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Last updated 13 February 2020
Bangkok Thai cuisine
Long before I touched down in Bangkok, Thailand, the images of Thai food in my head were already taunting me. There are many foods from around the world that I love, but the freshness, simplicity and absolute knockout flavours of Thai food always has me salivating.
Bangkok is a crazy, lively melting pot of food. From some of the finest restaurants holding sought after Michelin stars to the grungy backstreets and laneways where the street vendors are the most important people to be found. World-renowned chefs create theatre on a plate, combining locally sourced ingredients and using all the inspiration of this vibrant city to deliver modern Thai food.
Then, in a world that couldn’t be further away from the heights of fine dining, and yet only a street or two away, the food of the streets is the centre of the Thai universe.
Eating street food in Bangkok
The smell will get you first. This will be closely followed by the heady mix of heat, congestion and the competing smells of everything that is being chopped, cooked and stirred. Big pots of broth bubble away atop hot coals, whilst the bright orange ducks, so easily identifiable as being Asian, are lined up and hanging from a rod. Fresh fish is being filleted whilst locals call out which part of the fish they want to buy.
Chestnuts are swirled around a machine that is keeping them warm and a lady in her market stall is scooping up dried prawns for her customer. There’s a myriad of leafy greens, stinky durian, mushrooms, rice cakes and all kinds of offal. Locals are eating. The Thai people love to eat, and they graze all day, stopping by a food vendor for a juicy satay stick, or taking a seat on an upside-down milk crate to slurp noodles from a bowl. With every step, a new food experience can be found.
Here’s a list of some great places to eat in Bangkok that we discovered recently.
R.Haan: Fine dining restaurant Bangkok
Sharing food is a significant part of Thai culture and Michelin-starred restaurant R.Haan creates such an experience for its diners. The food here is served in the style of what I would call a degustation. Locally, it’s known as a samrub, a set menu where a variety of dishes are served around a bowl of rice. It’s a term that in practice, doesn’t seem justified by such a basic definition.
A welcome drink kicks off the evening then for several hours, we sat back watching as one dish after another was carried either individually to our table or via a trolley.
The end result was a table packed to overflowing with copper bowls and steaming plates of food. By the time we finish, we will have worked our way through 18 dishes.
There are several plates of appetisers to get us going. Most of these are seafood-rich. There are mini tortillas, cucumber gels and rich caviar.
Large bowls of Thai Tom Yam soup grace the table, along with one of my Thai favourites, Massaman curry with Black Angus beef ribs. There are chilli dips, salted duck eggs, endless seafood and pork belly.
The food just keeps on coming until finally, it is time for dessert, a tasting plate that looked too good to eat. A delicately carved pumpkin rose in bitter honey syrup joined pandan custard, mango, sticky rice and coconut ice cream. A taste sensation followed by a high tea platter of petit fours.
Where: 131 Pai Di Ma Di Klang Alley, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Bangkok
JAEW by Jim Thompson
I loved everything about this restaurant. From the outside, the timber structure and the heavy presence of green foliage make it feel a little like a treehouse. The huge tree growing up through the floorboards of the deck didn’t help to dispel this feeling. I felt immediately at home here, and it was as though I had been cocooned from the frantic pace of Bangkok life. Outside, there are chairs and tables that are perfect to catch up with friends for a drink or to have a quick bite to eat.
Indoors, the attention to detail that has been given to design and decor turns the casual outdoor vibe to a more grown-up level. It’s sophisticated inside and yet, through the clever design I still feel as though I am outside. This is aided by the floor to ceiling glass that surrounds us on three sides of our private dining room. There’s no sign of the conspiracy here that surrounds the life of its namesake. What is on show here is Jim Thompson’s vital role in the reinvigoration and growth of the silk industry in Thailand.
Where: 16 Soi Som Khit, Lumphini, Bangkok
The Gingerbread House
In another inner city oasis, the Gingerbread House had a queue and a waiting list when we arrived. Under the huge mango tree that occupies a large part of the front garden the hardest choice to make here is which ice cream or ice-cold drink you’d like to quench your thirst. Built in 1913, the house was the residence of a nobleman attached to the King.
These days, the Gingerbread House has been given a new lease on life after it was lovingly restored into a cafe. It’s one of the cool places to go in Bangkok.
Choose from one of the many flavoured cold coffee drinks or coloured sodas which can be ordered from the parlour-style counter inside. The Thais, who love all things sweet, also love the many different ice cream combinations on offer. My favourite of those we tried below was the black tea jelly with tea ice cream.
Where: 18 4Thanon Phra Athit, Khwaeng Chana Songkhram, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Bangkok
Krua Apsorn Bangkok
Finding somewhere to eat in Bangkok is never difficult. If you are a first time visitor to Bangkok (or even if you are not) having too much choice can make it harder to make a decision. That’s why finding local gems like Krua Apsorn is perfect. Inside the glass doors of a nondescript looking shop, the local lunch crowd had arrived and were in full swing.
Plates of food were being carried from the kitchen to the front, covering the melamine tables with steaming goodness. The restaurant extends further down the back through a narrow walkway and then opens up into a much larger seating area. This too was at capacity, confirming what we could already see. This was a great place to eat. The food here is simple, using fresh ingredients, and cooked in the traditional Thai way. My chicken dish was packed full of flavour from the chillis and the Thai Basil and the green papaya salad was fresh, crunchy and full of heat. Just the way I like to eat it.
