Khao San Road in Bangkok is one of the most unique streets you can visit on earth. Thousands of people end up staying in this area every week, and to first time visitors it can be an exciting and mesmerizing experience of shops, bars, clubs, hotels and people, that can quickly overwhelm you with choices. It sucks you in and even though you have the best intentions, you can end up dazed, half drunk, and sitting in one of the hundreds of tourist restaurants
Thai food is one of the highlights of almost every tourists experience in Bangkok, but Khao San Road somewhat deservedly has a reputation for unauthentic and even bad food. Many people only have a couple of days here and get on and off the merry-go-round a bit disappointed, but the greater area around Khao San has some genuinely good and authentic places to eat if you know where to look. This list is designed to allow you to get the most out of your stay, and sample some good examples of Thai cuisine as well as some spots serving Western food for the times your too hung over, or need a break from the spices.
All the locations can be found on my World Food Map
1. Street Buffet Restaurants at the top of Soi Rambuttri
For any traveller new to Thailand and staying near Khao San, this collection of open air street buffet restaurants should be your first stop. A large variety of curries, stirfrys, and other traditional Thai dishes are available here. The servers speak fairly good English, so its a good place to ask questions and maybe begin to recognize and learn how to pronounce some of the dishes you enjoy. People new to Asia may be wary of hygiene issues associated with street food, but I've eaten here at least 50 times in the last 15 years and never been ill, or had a problem. Try khai luuk kheuy (deep fried eggs in tamarind sauce), kaeng matsaman (a sweet coconut milk curry with chicken and potatoes), or spicy ground pork in tomato sauce.
|Chicken Noodle Soup|
2. Food Market on Chakrapong Road
At the bottom end of Khao San along Chakrapong Road, past Soi Rambuttri is an local food market. This is an area to see Thai delicacies such as nam prik, fermented fish, curries, and a variety of takeaway sweets and snacks for the locals to bring home. It's a good place to try "something on a stick" as you browse. Thai desserts can seem a bit strange, but khanom buang a crisy folded wafer with shredded coconut and various toppings is worth a try. At night most of the market closes and is replaced with small carts selling noodles and rice. One cart sells khao ka moo, pork leg braised in sweet soy and spices. It's delicious with rice, boiled eggs and chili vinegar.
|khanom buang stand|
|khao ka moo|
3. Roti Mataba at the corner of Phra Athit and Phra Sumen
My favourite breakfast spot in Bangkok is Roti-Mataba in the Banglampu area. It's a small store selling Muslim dishes such as stuffed rotis called mataba. Matabas can be filled with egg, banana, fish, beef, or chicken and are served with a sweet chili vinegar dip and cucumber salad.
This restaurant is in every guidebook, and some say it's not as good as it used to be, but I've always had good food here. It gets crowded so going earlier is better
4. Sukhothai Noodles at Somsong Pochana
Kuaytiaw Sukhothai are noodles that originate in the town of Sukhothai. It's a tasty and unique soup well worth trying. Somsong Pochana is the place to eat this in Bangkok and it's not too far from the Khao San area. You have to cross a small bridge near Sumen Fort and it's down a side street with several guesthouses. I previously wrote about Sukhothai noodles, you can read more here.
5. Khanom Jeen at Tang Hua Seng Supermarket
Also on Chakrapong Road in an alley between Tang Hua Seng Supermarket is a little stand serving Khanom Jeen. Soft rice noodles served with a selection of curries and your choice of pickled toppings. It's a common breakfast food in Northern Thailand and its really delicious. The Portions are small so it makes a nice snack when you're at Teng Hua Seng buying shampoo, or suntan lotion, or other things you might need when you first arrive in Bangkok. It's open during the day and a portion costs 38 baht with a boiled egg. The spicy pork is really good but I also like the fish ball curry.
6. Noodle Soup at Khun Deng Guay Jub Yuan
As you may have guessed, I really like noodle soups, and this lime green shuttered shop on Phra Athit Road serves some of the best. Pork based broth with lots of good stuff depending on what you order from the small menu. Khun Deng Guay Jub Yuan is always busy, but tables free up quite quickly.
This hole in the wall phad thai place on Mahachai Road a few doors down from the more famous Thip Samai is about a 20 minute walk from the Khao San Road area. The phad thai here is substantially different from any pad thai you'll get on Khao San or any other tourist area in Thailand. The sauce is red from strong shrimp head stock, not ketchup, and is skillfully and beautifully presented inside a thin omelette pillow.
This is considered the most authentic style of pad thai, and although nearby Thip Samai is consistently voted the best phad thai in Thailand, I think Pad Thai Loong Pha makes it better, and because the wok is streetside, you can watch the cook whip up the dish in front of you.
8. Browse around Nittaya Thai Curry Shop
Nittaya Thai Curry is a shop on Chakrapong Road near the end of Rambuttri road. It specializes in phrik kaeng, curry pastes used to make Thailand's famous curry dishes, and is very well regarded by Thai people. The smells of the various pastes are wonderful as you walk around the store. Little bags of takeaway dishes and snacks are also available to buy.
9. Tom Yum Goong on Soi Kraisi
Just outside the entrance of the Banglamphu car park on Soi Kraisi is a streetside restaurant that serves an amazingly rich tom yum goong. The shrimp stock is so rich it's thick like bisque. I really like the balance of flavours, and with 6 huge shrimp it's a great deal for 140 baht. The owner is always smiling and seems to take a lot of pride in his work. They serve many types of seafood in many ways, but I'm hooked on the soup and haven't tried anything else.
|Photo by Yung Rawisara|
Over the bridge past Chakrapong Road in the Sam Sen area is Chomp. A great place for sandwiches, brunch and massive burgers. When you need a break from Thai food this is the place to go. Friendly staff and great cocktails. I once ate here on Christmas and had a 5 course dinner with turkey, sides and Christmas pudding. It was great!
Remember to check out these locations on my World Food Map and have a great time in Thailand!