road that runs through the strip).
Yaowarat is a bustling neighborhood, especially at night. Like many Chinatowns around the world, the neon lights turn on and suddenly, you’re surrounded by hoards of people, Chinese characters, and here, a mix of Thai as well. Yaowarat is one of the oldest Chinese communities in Thailand and even on a rainy day, the area was packed with people. Its streets are congested with food stalls and there are small alleyways that run perpendicular to the main road that are also lined with vendors. Basically, you’ll want to spend a full-day eating your way through the neighborhood (don’t worry, there are also temples, shrines, and museums to explore while you’re in between meals).
Pad Thai, the overly popularized noodle dish that Americans think of when they think Thai food. There’s definitely a lot more to Thai food than just pad thai, but it’s worth trying if you love noodles. Because of its popularity and the large number of tourists that visit Bangkok, you can probably find vendors with woks and noodles ready at most areas with street stalls.
Another thing I love about food carts is being able to see all the ingredients displayed and the entire cooking process. It’s also why open-concept kitchens have become so big. I believe that both the end result (the food) and the cooking process are forms of art, so getting to see how food I love is prepared brings me a lot of joy. And if you’re in Chinatown, this is the one food stall you must hit.
This Chinatown vendor prepares various kinds of desserts and this one was my favorite. For a little over $1 (40 baht), you get 3-4 large tangyuan balls filled with black sesame. If you haven’t had tangyuan before, the popular Chinese dessert is made of glutinous rice flour and can come with a variety of filling inside. This bowl was perfect for a hot day in Bangkok since the tangyuan came floating in iced fresh milk. I’m still dreaming about this simple, but refreshing dessert.
Another popular dessert from the stall is the iced grass jelly dessert with humongous grass jelly squares swimming in longan syrup. As you can tell from the photo, the dessert also comes with longan, cousins of the tropical lychee fruit.
One side of the extensive offerings. I’ve learned my lesson: next time, I’m trying at least 3-4 more of these.
The front of the stall so you’ll be able to spot the colors and get your stomach ready for all the desserts available; just look at those steaming vats full of goodness.
Side note: I ate at this stall back in 2012, loved it, and searched for it this time around, and they were at the same spot! The stall is on Yaowarat Road, near the Royal Bangkok Chinatown Hotel. You’re welcome.
In addition to Chinatown, another fun food spot to explore is the area around Victory Monument, home to boat noodle alley. It is literally an alley: numerous boat noodle restaurants run along this narrow passageway adjacent to the canal.
Boat noodles? you ask. Do you see the teetering skyscrapers of bowls in the left side of the photo? Well, those bowls are for boat noodles and they are much smaller than regular noodle bowls, so one person may order up to 10 (or more) bowls. In the past, these noodles were sold on small boats. Because of the unsteady waters, smaller bowls were easier to pass to customers instead of large heavy bowls.
The two of us started with 6 bowls of noodles; we eventually ordered 6 more. Before you start off with an order in the double digits, know that different restaurants have different serving sizes. Some also give more meat and broth so it’ll fill you up faster. Start off with 3-4 per person and then start stacking those empty bowls on the table!
A close-up of the pork, dry peanuts, fishball, and vermicelli. Despite their small size, a lot of love and flavor are packed into these tiny bowls.
Like pad thai, its beverage counterpart in popularity, thai iced teas are abundant in Bangkok. My boyfriend calls this company’s thai iced tea “love in a cup.” We discovered Number One Brand in a large mall and luckily for us, they also had kiosks in the BTS stations (which meant he bought 1-2 a day). During dinner time, this was one of the few kiosks inside the mall that had a line around the corner and almost every person on the line was a local, or at least Thai, so I’m guessing thumbs up all around.
In a given week, I’m pretty sure I had these noodles at least 4 times. Chicken noodle soup. So simple, yet so good. For a lesser known street food destination, head to Suan Plu Soi 8. There, you’ll find fewer tourists, two streets lined with vendors, and some fantastic restaurants.
Ah! The Thai street food I still think about can also be found at Suan Plu Soi 8. This dessert consisted of two giant scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with sweet rice soaked in condensed milk, peanuts, and corn. You’ll often find the combination of ice cream and bread in Southeast Asian countries, and let me tell you, it’s AMAZING.
When I was younger, my brother and I would eat ice cream sandwiched between slices of white Wonder bread, so this dessert was especially nostalgic for me. Writing this post made me want to hop on a plane to Bangkok; if you haven’t been, now’s a great time–for your stomach, especially.