This was high quality, cheap and cheerful food.
Where: 169 Dinso Road, Bangkok
The riverfront in Bangkok is an emerging foodie scene with many new restaurants, cafes and bars opening up here. The Jam Factory built not surprisingly on the site of old warehouses and factories is a creative space full of artisanal handicrafts. It’s a beautiful store and well worth a visit. It is also surrounded by cafes and restaurants. The Never Ending Summer has been drawing a steady crowd since it opened. so much so that it opened a sister restaurant in a warehouse building right next door.
The Summerhouse Project, a bright airy space enclosed in glass takes on the feeling of an English conservatory. Inside, the lush green foliage hangs from the ceiling, softening the minimalist, modern glass design.
It’s my kind of place, and with a large number of options on the menu, there’s something for everyone. The food is modern looking and vibrant and unmistakably Thai.
Where: 41/5 Charoen Nakorn Rd., Bangkok
Natthaphon Coconut Ice Cream
For a taste of authentic coconut ice cream head to Natthaphon Coconut Ice Cream. Located on the ground level of a house in some back street, it’s a place you will have to seek out as it’s definitely not on the tourist trail. It’s worth taking the effort to find it as the pure coconut ice cream is delicious.
With no other additives, it’s light and creamy, yet icy at the same time. I kept mine simple, but there are many things you can add to the ice cream. Peanuts are popular, so are lychees. The black sesame also offers a different flavour sensation. Pull up a chair outside and sit down to a bowl or two of this wonderful ice cream.
Where: Phraeng Phuthon Rd, Khwaeng San Chao Pho Sua, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Bangkok
Bangkok is no stranger to massive shopping centres, with some of the largest in the world. On the surface, it would seem strange for me to include them in a roundup of some of the best places to eat in Bangkok. There is method in my madness, however. IconSiam, with over 500,000 square metres of retail space also has a brand new foodie space that is a must visit.
SookSiam, at the street level of the IconSiam building, is a celebration of the food of Thailand and other cultures. It is also where you can find many local handicrafts and artists. There’s an indoor floating market and a street food appearance, as vendors operate from the side of a waterway and small carts.
There’s plenty of tasting opportunities too. It’s just like walking outside in the streets without the heat!
Where: 299 ซอยเจริญนคร 5, Charoen Nakhon Rd, Khlong Ton Sai, Khlong San, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Eating in Bangkok
Whether you are a food adventurer or a little more cautious with your food choices, there is something in this city for everyone. If you are a first time visitor to Bangkok, don’t miss giving the street food a try. Street food can carry with it such a bad reputation but it’s not always valid or fair. Look for locations where the locals are eating and you’ll know you are onto a good thing. Food prices in Bangkok are incredibly inexpensive and eating street food is the cheapest of it all, although the fine dining menus aren’t over the top either.
Whichever way you do it, come to Bangkok to get to know its food a little more. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
How to get to Bangkok
Major airlines from all over the world fly into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. We flew from Australia with Thai Airways, who operate from my home town three times a week, direct into Bangkok. Low-cost airlines like AirAsia also fly here from Australia and other Asian destinations into Don Muang Airport.
The Suvarnabhumi Airport Express train runs between 6am and midnight every day. It connects with Makkasan City Interchange Station where you can connect to the MRT at Petchaburi.
Airport express buses also transfer passengers into the city. Taxis are also available from the airport, just make sure they switch on the meter.
Visitors from other Asian countries can also take the train.
Tip: If you can, taking the train will always be much faster as the traffic in Bangkok is very heavy.
Where to stay in Bangkok
Just like there are so many places to try Bangkok Thai cuisine, there are also thousands of places to stay in Bangkok. Before making a decision on exactly where to stay, thinking about the following.
- The area you will be spending the most time
- Access to public transport if you need it
- Distance and access to airport
- Features of the accommodation that you require
We’ve stayed at a number of great hotels in Bangkok, changing areas each time to get a better feel for the city. All have had good access to places we wanted to see in Bangkok and public transport.
I absolutely loved staying at the Shanghai Mansion Bangkok. Right at the door of Chinatown, this hotel is unique, luxurious and decadent. Plus, it’s pretty handy in terms of access to key parts of the Bangkok city.
Check more reviews, pricing and availability on Trip Advisor
The Millenium Hilton Bangkok holds a commanding position right on the Chao Phraya River. The views of the river and the city, especially at night are fantastic. Head up to the roof top bar for an even better view and a cocktail or two. Recently refurbished, the rooms are spacious and have plenty of things that make me happy like good lighting and heaps of places to plug my gadgets in. Its location close to many of the main attractions in Bangkok, amazing food and markets, the IconSiam and public transport makes it a good place to base yourself.
Check more reviews, pricing and availability on Trip Advisor
The Pathumwan Princess is located in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping area and sits alongside the MBK Shopping Centre and the BTS station. Access into MBK can be achieved by walking directly from the hotel without having to go outside.
Check more reviews, pricing and availability on Trip Advisor